Thursday, July 30, 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 thankful that on Sunday, our wedding anniversary, our older daughter, Katie, arranged to make dinner for Geoff and me at Geoff's mom's house. Isn't that so thoughtful? I was shocked and so touched, to say the least.

2. I'm thankful that on Monday, Madeleine (our younger daughter) and I spent the day antiquing in a nearby town know for its antique shops. The best part? It was her idea! We had a great time - antiquing, having lunch and visiting the library. What's better than that?

3. I'm thankful that I was able to get together with a good friend I haven't seen in a while on Tuesday. She and her daughter were in my neck of the woods and Madeleine and I got to spend the afternoon with them. It was great!

4. I'm thankful that I'm having my carpets, sofa and chairs cleaned (as I write this post). It was getting to the point where I was grossed out every time I went in that room. Yay for clean upholstery.

How about you? What are you thankful for?

Image from Google Images

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Book Review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Of the 6 books I read while on my recent vacation, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is the only one I can recommend wholeheartedly. Rarely does a book elicit a visceral response from me - but this one did. It made me cry. The best part of the is book is that Jamie Ford's writing is so subtle it made me forget I was reading. I was simply along for the ride. Sometimes while reading a really good book I'll be thinking, "this is a terrific book. I'm going to write a book review of it." Not Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I didn't even think of it subjectively until I finished it. Then I said (out loud while sitting by the pool) - "What an amazing story." And that is the strength of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. The story. No lyrical prose or gorgeous language, no clever plot devices, no surprise ending. Just a wonderful story, simply told. To me, that is the sign of a talented author. I'm anxious to read more from Jamie Ford.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet tells the story of Henry and Keiko, two 12 year olds living in Seattle in 1942 - the height of WWII. Henry, who is Chinese and Keiko, who is Japanese are the only non-whites attending Rainer Elementary School. Because they are both there on scholarship, they meet and become friends while working in the school cafeteria. Both find refuge from the taunting of their schoolmates in their friendship and in their shared love of jazz music. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Keiko's family, along with the hundreds of other Japanese families living in Seattle's Japantown, is evacuated to an internment camp "for their own protection". Eventually Henry loses contact with Keiko, but he never forgets her.

But Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is about so much more than Henry and Keiko's friendship. It's about Henry's life as the only son of a proud Chinese family. It's about Seattle's fledgling jazz scene and the power of music to bind people together. It's about the difficult experiences of discrimination and prejudice faced by people who are considered to be "outsiders". But, at its heart, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is about hope and memories. Memories of people who have touched our lives and been lost to time...and hope that we will find some small way to keep those memories alive.

I would give Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet 4 STARS (I really liked it).

Image from Google images.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Comments - A Blogger's Drug of Choice

All bloggers love comments, right? Otherwise blogging is too much like talking to yourself. (I already do plenty of that as it is). An award that recognizes great commenters is a brilliant idea. And that's the idea behind the You Don't Say Award. Sandy at It's a Jungle Out There was kind enough to pass this award on to me recently. Getting awards is always an honor but an award that recognizes those bloggers who consistently comment is a high honor indeed. The You Don't Say Award "... is for beautiful people who practice blogging etiquette by visiting or visiting back, and leaving comments. Their observations are apt and helpful and it's a pleasure to have them comment on your posts..."

Usually, I have a hard time deciding who to pass awards on to. It was a bit easier this time since the "rules" are so specific. I looked back on all my posts for the month of June and tallied up all my comments. I am going to give this award to my top 4 commenters, who haven't already received the award (I travel in a tight blogging circle). My top commenters who have already received the award (and are free to take it again if they so choose) are: Anita at A Wife, A Woman, A Mom, Tammy at Keep in Touch with Mommakin', Sandy at It's a Jungle Out There, Alex at Please Try Again and Kathy B! at The World According to Me.

The newest recipients are:
C at CW5H20

Congrats ladies. Thanks for always taking the time to visit and leave such thoughtful and insightful comments. I enjoy reading and commenting on your blogs as well.
Image from Google Images

Monday, July 27, 2009

Where, exactly, is Hotmanistan?

OK all you cougars out there. I'm about to reveal the identity of the city now known as Hotmanistan. Last week we returned from our 2 week summer vacation and as I'm sure you can guess I saw an amazing number of very handsome men there. They were everywhere. Where is this heavenly place, you ask?

Spain! Who knew? In 2005, I traveled to Italy and the men in Rome were the most handsome men I had ever seen. Well, Madrid can give them a run for their money. A contest of some sort would make an excellent reality show, dontcha think? Anyway, I did more on my vacation than stare at gorgeous men. Really, I did! I swear.

This vacation was absolutely our best vacation ever. We were lucky enough to be invited to visit our friends who vacation/work in Madrid every summer. Mr. S is a native of Madrid and the whole family is fluent in Spanish, so as you can imagine they knew all the best places to visit, eat and stay. It was awesome. Mr. and Mrs. S put so much effort into making our stay as awesome as possible. They planned something special for each day - including three day trips. We ate the most amazing food and saw all the wonderful plazas, monuments, art, palaces, cathedrals etc in Madrid, Segovia, El Escorial and Toledo. We even saw a production of Carmen as a flamenco dance! How cool is that? (And just so you don't feel too bad for Geoff, the dancer who portrayed Carmen was drop dead gorgeous and very sexy. I assure you Geoff was riveted during the entire performance.) The best part was that Mr. S taught us so much about Spanish history and art. Information that we never would have been able to find out on our own. This added a dimension to our experience that could never have been duplicated.

While we were there we lived liked the Spanish. We left the hotel every day in late morning to do some sightseeing. Then we had a long leisurely (and big) lunch at about 2:00 pm. After lunch it was back to the hotel to rest during the hottest part of the day (I napped every day. Heaven!). And every night we would go out again at 8:30 pm and have a light dinner (tapas usually) and sit in a terazza (an outdoor cafe) and have a cool drink and people watch. It was fascinating to watch all the families out at night until 10:30 pm or later. (It stays light until about 10:00 pm). What a wonderful, relaxing and stress free existence. No wonder the S family looks forward to going to Madrid every summer.

After 10 days in Madrid, we flew to Tenerife in the Canary Islands and relaxed at a resort for 4 days. We were a little tired from all the sight seeing in Madrid, so we never left the resort for any excursions. We simply relaxed by the pool and walked along the cliff over looking the Atlantic Ocean. The food at the resort wasn't nearly as good as it was in Madrid and we missed that. However, it was at the resort that I heard the term Hotmanistan for the first time. Madeleine (who is 14) was in teen girl heaven due to all the adorable (in her eyes, anyway) British boys who were staying at the resort. That was when she first used the word Hotmanistan to describe the resort (apparently she heard it on a TV show. Lovely!). Anyway, I stole the word and have been applying it to all of Spain ever since.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sentimental Sunday - Anniversary Edition

Today is my 22nd wedding anniversary! 22 years! Where did the time ago? Especially considering the fact that even though Geoff and I have been married for 22 years, we've been together for 29. (I'm only 29 years old. How can this even be possible? LOL!)

This is a digital photo of a photo. We don't have a scanner that we know how to use. LOL!

Actually I'm 45 years old and if you do the math, that means that Geoff and I started dating when we were 16 years old! That's right. We were HS sweethearts. And the road to matrimony was a long and hazardous one. We began dating the summer between Junior and Senior year, and even though we were deeply in love with each other, we decided to go to different colleges to pursue our educations. We knew we loved each other and wanted to be together, but we were realistic enough to know that we needed to follow our own paths and hope that we could make it work. And we did. For four years we were 8 hours away from each other. We did see each other summers and school vacations - except for the summer he spent in TX after Freshman year (THAT was tough) and the spring break he went to FL. We did manage to visit each other occasionally. And our phone bills were through the roof. (No cell phones, email, or IMing in 1982-86). And we wrote each other LOTS of letters. How I wish I still had some of them.

After graduation I planned to go to graduate school at Northeastern and Geoff was going to find a job. Right before graduation that all changed when he decided to take a year off and bar tend in Lake Placid, NY (near where he went to college). He asked me to join him. I deferred my admission to Northeastern and while he spent the summer backpacking around Europe I was spending the summer living/working on Cape Cod with a girlfriend, just waiting for this new adventure to begin.

Well, he came back from Europe with a different plan. His Dad didn't like the "year off to bar tend" idea and so Geoff came back from Europe with a sweet claddagh ring from Ireland and a proposal. He was moving to AZ to open a branch of his family's manufacturing business and he wanted me to "come with him and be (his) wife". I started to giggle (much to Geoff's chagrin. Even to this day it bothers him that I "laughed") and said yes.

Well, as I said the road to matrimony was full of obstacles. We actually planned and cancelled one wedding before finally getting married in 1987. Like all marriages, we've had our share of difficulty. We weathered some very difficult times during our childbearing years. The road to parenthood was full of hazards, too. And the early years of child rearing were no picnic either.

But through it all we knew we loved each other deeply and were even more deeply committed to each other. And there were plenty of good times, too. We have an amazing life together. My life would not be as full and comfortable and satisfying if I weren't married to Geoff. He is a kind, gentle, devoted and patient soul. (He needs to be to be married to me!). He is a wonderful husband. I thank my lucky stars that we were able to make it on that long, hazardous road to matrimony. I'm a lucky girl. I found my soul-mate at 16. Who says young love can't last? We're proof that it can.

Happy 22nd Anniversary, Geoff! Here's to the next 22. Everyday I'm thankful that you asked me to be your wife. And I'm looking forward to the next chapter of our fabulous life together. I love you. Forever.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

As most of you know I'm fairly new to blogging. Earlier this week I learned, through Girls with Books, that there is going to be a Book Blogger Appreciation Week in September. I'm not exactly sure what it's all about, but since I blog about books occasionally, I decided to register and find out. Here is all the information from the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog (copied from the website). I've also added a badge to my sidebar. So all you book bloggers, if you are interested or curious about this, you might want to register. I'm anxious to see what it's all about myself.

From the Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog:

Announcing the Second Annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week September 14-18, 2009
Last year over 400 blogs came together to celebrate the art of book blogging during the first ever Book Blogger Appreciation Week! I am so pleased to announce that the second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week will be taking place September 14-18.

WHO Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate. In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week!

WHAT A week where we come together, celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recognizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.

WHEN September 14-18, 2009WHERE Here at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog! (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.)WHY Because books matter. In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word. I, Amy, the founder of Book Blogger Appreciation Week love this community of bloggers and want to shower my appreciation on you!

Intrigued? I know I am.

Thursday, July 23, 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. The biggest thing I'm thankful for this week is that my posts are now updating in Google Reader again. Unfortunately, before I went on vacation I messed around with a Feed burner because I had read somewhere that it would help increase traffic to my blog. I didn't really understand what a Feed burner is or how it works, but what the heck. Well, what it did was it caused my posts to now longer update in Reader and therefore my traffic came to a screeching halt. Well, that backfired! What makes it worse, is that I was on vacation and didn't even realize it had happened for over two weeks! Gee, I'm so glad I spent hours and hours writing posts that I scheduled to post during my vacation. THAT turned out to be a waste of time. OK, my rant is over. I'm grateful I was able to fix it.

2. I'm grateful that Sandy at It's a Jungle Out There was tenacious enough to keep trying to solve the problem for me after I had thrown in the towel. Thanks again, Sandy. You rock!

3. I'm grateful that our family had a wonderful vacation with our amazing friends. (More on that - and Hotmanistan, for those of you who've asked - soon).

4. As much as I loved and appreciated our vacation, I'm thankful to be home again. There's no place like home.

How about you? What are you thankful for?
Image from Google Images

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm Baack!

I got back from my vacation to "Hotmanistan" on Saturday (more on that later), and I'm finally getting caught up enough to write a post. Why does it always take at least 2 days to get your bearings after a vacation? Frankly, it's exhausting. OK, here is the information all you bookworms have been waiting for. My review of the Kindle. *drumroll please*

In addition to the Kindle 2 I also ordered a leather cover. When they first arrived and I put the Kindle into the cover, I was surprised by how heavy and cumbersome it felt. I'm happy to report, that using the Kindle in the cover was never a problem. It was easy to hold and felt very natural. Once I started using it, I never gave it another thought.

Considering that I'm not all that tech-savvy and I really learn best from written directions - the fact that the 124 page User's Guide comes installed on the Kindle was a bit daunting at first. It's kind of hard to be reading a guide and trying out the features when the guide is inside the unit. Luckily, the Kindle comes with a hard copy of a quick start guide to get you started. also sends a copy of the User's Guide to your e-mail address. Like a cellphone, the Kindle can do a lot of "stuff". I simply did a quick read through of the User's Guide - focusing on the features I was most interested in. I then printed out (from the copy sent to my email) the few pages I thought I might want to refer to while on vacation. Worked like a charm. I was able to highlight passages and save them for furture reference. And with a little bit of trial and error, I was able to figure out how to retrieve them.

Downloading books directly to the Kindle proved to be easy and convenient - as long as you are in the US. Not being able to donwload books while outside the US is a BIG drawback for me. Being a library user, I'm not in the habit of paying for books. So having to download books before I need them kind of irks me. What if I download too many? Now I've wasted money. Sure I can read them later, but more on that in a minute. And if I don't download enough, I'm sunk. This is a not a deal breaker for me, but something to be aware of. Also, even though downloading is pretty straightforward and there is a last minute opportunity to back out of a purchase, I still managed to buy a book in error. Supposedly, it can be "returned" at, but I couldn't figure it out. Rookie mistake. One, I probably won't make again. Two features that I found extremely helpful are the built in dictionary and the fact that the Kindle can hold a charge forever and ever and ever. Seriously!

Now for the most important information.... reading on the Kindle. I'm happy to report it felt very natural. I even found myself reaching to turn the pages the first few times I used it!! Now that's saying something!! Would I choose a Kindle over the real thing? No, I wouldn't. Not because I don't like the Kindle- I do. But because I LOVE books. The way they smell and feel. The crinkle of the the library cover. Being able to read the inside book jacket and the author information in the back. Seeing a photo of the author. Enjoying the cover art (remember Shanghai Girls?) And this is the reason why I'm annoyed I have to download books before leaving the US. If I download too many, I'll feel compelled to read them on the Kindle at home. Not a huge disaster, but not my first choice. So the big question is will I use the Kindle for future vacations? Yes, I most definitely will. It beats lugging 5 or 6 books in my luggage. My suitcase was so stuffed on this trip - I couldn't have fit one book let alone 5 or 6. For me, the Kindle is a wonderful tool with a very specific purpose. I can't imagine it will ever replace books for me. But, I've learned my lesson. Never say never.

By the way, if you are thinking of purchasing a Kindle, I received an email from stating that the Kindle is now on sale for $299! Gee, thanks! Anyway, thought maybe one of you could use this information. And remember, if you want to buy one, click through to Amazon from Terra's blog Tales from the Nightstand. Help a fellow blogger out!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sentimental Sunday

A few of weeks ago, I posted a picture of Geoff and me with our friends sitting in Adirondack chairs on a lake in New Hampshire. While searching for a photo for today's Sentimental Sunday, I stumbled across a folder of photos I haven't looked at in a long time. Actually, when I opened the folder the photos didn't even look familar to me. I think it's because Geoff took them at that same lake in NH - Lake Winnisquam. They are absolutley breathtaking. This one was taken at sunset. This is the view we had outside our cabin.

Like I said. It's absolutely breathtaking.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, writes books that pack an emotional punch. Her writing is flawless and her stories are wonderful windows into the human psyche and experience. Each of the eight stories in this collection is complex and multi-layered. Lahiri has an amazing ability to tell a rich and well developed tale within the limited confines of a short story. Each story vividly, accurately and powerfully exposes the characters’ humanity, foibles, loves, desires, heartaches and triumphs. Lahiri truly is a short story writer without equal.

In the title story, a young mother must come to accept the fact that her widowed father is able to manage his life without her help. In “A Choice of Accommodations”, a romantic getaway to attend a wedding goes strangely awry during a late night revel. In “Only Goodness”, a sister must accept the fact that she is not responsible for the man her brother has become. Finally, in “Hema and Kaushiik” a series of three linked stores, we follow the lives of a girl and a boy who first meet as young teens and then again years later as adults.

Unaccustomed Earth is a rich and powerful book. Lahiri is a talented writer who is able to plumb the depths of the human heart and the bonds of relationships. Few authors are able to express the workings of the mind so accurately, powerfully and emotionally. I have read all three of her books and she continues to impress me. Usually, I am not a fan of short stories. I typically feel somewhat unsatisfied after reading them. The characters and stories never seem fully developed or “finished”. However, after reading Lahiri’s fabulous novel, The Namesake, I wanted to read more by this talented author. I was dismayed to discover that her only other book (at that time), Interpreter of Maladies, was a collection of short stores. I was further dismayed to learn that it had won the Pulitzer. This would seem to be a reason to be encouraged, but my experience has been that I rarely like Pulitzer Prize-winning books. But, I loved The Namesake so much; I decided that I would read Interpreter of Maladies in spite of these two “strikes”against it. And am I ever glad I did. It was magnificent. So, it was with no trepidation at all that I picked up Unaccustomed Earth. And once again I was not disappointed. Without a doubt, Jhumpa Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. Even if you don't like short stories, give Unaccustomed Earth a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

I would give Unaccustomed Earth 4/5 stars (I really liked it).

Image from Google Images

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Color Me Flattered

Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books has honored me with two fabulous blogging awards! Wow! I'm so flattered. Gwendolyn is a fellow bibliophile and she has a wonderful blog full of bookish goodness. And not only does she have a beautiful name full of romance she lives by the sea - a bucket list item of mine. As her blog tag line says: "If your lucky enough to be at the beach. You're lucky enough". How right you are, Gwendolyn. How right you are.

The #1 Blogger Award was created by Naida of The Bookworm. She even made this adorable button with a picture of her dog wearing one of her own hand-crocheted creations. Wow! I'm impressed. She can not only crochet, she can create a blog button. Talented lady.

The next award, Let's Be Friends, is given to blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.

As I said, I am honored and flattered to have received these two awards. Especially the Let's Be Friends Award. I am so happy to have made some amazing friends in blogland. I wasn't expecting that and I'm so happy about it.

There are no rules attached to either of these awards, which is actually kind of nice. It is always so difficult for me to decide who to give these awards to. So, I'm going to do something a little different. I'm going to pass them on to anyone who considers me to be their bloggy friend. I mean it, too. Whenever someone says something like this on their blog, I never take them up on it, because it feels presumptuous to just take an award, without specifically being given it. If you're a regular commenter here, then your qualify. If you're a follower, then you qualify. If I comment on your blog and you comment here, you definitely qualify. And I'm going to be checking your blogs. You really can take it. I want you to. I just don't want to pick a limited number of people. Those of you who are my friends know who you are. Congratulations!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Book Review: Identical Strangers by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein

At one time or another most young children question whether they might have been adopted. And who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to be a twin? These issues and their profound effect on identity are superbly dealt with in Elyse Stein's and Paula Bernstein’s fascinating memoir of their adoption story - Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.

In 1968, Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein were adopted as infants by separate and loving families. Each girl had grown up always knowing that she had been adopted and for most of their lives neither one had much interest in searching for her birth mother. In 2003, when Elyse was 35 years old she decided to contact the adoption agency that had handled her adoption and request non-identifying information regarding her adoption. She was not prepared for the news that she received. The information about her birth mother had been sealed and was not accessible. However she was told that she had an identical twin sister who had also been adopted.

As Elyse (and eventually Paula) began to unravel the mysteries surrounding their adoption, they learned that they were part of a study conducted by two influential psychiatrists who were studying the nature/nurture debate by separating twins given up for adoption. At this point, the two women temporarily abandoned their search for their mother in order to focus their investigation on determining the conclusion of the twin study and to attempt to locate other twins separated by the study.

The story of how Elyse and Paula finally meet and how the fact of their separation has profoundly effected their sense of self, identity and family is told from each woman’s point of view. Their stories are told with great honesty as each woman comes to terms with the existence of her twin. Interspersed with their personal narratives is information regarding studies on twin science, which offers a glimpse into the reasoning behind their separation.

Identical Strangers is an amazing story of how two women are forced to examine their sense of self, identity and family and how they come to terms with the extraordinary circumstances of their adoption, separation and reunion.

I would give Identical Strangers 4/5 stars (I really liked it).

Image from Google Images

Monday, July 13, 2009

Musing Mondays

MUSING MONDAYS are hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page. Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post (taken from the Musing Mondays archives) is about your to be read (tbr) pile…

How many books (roughly) are in your tbr pile? Is this in increasing number or does it stay stable? Do you ever experience tbr anxiety in the face of this pile? (question courtesy of Wendy)

As of the writing of this post there are 28 books on my tbr list. This number changes constantly. Because I work in a library, interesting looking books are constantly crossing my desk and being added to the list. And a new source of books to read is all the great book reviews I've been reading on all of your blogs. (You are seriously killing me). Of course, I also have a 66 book list of books I need to read for Reading Across Rhode Island. I have read 23 of them and some will be eliminated soon at the first committee meeting in July. (Hopefully lots of the books I haven't read will be eliminated). As for anxiety... I'm not sure that's the right word, but I do get a little anal about organizing the list and making sure I don't get too many books (from the library) at once. Right now the books are scheduled out until late August. And many times, if a book sits on the list too long, my interest in it wanes and I remove it. Guilt free. There are too many books and authors out there. It is impossible to keep up. Not a bad problem to have, though.

How about you? What's the status of your tbr pile? PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with your opinion or link to your own Monday Musing post.

Image from Google Images

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sentimental Sunday

Today's Sentimental Sunday continues the theme of Freedom and Independence. And to celebrate the fact that the crown of the Statue of Liberty is now reopened to the public (it had been closed since 9/11), I'd like to post a picture of Lady Liberty herself. This picture was taken in 2002 during my first (and only) visit to the Statue of Liberty. I had accompanied Katie's 6th grade class on a day trip to NYC to visit the Statue and Ellis Island. We were all saddened that we couldn't go inside the monument (at that time the entire thing was off limits), but standing at the base of that monument and thinking about all that she represents, was an awe-inspiring moment.

Isn't she beautiful?

OK, I can't resist a book recommendation. Sorry! If you haven't read Time and Again by Jack Finney, I recommend it. It is a fascinating book about time travel (not science fiction) in which the construction of the Statue of Liberty plays a small (but fascinating role).

Back to Lady Liberty. One word... Majestic!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

Pulitzer Prize winning author Geraldine Brooks’ newest novel, People of the Book, is the captivating story of an ancient and rare illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in 15th century Spain and rediscovered in war-torn Sarajevo in 1996.

Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book conservator, has been called to Sarajevo to analyze and conserve a mysterious codex. When Hanna discovers some tiny artifacts in the book’s binding, she begins to unravel the mysteries of the book’s tumultuous past. In alternating chapters, Brooks tells the story of the book’s journey through Seville, Tarragona, Venice, Vienna and finally to Sarajevo. Throughout the centuries the book is saved numerous times from the destructive forces of Anti-Semitism. Brooks weaves a tale of courage, strength and faith in each chapter as she tells the story of the book’s treacherous journey through time and the brave people who risked their lives to save it from destruction.

In People of the Book, Brooks has created an intriguing and thought-provoking story. Each chapter is populated with well-developed characters and each time period in history is vividly rendered. In this way, each chapter becomes a story in and of itself. It is a testament to Brooks' skill as a writer that she is able to tell these individual stories - from different periods of history, all populated with different characters - and still be able to give each time period, character and storyline an authentic and varied feel.

People of the Book was inspired by the true story of a Hebrew codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. While working as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in Bosnia, Geraldine Brooks learned the remarkable story of survival of this ancient text. I was drawn to this book not only because of my interest in reading and books, but because of my fascination for illuminated texts. The fact that the story is inspired by a real book and real people only served to further pique my interest. I was not disappointed.

I would give People of the Book 5/5 stars (It was amazing).

Image from Google Images

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thankful Thursday

Today's Thankful Thursday is going to be a little different. Instead of a list of things I'm thankful for this week, it's going to be a little Food for Thought. Thankfulness doesn't have to be just about the specifics. It can be about the Big Picture.

I receive a monthly newsletter that contains, among other things, poems and essays. The June edition of this newsletter included a Father's Day tribute to a man (Papa John) who really understood thankfulness. This essay was written by Papa John's wife - Annette Mennen Baldwin. I'm going to quote a part of that essay here. But first here's the set up. Papa John is the step-father of Todd who is the father of Buddy.

Once when Todd's son was complaining about how unfair
life was, Todd sat back and talked with him. "Some people's
glasses are half full, some are half empty, but Buddy your
glass is always bone dry. Why is that?" No answer was
forthcoming. So Todd explained to him that it was all in
attitude. "Look at your Papa John. Each day he wakes
up happy. He doesn't complain. He does what
he has to do, and he always has something positive to
say to everyone. Life isn't always easy for him. He just makes
it look that way. It's an attitude, Bud. You need to learn that
life will be tough sometimes. Other times it will be good.
Life is how you perceive it. That's one of the most
important lessons your Papa John taught me.
Think about it.

I have been thinking about it. Since early June. I think Papa John sounds like an amazing man who is leaving a wonderful legacy of a life well-lived for his family. I've been working on Thankful Thursday for a while now as a means of bettering myself. I now see that having a thankful outlook can be so much more than simply noticing the little things. It goes beyond just improving myself. A thankful attitude can serve as a model for others. I really hope that I can be someone's Papa John. I can't think of a better legacy. Or living a better (or more meaningful) life. A grateful attitude and perspective. I'm thinking about it. And working on it.

Image from Google Images

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Review: Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julia Fox

Julia Fox’s debut book, Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford, is an extremely well researched biography of Anne Boleyn’s sister-in-law, Jane.

When Jane Parker married George Boleyn in 1524 she had no indication that one day her sister-in-law, Anne, would rise to the throne of England and set off a political and religious crisis in that country. Anne’s entrance into royal life opened up a whole new world for Jane and George - the glamorous and exciting world of life at court. Anne’s descent from King Henry’s favor, however, would also become Jane’s and George’s undoing.

Anyone who is intrigued by the story of the Tudors and the court of Henry VIII (as I am) will be familiar with the much maligned Jane Boleyn. Historians have presented Jane as the person responsible for providing evidence against her husband, George, which led to his execution and weighed heavily in the execution of his sister, Anne. However, Julia Fox has uncovered the truth behind Jane’s testimony and has even uncovered the sources of the misinformation that has been repeated by historians for more than 400 hundred years.

In addition to presenting a more balanced view of Jane herself, Fox has created an intriguing look at court life and the life of the nobles during the reign of Henry VIII. Filled with interesting details of everyday life, Fox provides the reader with a wealth of information about Jane’s life and experiences as a young woman. Fox also details how Jane was able to overcome her status as the wife of a traitor, remain in good stead with the King and continue living at court, thereby enabling her to support herself. Julia Fox has written a fascinating book which showcases not only the lives of the people who populated the court of Henry VIII, but which also illuminates the very real dangers facing those who were close to this volatile and unpredictable monarch.

I would give Jane Boleyn 4/5 stars (I really liked it).

Image from Google Images

Monday, July 6, 2009

Musing Mondays

MUSING MONDAYS are hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page. Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post (taken from the Musing Mondays archives) is about library borrowing…

Do you restrict yourself on how many books you take out from the library at a time? Do you borrow books if you already have some out? Do you always reborrow books you don’t get to?

I don't have a hard and fast rule about how many books I take out of the library. Of course, I work in a library and that adds a whole other dimension to this question. I try not to take more than I can read in the three week circulation period. Because many of the books I want to read have a long list of patrons waiting to get them, I can't always predict when my name will rise to the top. Sometimes they all come in at once. Recently, I've begun scheduling exactly (to the day) that I want the books to arrive - one perk of working behind the circulation desk. I currently have books scheduled out until the end of August. I would say that for the most part I have 3 library books checked out at a time. And usually I get them read before I have to return them. Of course occasionally I return them late - and I don't have to pay fines - another perk.
How about you? What are your library habits? Please leave a comment here or link to your own Musing Monday post.

Image from Google images

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sentimental Sunday

In keeping with the theme of yesterday's post celebrating our nation's independence and my love for all things Benjamin Franklin, today's Sentimental Sunday will feature photos of Franklin's Philadelphia stomping grounds. In 2007 we made a trip to Philly to see the King Tut exhibit that made a stop there during the US leg of its world tour. (I love all these Ancient Egypt, too). Of course, while we were there we visited all the historic sites in Philly as well.

This picture shows the Post Office that Franklin ran on the left. It's still a working PO today. On the right is the door to a house that Franklin owned and rented out. You can see a sign hanging on the upper left had side of the door that says "To Let. See B. Franklin". Through this passage way is the site of Franklin's home. The house is no longer there, though a metal framed structure has been erected showing the placement and dimensions of the house. You can, however, see what was once the kitchen of the house (now below ground level) that has been excavated. There is also a small museum housed in a building off to the right (out of the frame). The following sign is posted in the passageway:

It was a real thrill for me to walk in the footsteps of someone I admire so much. Madeleine, in the picture above, was somewhat less thrilled (based on the bored expression on her face). The thrill of history is lost on most kids I guess.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness


Today as we celebrate the birth of our nation, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the amazing brilliance of our Founding Fathers. Without their collective intelligence, dedication and hard work we would not be living in the great country that we are today. Their foresight and intelligence are the reason we have a Constitution that has stood up for 233 years. When you really think about that, it is truly incredible and a testament to the brilliance of these men. Benjamin Franklin has always been a hero of mine and my favorite Founding Father (what? You don't all have a favorite?). And as much as I realize that he was a cad and a womanizer, he was also a brilliant thinker, philosopher and inventor. A truly brilliant man. In the words of the great Benjamin Franklin:

"God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say: 'This is my country.'"


Image from Google Images

Thursday, July 2, 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 thankful that Geoff and I had a kid free weekend. Not that I don't love my girls, I do, but a quiet and peaceful weekend at home with just my husband was a gift. Katie left on June 22nd for a 6 day trip to CA with a school group, so we knew she wouldn't be home on the weekend. When Madeleine was invited to spend the weekend on Block Island (a small island off the coast of Rhode Island), Geoff and I were suddenly left with an empty nest for a whole weekend. WooHoo!!!

2. I'm thankful that Geoff made our weekend nice for me by doing things I love. Friday night, we went to Aime's Wedding. On Saturday we had breakfast out (Ok, that's something Geoff loves), a romantic comedy matinee in the afternoon, Eskimo King to get a chocolate dipped soft serve cone (Yummy), a visit to the small beach in our town so I could enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean. Which is something I absolutely love and he is completely indifferent to. A great day. On Sunday, we relaxed at home with the Sunday paper and classical music, an afternoon nap and dinner at a beach front seafood restaurant before picking up Madeleine from the ferry. A perfect weekend. Gotta love an empty nest (at least a weekend one).

3. Considering the fact that it has been raining pretty much non-stop since April, I'm thankful that we had two sunny days in a row. Of course, yesterday it rained cats and dogs and it's supposed to rain today and tomorrow, too. Isn't it funny how much you appreciate sunny days when you never have any. I feel like I'm missing summer. :( (OK, that didn't sound so thankful after all)
How about you? What are you thankful for?

Image from Google Images

Blog Design By Lindsey Joy Design © All Rights Reserved.