Tuesday, July 7, 2009


"Kitchen Privileges" by Mary Higgins Clark
(from inside flap)
Even as a young girl, growing up in the Bronx, Mary Higgins Clark knew she wanted to be a writer. Teh gift of storytelling was a part of her Irish ancestry, so it followed that she would later use her sharp eye, keen intelligence, and inquisitive nature to create stories about the people and things she observed.

When Mary Higgins Clark's father died during the Depression, her mother opened their home to roomers, announced by a discreet sign that read
Those who responded proved to be a colorful lot.

Studying these diverse people, then later observing passengers on the Pan Am flights on which she worked as a stewardess, Clark began to form ideas for short stories that later appeared in magazines.

When her husband died, leaving her a young widow with five children to support, she found work writing radio scripts and also decided to try her hand at writing novels, the second of which was Where Are the Children? That book launched her career and was the first of 27 (and still counting) best-selling novels of suspense.

As Mary Higgins Clark has said when asked if she might give up writing for a life of leisure, "Never! To be happy for a year, win the lottery. To be happy for life, love what you do."

In Kitchen Privileges, she reflects on the joy that her life as a writer has brought her, and shares with readers the love that she has found.

This book follows Ms. Clark's life from the time she is 3. It takes you through the Depression, the World War 2, the 60's and Viet Nam. Through all this Ms. Clark is writing short stories and submitting them to the poplar magazine's of the day. And trying her best to raise her 5 children by herself. It also looks into how a writer gets started and how she got her first book published. Well, the book we probably all have heard of. Her first book ever published is called,
"Aspire to the Heavens", which was based on George and Martha Washington's life. If you click on the name of the book it will take you to Amazon.com where they have the book listed. If you have read any of Ms. Clark's books, you should read this Memoir. It lets you see how she began her writing career.


This book concludes the reading challenge for me. 5 of 5 books read.

1. The Sum of Our Days - Isabel Allende
2. The Mighty Queens of Freeville - Amy Dickerson
3. Jantzen's Gift - Pam Cope
4. Dog Years - Mark Doty
5. Kitchen Privileges - Mary Higgins Clark

Monday, July 6, 2009


"Dog Years" by Mark Doty

(from the back cover)
Why do dogs speak so deeply to our inner lives? When Mark Doty decides to adopt a dog as a companion for his dying partner, he brings home Beau, a large golden retriever, malnourished and in need of loving care. Beau joins Arde, the black retriever, to complete Mark's family. As Beau bounds back to like, the two dogs become Mark Doty's intimate companions, his solace, and eventually the very life force that keeps him from abandoning all hope during the darkest days. Their tenacity, loyalty, and love inspire him when everyting else fails.

"As someone who is in love with a dog, I found this book to be an oracle of truth. For those who have yet to love a dog, it will be a revelation." Ann Patchett

The quote on the back of the this book from Ann Patchett summarizes this book to a T. I didn't think I would like this book when I got it. But it is a very good book, happy, sad, hilarious, and just plain fun to read. As you follow Mark, Beau and Arden around the country there are some really funny happenings along the way. It also gives you insight into the ways animals work into our everyday lives. Our family has 2 critters living with us. I can't even imagine when the time comes what we will do when they die. Mark Doty gives you the a way of letting go when that time comes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Up a Country Lane

Up a Country Lane by Evelyn Birkby

Up A Country Lane is part memoir and part cookbook. Through stories and photographs Evelyn shares what life was like living on a farm in rural Iowa during the decade following WWII. Neither Evelyn or her husband Robert were farmers but like many young couples from the era they were eager to rent a farm, put down roots and build a meaningful life on the farm. Evelyn shares everything from the sense of community, gardening,the ritual of grocery shopping and the use of meat lockers to raising chickens, milking, haying, harvesting, schools, social clubs and so much more.
Evelyn does not shy away from the reality of life on a farm and shares stories of drought, ruined crops, sickness and accidents. "A family on a small farm could have more than its share of isolation, loneliness, and constant need for hard, physical labor. So the memories of simple, happy events and celebrations must realistically be tempered by the struggles endured."
Many of Evelyn's stories made me smile but some were also heartbreaking.
If there was one thing that could bring a farming community together it was food. Potlucks, club luncheons, harvest feasts and holiday gatherings were all occasions to pull out platters, bowls and pie plates. At the end of each chapter Evelyn shares many simple recipes that were favorites in her family and many neighboring families as well. These are recipes that people really made and ate, recipes that the people were connected with.
One of the recipes I've tried was Curried Beef and Rice and let me tell you that was one hearty, filling meal. Beef, potatoes lots of vegetables and seasonings all served over rice. It was delicious but like I said very hearty and filling and I can see why a hard working farm family would enjoy that meal.
I love that every time I make a recipe from this book I can flip through the pages and read some of Evelyn's stories again. A treasure of a book. I'm glad I stumbled upon it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


"Jantsen's Gift" by Pam Cope

(from inside flap)
Ten yers ago, Pam Cope owned a hair salon in the small town of Neosho, Missouri. Her life revolved around her son's baseball games, her daughter's dance lessons, and family trips to places like Disney World. She had never been out of the country, nor had she any desire to travel far from home.
Then, on June 16, 1999, her life changed forever when her fifteen-year-old son Jantsen died from an undiagnosed heart ailment. Drowning in sadness and needing to get as far away from her loss as possible, she accepted a friend's invitation to visit orphanages in Vietnam. From the moment she arrived, everything began to shift. By the time she returned home, she had a new mission: to use her pain to change the world, one small step at a time, one child at a time.
Within one year, Pam had rescued thirty children from the streets of Vietnam. Within five yers, that number had grown to more than two hundred. Then, in 2006, a New York Times article about young children being sold into slavery in Ghanna galvanized her to travel thousands of miles to intervene on their behalf. Today, Pam is the director and founder of Touch A Life, and organization dedicated to helping at-risk children all over the world, and she is working to build a center in Northern Ghanna that offers a safe shelter and a promising future for the children she has rescued from slavery.

This is a very inspiring book!!! I can certainly feel for Pam at the loss of a child. I have lost a child, our daughter Shondella Iris died February 26, 1977. She was 4 1/2 years old. This is a very moving and sometimes hard book to read. All the agony, frustration, and heartbreak is almost overwhelming. But I did keep going if for no other reason than to see if Pam acturally got the children out of slavery in Ghanna. And she didn't get them all, but got lots of them. At the end of the book she gives you the info on the children that she has wrote about in the book. How they are doing and what's going on in their life's at the time the book is written. Pam also gives you the website of her foundation. You can find lots more info at the Touch A Life website. Just click on the name Touch A Life and you will go there!


Thursday, May 21, 2009


"The Mighty Queens of Freeville" by Amy Dickinson

(from the inside page)
Like all good monarchs, the Mighty Queens of Freevile rule fairly and from a distance. Amy's memoir is in part a love letter to her hometown of Freevile, NY (population 458), a small town in upstate New York that satys simple and pure while the world changes around it, and in part iit is a tribute to a family of women who support and draw strengh from one another.
This is a memoir about the people and animals who have trampled through Amy's life. It offers a narrative that is both universal and personal.....honest and witty.

I really liked this book lots!! It was very funny at times...it was also a little sad at times. As Amy comes to the conclusion that her marriage is over and she has to raise her daughter alone, Amy gets on with her life raising her daughter, finding a job, getting an apartment, and going home to Freeville. She has a few stops along the way. Washington, D.C. and New York are a couple of stops she makes. Amy also gives you glimpses into her dating and her cats life. Then you also get to see her daughter grow up and go off to college. Wonderful book, I didn't want it to end, but it does and there is a happy ending. But you'll have to read the book to find out what the happy ending is!!


You can see the reviews of all the books I have read for this challenge here. This will take you to my archives of all the books I have read and reviewed for this reading challenge. Sorry I haven't posted here, but totally forgot I could post my review at this blog. This is book 12 for me.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Other Half

The Other Half: The Life of Jacob Riis and the World of Immigrant America by Tom Buk-Swienty, translated by Annette Buk-Swienty

When Jacob Riis died in 1914 he was considered a hero and mourned by millions, including his personal friend and fellow reformer Theodore Roosevelt. But how many of us today know who Jacob Riis was or what he did to gain such a reputation?
In his very readable and fascinating biography Tom Buk-Swienty has brought the story of Jacob Riis back to life. "As if plucked from a variant Horotio Alger novel, his is the story of a poor young Dane from the isolated yet picturesque medieval town of Ribe who immigrates to the United States in 1870 because of broken heart, nearly starves during his first months there, and is so despondent that he nearly dies. He then goes on to live what can only be described as the proverbial American dream: He starts at the bottom, struggles mightily, and then makes a living as an iron salesman. Once again, though, he loses all; then by chance he gets a job as a low-paid journalist and, in a few years, becomes a star police reporter and, finally, the author of a resounding best seller and classic, How the Other Half Lives. At the same time he practically invents modern photojournalism, is knighted by the Danish King, and becomes a close friend of Theodore Roosevelt. Together they fight police corruption and work to eradicate the worst slums in New York City, their herculean efforts succeeding beyond anyone's expectations." (xv)
In short, Riis was an early progressive reformer and muckraking reporter before the term muckraker had even been coined. This poor Danish immigrant became one of the biggest social reformers of the day, campaigning successfully against the slums and tenements. Riis' work brought massive reforms including the destruction of some of the worst slums in New York Cty. Mulberry Bend was once an infamous slum and is today known as Columbus Park due to the efforts of Riis. Jacob Riis made it impossible for the wealthy and middle class Americans of the day to keep ignoring the poor and destitute living amongst them. Riis photographs, taken with a revolutionary new flash, literally brought the dark and dank slums to light.
Tom Buk-Swienty's biography does an excellent job of telling Jacob Riis' story, from his early life in Denmark, his heartbreak over the love of his life (and the amazing turn around that actually leads to him getting the girl), his early destitute days in America and his, eventual, dedicated hard work that led to him becoming a famous reporter and reformer. The book also provides an excellent look at life in New York City at the turn of the century and the break with old Victorian standards towards the poor and charity. A very compelling biography.Here are some links to more information about Riis:
-If you've got a few minutes, watch this video clip from a documentary about Riis. It showcases many of his photographs.
-An NPR article about Riis and Buk-Swienty's biography.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bad Blood by Lorna Sage

Pages - 281

This book won the Whitbread Prize For Biography in 2001.
I am also a little wary of biographies that have titles like Bad Blood, because there has been such an influx of biographies dealing with children being abused, that I am always concerned it is going to be of the same vein and I just can't read books like that. Luckily this book is not like that at all. It is quite a tragic story but there is nothing in it that would have made me not read it.
This memoir looks at three different marriages within Lorna's family. She looks at how these relationships made her the person she became. By being an integral part of her family, you realise why she strived so hard in her later life, as if she was always trying to clear the family name.
The first part of the book looks at the very destructive marriage of Lorna's adored grandfather, the local vicar who introduced Lorna to her love of books and her grandmother who never really grew up and took charge of her family and responsibilities. Her grandfather became destroyed by this unhappy marriage in the end and moved on to having two affairs, the second affair with his daughters best friend which shocked the small village they lived in and ruined his reputation.
The second part of the book deals with the marriage of Lorna's mum and dad. Lorna's mum never really recovered from her father's affair with her best friend. She spent most of her marriage secluded in her own house, also unable to take responsibility for her home and her family. Her father kept up a front by covering for her mother and obviously loved her completely.
The third part looks at the early relationship and marriage between Lorna and her husband Vic. Lorna ruined the family name and was seen to follow in her grandfathers footsteps by causing scandal to the family. Lorna fell pregnant before she left school and had to deal with the affect it had on all the family. During that time, it was the worst thing a girl could do, to be pregnant out of wedlock and she had to fight very hard in order to keep her child and to carry on her education. She eventually went on to university and Vic and Lorna were featured in the Daily Mail as the first married couple to graduate in the same subject at the same time and both get Firsts.
All through Lorna's life, you read about her love of literature, which she grasped with both hands from a young age. She had never needed much sleep and her doctor prescribed her with a light and a set of books to keep her occupied through the hours she no longer need to sleep through.
I enjoyed this book, it was interesting to be able to compare the three different marriages, but I would have liked the section on Lorna to be a bit longer. From the book, it is very clear how much Lorna adored her grandfather and writes about him in a way to try and win his redemption from everything wrongdoing he committed. She often writes scornfully about his antics, but there is definitely a firm underlying love for him. From the first couple of sentences you are aware that her grandfather wasn't your run of mill vicar. I couldn't help but think of the drunken vicar in Father Ted. See what you think.
' Grandfather's skirts would flap in the wind along the churchyard path and I would hang on. he often found things to do in the vestry, excuses for getting out of the vicarage (kicking the swollen door, cursing ) and so long as he took me he couldn't get up to much. I was a sort of hobble; he was my minder and I was his'
The book is partly set in places that are familiar to me, such as Tonypandy is South Wales. My family come from there and my aunt still lives there. Lorna's grandmother owned the little shop up amongst the houses and I couldn't help but imagine my nan visiting the shop when she lived there as it would have been one of a few shops in the area.
It was an interesting biography and I am really glad I read it. I don't know if I would have picked it myself, so I thank Annie for lending it to me. I would definitely have liked to read more about Lorna, but she obviously felt that the story of her grandfather was more interesting than her own life story. Personally I found her own story gripped me more, as she defied the way teenage pregnancies were treated during that era and went onto pave the way for other young unmarried mothers to achieve an impressive education and further along the line have a really successful career.
Lorna Sage was a professor of English at the University of East Anglia and also wrote a couple of non fiction books. She passed away in January 2001 after witnessing the success of her memoirs.
Has anybody else read this book?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Lincolns

Title: The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary
Author: Candace Fleming

What I loved most about this book is that it was not just another book about Abraham Lincoln but as the title implies was about both Abraham and Mary. It was very interesting to get a look at Mary along side her husband.
I also loved the scrapbook format of this book. It is absolutely full of interesting photographs, paintings, newspaper clippings and images of documents. Have a gander at Grant's hand written terms of surrender from Appomattox Court House or a copy of a draft from the Gettysburg address in Lincoln's handwriting. Great stuff. And because the book is set up like a scrapbook there are lots of little sections and snippets of information grouped together that just made a unique and interesting reading experience.
Filled with great trivia and bits of personal information about the Lincoln's this book is not to be missed.
I really want to track down a copy of the author's scrapbook look at Eleanor Roosevelt. That should be really interesting.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


In The Sum of Our Days, internationally acclaimed author Isabel Allende reconstructs the painful reality of her own life in the wake of the tragic death of her daughter, Paula. Narrated with warmth, humor, exceptional candor, and wisdom, this remarkable memoir is as exuberant and full of life as its creator. Allende bares her soul as she shares her thoughts on love, marriage, motherhood, spirituality and religion, infidelity, addiction, and memory—and recounts stories of the wildly eccentric, strong-minded, and eclectic tribe she gathers around her and lovingly embraces as a new kind of family.

Product Description(from Amazon.Com)

This is a wonderful, witty, and loving book! I really liked it. Isabel Allende is very frank about her life. The death of her daughter, her son's divorce and remarriage, and all the people she seems to "adopt". Very moving book!

Thank you for the invite to this blog. Here is my list of books:

1. The Sum of Our Days: A Memoir - Isabel Allende
2. Clear Springs: A Memoir - Bobbie Ann Mason
3. Her Last Death: A Memoir - Susanna Sonnenberg
4. Dog Years: A Memoir - Mark Doty
5. Kitchen Privileges: A Memoir - Marry Higgins Clark

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Title: Alice Roosevelt Longworth: From White House Princess to Washington Power Broker
Author: Stacy A. Cordery

Before coming across this biography about Alice Roosevelt Longworth, I knew very little about this woman who was once a major American icon and known around the world as Princess Alice. I knew she was Theodore Roosevelt's daughter, that her mother had died shortly after giving birth to her and that she married a congressman from Cincinnati in a fancy White House wedding but that was about as far as my knowledge went. It turns out there was a lot to learn.

So who was Alice Roosevelt Longworth?
Theodore Roosevelt lost both his wife and his mother within hours of each other. Devastated by grief Roosevelt named his daughter Alice after her dead mother and then left her in the care of his sister. It was not until he remarried and his wife insisted Alice live with them that Roosevelt sent for his daughter. His new wife, childhood friend Edith Kermit Carow, at times took on an almost wicked step-mother persona towards her step daughter and her father pretty much kept ignoring her. Roosevelt never talked to Alice about her mother or even spoke her name. Alice was called Sister by the family so that the name Alice did not have to be used. Alice became a sort of outsider in her own family, never feeling that she fit in with her step brothers and sister.

After Theodore Roosevelt became President, Alice became the rebellious first daughter that the nation and world could not get enough of. Before there were movie stars or celebrity sports stars Alice Roosevelt was a media darling. The press followed her everywhere and she made the headlines for recklessly driving her car, betting on horses, and smoking in public. Alice renounced many of the social conventions of her time much to the relief of some and consternation of others. She became known as Princess Alice to all her worldwide, adoring fans. Her father and mother tried rather fruitlessly to convince Alice to behave properly and keep her name out of the papers, she was garnering more attention than her presidential father. It was not until Alice took a very successful goodwill trip across Asia that the president realized the political value of his celebrity daughter.

Alice loved the fame, the notoriety, living in the White House and being privy to the political scene in the nation's capital. In 1906 she married Nicolas Longworth, a congressman from Ohio and secured a future living in Washington and being a major behind the scenes political player. Alice became one of her father's most trusted political advisers and campaigned for his third term as president. Throughout her life this intelligent and ambitious woman wielded major political power but eschewed holding an official office. She cultivated friendships with those in power and helped to develop others for future political power. She voiced her opinions and did not care what others thought. She was very outspoken against her cousin Franklin Roosevelt's presidency and did not much care for cousin Eleanor. Alice worked to make sure her name and personality were always out there and always influential.

The biography includes details of her relationship with her often drunk and womanizing husband and Alice's affair with Idaho's Senator Borah, who fathered Alice's daughter Paulina.
In fact, details are something this book did not lack at all. While I was fascinated by much of what I was reading the book took on an almost time line effect at times. Lists of dinner guests, who Alice met with, when and where filled page after page. There were so many facts and details but I still felt this book was just skimming the surface when it came to who Alice was. I came away from this very lengthy biography feeling like I still had so much to learn but that I knew every detail about Alice's life. Like many biographies there was a lot of going back in forth in time that often got confusing and left holes in the story that were either filled in much, much later or never at all.
An ambitious and very well researched biography that just seemed to be missing something. Don't read unless you are very interested in the subject or you'll be bored by the many tedious details concerning Alice.

If you are interested in Alice but not sure about reading this long biography you can check out a fun and award winning children's book titled What to do About Alice written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Review - Bookends: Two Women, One Enduring Friendship by Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine Stern

Old Books, Rare Friends did so well when published, fans of the book asked for more. Bookends is meant to be a more personal and in-depth look at the friendship between these two extraordinary women. I believe it is a perfect complement for the first book but would not stand well on its own (where as Old Books, Rare Friends does). While it covers a lot of the same ground from the first book, it is not repetitive. Both books alternate between the two different points of view of each women. So if in the first book, a trip to Europe was told from the point of view of Rostenberg, in Bookends Stern would share her impressions of the same event. They both discuss the romantic relationships they experienced in their youth and also expound on why they chose not to marry. There is a chapter dedicated to the dogs who served as their faithful companions throughout their lives and the difficulty they experienced in realizing the time had come to stop having a canine family member. There is a beautiful chapter dedicated to their mothers and the close relationships they both experienced with them. Two chapters address the changing world they live in and the process of aging in such a world. I could relate to their lamenting the onslaught of intimidating new technology. But I felt the deepest sadness as they outlined all the ways in which the rare book world has changed and in many ways left them behind. They were in no way found to be irrelevant or disrespected but the inevitable change of the times left them questioning and unsure about their place in a world they loved so much. I do recommend reading Bookends. I did not find it to be overkill...as a matter of fact, I still wanted to know more about these two ladies and after consulting the internet was saddened to find that they had both passed away recently (Rostenberg in 2005 and Stern in 2007). Their legacy continues to live on in a musical based on the two booksellers as well as a proposed documentary that I will be on the lookout for.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

We have a winner!

Using random.org, the winner of The Shiniest Jewel is Patty!


I'll be hosting more giveaways throughout the year.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dear Fatty by Dawn French

366 pages
Challenges - In Her Shoes and 100+ challenge

This book came out just before Christmas and there was a lot of hype about it being fabulous, so I was desperate to read it. My friend Jo over at Crafting and Allotmenting kindly lent it to me and I devoured it very quickly.

Many of my overseas readers probably won't have a clue who this lady is, but over here she is a much loved British icon. Dawn French is part of one of our most longest serving comedy duo's French and Saunders who have been making people laugh for 30 years now. Jennifer Saunders had a hit programme with Absolutely Fabulous, which I think was aired in America.
Dawn has also had a very successful acting career, her most famous role being Geraldine Granger in the Vicar of Dibley, which is one of those comfort TV programmes that you can watch over and over again, a bit like Friends, Frasier and even Only Fools and Horses.
Dawn is also married to another very famous comedian, Lenny Henry, who figured quite heavily in my childhood viewing in the late, great Tiswas. Find me a 30+ British person who never watched Tiswas on a Saturday morning whilst growing up, and I will throw custard pie at them! Only joking!
Dawn's autobiography was as good as people said it was. It had me laughing so much, that my settee would not stop shaking and my husband refused to sit next me. She comes across as a warm, lovely,kindhearted person, who you would just love to know and have as your best buddy.
She has written the book in the form of a series of letters to different people who are important to her. A lot are addressed to her father who committed suicide when she was nineteen. She also writes a lot to Fatty, who is her comedy partner Jennifer Saunders, who isn't large at all.
I loved this book completely, I loved reading about their obsession with getting Madonna on their show for the last 30 years, always being turned down. I loved reading about their Comedy Strip days which were a big part of my television viewing whilst growing up. I loved that they wanted her in Mama Mia, but her singing was beyond awful!
I hav included some pictures. The top one shows Dawn with her husband Lenny. The next one show Dawn as Geraldine Granger and the third is a picture of her with her comedy partner Jennifer Saunders.
If you are looking for a warm, light hearted read, I would definitely recommend this book.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Our first book giveaway!

The Shiniest Jewel: A Family Love Story (2008)
Marian Henley
176 pages
Received from Library Thing Early Reviewers.

I can't say enough good things about this touching, beautiful memoir. At 49, Marian Henley realizes that though she may not ever marry her longtime boyfriend, Rick, she wants to be a mother. The Shiniest Jewel details her journey to adopt her son William from Russia. Told in graphic novel format, this thought-provoking memoir made me realize how much some mothers go through to do adopt. I know it will be on my top 10 books of 2009.

As a way of saying thank you for joining this challenge, I decided to host a giveaway for all of you participating this year. To enter your name in the drawing, please leave a comment letting me know you want it. I'll randomly draw a name next Saturday.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A River of Words

Written by Jen Bryant (July 2008)
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
34 pages
2008 Cybils nominee for best poetry

A River of Words tells of the poet William Carlos Williams' life from childhood until he's an adult. Bryant shows the reader where Williams grew up, how he fell in love with poetry, and where his inspiration from his poems came from.

This is a book for all ages. I read it to my oldest son and he loved hearing about Williams going after what he wanted, becoming a busy doctor, who still found the time to do what he loved: write poetry. The book was so nice we read it over again once we finished it the first time.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Finished 2008 "In Their Shoes" Reading Challenge

Thanks to Vasilly from 1330V for hosting "In Their Shoes" reading challenge. In this challenge, we read memoirs, autobiographies and biographies. I read seven books for this challenge in 2008!

My Selections

1) Cross Creek - Marjorie Rawlings (review)
2) Marley and Me - John Grogan (review)
3) Ecology of a Cracker Childhood - Janisse Ray (review)
4) Resistance: A Woman's Struggle and Defiance in Occupied France by Agnes Humbert (review)
5) The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art - Joyce Carol Oates (review)
6) Negotiating With The Dead - Margaret Atwood (review)
7) An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination - Elizabeth McCracken (review)

Favorite: An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken (hands down!)

A great challenge from a great blogger friend - thanks, V!