The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner

The Yellow Bird Sings is Jennifer Rosner’s debut novel. She is the author of the memoir If A Tree Falls: A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard, and the children’s book, The Mitten String. Her writing has appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. Jennifer lives in western Massachusetts with her family.”

“A mother. A child. An impossible choice.

Poland, 1941. After the Jews in their town are rounded up, Róza and her five-year-old daughter, Shira, spend day and night hidden in a farmer’s barn. Forbidden from making a sound, only the yellow bird from her mother’s stories can sing the melodies Shira composes in her head.

Róza does all she can to take care of Shira and shield her from the horrors of the outside world. They play silent games and invent their own sign language. But then the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must face an impossible choice: whether to keep her daughter close by her side, or give her the chance to survive by letting her go.” Goodreads

The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Beauty will save the world,” – The hope and optimism shared from mother to daughter.

Roza and Shira are running for their lives; fighting the memories of the killing and devastation of families and homes. With the chilling descriptions the reader is left wondering how in the midst of such tragedy does a mother find the fortitude to keep going? In Jennifer Rosner’s own words: “to fight the sting in her thighs, the rolling bile in her stomach, the biting cold at her nose and cheeks and fingertips. She pushes on despite the pain and atrophy, despite her acute desire to stop and rest. She tries to outrun her loss.”

Jennifer Rosner’s detailed descriptions take the reader on a roller coaster of the senses. Through her deftly chosen words the reader cringes at the sting of the biting cold, the pungent, rotting smells of the barn and the itchy hay and stiffness of legs and arms. Just at the right moment the reader reaches the crest and is lifted and encouraged as the memories of those glorious and melodic sounds of violins, cellos and music halls are shared. Then oh so quickly, plunged and jerked back to the dreaded fear of being found and shot. The “death defying ride” is worth it in the end.

This emotional tale of a mother’s love and her daughter’s devotion is intricately and indelibly woven with a ‘fairy tale of hope;” told by Roza so that Shira remains perfectly still and quiet. It’s her story of how an imaginary yellow bird sings in a garden of daisies- perfect for weaving garlands for princesses, and magical music that helps the flowers bloom. Of course, every fairy tale must also include an element of evil: the “boot stomping” giants and beasts that are to be feared.

This debut novel rotates between Roza’s frantic search for Shira, and the stoic quest of a daughter to rejoin her mother. The rubble and chaos of war is mixed with the tuning of violins and ecstasy of concertos; leaving the reader breathless, anxiously awaiting the crescendo.

Jennifer Rosner’s The Yellow Bird Sings is indeed a true “symphony!” GR

Once Upon a Sunset by Tif Marcelo

Tif Marcelo is a veteran army nurse and holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Public Administration. She believes and writes about the strength of families, the endurance of friendship, heartfelt romances, and is inspired daily by her own military hero husband and four children. She is also the author of The Key to Happily Ever After and the Journey to the Heart series.

The author of The Key to Happily Ever After—“a true gem filled with heart, laughs, and a cast of delightful characters” (Nina Bocci, USA TODAY bestselling author)—returns with a heartwarming and charming novel about a woman who travels to the Philippines to reconnect with her long-lost family…and manages to find herself along the way.

“Diana Gallagher-Cary is at a tipping point. As a Washington, DC, OB/GYN at a prestigious hospital, she uses her career to distract herself from her grief over her granny’s death and her breakup from her long-term boyfriend after her free-spirited mother moves in with her. But when she makes a medical decision that disparages the hospital, she is forced to go on a short sabbatical.

Never one to wallow, Diana decides to use the break to put order in her life, when her mother, Margo, stumbles upon a box of letters from her grandfather, Antonio Cruz, to her grandmother from the 1940s. The two women always believed that Antonio died in World War II, but the letters reveal otherwise. When they learn that he lived through the war, and that they have surviving relatives in the Philippines, Diana becomes determined to connect with the family that she never knew existed, though Margo refuses to face her history. But Diana pushes on, and heads on a once-in-a-lifetime trip that challenges her identity, family history, and her idea of romantic love that could change her life forever.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

“Your granny, my mother. I don’t know what to think, but I think she lied.” That’ll get you hooked, for sure! Once Upon a Sunset is the fifth novel by Tif Marcelo, but the first for the Grateful Reader. It won’t be the last. The mother/daughter relationship is authentic and well developed. Marcelo adds just the right amount of family tension/drama for the reader to take sides and then change back-just like in real life. The current situation of Margo moving in with her ” baby doctor- on call” daughter, Diana, will strike a chord with many readers who have adult children or parents moving in and out of their homes and daily lives. The family drama toggles between present day and the past through the newly discovered letters between Margo’s mother, Leora, and her love, Antonio Cruz. The letters date from California, early 1933, through Antonio’s deployment to New Guinea and the Philippines, in 1945. Now single mother, Leora and her daughter, Margo, believe that Antonio died a hero in New Guinea, within days of arrival. Only after seven decades and Leora’s death, Margo discovers- her father really hadn’t died.

The reader tags along with Margo and her buddies on photo shoots and trips for their Instagram followers , but then succumbs to all the anger, exasperation, and “wonderment” as Diana weaves her way past one ex-fiance, through a delivery room fiasco, several airports, and finally arrives at Manila Bay and the opulent Las Cruces Hotel . The reader will experience the valley-lows that are brought on by decades of family lies and cover-ups, but also the mountain top- the joy of forgiveness, and new found hope in love and opportunity.

Get out your travel journal and “fly” with Tif Marcelo and Once Upon a Sunset. It’s a “first class” read! GR

This Won’t End Well by Camille Pagan

Camille Pagan is “the author of Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties, Forever is the Worst Long Time, The Art of Forgetting, and the #1 Kindle bestseller Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, which was recently optioned for film. Her novels have been translated into twelve languages.

In another life, she was the health editor at Real Simple and Fitness magazines; these days, she writes for publications like Fast Company, Forbes, O: The Oprah Magazine, Parade, Time, and others.”

The Grateful Reader Review: by Dorothy Schwab

No new people! That’s a tall order for anyone, but Annie is going to try this approach to living as she reacts to the loss of her job and possibly her fiance. As a true scientist, Annie Mercer, writes in her daily journal to keep the reader and the plot moving along at a quick pace. Annie’s thoughts and decisions are impacted by her house mate-depressed-hoarder mom; Leesa, long time friend and promoter of Lite Weight crystals and oils; and most importantly, the French teacher fiance, Jon. Now throw in two more variables to the “no new people” experiment: a chatty, wine drinking, fashionista of a neighbor and a private investigator and the formula for the experiment is complete. The Grateful Reader devoured Camille Pagan’s “life experiment” and the conclusion is that upon publication February 26, 2020, readers will agree with these findings: This Won’t End Well and Annie Mercer’s scientific approach to life are the ingredients for a *****star read.

The Queen’s Fortune A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon, and the Dynasty That Outlasted the Empire by Allison Pataki

A sweeping novel about the extraordinary woman who captured Napoleon’s heart, created a dynasty, and changed the course of history—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor’s Wife, The Accidental Empress, and Sisi. 

Expected publication: February 11, 2020, by Ballantine Books

“ALLISON PATAKI is the New York Times bestselling author of THE TRAITOR’S WIFE, THE ACCIDENTAL EMPRESS, SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN, WHERE THE LIGHT FALLS, BEAUTY IN THE BROKEN PLACES, AND NELLY TAKES NEW YORK. Allison’s novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

A former news writer and producer, Allison has written for The New York Times, ABC News, The Huffington Post, USA Today, Fox News and other outlets. She has appeared on The TODAY Show, Fox & Friends, Good Day New York, Good Day Chicago and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Allison graduated Cum Laude from Yale University with a major in English and spent several years in journalism before switching to fiction writing. A member of The Historical Novel Society, Allison lives in New York with her husband and daughter.”

In Allison’s own words: “Desiree! The woman who was going to marry Napoleon before he broke her heart and chose Josephine instead. The woman who was then forced to remain in Josephine’s and Napoleon’s inner circles, witnessing every moment of their rise and rule. The woman who walked behind and kneeled before them in this moment when they raised themselves above God. How did Desiree feel? What did she see and know? And how did she ultimately outfox them all? Talk about your royal drama. I can’t wait for readers to meet Desiree in just two weeks and enter into the stunning story of an ordinary woman who went on to lead a most extraordinary life.”

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

The Queen’s Fortune takes the reader on a carriage ride through the history of 18th century France. The reader begins the journey in 1789, with an eleven year old Desiree at the Convent of Notre Dame in Southern France. The ride ends with Desiree, now the dowager Queen of Sweden, in 1860, and her death at the age of 83. The Queen’s Fortune is laced with the history of Revolutionary France and the role that Napoleon Bonaparte played in the lives of Desiree, Josephine, and their families; not to mention the armies and other countries he conquered and controlled. Napoleon thought of himself as a “shooting star, a bright and unstoppable light scorching its way across the sky!”

Following this love story, along with the detailed accounts of Napoleon’s army movements, paired with “royal movements” to the opera, salons, balls, palaces and coronations; makes for quite a compelling read. Get your French silk gown and jewels ready to join Allison and her royal readers as you learn to appreciate the true grit that it took for Desiree to follow, for most of her lifetime, in the shadow of Napoleon and Josephine. Allison Pataki will have her own “crowning” moment on publication day, February 11, 2020. The Grateful Reader grants ***** to The Queen’s Fortune.

Magical New Beginnings for 2020

The Grateful Reader’s book club was selected for a Galley Match with the Book Club Cookbook. We read The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt. This is our review for the Book Club Cookbook post.

“Fabulous research by Nathalia Holt!” – Book Buddies Book Club on Nathalia Holt‘s THE QUEENS OF ANIMATION: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History, with galleys from Little, Brown and Company via #Galleymatch.

“Some surprising realizations: how long some stories were in the ‘morgue’ until Disney Studios could afford to produce the movie, how frequently the studio was almost bankrupt, the political strategy and travel by key entities to other countries to influence film production. It was startling to realize this was all happening before a movie came to the screen.”

“We enjoyed sharing our earliest Disney movie memories. The oldest story shared was by the youngest member. Her grandmother had gone on a school field trip to see ‘Snow White’ in 1937 – the trip is when she first noticed the boy she eventually married! Some could remember their own ‘first Disney movie,’ while others remembered their children’s first movie. It was such fun recalling these precious memories.”

Disney Studio Cafeteria menu: Walt’s Favorite Chili, The Snow White Special: Chicken Salad Sandwiches, and Princess Pretzel Salad-Strawberry Jello with pretzel crust; Disney Princess Cookies, individually wrapped for take home gifts. Thank you to Kim Cox of Kim’s Cookies for the delicious treats.

Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt

The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History

“From Snow White to Moana, from Pinocchio to Frozen, the animated films of Walt Disney Studios have moved and entertained millions. But few fans know that behind these groundbreaking features was an incredibly influential group of women who fought for respect in an often ruthless male-dominated industry and who have slipped under the radar for decades.

In The Queens of Animation, bestselling author Nathalia Holt tells their dramatic stories for the first time, showing how these women infiltrated the boys’ club of Disney’s story and animation departments and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and unforgettable narratives that have become part of the American canon. As the influence of Walt Disney Studios grew—and while battling sexism, domestic abuse, and workplace intimidation—these women also fought to transform the way female characters are depicted to young audiences.

With gripping storytelling, and based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens of Animation reveals the vital contributions these women made to Disney’s Golden Age and their continued impact on animated film making, culminating in the record-shattering Frozen, Disney’s first female-directed full-length feature film.

Nathalia Holt, Ph.D. is the New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars and Cured: The People who Defeated HIV. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Slate, Popular Science, and Time. She is a former Fellow at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and Harvard University. She lives with her husband and their two daughters in Pacific Grove, California.

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

Walt Disney’s movies, cartoons, & Golden Books have had an impact on listening and viewing audiences, adult and children alike, for almost nine decades! It’s hard to even imagine a time when Mickey Mouse and all his friends weren’t entertaining theater goers and eventually, TV audiences. Near the end of 1937, Snow White made her debut; one that ended with many in tears and a standing ovation-for an animated cartoon! Hundreds of studio employees had worked on the film. There were sixty-seven men named, but sadly, only two women were given screen credit at the end of the showing. This was a source of discontent for many years. The Queens of Animation is a group biography including many of the outstanding female animators who have gone much too long without well earned notoriety. These women are the true “princesses” in the Disney story.

Nathalia Holt does a superb job of giving the reader plenty of world history and economics, along with scientific discoveries in film, photography, sound, and animation. With true Disney “magic”, she blends all this into a “story board” that takes you on a wonderful journey from the forests of Snow White, to the steps of Cinderella’s castle; out to Neverland, the depths of the oceans and jungles, and finally to the icy steps of Elsa’s palace.

The years of tedious work on each movie is amplified with the vivid detail Nathalia Holt provides as the movie timeline unfolds. This magic carpet ride whips and twirls the reader from Snow White, at the brink of World War ll; all the way to Jennifer Lee and the red carpet of the 2013 Academy Awards- where Frozen wins an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. This marked two firsts for women: the first female director from Disney to receive the Academy Award, and for a female directed film to earn over one billion dollars at the box office!

The Queens of Animation certainly shines a much needed bright light on the female animators and their skillful, artistic contributions to the film industry.

Nathalia Holt says it best: ” They have shaped the evolution of female characters in film, advanced our technology, and broken down gender barriers in order to give us the empowering story lines we have begun to see in film and animation today. In the shadow of their artistry, millions of childhoods have been shaped, with an untold number yet to come.”

Next, a movie watch party to “see” all the Disney princesses through the eyes of the fabulous female animators. The Queens of Animation earns a five star award! GR

Cartier’s Hope by M. J. Rose

New York, 1910: A city of extravagant balls in Fifth Avenue mansions and poor immigrants crammed into crumbling Lower East Side tenements. A city where the suffrage movement is growing stronger every day but most women reporters are still delegated to the fashion and lifestyle pages. But Vera Garland is set on making her mark in a man’s world of serious journalism.

” M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice…  Books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.”

Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab

To live a full life, you need a full heart. Even though a heart can break from loss, it’s worth the risk. Advice from a father to his daughter.

Cartier’s Hope is a fascinating tour of early twentieth century New York City, through the eyes of socialite, Vera Garland. Not only does the lucky reader get a glimpse of iconic places such as the Plaza Hotel, Central Park, Metropolitan Opera, and the Waldorf-Astoria; but best of all, the lush descriptions of the posh department store, Garland’s Emporium, on 57th Street; in the heart of the city’s newest uptown shopping district. Vera, the Radcliff graduate, is actually an undercover reporter for the New York World and switches adeptly into the guise of Vee Swann with her wig, glasses, and unattractive dress. She pens a weekly gossip column known as Silk, Satin, and Scandals; sourcing her material by spying on her own family, friends, and acquaintances. The column becomes so popular that Vee Swann is able to “make her mark by way of exposes and raise awareness of social ills and charitable efforts under the guise of gossip.” The reader is secretly shuffled through a tunnel designed specifically to leave the Emporium undetected. Vera/Vee could depart Granville Garland’s posh penthouse unnoticed; out onto the streets of the city to march with suffragettes in protest, visit impoverished, sickly children in tenements, and plow bravely into illegal abortion clinics; but most importantly and quite intriguing, are her forays into Pierre Cartier’s jewelry shop – sometimes as Vera and other times as Vee Swann.

Pierre Cartier, the Hope diamond, and his Russian jeweler, Jacob Asher, enter Vera’s life as she begins her investigative adventures; hired by the unscrupulous Mr. Oxley, editor and owner of the Gotham Gazette. Vera Garland follows in her hero, Nelly Blye’s footsteps, as she explores the history and the curse attributed to the infamous “French Blue.” The reader will follow the twists and turns of the merchandising world, newspaper sales, women’s rights, and the heartbreaking search for love as the quest for the Hope Diamond and family secrets captures the imagination- like Vera’s perfect strand of pearls-right to the very last page. There’s a perfect clasp to every strand of pearls, but according to Jacob, “there’s no such thing as a perfectly flawless gemstone.” M.J. Rose has presented readers a breathtaking, black velvet tray with a glittering gem waiting for inspection. *****GR

“The first address Cartier called home in New York was 712 Fifth Avenue (on the west side, at 56th street). That building has itself had a fairly drama-filled life. It had a near-death experience in the 1980s when developers wanted to tear it down, along with another building next door which has beautiful windows by Lalique (the building was once tenanted by Coty). The facades of three buildings (712, 714, and 716) were finally rescued at the last minute when they were granted landmark status – thanks largely to those windows – and while the desired skyscraper was eventually built, it had to be set well back from the street. Cartier’s offices were on the fourth floor of number 712 and thanks to the preservation of the facade, you can still gaze up at the windows through which Pierre Cartier looked out at New York.”

The Hope Diamond