Review: Halsey Street by Naima Coster

Reading Around the World: The Dominican Republic

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Have You Found Your Life Yet?

The Story

Penelope Grand is the adult only child of a depressed father and a mother who couldn’t take her husband’s depression any longer. Her father, Ralph, grew up in an orphanage in New York, her mother is from “The D.R.” [Dominican Republic]. Ralph’s life was tied up in his now failed record shop. He has since had any number of trials and tribulations. Mirella, Penelope’s mother, has returned to the D.R. to make a new life. Penelope, too, has tried a new life–in Pittsburgh places. Now she is back in Brooklyn to care for her Dad and sort out her life–only….[no spoilers].

My Thoughts

I love it when I find a debut that doesn’t read like a debut. Coster has the strength and determination as a writer to pen a character who isn’t un-loveable but also isn’t very likable. Her writing is excellent–I especially enjoyed the memories of Penelope’s visits to her Grandmother in the D.R. and of her Grandmother’s early life.

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What I didn’t like, as I alluded earlier, was Penny–Penelope. She was sulky, rude, angry with a chip on her shoulder the size of Argentina. She can think of no way to describe or speak of physical intimacy being “F—” which got very, very tiresome.[Minor Spoiler alert!!!] She kept referring to her short-term lover’s wife as “the landlord” (which she was) and never as “his wife.” That was very indicative of her way of seeing the world. [End of minor spoiler]. Her bluntness was beyond rudeness–it was often savage. She nurses her hurt like it was the only way to sustain her life. She needs therapy–and fast. Maybe even a Rottweiler as a service dog–a service dog to those crossing her path so they can be safe from her!

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She finally has a small epiphany about the time her mother asks her the question at the top of this review. Sadly, she does not go on to sort it all out. I would have thought the obvious answer was staring her in the face: With all those rich white hipsters invading the neighborhood, find a new location and reopen the record shop. Hipsters LIVE for music on “Viynal” almost as much as they do for coffee. Heck, throw in a coffee bar while you are at it! Paint the place yourself–showcase your art, don’t waste that year you sulked through the Rhode Island School of Design! Let people SEE your talent instead of your nastiness for a change, Pen!

Halsey Street by Naima Coster

This book is currently on sale for Kindle for only $4.99.

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Review: The Accessory Handbook by Alison Freer

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Let me start off with a few disclaimers that I’m sure my 20-something daughter will vouch for:

  1. I am not stylish.
  2. I am among those librarians, the dionsaurs of the field, who do NOT own either a cardigan or cats-eye glasses.
  3. I do not do “cute” except for cat t-shirts and Snoopy t-shirts  for at-home wear only.
  4. My most frequent accessory is cat hair. Since we have three cats, I have hair for every color pallate.
  5. I haven’t purchased a complete outfit, with accessories, shoes and all, since 2003.

“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” (Steel Magnolias)

Now for the great news: Alison Freer can fix all of this! In her first book, How To Get Dressed, which I reviewed here, she explained how to pick clothes that are right for you. And, even better, she told you how in a fun way. This gal has both style and panache. She also uses words that non-fashionistas can understand.

This time around she’s addressing how to finish the look–that is how to accessorize yourself. From scarves to hats to purses to shoes to jewelry and beyond– it’s all in this wonderful little book with lots of great illustrations. But wait! There’s more! You also get instructions on how to clean, store and even repair the items! There’s help with colors,  with textures, with…..well EVERYTHING to do with accessories of all kind.

Take beanies. Now, I don’t know about you, but beanies really don’t hit my fashion radar. But, should I see one suddenly that I love…..she’s got me covered! “How to wear a beanie like a cool girl” is right there on page 108. Read it and rock it!

THE #1 Tip For Me

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Page 131 will probably help my blood pressure for the rest of my life! Truth. I always thought my purse strap wouldn’t stay on my shoulder because I have narrow shoulders. NO! It’s because the folks who make purses don’t CARE if they stay there! Well, well, well. Never fear, Alison is here! And her tip is cheap and practical–a hunk of clear, self-adhesive no-slip shoe insert! Blew. Me. Away. As soon as the budget allows, I will be purchasing some of these! I’ll buy multiples because she knows her stuff so I know it will work.

See? Practical information ANY woman can use! But best of all? Her favorite shoes are….wait for it…yes…yes….yes… Velvet Smoking Slippers! Soul Mate! Don’t believe me? See page 155–read it and weep rejoice!

A Suggestion For Alison

Now if she’d only write a book titled Dressing and Accessorizing the plus-sized, middle-aged woman with no neck, not much budget and nowhere to wear it all. THAT would be a best seller! She’d get her own Monthly Clothing Box deal She’d have fans and groupies! She’d be the India Hicks, the Dominio Magazine, of middle-aged cool. Sigh. She’s got a damned sweet gig now as a costume designer in Hollywood. Isn’t that always the way?

The Accessory Handbook by Alison Freer

 

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Villains

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This is a difficult topic for me. I don’t enjoy being scared. I’m not a fan of baddies who hurt people. I don’t read books that feature them, nor do I watch tv or movies with them. It can upset me too much. Yes, I’m a snowflake. Also, I’ve done variations on this topic before and don’t like to just keep posting the same old, same old. So, the HP villains, Satan of the Screwtape Letters, The Pig Who Is More Equal in Animal Farm, etc., are in posts linked at the bottom.

#1 Cathy Ames in  East of Eden

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I should have known when Oprah picked this for her book club that nothing good was going to happen! I know there are and have always been people as vile as Cathy, but I don’t want to know them–not even in fiction. Reading about Cathy led me to actual nightmares, queasiness and a feeling of discomfort so bad that I’m feeling stressed just copying the book cover and including it here. I could not finish the book though all of those feelings ARE a true endorsement of what a great writer John Steinbeck was! East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

The movie featured the legendary James Dean as Caleb. I won’t be watching it! There was also a tv mini-series of the book as well.

#2 Scar in the Lion King

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Jeremy Irons is one of my all-time great celebratie crushes. I love cats and that includes lions. And, let’s face it, it IS annoying when your cute-as-a-button nephew gets to inherit the entire kingdom. (Just ask Prince Harry).  The Lion King.

#3 IT in A Wrinkle in Time

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How dare IT try to ruin a happy, quirky, high-achieving family!! A Wrinkle in Time.

#4 Hurricane Katrina in Five Days at Memorial

(Katrina stands proxy for every hurricane or natural disaster)

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No one should have to make the decisions these brave nurses, doctors and others had to make during that storm. Five Days At Memorial.

#5 The Sharks and the U.S. Navy

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Not to be confused with the great John Wayne war movie of the same name, this book tells of what happened to the commander of the U.S.S. Indianapolis when the ship went down and he and others survived on the open sea in the face of shark attacks. For years the survivor’s fought to clear their commanders name and eventually won.  In Harm’s Way.

Similar Posts

Protagonists You Hate to Like  The one with the Harry Potter guy.

Top 10 Bad Guys and Gals The one with many of the usual suspects

Favorite Holiday Villains

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You are welcome to join the Top 5 Wednesday group at Goodreads.com and play along each week by doing a blog post of video.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Longest Books I’ve Read

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This week’s topic is HUGE! The biggest books I’ve read! I love big books, though the cell phone distraction has eaten away at my attention span–I admit it. Most of these are long-time favorites. Only Raintree County and Gray House and the very boring letters (most of them–the interesting ones were in the reviews) of the Queen Mum get less than a lifetime’s seal of approval. It helps that one of my favorite authors, Herman Wouk, is given to writing wonderful, long, sprawling novels a reader can lose themselves in.

The Ten I’ve Finished–and mostly loved

Longest Book I’ve Listened to

 

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I don’t recommend this for rush hour! I nearly had an accident when one sex scene started. I listen while I drive to/fro work each day.

The Ones I’m Still Working On

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Anyone can join in. Read the rules and learn the topics here, then post next Tuesday. You can read all of this week’s posts here.

Review: Kick: The True Story of JFK’s Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth

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The Kennedy family is often touted as “America’s Royal Family.” President Kennedy’s administration is known as “Camelot” for the mythical England of King Arthur and the Round Table. They have a few things in common with the British Royal Family–in both families, there was a loving father who was a serial womanizer (Edward VII) and the adored Crown Prince (first Prince Albert Victor and then in the next generation, Edward VIII) was “lost” and the second son became the Crowned Prince and eventual King. But in both familes it is the women who had the true strength.

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Joseph P. Kennedy, wife Rose, and their nine children at about the time he became Ambassador to Britain.

It was Rose Kennedy (and Queen Alexandra) who lived with their husband’s philandering. It was Rose Kennedy (and Queens Alexandra and Mary) who lost their beloved eldest sons who should have worn the crown. It was Kathleen Kennedy (and Princess Mary and Princess Elizabeth) who served their country in war (Kathleen in the Red Cross, Princess Mary as a nurse and Princess Elizabeth, briefly, as a driver and mechanic). It was the Kennedy women and their tea parties who did the most to elect President Kennedy to each office he held.

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Rose Kennedy with Rosemary and Kathleen on their way to Buckingham Palace for their Presentation to the King and Queen

Kathleen was not, as is often thought, the eldest Kennedy daughter–see was the second, after Rosemary, who later suffered the horrible lobotomy. Kathleen, known as “Kick” was regarded by most as a virtual twin of her brother Jack in both looks and temperament. Both had trouble fully loving anyone, both were risk takers, both lived life in the moment. Unlike Jack, Kick had the devout Roman Catholic faith of her mother, Rose.

Like all her siblings, she adored her father, often in spite of his behavior or political views, and feared her mother. Kick and Rosemary (pre-lobotomy) helped secure the family’s fame by being presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (best remembered as “The Queen Mother”) in 1938 when Joseph Kennedy was the first Irish Catholic to be America’s Ambassador to Britain. This launched Kick on the social scene of aristocratic Britain. All of the names you hear today around Queen Elizabeth, the Prince of Wales and even Prince William are the parents or grandparents (even great-grandparents) of Kick’s circle.

Kathleen was far better educated than many in her circle–not only because of being sent to the convent schools of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in the US and France. Her “real” education occurred at the fabled Kennedy dinner table were Rose would earlier in the day tack up a newspaper clipping or magazine article or something similar to be the focus of the night’s conversation. After each of the nine children had reported to Father and Mother on his or her day, the conversation began and each child, regardless of age, was expected to have an opinion and defend it on the topic of the day. British aristocrats sons had this education in the Oxford [University] Union debates. Kick had it from birth.

This holding of opinions and not being afraid to air them marked her as wildly different from most British upper-class girls who, as Downton’s Dowager Countess of Grantham said, would have opinions once they married and their husbands told them what they were. Kick became a near daughter to the famed American-born female Member of Parliament, Lady Astor of Cliveden [the house that is now the hotel Meghan Markle stayed in the night before her wedding to Prince Harry]. This helped Kick to make a name for herself and to make good friends–among them a young man with a destiny almost as great as that planned for Kick’s eldest brother, Joe, Jr who was to be President.

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Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy with Billy Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington

This young man was William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington, heir to one of the greatest houses and oldest Dukedoms in Britain. Billy, as the future Duke of Devonshire was known, was the scion of one of the oldest and most vocal protestant families in the country–the Duke of Devonshire having the “living” (i.e. the salary, housing, etc) over 40 Church of England clergy in his estate. It seems inevitable that this man would fall for the very devoutly Roman Catholic Kick, who at this stage of her life believed birth control was murder and that her immortal soul was in danger from many things in life.

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Kick and Billy on after their wedding. The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and Joseph Kennedy, Jr. were present.

Sadly, when the war moved from Phoney War to Blitzkrieg, and Joe Kennedy made defeatist statements that got him sent home, Kick had to return with her family to America. She tried to get over Billy. He even became engaged to someone else, briefly. But, he couldn’t get over Kick. That he planned a political career and that she would be an outstanding political wife was not lost on him, but it was her storied vitality that was the true attraction. The couple had spent countless nights sitting up in great country houses talking about everything. They just “knew” they were meant to be together. Finally, after a few years Kick return to England and to Billy. He could not marry a Catholic–his son, should he have one, would eventually be the Duke of Devonshire and MUST be a Protestant. Thanks to a change by the Catholic Church only a few years before, Kick could not marry a Protestant unless he promised all children would be raised Catholic. Impasse. They wrung their hands, they talked, the consulted. Finally,  the basically had to just say “to heck with it” and marry in a civil ceremony like Prince Charles and Camilla. Only weeks later, Billy was killed.

My Thoughts

I began to wonder if all of Kick’s moralizing about her faith wasn’t a sort of cover for not being sure enough about Billy, but in the end, I decided it was real. Her father and brothers were very worldly, she and her sisters were not. I believe she and Billy truly did love each other. The proof, to me, were the actions of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. They truly welcomed her. That would not have happened if they didn’t mean it. They’d have gone thru the motions for appearance’s sake. They attened the wedding and more–they took Kick as a daughter.

But it was after Billy’s death that Kick puzzles me. She was a very young widow which was sad enough. But she was cheated of a grand role in life–Duchess of Devonshire. And the young lady who got it–the wife of yet another second son who became Crowned Prince and King, was the British version of Kick. She was Deborah–Debo Mitford of the famed Mitford sisters.  Two of her famous sisters were Nazi’s. One, Unity stalked Hitler until she became his friend and shot herself in a suicide bid (unsuccessfully) when war was declared. Another sister was a Communist. Her only brother, the last heir to a title, was killed in the war. Debo would become THE Duchess of Devonshire–the one who saved Chatsworth, befriended the Prince of Wales and created the Country House Industry.

As a widow, a citizen by marriage, she considered standing for Parliament like her surrogate mother, Lady Astor. She planned to use her home as a political salon like Cliveden was before the war. No less than Anthony Eden payed court and was interested in marrying her. Imagine a Kennedy helping navigate the Suez Crisis!! Eden might have survived! He married Churchill’s equally original niece, Clarissa, instead–both ladies were a generation or two younger than Eden.

As one friend wrote on her death, she lost her “rudder” when Billy died.  So, instead of being a force in British Converative Party circles (or even wife of a future Prime Minister) she discovered a man like her father. She fell into a passionate love which sounded way, way more like a passionate case of lust. All her hemming and hawing over marriage to Protestant, decent, honorable Billy Hartington went out the window. Not only was Peter, Earl Fitzwilliam, 10 years older but he was married and had a daughter. This did not stop the widowed Kick. Sadly, the two died on a flight that should not have taken off. The young lady who’d thought birth control was murder and all the rest died on a get-away with a rakish lover. Jack Kennedy was so distraught that he could not attend her funeral.

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Photo source

“Joy She Gave. Joy She Has Found”
Kick’s grave at Chatsworth

It was the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire who honored her with the funeral mass in London–yes, Catholic mass. They then burried her at Chatsworth. Years later, President Kennedy, on his state visit to Ireland, came to Chatsworth by chopper to finally visit his sister’s grave. Bobby Kennedy honored her by naming the eldest of his 11 children “Kathleen Hartington Kennedy” but ordered she was never to be called Kick. Sadly, his order has been forgotten and the current Kathleen Kennedy IS called Kick. That nickname should have been a one-off like the woman who earned it.

Did You Know?

The Marquess of Hartington was Godfather to Andrew Parker-Bowles.

Other Kennedy Book’s I’ve Reviewed.

Click the linked title to read the review.

Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel [fiction] a “What if?” story of Rosemary Kennedy

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Sister by Kate Clifford Larson

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Covers

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I have very definite opinions on cover art. A lot of titles I love have new covers this year or last year. I’ve hated most! That said, here are a new book covers–either new publications or new covers on older books–that I like right now, but of course when a topic like this comes up I can never remember any titles!

 

One Random Book I Know Nothing About

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But I love the cover!

 

The One in Several Collections of Great Covers

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Love it!

 

A Favorite Cover of a Favorite Book

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My favorite Du Maurier book.

 

The Series To Swoon Over

 

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If I had the money, I’d have these! Read more about these special covers here.

 

Other Cover Posts

 

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Here is a link to last May’s version of this post–5 other new covers.

 

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Here is my Copy Cat Cover’s post for The After Party

 

 

 

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Tigers in Red Weather Copy Cat Covers Post.

 

 

 

Others:

Red, White and Blue Covers post.

Books With Autumnal Covers post.

Books Covers I’d Live In post [Top 5 Wednesday]

Inaccurate Book Covers post [Top 5 Wednesday]

 

You can take part in Top 5 Wednesday–just join the group at Goodreads.com and do a blog post or video post. The topics are in the group as are the links to each week’s posts. It’s fun!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

 

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This week’s Top Ten Tuedays topic is: Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read. Back in May I did a Top 5 Wednesday post that was nearly on this topic–I listed the books I HAD read while indicating that I want to read more by those authors. You can view the post HERE.

So, in addition to the authors mention in the May post–JoJo Moyles, Elizabeth Buchan, Joanna Trollope, Fredrik Backman and Helen Rappaport, I’ll add these five the book I most want to read next.

 

Barbara Kingsolver

 

I love Barbara Kingsolver’s books except the Lacuna. I’m not much for short stories or essays so I haven’t read those, but I did read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

 

Kent Haruf

 

Our Souls at Night was one of the most moving books ever. But, its the only one of Kent Haruf’s books I’ve read.

 

Lisa Genova

I couldn’t stop listening to Every Note Played so I’m anxious to listen to or read another of her books.

 

John Green

 

John Green just knows how to tell a story. My son did not like Paper Towns at all so I am a little concerned about that one, so I’ll hold off on it till I’m done with all his others.

 

Liane Moriarty

I’m hooked on this author’s vivid stories! I have several yet to read.

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. You can join in at any time. The rules and weekly topics are posted here. Check each Tuesday to see all the posts.

Review: Cooking for Picasso: A Novel by Camille Aubray

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The Story

This is one of those books in which the heroine finds/inherits Grandma’s ___________ and sets out to learn the true story. The reader is then made to leap back and forth from the present day to grandma’s day and back. In this case, it is a notebook full of carefully annotated recipes from 1936. The patron to whom they were served was noted as “P” and the “P” stands for Picasso.  And, family folklore has it that the chef who created these recipes, Ondine, also was given a painting by the great artist. Little do they suspect….[no spoilers].

My Thoughts

While the method of telling the story is as worn as a threadbare carpet, the story itself was very interestings, although the modern part of the tale had a number of necessary eye-rolls from me at different parts–such as the “method of discovery” which rated an out-loud ‘oiy” from yours truly. Then there was Auntie’s professional interest but she knew nothing about the supposed gift from Picasso. Oiy-squared.

Ondine’s story, though, was was very compelling Her bravery, her cunning, her sense of self all were inspiring. Granddaughter Celine–well, I just found her under-developed as a character. I have noticed this trend in other books employing this method of storytelling–the current day story is so weak and contrived.

I wish the food parts of the story had gone on and on! They were magical but far too short. So, too, the descriptions of the locations. I’d like to have heard more about Picasso’s work of that era, too, though I know many of his paintings. Ondine posing for him was interesting as was their relationship. Picasso the man, has to be one of the greatest pigs of all men, even if his artwork is magnificent. This story did much to reinforce that notion. For once I did not object to the very few icky sex scenes because they were totally necessary to his character. Sex was, obviously, a big part of his life.

[One tiny possible spoiler.] Why is it in novels that when parents or a headmaster or a housekeeper filches outgoing mail or intercepts incoming mail, to keep it from making it to its destination, they always keep and hide it so it is found later by its author or intended recipient?

This book was compared to the works of Paula McLain, Nancy Horan, and Melanie Benjamin, but it is simply not up to the comparison. It is a perfectly adequate beach or pool or air travel book though and that’s not a bad thing.

My Verdict

3 Stars

Cooking for Picasso: A Novel by Camilie Aubray

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Woman Watch by Picasso

Top 5 Wednesday: Classics I Wish Had Modern Adaptations

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I must add that I see this topic as: Classics I Wish Had Modern Adaptations That Follow My Ideas–a little mash-up, a little interpretation, a little improving on the original.

Ivanhoe

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First of all, this image is from the University of Central Florida’s Quidditch Club/Team Facebook page.

This would be a Harry Potter version–with Quidditch instead of jousting.

Too Kill A Mockingbird

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Re-done with an African American Evangelical Atticus representing a framed Muslim refugee.

Tom Brown’s School Days

51+qDE-j4jL._SY346_Retold as  the story of a boy from a sink estate (housing project) attending a famous British public (private) school on a government scholarship. Since most are now co-ed, he’d fall for a Princess or Duke’s daughter or something and would be denied the captaincy of the rugby 1st XV in favor of a legacy.

Black Beauty and War Horse

This one would tell the story of a rescue horse now happily living out her days doing a Riding for the Disabled sort of program. She is permantly loved by a little boy named Simon with Down’s Syndrome and lives happily ever after. She also gets a merchandising deal worth millions. She would be in a relationship with Joey, a horse rescued from the war zone in Afghanistan and brought home to live out his days happily grazing.

Two That Have Already Been Done to My Satisfaction

Timon of Athens

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I saw this play done with Timon being on the cover of big magazines and buzzed in popular culture–sort of a Bill Gates of Howard Hughes sort of rich recluse.

Grapes of Wrath

Tortilla Curtain tells the story of undocumented immigrants (aka illegal aliens) in Southern California. Great recreation of the pathos of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

Join in! Join the Goodreads Top 5 Wednesday group and post a video or blog post on the week’s topic. You can read all the posts at the group, too.