Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Garfield - My Soul Mate

James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States, not the orange cat! He's either my soul mate or I'm his reincarnation. I'm not kidding. Last week, the book club I run at the library read Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. Assassination Vacation is a non-fiction book documenting Vowell's experience with historical tourism. She decided to take her love of history and her fascination with the macabre and write a book incorporating her vast amount of research and her visits to historical sites associated with the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. The book was OK. I learned a lot about American history of those periods and about Garfield and McKinley - two of the more obscure American Presidents. Vowell's writing style is one that is both witty and sarcastic and her book reads like a series of blog posts.

The book really doesn't merit a blog post from me, but what does is former President Garfield himself. What I learned from Assassination Vacation is that Garfield was a voracious reader. He was frequently found within the stacks of the Library of Congress. He had a special reading chair designed with one side arm higher than the other, because he liked to sit sideways with his legs draped over one arm of the chair - not very Presidential. His diaries are filled with entries lamenting the fact that his governmental duties were keeping him from reading his newly arrived 26 volume collection of the complete works of Goethe. He even writes, "Perhaps that study of literature is fullest which we steal from daily duties". There is some sad wisdom in that statement for all confessed bookworms.

According to Vowell, the recurring theme in Garfield's diaries is: I'd rather be reading. Hey, me too! His regret over a lack of time for reading is even reflected in the commencement address he gave at Hiram College in 1880. As quoted in Assassination Vacation, he told the graduates:

It has occurred to me that the thing you have, that all men
have enough of is perhaps the thing that you care for the least,
and that is your leisure - the leisure you have to think;
the leisure you have to be let alone; the leisure you
have to throw the plummet into your mind, and sound the
depth and dive for things below.

Wow! This is the rousing speech he gives to recent graduates to go out and grab the world by the tail? Interesting. I like it! Echoes my feelings exactly. As I said, he's either my soul mate or I'm his reincarnation. Who knew a long assassinated and mostly forgotten President could be so fascinating?

Image from Google Images

Monday, June 29, 2009

Musing Mondays

MUSING MONDAYS are hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page. Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about mid-year reading…

Now that we’ve come to the middle of the year, what do you think of your 2009 reading so far? Read anything interesting that you’d like to share? Any outstanding favourites?

2009 has been a fantastic book year for me so far. As you all know, I've been on a bit of a book roll recently. I've already posted reviews of all my 2009 favorites. Here are the links:

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (for some unknown reason, I can't get the link to work for this one. If you are interested you can type The Help into the Search box on my sidebar to read this post. Sorry.)

It's pretty unusual for me to find 3 amazing books in one year, let alone by mid-year. 2009 - it's been a very good year.

How about you? How has your 2009 reading shaping up? Please leave a comment here or link to your own Musing Monday post.

Image from Google Images

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sentimental Sunday

Today's Sentimental Sunday highlights the wedding of my cousin Aime. Aime and her husband David were married this past Friday at a local Country Club. The ceremony was held outside on on the patio and miraculously it wasn't raining (it's been raining pretty much everyday since April), the humidity had eased off, there was a lovely breeze and no bugs. Perfect!

This first picture is of Aime and her dad, my Uncle David, walking down the aisle. I love Aime's expression here as she recognizes our family standing and honoring her on her special day.

This picture of Geoff and I with Aime was taken during the reception. Aime is twelve years younger than I am and I have fond memories of her as an adorable toddler running around my grandparent's house on Christmas Eve in her red feety pajamas. She is just as cheerful and full of joy now as she was as a two year old. She is an incredible sweetie.

This last picture is not that great, but it contains many of my cousins, their spouses, one of my uncles and aunts, my dad and Sandy. This was such a happy day for our family. Like most extended families we see each other at weddings and funerals. At these times we always say we should get together more often. But, like families everywhere, it rarely happens. Our family has suffered some tragic events in the last year and we really needed a happy occasion to be together. It's though these horrible times that we realize how important family is. Even if we don't see each other often. This is my family. And I love each and every one of them. I would do anything for them. And I know they would do the same for me. They're my family.

Friday, June 26, 2009

In a Book Rut?

Can't decide what to read next? In a book rut? Can't find a book that holds your interest? Well, look no further. I just found the most amazing website. It's call the Book Seer. How it works is you type in the name of a book you loved and just like magic it provides you with a list of books that you might like. How awesome is that?! (I know Amazon does something similar, but this is much more user friendly). So, if you're ever wondering what to read next (like that ever happens) this site was made for you. I can feel my to-be-read list growing by leaps and bounds. Hello my name is Pam and I'm a book addict.....

Image from Google Images

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursdays are all about taking the time to appreciate all the little things that actually went right during the week. I am someone who can get flustered very easily - even when the smallest thing goes wrong. So why not focus on all the little things that went right and be grateful?

1. I am extremely thankful that school is finally over for my girls (as of Tuesday). I love the more relaxed pace of summer and I was more than ready for that.

2. I'm also thankful that now I can sleep in in them mornings. No more getting up at 6:30 am. Though so far I've managed to sleep until 7:30 am on Wednesday and this morning I was up before 7:00 am. What's up with that? I must be getting old. Ugh! But, it still feels wonderful not to set an alarm clock and to get up when I'm ready.

3. I'm also thankful that my sister-in-law hosted a fun and relaxing pool party and BBQ on Saturday. It was a great opportunity to see some family members that I don't see all that often. It was a great day.

4. I'm thankful that this past week was full of fun activities with my friends - book club, Moonlight and Magnolias and Mah Jong. Time with my friends is always time well spent.

How about you? What are you thankful for?

Image from Google Images

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer

Summer is FINALLY here! Yesterday was the girls' last day of school. It took forever to get here. June 23rd seems awfully late for school to be letting out. And actually it was. School was supposed to be over last Friday, but we had to make up two snow days. I love the more relaxed pace of summer - no schedule, no after school or evening meetings, no homework hassles and especially no getting up at 6:30 am (have I mentioned I'm not a morning a person?).

In light of the fact that it's now officially the lazy, hazy days of summer and my recent struggles with Guilt Free Blogging, I may be backing off a bit here on Pam's Perspective. I've done a lot of soul searching on this and I've figured out that I really do enjoy posting and responding to my comments, but I may post a little less frequently this summer. A summer vacation of sorts.

And to follow up a bit more on my Guilt Free Blogging post, what I figured out was that I was simply following too many blogs - 72 to be exact! That's just too many. I will admit that I went through my Reader and weeded that list down to the 51 blogs (still a lot) that I enjoy and identify with the most. It was very hard for me to do this. I had some guilty feelings about it. But, I decided I had to get back to basics - blogging for me. Since I did that I have noticed that keeping up with the blogs in my Reader is much more manageable and I've had much more time to write posts. Which is what I enjoy the most. I still plan on posting a few times a week, it just may not be every day. (I have a bunch of posts in my drafts folder, ready to be posted, so you may not notice a change right away). I hope you will stick with me as I try to figure out a workable schedule of posting, visiting other blogs, commenting and responding. And for those of you who are struggling with these same issues, I encourage you to determine for yourselves which aspects of blogging are taking the most time and that you enjoy the least and let them go. It's hard at first, but it's also very freeing. And summer is the perfect time to do that. After all it's the lazy, hazy days of summer. Everyone should relax and take it easy during the summer. Even amazing bloggers like you!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Theater Review: Moonlight and Magnolias

Last Friday night my friend Colleen and I attended the final performance of The Community Players 2008-2009 season - Moonlight and Magnolias. Neither one of us had heard of this show and we both intended to "google" it before the show, but both of us got busy. (Too much time blogging). We didn't have very high expectations because a friend of Colleen's had seen it and didn't have all that much to say about it. She did say the acting was good. Colleen and I even discussed the possibility of leaving during intermission if we weren't enjoying it. Well, I am happy to report that the acting was not only good is was fantastic and there was no need to leave early!

Moonlight and Magnolias tells the true story of the rewriting of the screenplay for the movie Gone With the Wind. Before I talk about the play itself I should mention that Gone with the Wind is my all time favorite movie. I absolutely love it. In addition, I read Gone with the Wind the summer between 8th and 9th grade and could NOT put it down. It is the first book I read that I loved and considered a favorite. I have such fond memories of sitting on my front steps throughout that summer with my nose in that book.

As for the play... Moonlight and Magnolias depicts how during the filming of the movie the producer, David O. Selznick, decided he had an unworkable screenplay. He convinces the journalist/screenwriter, Ben Hecht, to rewrite the screenplay - even though Hecht hasn't even read the book and is convinced a Civil War movie that glorifies the South will never make money. Selznick offers him an outrageous sum of money ($15,000. Remember this is 1939) and gets Hecht to agree to work on it for 5 days - no more. What ensues is the hilarious telling of how Selznick, Hecht and the new director Victor Fleming, who Selznick pulls off the set of The Wizard Oz, lock themselves in Selznick's office for 5 days and rewrite the screenplay. It is hilariously as Selznick and Fleming act out scenes from the book so that Hecht can write them. And all the while Hecht complains about how awful the book is and how corrupt the themes contained in the book are.

I absolutely LOVED this play. The actors were amazing. These were extremely difficult roles as there was a ton of dialogue and the three actors were on stage for the entire show. It was also a fairly rigorous production with lots of physical humor. Through the concerns of the journalist Hecht, I learned so much about the controversy surrounding the making of this movie. It was fascinating to look at Gone with the Wind (the book and the movie) through the lens of "political correctness". I've said this before and I'll say it again - The Community Players is the best kept secret in Rhode Island Theater. If you live in Rhode Island, I urge you to attend a show and see this for yourself. I don't think you will be disappointed.

Image from Google Images

Monday, June 22, 2009

Book Review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

The June book selection for my personal book club, Chapter Chat, was Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Genova has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard and she is an online columnist for the National Alzheimer's Association. So it is not surprising that her first novel would be a book dealing with a woman suffering from early onset Alzheimer's disease. Write what you know, right? Apparently, Genova had a very difficult time finding a publisher for her novel and decided to self-publish it. That turned out to be a brilliant decision. She was eventually picked up by Simon and Schuster and her book is getting respectable reviews. Rightfully so.

Still Alice tells the absolutely heartbreaking story of Alice Howland, a 50 year old Harvard professor of linguistics and psychology, who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. Genova takes the risky and novel approach of telling the story from Alice's point of view - another brilliant decision on her part. The story is all the more poignant and devastating seen through Alice's eyes as she first comes to terms with her diagnosis and then has to deal with her declining cognitive abilities. The reader is able to identify and empathize with Alice as her disease progresses. We feel her frustration, fear and loneliness as her life is stripped away from her layer by layer. At one point she confides in her husband, John, that she misses herself. I can't even imagine the devastation. In the words of the author, "[Still Alice is] about identity and living a life that matters and about what a crisis does to relationships."

I loved the character of Alice. She was capable and strong and tried her very best to take control of her situation as best she could. She did everything she could to try to slow the progress of this disease. She devised clever ways of making life easier for herself. She even started a support group for other people with early onset Alzheimer's Disease. I identified with Alice in all these ways. I can picture myself doing exactly the same thing if I were in this (or a similar) situation. Alice is a real take charge kind of person. She isn't someone who wallows in self-pity or asks Why Me? I am the same way.

I do think there are some "problems" with this book, however. If you know someone suffering from Alzheimer's Disease (which is the case for one of our book club members), you may find the depiction of Alice's symptoms to be somewhat sugar-coated. Missing from Genova's books is the anger and lashing out that many Alzheimer's suffers experience. Also, Alice's diagnosis is made quickly and without the years of misdiagnosis which is typical in the case of Alzheimer's Disease. And perhaps most problematic, is the way in which Alice is so accepting of her diagnosis. She is never in denial. Even though she has plenty of opportunity to dismiss her symptoms as simple signs of fatigue, stress or possibly depression. According to those who are more familar with Alzheimer's Disease, this does not ring true. Perhaps Genova left some of this out for the purposes of keeping the book to a manageable length. For the average reader, I don't think that these issues will detract from the enjoyment of this book. For someone with Alzheimer's Disease or someone who knows someone with Alzheimer's Disease, this book may not ring true.
I would give Still Alice 3 STARS (I liked it).

Image from Google Images

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sentimental Sunday - Father's Day Edition

Happy Father's Day!

In honor of Father's Day, today's Sentimental Sunday will highlight the men in my life who I am honored to call Father - in one form or another. First I'd like to honor my own Dad.

This picture was taken a few years ago at a surprise birthday party that my Dad threw for Sandy. With us is my younger brother Paul. My Dad is the type of person who lives life to the fullest. Growing up my Dad always had high expectations for me and my brother, but he never interfered or tried to micromanage our lives or decisions. He provided guidance when necessary, but let us make our own decisions and mistakes. The result is that I grew up to be a very self-sufficient, responsible and capable person. I will always be grateful for that. Thanks Dad. I love you

Next I'd like to honor my wonderful husband, Geoff, the father of my children. This picture was taken during our family vacation to Portugal in April 2008. Geoff is without a doubt, the most loyal, understanding and patient of men. I will be the first to admit that I am not always the easiest person to live with, but his love for me never wavers. I have to give the guy credit. Geoff is also a great Dad to Katie and Madeleine. He is always the voice of reason in a house full of hormonal females. (Poor guy).

Next I'd like to honor my Father-in-Law, Gary. Gary is a generous man who is quick with a laugh and a smile. He has a big heart and loves to spend time with his family. This picture was taken at Audrey's surprise birthday party a couple of years ago. This photo captures Gary's big-hearted and easy-smiling personality perfectly.

Lastly, I like to honor my maternal grandfather, Leo. Grandpa died in 1981 when I was a 17 year old junior in HS. He was my favorite person in all the world. He and my Grandma were a port in the storm during my turbulent adolescent years. They were the embodiment of unconditional love. I loved spending time with them. I always felt loved and cherished in their presence. I was my grandfather's "pet" and I knew it and relished it. He called me Lizzytish and The Queen (because I always got my own way). He told me I could do anything I wanted, if I worked hard enough at it. And I believed him. I still do. He impressed upon me the importance of an education. He made me feel smart and powerful. I am what I am today because of him and his love for me. I still miss him. And I will be forever thankful for the intangible gifts he gave me. They were more precious than gold. Happy Father's Day Grandpa. You are never far from my thoughts.

And to all the Dads out there. I hope your special day is filled with love, laughter and hugs. Lots of hugs.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Guilt Free Blogging

For a while now I've been really struggling with how to balance blogging with the rest of my life. Some of you may have heard me refer to computer use (and blogging) as a giant "time-sucker". When I started Pam's Perspective back in early February, I had absolutely no idea what I was embarking on. Believe it or not, I had not even read a single blog. I kid you not. I didn't know the the first thing about followers or comments or blog hopping or promoting your blog or... well, anything. I was clueless. As I figured the whole thing out, I got really excited about it and began to spend a lot of time reading blogs, blog hopping (mostly from the SITS roll call), commenting on other blogs and becoming a follower of blogs that appealed to me. Not to mention writing daily posts. Soon all of this blogging activity started to take up every waking moment. And for a while I was happy with that. I knew it wasn't a good thing, but I was thoroughly enjoying it. And I still do, but I just can't keep up the pace. I was quietly and inwardly struggling with this. Then a few days ago, while blog hopping, I found an illuminating site - Blog Guilt Free. It is simply a single post that talks about this very thing and encourages bloggers to join the Blog Guilt Free Revolution. I am now a proud member and you can see my very own Blog Guilt Free Button on the bottom of my sidebar.

The following is a direct quote from Blog Guilt Free:

After a lot of soul searching, you realize it’s not a waste of time but it can be a time waster. So (and this is where the you become I, except for the record, it always has been) you decide to join a revolution of sorts. A way of bringing it back to the beginning. You vow to blog for yourself, to post when you want to and to not feel guilt if you can not comment on other’s sites.
Because let’s face it; There’s a good chance everyone else is thinking the same thing and that’s what a community is all about, right? Understanding? Reaching out? Moving forward?
So join this community and find others who understand. There’s life to live out there, y’all. One forgotten blog post at a time.

When I read this, a light bulb went off in my head. I realized that I'm probably not alone in feeling this way. The part highlighted in red above, is the part that really spoke to me. Back in February, I was blogging for myself. I wanted to create a record of sorts of my thoughts on books I'd read and my life as a wife, mom and wannabe librarian. I originally told a couple of friends and family members about the blog and figured they might read it occasionally. I had no idea I would become so sucked in. Now please don't misunderstand me. I am beyond flattered that other people follow and read and leave comments on my blog. I've met some amazing women and enjoy reading their thoughts and commenting on their blogs. And I'm certainly not planning on stopping. I'm simply realizing that blogging has begun to take up an inordinate amount of time. And that I want to get back to basics. And blog guilt free. No (self-imposed) pressure.

Tell me. Am I alone in feeling this way? I wonder if any of you have struggled with this very issue and how you've dealt with it. Are any of you tempted to join the Blog Guilt Free Revolution? Are you already members? I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursdays are all about taking the time to appreciate all the little things that actually went right during the week. I am someone who can get flustered very easily - even when the smallest thing goes wrong. So why not focus on all the little things that went right and be grateful?

1. I'm so thankful that the girls finally cleaned out the mound of shoes that had accumulated in the bottom of the coat closet. And I do mean "mound".

2. Speaking of shoes, I'm grateful that I finally made the time to switch my winter and summer clothes and shoes in my closet. (The closet in our bedroom is ridiculously small for two people - the rod is literally only 5 feet long.) Every season Geoff and I have to move our off season clothes out of the closet and into extra wardrobes in the basement. And, of course, for me this involves shoes as well as clothing. Since I'm a bit of a shoe addict, it's a big job. So glad it's done!

3. I'm so thankful and relieved that I was able to clear my schedule a bit this week and get a bunch of stuff crossed off my to-do list. The list was getting so long it was starting to stress me out. But, I have a handle on it now and should be able to finish it up on Friday.

4. I'm grateful that I was able to have a Girls' Night Out with Katie and Madeleine on Friday night - even if Katie bowed out of the movie. We did go out for dinner and (for the most part) enjoyed each other's company without too much tension.

I must say it was a good week. Time with my girls, finally having some summer clothes and shoes to wear (even if it's still unseasonable cold here) and crossing things off my to do. What's not to love?! How about you? What good things, big or small, happened to you this week?

Image from Google Images

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Review: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

One of my favorite books from recent years is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I recommend this book all the time - to library patrons, friends, family members, people who read my blog and complete strangers. So I was jumping for joy when Lisa See's newest book, Shanghai Girls, was in a recent box of new books that came into the library. I didn't even know See had a new book coming out. Yippee!! Feels like Christmas!

Before I get to the meat of the story, I have to comment on the cover of this book. It is an absolute work of art. This is probably the most beautiful cover I have ever seen on any book. I love the soft color palette, the 1940's feel of the painting (?), the soft focus used on the girls' faces vs. the sharper focus of their clothing. Just gorgeous. The jacked art is credited to FormAsia Books, Hong Kong. Not sure what that is, but I'm going to check it out as soon as I'm done with this review.

Shanghai Girls tells the story of two sisters, Pearl and May, who live in the very sophisticated and "westernized" city of Shanghai in the late 1930s. Pearl and May come from a prosperous family and live a glamorous life full of excitement. This all comes to an abrupt end when their father gambles away the family's wealth and rickshaw business. In order to pay off his debts, he must sell his daughters as wives to two young brothers who have traveled to Shanghai from California to find Chinese brides. Pearl and May seem to go along with this plan, but they have no intention of fulfilling this contract made by their father. Everything changes, however, when the Japanese begin bombing Shanghai and Pearl and May must leave Shanghai in order to survive.

After a harrowing and life changing journey through war-torn China, the two sisters eventually find their way to Los Angeles and their husbands' family. Over the years Pearl and May make lives for themselves in California with their new family. But, through all their trials and for all their lives they remain devoted to each other as sisters.

Shanghai Girls illuminates a period of history that I previously didn't know much about. Learning about the experiences of Chinese immigrants living in California during the McCarthy era was illuminating for me. As was learning about the lives of the immigrants living in Chinatown and how they came to be in America. Fascinating. The story of Pearl and May and their experiences as wealthy Shanghai Girls, as refugees, as newly arrived immigrants, as new brides and finally as women who have built lives for themselves in the US was also interesting. Overall, Shanghai Girls is a good, solid story. It wasn't amazing. It wasn't a book I'll stop strangers on the street to tell them about. On the other hand, if someone was looking forward to or was interested in reading it, I wouldn't discourage them.

I would give it 3+ STARS (I liked it+).

Images from Google Images

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Musings

MUSING MONDAYS are hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page. Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about award winning books…

Do you feel compelled to read prize-winning (Giller/Booker/Pulitzer etc) books? Why, or why not? Is there, perhaps, one particular award that you favour? (question courtesy of MizB)

This is an easy one. I absolutely do NOT feel compelled to read prize-winning books. As a matter of fact, I usually avoid them at all costs. For the most part, I find the books that have won the Pulitzer to be dull, boring and/or bland. However, there have been a few notable recent examples, both of which happen to be short stories - Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiria and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. So maybe I should rethink this. But considering there are so many awesome books to read, I doubt I would ever choose to read a book simply because it won some prize. I choose books based on the description written in the inside jacket and book recommendations from people whose opinions I trust.

How about you? Do you feel compelled to read award winning books? PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with your opinion or link to your own Monday Musing post.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sentimental Sunday

This week's Sentimental Sunday is a tribute to good friends. We have been friends with the Ns and the Rs since 1997 when our oldest children were all in Kindergarten together in AZ. Over the next four years M, B and I formed a wonderful friendship as did our children and our husbands. It was wonderful, especially since we were all living away from our families. We spent four years making wonderful memories together.

Then in 2001, quite by coincidence, both B and I moved back to RI. I say "back to RI", because I am from RI and B, who is from CT, had previously lived in RI for several years (though by the time she was in RI, I was already in hell AZ). Needless to say, this was not good news for M. It didn't help that B and I both moved on the exact say day! Again, completely by coincidence. A few months after we moved, M came to RI to visit. She fell in love with the place. The following summer the whole family visited and the year after that the Ns moved to RI as well!!! Isn't that just amazing? B, M and I have now been friends for 12 years. Our oldest children, who brought us all together in Kindergarten, are about to become seniors! Unbelievable. And for all these years, M, B and I have been there for each other. We've shared triumphs, sadness, joy and heartache. And lots of laughs.

One year M presented B and I each with a framed photograph of 6 Adirondack chairs placed in the sand facing the ocean. She said that those chairs represented the six of us (M, B, me and our husbands) and how someday when we all retire we will occupy those chairs. Well, we didn't have to wait that long. In 2005, our three families vacationed at a lake in New Hampshire. There just happened to be a bunch of Adirondack chairs there. We arranged them in the sand, we each took a seat and one of the kids snapped our picture from the back. (I'm the second one from the left). I love this picture. And I love all the people in it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Calling All Book Bloggers

This week I spent way too much time searching the Internet for book and blog related blogs and websites. And I did find a few gems among the rocks. But, as I said, it took up a lot of time. Since many of you are bibliophiles and book bloggers, I thought I would share what I found with you.

Book Blogs:

Here's what I discovered about book bloggers. There are oodles of book blogs out there dedicated to Romance, Fantasy, and Mass Market paperbacks. Not so many deal with contemporary literary fiction. Which is a bummer for me. The good news? I found three!

Curled Up with A Book is a very unique and visually gorgeous blog written by a young woman who lives in San Francisco. She loves everything books, libraries, words... and lists. Basically a girl after my own heart. While she does do some book reviews, what she does very well is highlight (in spare, but gorgeous photos) book related art. Yes, art. Right now she's showcasing photos of libraries. I can't adequately describe the beauty and fascination that is Curled Up with A Book. Go check her out. You won't be disappointed.

Book by Book is Sue Jackson's book blog. Sue is a writer who loves to read. And it shows in her oh-so-well-written posts. Book by Book was the first blog I found that deals with literary fiction. What a relief that was! She and I have similar tastes in books. Sue not only writes wonderful book reviews, she also does a couple of weekly book memes. Thoughtful and illuminating memes. I love a silly meme as much as the next person, but I really love a great book meme. Book by Book is also definitely worth a look for all you bookworms out there.

State of Denmark is written by Ms. Mazzola, an English teacher in living in Maine. Ms. Mazzola also writes fabulous reviews of literary fiction. She has a TBR tab on the top of her blog. What a great resource for finding new books to read. Her reviews are very will written, her blog has a professional and calming "feel" and she spices things up a bit with an occasional book meme and interesting book related lists. Visiting her blog feels like taking a break from the hecticness of life. State of Denmark is a must visit for anyone who loves literary fiction.

Book Related Blogs

During my search I also found 3 other sites that deal with books/blogs in some way. OK, I found lots more than 3, but I've separated the wheat from the chaff.

Book Blog Directory is the brainchild of Kay - a book blogger and a book blog reader. She created this site as a clearinghouse for book blogs. Anyone can submit a book blog to be included in the Book Blog Directory. All it takes is an email to Kay. I am now a proud member of the Book Blog Directory and will be putting their badge on my sidebar soon. So, if you're looking for book blogs to read (all types of genres are represented) or if you'd like to get your blog listed be sure to visit the Book Blog Directory.

Weekly Geeks is a great website that presents a different "theme" every week. Usually the themes are bookblogcentric. Themes are posted every Saturday and can be posted about at any time during the week. The following week, Weekly Geeks will feature 5 bloggers' posts from the previous week. Great exposure for your blog. Weekly Geeks also provides a choice of buttons that can be displayed on your sidebar. I'll be adding one soon. For all the necessary information on EXACTLY how Weekly Geeks works click here.

And last, but certainly not least is Best Post of The Week. BPOTW is another great site that can help you get exposure and more readers for your blog. (BPOTW is not only for Book Bloggers). This site is a venue for bloggers to showcase their best posts each week. It's as easy as emailing your best post to Bettyl (who runs BPOTW) before Saturday and voila a link to your post will be listed. She also has a button you can display on your sidebar.

Well that's it. The sum total of seriously hours and hours and hours wasting time trolling the Internet. I hope you find something here that you like. Please feel free to share any bloggy treasures that you've found in the comments. I would be eternally grateful.

Image by Google Images

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Photo Roulette

Steph. at domestic urbanite tagged me in this fun and very random game. I love games that have a completely random nature to them. You never know what you will get. Basically the game is like this:

~Open your first photo folder
~Scroll down to the 10th photo
~Post that photo and story on your blog
~Tag five friends to do the same.

Unfortunately, what I got was a very boring photo. Too bad. It would be tempting to pick something more interesting, but that would not be in keeping with the spirit of the game. This picture was taken at an Air Show that was held here in RI a couple of years ago. Obviously something really exciting is going on as everyone is looking up, but of course THAT is not showing in the picture. It is interesting, though, to notice all the sailors in their sparkling white uniforms who came out to see the show. If I'm remembering correctly there were quite a few military planes that performed that day. And I'm pretty sure that's me in the foreground with the tan hat. Though I don't usually wear my hair tucked up. (Sandy, can I get a confirm or deny from you?) Not a very exciting picture or story I'm afraid. Now who to tag? As always if you don't want to participate - no worries.

I am going to bend the rules a little and tag my 3 Peeps as well. But since I tag you guys for everything, please feel free to ignore this.

My Peeps:

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursdays are all about taking the time to appreciate all the little things that actually went right during the week. I am someone who can get flustered very easily - even when the smallest thing goes wrong. So why not focus on all the little things that went right and be grateful?

Again this week, I'm having trouble thinking about things to be grateful for. Maybe it's because I'm not focusing on the little things and I'm looking for BIG moments. Oh well. Here's what I've come up with:

1. I'm thankful that on Saturday night my nieces who are 10 and 8 years old spent the night at my house for the first time. Their dad had thrown a surprise party for their mom's birthday and since it was going to go late into the night, we arranged for Madeleine to babysit for them at our house and for them to spend the night. I was a little worried about how it would go, since they had never spent the night here. It was fantastic. They had no trouble going to sleep, they went right to bed with no problem and in the morning they enjoyed the blueberry pancakes that Uncle Geoff made for them. It was a real pleasure to get to spend some time with them.

2. I'm thankful that on Sunday we FINALLY had a warm and sunny day. And I made a point of taking my beach chair outside and sitting in the sun and reading my book. I actually MADE myself do it. And it was pure heaven. (Of course, I fell asleep in the warm sunshine and didn't get all that much read). Oh well.

3. Now here's the biggie. This is seriously a miracle. I can't describe how thankful I am that on Tuesday night Katie came home from work and suggested that she, Madeleine and I have a Girl's Night Out on Friday. WHAT!? I swear I practically fell out of my chair. This is the girl who can't stand to be at home. The girl that rolls her eyes every time I open my mouth. The girl who has virtually no use for her sister (who totally adores her). Yeah, that girl. I said yes as fast as I could so that she didn't have time to realize what she had said and change her mind. Here's hoping it actually happens and something doesn't change before tomorrow night. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

How about you? What are you grateful for this week?

Image from Google Images

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

End of an Era

About 3 weeks ago Madeleine, my youngest daughter who is in 8th grade, brought home a permission slip for a fieldtrip to an Armory. The permission slip also asked for parent volunteers to serve as chaperones. My first reaction was "no way do I want to spend my day off with a bunch of 8th graders at an Armory, of all places". Now, before you take away my Mother of the Year Award, I should note that when my girls were little I signed up to chaperone absolutely anything and everything that I could. And I was always disappointed if some other parent won the chaperone lottery for a particular event. But I will admit that about 4 years ago or so the bloom was definitely off the volunteering rose. I still attended all the events at school that were open to parents and I still did my fair share of chaperoning. But, my initial reaction to this particular trip was thanks but no thanks. Then mother guilt reared her ugly head and I decided to ask Madeleine if she WANTED me to chaperone. She said she didn't really care. But did she really mean it? I couldn't be sure. Then it hit me. THIS would be the absolute last field trip I would EVER have an opportunity to chaperone. As in FOREVER. I decided to do it. I signed up. A week later the trip was canceled because not enough kids sent in the voluntary $26 donation to defray costs. Off the hook! Yay! I did feel a little sad, though.

Now don't feel too bad for me - yet. A week or so after that a woman from the PTO called and asked me if I would be a parent chaperone at Career Day which would be held at the Middle School. "Luckily" it just so happened to be planned for one of my days off. Lucky me! Remembering that my opportunities to interact with my daughter this way are quickly dwindling, I felt as though this was my second chance to have that last experience. I said yes! (I'll take that Mother of the Year Award back now. Thank you.) I was told to show up at 8:30 am. Fine. Being anywhere where I have to be showered and dressed by 8:30 am is a stretch for me. Add to that Madeleine missed her ride to school and I had to drive her at 7:30 am and you have the makings of a hectic morning full of angst and wolfing down breakfast. (Not to mention no time for my regular morning bloggy time. Humph.) Anyway, I make it to school with minutes to spare. The woman who called me is in the lobby, but I don't see any other moms. What the heck! She sees me, her eyes get big with surprise and she says, "OH NO, didn't I call you? That's right I called everyone except you because I didn't have your phone number on my list. I don't need you till 9:00 am. But that's OK, we have coffee in the library." At this point I wanted to choke her. But I didn't. I told her as nicely as I possibly could, that I would leave and come back, because I had some other things I could be doing. Did she really think I had nothing better to do that day than spend 45 minutes sitting around waiting to spend 3 more hours sitting in a classroom listening to adults describe their professions to a bunch of bored 8th graders? And why did I need to be there anyway? All the presenters were adults - presumably parents of students in that very school. The reason was so that if something went wrong (like what? Someone throws a spitball), the presenter wouldn't have to deal with it. Whatever. Now I remember EXACTLY why I stopped volunteering in my kids' schools all those years ago. In any case, my volunteer duties are now officially over. It's the end of an era. And I couldn't be happier! (I will happily relinquish that Mother of the Year Award now. Any takers?)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tastes Like Chicken

Today I humbly eat my hat. Why? I bought a Kindle. Oh, you can't hear me. Sorry. I bought a Kindle. Still can't hear me? OK, OK. I bought a Kindle. I know, I know I'm a traitor. *hangs head in shame* Yes, I do remember when I implied I would never, ever, ever buy a Kindle. But, here's my excuse reason.

When we go on vacation I usually take somewhere between 4-6 books (depending on how long we will be gone and how long the plane ride is). That's 4-6 hardcover, library books. Heavy books that I can not simply leave at hotel book exchanges. And not only are they heavy, they take up a lot of room in my suitcase - and airlines are now severely limiting the weight of passengers' luggage. (And I like to take lots of shoes - also fairly heavy). I know what you're thinking, "Yeah, yeah more excuses." Now stay with me here. There's more.

Geoff loves gadgets. He doesn't indulge in many, but he is intrigued by them. He also LOVES to buy books. No library books for him. (He also rarely reads said books. But that's fodder for another post). So, our bookshelves are overflowing with Geoff's unread books. You see where I'm going with this, right? The Kindle is perfect for him. He can continue to buy books (at a reduced cost. See I'm saving us money), my bookshelves will no longer be in danger of collapsing, I can take as many books as I want on vacation without needing any extra luggage AND Geoff can have a new toy to play with. Win-win.

So, I'm not a complete traitor. I'm sure I will hate reading on the Kindle. I'm certain that as soon as I get home, I will pass it on to Geoff and avoid it until our next vacation. I'm not even certain I'll be able to use it on vacation, because I might really hate the thing. (I'm getting it a little early so I can "practice" on it). So please, don't be mad at me for not having any strength in my convictions. I promise I will never, ever, ever give up on books completely.

Oh and by the way, this hat is delicious. It tastes just like chicken!

In all seriousness now, I owe a HUGE apology to Terra from Tales From The Nightstand. Several weeks ago she and I discussed the virtues of a Kindle through a series of email exchanges. (She loves hers, by the way). I mentioned that a friend of mine was seriously thinking about getting one (she eventually decided against it). Anyway, Terra asked me to encourage my friend to buy it through her blog. And I did mention it. And today I remembered that exchange with Terra 10 minutes AFTER I ordered my Kindle directly from Amazon. Terra, I am so sorry! I feel like such a bad bloggy friend. So if anyone else is planning on buying a Kindle (for vacation purposes only, of course), PLEASE go visit Terra and buy it through her blog (there is a button to click on). Thank you!

Image from Google Images

Monday, June 8, 2009

Musing Mondays

MUSING MONDAYS are hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page. Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about reading time…

Do you have a set reading time (before bed, perhaps)? Do you read more at night or during the day? Is there a day of the week, perhaps, that you set aside to catch up on reading?

I don't have a large chunk of time that I set aside for reading. But I do read the newspaper every morning while I eat my breakfast and then at lunch time I read a few pages of whatever book I happen to be reading at the moment. Most days I also fit in a more extended period of time to read. Sometimes it's in the afternoon (though I tend to fall asleep if I get too comfy) or sometimes it will be in the evening. I also never leave my house without a book, so I usually read a few pages while waiting in my car to pick up my kids, waiting for appointments or killing time between appointments. And I always read a few pages before bed. Since I never remember what I've read at bedtime I usually have a separate non-fiction book that I read only at bed time. Something that doesn't have a story that you have to follow. Just a topic that interests me and isn't essential that I remember all the details. Right now my "bedtime book" is Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins. It's the story of an author who moves his family from San Francisco to Hay-on-Wye in Wales - a small village with 41 book shops that hosts a huge book festival (with an international following) every year. The topic fascinates me, but it's not essential that I remember all the details from day to day. By the way, I must credit Tammy of Keepin' in Touch with Mommakin for inspiring me to go back and pick up this book by sending me an email about this intriguing town and festival. Thanks, Tammy. I've added a trip to Hay-on-Wye's book festival to my bucket list. Who wants to join me?

How about you? Do you have a set reading time? PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with your opinion or link to your own Monday Musing post. Thanks.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sentimental Sunday

This week's Sentimental Sunday will cover the last leg of our Anniversary trip to Europe - London. First stop Buckingham Palace. Actually, I think was really taking a picture of the adorable Mini Cooper in the foreground of the picture and just happened to get Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Monument in the background. I really like Minis and at the time of this trip I was coveting one REALLY badly. I'm happy to report that two months later I got a Mini of my own (after dreaming about it for 4 YEARS).

Here's a shot of Madeleine, Me and Katie in front of the gardens that line the road on the side of Buckingham Palace.

No trip to London is complete without a ride on the London Eye - a giant, slow-moving Ferris Wheel with pod-style cars. Very cool.

This shot of Parliament and Big Ben was taken from the London Eye. Complete with a backdrop of a dreary English sky. Is it ever sunny in London?

Well, that's it. The final portion of our family trip to Europe in 2007. It was a great trip! We really debated about whether or not to make it a family affair or just Geoff and I. We decided that the girls were old enough (15 and 13 at that time) to really get something out of the trip and also old enough that we would enjoy having them with us. And we were right. Aside from a couple of times when they complained about all the walking, they were so much fun to be with. We have since travelled with them every year. We know our time to travel as a family is quickly coming to an end and we want to make all those memories while we can. Here is my favorite family picture from that trip. A copy of this photo still hangs in the place of honor on my refrigerator.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Summer Reading

I know this is probably not a popular opinion among parents, but I have never been in favor of summer reading (or any other) assignments for kids. Especially for kids younger than High School. I am a firm believer that summer is for relaxing, exploring, family time and simply being a kid. There is so much pressure on kids today to always be performing - even in their leisure activities. And it starts at an extremely young age. I can't state strongly enough how opposed I am to this mentality. I have always been thankful that the school district I live in does not have summer assignments until Middle School (and even then not all teachers assign it). The High School does require the reading of one book (chosen from a list of 4) for every student in 9th through 12th grade. That seems reasonable to me.

Imagine my surprise when I read an article in our local paper yesterday morning reporting that more and more school districts in Rhode Island are rethinking the assignment of summer reading. Some are choosing to eliminate it all together and others are choosing books that are more appealing to kids. I think that's a good start. Even as an avid reader myself, I can't imagine the torture of a HS student struggling through Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, Shakespeare or even Tom Sawyer without the the benefit of classroom discussion. The old classics that we all read in HS are certainly valuable literary works, but read on their own, they are just not accessible to most teen readers (or many adult readers, for that matter). Those types of books need to be read with the guidance and analysis that can only come from reading in a structured setting under the tutelage of a skilled teacher. I am glad that more school districts and teachers are finally coming to this conclusion. Now maybe we can reclaim summer vacation for our children and our families.

Image from Googe images

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursdays are all about taking the time to appreciate all the little things that actually went right during the week. I am someone who can get flustered very easily - even when the smallest thing goes wrong. So why not focus on all the little things that went right and be grateful?

1. Geoff made reservations and took me out for dinner after I had to work all day on Saturday. What made it even more special is that he chose a restaurant that neither one of us had been to. And it was a little bit fancy. Geoff gets to eat at lots of new and interesting restaurants as part of his job and sometimes when we go to a "new" place together, it turns out he's already been there. Hmmph! I always feel a little bad about that. So, the fact that he picked a nice place that was new to both of us was very sweet and thoughtful. And since both girls had plans, we got to have a nice dinner just two of us. It was practically a date!

2. I'm so thankful that I have been on an amazing book roll lately. It's such a joy to me to read books that speak to me in some way. Usually I read lots of OK books and an occasional great book. The last 3 books I've read have been amazing. What a gift!

3. I'm grateful that I've finally back to getting some exercise. Lately I've been very unmotivated and haven't been to Curves in weeks! But, I have been taking walks for the last couple of days and I think maybe I've broken out of my exercise slump. I sure hope so. The scale has been slowly inching up! YIKES! Pearl, my dog, is grateful too!

This week I had a little trouble thinking of things to be grateful for. Not sure why. It was a relatively calm and peaceful week. I wonder if that has something to do with it. Hey, that's something to be thankful for right there. How about you? What are you grateful for this week?

Image from Google Images

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Opening Day

Around here summer is know as Ice Cream Season. Geoff rarely eats ice cream the rest of the year, but once the weather warms up he becomes an ice cream aficionado. There are several mom and pop ice cream stores in our general area - all serving home made ice cream. Several years ago we visited ALL of them and Geoff figured out which ones deserved repeat visits. And repeat visiting we have done. So much so that one year, when friends were visiting from AZ for a week, they sent us an ice cream cone Christmas tree ornament because we had taken them out for ice cream so many times in that week. We hadn't even noticed.

The last weekend in May is officially Opening Day of Ice Cream Season. Geoff could barely contain himself. He has been following a low-carb diet for about 3 weeks now and was all ready to declare last Sunday a free day, so that he could officially open the season. He even tried to turn the even into a multi-family extravaganza by inviting both of our brothers and their families to come along. Geoff was crushed that only his brother and one of our nieces was free. And then right when we were planning on leaving it started to rain. Really hard. (Did I mention that his favorite ice cream spot, Somerset Creamery, is an outdoor venue)? There was no way we could postpone this trip. He would have been beyond disappointed. So, we piled in the car and headed out. Amazingly the skies cleared and the rain stopped. And then we saw it. A rainbow. And not just any rainbow - a full rainbow! We could see from one end to the other. None of us had ever seen that before. It was beautiful. And guess where the rainbow seemed to end. That's right. At the pot of gold known as Somerset Creamery! It was like a mini-miracle. We all ordered whatever we wanted (no holding back on Opening Day). And we ate our ice cream outside standing at the end of the rainbow. Geoff never looked so happy!

Image from Google images.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Book Review: The Weight of Heaven by Thrity Umrigar

A few weeks ago I realized that one of my favorite authors, Thrity Umrigar, had written a new book - The Weight of Heaven. I have read two of Umrigar's other books - If Today be Sweet and The Space Between Us. I really enjoyed both of them, but The Space Between Us is one of my favorites.

The Weight of Heaven tells the story of Frank and Ellie Benton whose only child, 7 year old Benny, has died from a sudden catastrophic illness. In the wake of Benny's death, Frank is offered a job in far off India and he and Ellie decide that a change of scenery may help them navigate their profound grief and remove them from painful memories. Being in India does seem to help Frank and Ellie move forward with their lives, but Frank's burgeoning friendship with Ramesh, a bright and engaging boy, threatens to destroy the fragile balance Frank and Ellie have managed to recreate for themselves.

The Weight of Heaven is written in four parts. Book 1 takes place in the present and deals heavily with Frank's job in a big American corporation that has opened a facility in Girbaug, India and the ramifications the company has on the local villagers. This part of the story has a subtle political tone, which is usually something I don't like. Thankfully, the political undertones are mild, but I typically do not enjoy these types of stories. I decided to stick with the book, however, because I have so enjoyed Umrigar's other books. And I'm really glad, because Books 2 and 3 go back in time and deal with the time period before Benny's death when Frank and Ellie were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This part of the story was much more interesting to me and more of what I was expecting. Book 4 takes the reader back to India in the time period just following the opening of the book. Gone is the political content and the story deals with the unfolding human drama. Again, this is more to my liking. The Weight of Heaven is one of those books that gets more interesting the further you get into it. It's not my favorite of Umrigar's books, but it's a good solid read. It's not a book I will be recommending to everyone who will listen (like The Help and The Gargoyle), but if someone was interested in reading it I would not discourage them. I would give it 3 STARS (I liked it). *

*I've decided to add a RATING SYSTEM to all the books I review here. I will use the same rating system used by Goodreads, so ALL the books I read (whether I review them here or simply list them on Goodreads) will be rated on the same system.

1 STAR Didn't like it (most likely I didn't even finish it)
2 STARS It was OK
3 STARS Liked it
4 STARS Really liked it
5 STARS It was amazing

Image from Google images

The Color Purple

Last Tuesday night was the final show in Providence Performing Arts Center's (PPAC) 2008-2009 season - The Color Purple. The story takes place in rural Georgia between 1909 and 1949. It tells the story of Celie, a young black girl, growing up in rural Georgia. The story follows Celie from the age of 14 to 54 and chronicles her growth from a poor, subservient, abused young girl into a strong, independent and wealthy woman.

I will be honest and admit that I wasn't all the interested in this show. I had read the book years ago and didn't really like it all that much. And I didn't really like the show all that much either. There were a couple of very energetic dance numbers, which I did enjoy. And aside from Kenita Miller (who played Celie, the lead), I didn't really think any of the actors were amazing singers. Although Lynette Dupree was very good in the role of the boisterous and no nonsense Sophie (the character played by Oprah in the movie - which I have not seen). The show was 3 hours long and it felt it. Act I was interminable. There were at least 3 times when I thought intermission was going to start, but it didn't. Finally I began to wonder if maybe there wasn't going to be an intermission. There was. And there was a (mercifully) shorter Act II, as well. I didn't dislike the show, it just didn't grab me and hold my interest. I just wasn't all that engaged with what was going on on stage. As a matter of fact, I was painfully aware that I was looking at a stage and a group of actors. There was no willing suspension of disbelief, which I feel is necessary to be absorbed by a theatrical performance.

All that being said, I am beginning to wonder if maybe I'm wrong about all of this. The review of the show in the Providence Journal couldn't disagree with me more. And this surprised me, because Channing Gray (the reviewer) and I have had eerily similar opinions about all the other shows this season. So much so that even some of the specific things I've liked, disliked or noticed end up appearing in his (her?) column. And until now we've always had the exact same opinion. Weird. Not so with The Color Purple. This time the exact things I specifically didn't like, he/she mentions, but in a positive light. The first sentence in his/her review reads: "No question about it, The Color Purple is the best show to hit the Providence Performing Arts Center this season." Wow! I respectfully disagree. In my opinion, Spring Awakening was by far the best show this season. Oh well. To each his own I guess.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Musing Mondays

MUSING MONDAYS are hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page. Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about sticking with it…

How much time (or how many pages) do you give a book that you aren't really enjoying before you'll set it aside? If you're reading it for a book group discussion, or for review, will you give it more of a chance then, say, a book you're reading for your own interest? Why, or why not? (courtesy of MizB)

There was a time in my life where I would finish absolutely every book that I started - whether I liked it or not. Not anymore. I don't really have a set "rule" for how long I'll give a book before I give up. I am familiar with the 50 page rule, which states that if you are younger than 50 you should read 50 pages before deciding to set a book aside and if you are over 50 then you subtract your age from 100 to determine how many pages to committ to. This is a good guideline, but I have "dumped" a book after as few as 2 pages and as many as 600!

I will usually give a book the benefit of the doubt if it's by an author I really love, it was recommended by someone whose book opinion I trust or I've read some amazing reviews of it. And I (almost) ALWAYS finish any book that is for a book club discussion. (I have been in at least one book club since 1996 and I can think of two instances where I wasn't able to finish a book club book, but it didn't have anything to do with not liking the book). For me, being in a book club means that there are times when I will NOT like the chosen book. That's the point -to be exposed to books that I wouldn't otherwise have read and discussing them with people who feel differently about that very book. And many times I come away from those discusssions feeling a bit more positive about the book.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here. Thanks.

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