Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday Musings

Monday Musings is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  Today's Monday Musing asks:

What is the longest book you have ever read?  How long did it take you to read it?

The longest book I've ever read is Gone with the Wind (1,011 pages).  I read it the summer I was 14 years old.  I can not remember how long it took me to read it, but I do have a vivid vision of myself sitting barefoot on my front stoop wearing my favorite jeans with the rip in the knees and reading it in the shade of a giant maple tree. Scarlet O'Hara is still my favorite character from literature.  

How about you?  What's the longest book you have ever read?  And a related question...  Does the length of a book influence whether or not you will choose to read it, regardless of how interesting the story sounds?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Good Reads

I've read a few good books so far this year and even though I haven't managed to write a full review for any of them, I didn't want to completely ignore them either. So, here are some quick reviews of three books I think are worth reading.

Sybil Exposed: The Story Behind the Extraordinary Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan

Growing up in the 1970s, I was very aware of the scintillating story of Sybil and her childhood of horrific abuse. My mom had a copy of the paperback on the shelves in our family room and being a curious teen-aged bookworm, I, of course, picked it up and read it (along with Helter Skelter and Gone with the Wind). I can NOT believe my mother let me read some of those books, but I have always remembered that and vowed that I would not censor my children's reading. Anyway, I digress. When I heard about Sybil Exposed I was completely intrigued and felt compelled to read this painstakingly researched, non-fiction book about how the story of Sybil was actually a fabrication perpetrated by Sybil's psychiatrist, a journalist and mentally unstable (and cruelly manipulated) Sybil herself. I found this book to be fascinating and shocking. Even for the time period portrayed, the behavior of Sybil's psychiatrist was shockingly unethical. One can't help but feel badly for Sybil, who very well could have been cured of her mental illness, if not for the glory seeking psychiatrist who kept her addicted to drugs and believing she was much more ill than she was. Unconscionable. I do know two other people who tried to read this book and couldn't finish it because they felt it bogged down a little with details and technical aspects of her treatment. I did not have any problem with this and found it all very fascinating. Quite possibly because I have a degree in psychology and the information was not all that foreign to me. But knowing that going in, I would recommend this book to anyone who was fascinated by Sybil's story and is curious to know the truth. 4 out 5 stars. I really liked it.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A novel in pictures by Caroline Preston

First, I must thank Anita for recommending this book to me. What a gorgeous and unique book. As the title states, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is a novel in pictures. But it's not a picture book or comic book. The pages of the book are made to look like the scrapbook pages of Frankie Pratt, who has recently received the scrapbook, along with her father's old Corona typewriter, as a high school graduation gift in 1920. The reader follows Frankie's life from Vassar College, to NYC and her first love to Paris via a transatlantic voyage on the Lusitania. All gorgeously illustrated with actual ticket stubs, advertisements, newspaper clippings, corsages and other tidbits that any young woman would paste into a scrapbook. Accompanying each page are typed passages that relate Frankie's adventures. The story itself is fairly simple, but the presentation is unique, charming and sumptuous. It was a delight to turn each page and discover all it's little gems. As a side note, the author has been collecting vintage scrapbooks since she was a teenager and used items from her own collection to create this utterly captivating book. A feast for the eyes. 4 out of 5 stars. I really like it.

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

This book sat on my tbr list for quite a while. I'm not really sure why it took so long to make it to the top of the list, but I'm glad it finally did. And again, I have to give credit to Anita. She wrote a review of Wench on her blog and that convinced me to just read it already! And once again, she was right. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about the lives of 4 slave women who travel north every summer with their male masters to a resort in Ohio. Here they spend their summers as their masters' mistresses. The juxtaposition of these slave women to the black servants at the resort and the free blacks living in the town is jarring and eye opening. The varying nature of the relationships between the different women and their masters is also fascinating and at times surprising. As is the differing ways these men view and relate to these slave women. Truly a side of slavery I did not know much about. A great book for those who love history. 3.5 out of 5 stars. I (more than) liked it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Second Act

There are some big changes on the horizon for me in 2012. I've decided to go back to school to get my Nursing Degree! As shocking as this might seem for a 47 year old wannabe librarian, it really gets back to the core of who I am. And is actually the first step in getting me back on track to my true calling.

From the time I was 5 years old I wanted to be a doctor. I took every science class offered by my HS. I was even a candy striper at the local hospital. And I began my college career as a pre-med student way back in the mid-80s. Then reality hit when I realized I wasn't getting good enough grades to get into medical school. This was a huge crisis for me. I was a wreck for the entire first semester of my sophomore year. When I calmed down enough to think, I decided that I would simply modify my goals slightly and become a nurse. Unfortunately, I was talked out of this by a staunch feminist who told me I would be miserable "taking orders from doctors and emptying bedpans". I was so confused and in such a "state", I thought what she said made perfect sense. I don't believe in regrets, but I sure do wish I had gotten advice from a few more people before abandoning my dream of working in the medical field.

In any case, in all the intervening years, I've never gotten over my love of all things medical and have looked into studying to be a Physician's Assistant or Nurse on a number of occasions. But the time was never right. Until now.

I'm ready to move on from the library where I've worked for nearly 10 years and I have more time now to take classes and study. And I think it's time to follow my instincts. I sure do wish I had listened to my inner voice back in 1984, and I wonder if maybe I'm a little late to the table. Will anyone want to hire a brand new 51 year old nurse? But whenever I start to question my decision, I just imagine looking back at this moment in 10, 15 or 20 years and wishing I had just gone for it. So, that is what I'm going to do. I start January 23rd. Am I crazy? Quite possibly. But I've decided to give it a try. Wish me luck.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Musing Monday

This week’s Musing Mondays from Should Be Reading asks…

Are there any “raved reads” –books that everyone seems to be talking about– that you’re hoping to get read this year, yourself? What books are they, and why are you hoping to read them? Is it because you want to say you’ve read it? Or, would you have chosen to read it, even if you’d discovered it yourself, and no one was raving about it?“

This is such an interesting and timely question for me. Many times books come to my attention that I decide not to read simply because the topic/plot does not appeal to me. Then I start to see them referenced again and again - on blogs, in newspaper and magazines and across the desk at the library where they seem to always be on hold for someone. Frequently, at this point, I change my mind about wanting to read them. And most often my initial reaction was correct. I really don't like the book all the much. If the topic is not initially appealing, usually the book is not either, regardless of how many other people love it, the great reviews it gets or the number of blogs I see it pop up on. Just this past weekend, I had made a decision to stick to my initial reaction to a book when deciding what to read. And with that in mind, I'm off to clean up my tbr list on Goodreads. I'm looking forward to staring out 2012 with a fresh (reading) slate.

How about you? Are there "hot" books you are dying to read? Are you influenced by the buzz created around some books? Inquiring minds want to know...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Project 52 Review

Way back in January 2011 I decided to participate in Project 52. I came up with 40 goals that I wanted to complete in 2011 and listed them here on my blog. And for awhile I even updated my progress. And then I stopped. Updating, not necessarily working on my goals. Though I did kind of give up on some of those, too. One thing I learned is that keeping up with and keeping track of weekly goals is just too much trouble. I quickly got overwhelmed with all the "bookkeeping". But since I'm a complete Type A personality, I feel compelled to report on my progress. While I wasn't completely successful, participating in Project 52 did help me keep focused on some things that are important to me.

While I enjoyed participating in Project 52 and felt that it was a worthwhile endeavor, I've decided not to participate in 2012. One thing I spend too much time on is organizing, list making, archiving and generally "keeping track of" a myriad of things. Did I mention I'm Type A? Anyway, my goal for 2012 is to let go of some of this behavior. All the time I spend organizing is actually starting to take too much time. I need to give myself permission to stop unnecessary record keeping type behaviors. OMG! I sound completely loony. I'm really not - at least not completely. But it is time for more balance.

Now for the update. Ummm... Wait a second. I was going to go through the goals one by one and give an update, but in light of what I just wrote *slaps forehead* I think I'll just hit the highlights and reflect on what I learned during the process.

Many of my goals had to do with cooking. I really don't like to cook and find it a terrible chore. While having some specific goals did help me try new recipes, I came nowhere near my goal of cooking three times per week. I'm just going to accept this about myself and not fight it anymore. C'est la vie!

I did somewhat better on my exercise goals. While I didn't join a gym, try Pilates or go to a Zumba class, I did take a 6 week yoga class. And I far surpassed my walking goal of 3 times per week. I have consistently walked an hour a day, 5-7 times per week since the first week in January! I've decided that I'm no longer going to worry about going to a gym or weight training or resistance training or flexibility or any of that. I enjoy walking, I've been keeping it up and it's something I can do anywhere, any time and for the rest of my life. Having this revelation and making this commitment feels like a true success.

I also had some success with my reading/book goals. I did read a Jane Austen book, one book that has lingered on my tbr list for quite awhile and I visited one new to me library in RI. I did not however, read a Shakespeare play or a nonfiction book by Alison Weir from my tbr list. And I only managed to write book reviews for 12 of the 21 4 or 5 star books that I read in 2011.

I accomplished 2 of my 6 travel related goals. The most important of which was a getaway with my husband. I'll count that as a success.

I did a pretty good job with my explore RI goals. I did manage to eat at three swanky restaurants and to explore Hope St. in Providence. And while I didn't make to any of the big, ocean beaches here in RI, which is what I intended when I set the goal, I did visit my little town beach on Narragansett Bay a number of times. And I really do enjoy that. Maybe I need to focus on that and stop feeling bad about not going to the "real" beach.

Accomplishing my family goals proved to be a little harder. Maybe because they were tied to cooking. I set a goal of inviting my mother to dinner once a month and hosting 4 dinners for extended family. I made some progress, but not as much as I would have liked. I did, however, spend more time with my mom this past year doing other things and that was really the idea. So, I'm going to count that as a success. And I did spend lots of time with extended family, just not necessarily at dinners I hosted for that express purpose. So again, the spirit of the goal was met.

As for some of my miscellaneous goals, I did very well on some - keeping up with politics, buying flowers for the family room, saying "no" at work, donating to charity - and not so well on others - posting once a week, watching more movies and scheduling mental health days.

Overall, I think I did pretty well. Having the accountability of Project 52 definitely helped me keep some of my goals in mind, which certainly help me accomplish what I did. But having one more thing to track and organize was definitely not a good thing for me. And that is probably the best thing I got out of participating in Project 52. The realization that too much organizing, record keeping, etc. can actually make you less, not more, efficient. A valuable lesson to learn. And one I need to focus on in 2012. My goal - to become a Type A minus personality. Baby steps.

How about you? Have you set any goals for yourself in 2012? I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Books of 2011

The end of the year seems to be a popular time for "Best of" Lists. I couldn't miss the opportunity to make my own Best List. Of course mine is going to be all about books. Of the 109 books I've read in 2010, 24 of them received a 4 or 5 star rating. Looking back over those, 6 rose to the top as my choice for Best Books Read in 2011. Since not all of these books were published in 2011, this is not technically a Best Books of 2011 list, but a Best Books Read in 2011 list.

Pam's 6 Best Books of 2011

When Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe - A powerful debut novel that will not leave the reader unaffected. One of three books I read in 2011 that received a perfect 5 stars.

Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro Kazuo - A stunner of a book. People either love it or hate. I loved it so much it was the second book to receive 5 stars in 2011.

Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton - A very good story, simply told! The third and final book of 2011 to receive 5 stars.

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks - The 2012 Reading Across RI (RARI) winner! Brooks is a master at evoking time and place.

Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon- A very original story with characters I came to care deeply about. Thanks to Sue of Book by Book for the recommendation.

Greyhound by Steffan Piper - Best book you've never heard of and might have a hard time finding. But it's worth the effort to try.

2011 was a pretty good book year for me. While I managed to read 12 more books in 2011 than I did in 2010 and I rated 24 of them 4 or 5 stars, I didn't really read any books that WOWed me. I haven't read any books that blew me away since 2009, which was a blockbuster year for me. How about you? What are your top books of 2011? I'd love to hear from you. After all 2012is just around the corner and I can always use some recommendations.

Friday, September 16, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Is summer over already? It just flew by. It was quite the eventful summer, too, and I didn't blog about any of it. My bad. In the interest of brevity and to avoid boring you to death, here is the Cliff's Notes version of my life over the last 3 months or so...

Birthday Celebration

Over 4th of July weekend, we traveled to Denver to celebrate the 70th birthday of Geoff's Aunt Marianne. We are very close to her and Geoff's Uncle Mike and it was a nice chance to see family members that we don't see all that often.

Marianne and Mike

Anniversary Celebration

Geoff surprised me with a weekend getaway at Castle Hill Inn in Newport for our anniversary. It was a lovely surprise and the weekend was filled with lots of little luxuries - roses, champagne, gourmet meals and time to relax on the private beach. I felt very pampered.

Castle Hill Inn

Renovation/Remodel Hell

On August 1, we had to empty out the first floor of our home to prepare for some minor renovations. It's now September 18th and it's still not done. I'm about to lose my mind. I could really use another weekend at Castle Hill Inn.

My Family Room

Driver's License

On August 2nd, Madeleine got her Driver's License!!!! It's hard to describe the feeling I have now that my chauffeuring duties are completely over. Relief, wistfulness, sadness, disbelief. But mostly relief. I'm not sure Geoff feels that same sense of relief. He really misses driving her to school every morning. He's trying to convince her to go to Brown University after she graduates so that he can drive her to class every day on his way to Providence. The empty nest is looming large. *sigh*

Brand New Driver

50 Years...and Counting

In early August, we spent a long weekend in Woodstock, VT with Geoff's extended family to celebrate his parents' 50th Anniversary! We had a wonderful weekend at the Woodstock Inn. The main event of the trip was a special celebratory dinner in honor of Gary and Audrey's 50th. The dinner was absolutely lovely - complete with special flowers, a small wedding cake, champagne and specially designed M&Ms to commemorate the occasion. Each of Geoff's parents made a speech and Geoff and his two siblings toasted their parents. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Truly a memorable and momentous occasion.

Gary and Audrey

College Drop 0ff - Second Time's a Charm

On August 27th, we dropped Katie off to start her sophomore year at college. Things went much more smoothly than the fiasco that was last year. I sensed that she was a little reluctant to let us leave, but since we were trying to outrun Tropical Storm Irene, we didn't have much choice but to get on the road.

Katie's Dorm Room

Speaking of Tropical Storms...

Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got to RI, but that didn't stop it from knocking out our power for 6 DAYS! I have a whole new respect for people who live in the south and deal with hurricanes on a regular basis. The inconvenience was - well, inconvenient. Not to mention my house was already under renovation and I had only gotten my (electric) stove reinstalled the day before the storm hit. Ugh! But, fortunately, we didn't suffer any damage and we had hot water throughout the ordeal. Not everyone was so fortunate.

Annual Family Weekend in New Hampshire

As we have since 2007, we spent Labor Day weekend in a rented house in NH with my Dad and Sandy and my brother's family. As this trip came right on the heels of Irene (and we still didn't have power when we left), it came at a good time. I really needed to get away and get out of my head with regards to our lack of electricity, the inconvenience and how it had brought the (never ending) work on our house to screeching halt. (I was just a wee bit cranky that week.) I spent the weekend reading on the screened porch and napping. It was fabulous. I felt very refreshed when I got back home.

Dad and me reading on the screened porch

Back to School

Madeleine started her Junior year of High School on September 6th - one week late due to Tropical Storm Irene. It was very exciting for her to drive herself to school for the first time. This school year really feels like the start of a new chapter. Junior year is such an important one. A year focused so much on preparing for life after HS. That, combined with the independence that comes with having a license, has really changed the makeup and tone of our days. It's freeing and exciting, but it's also a little unsettling. I always find the start of the school year a time of adjustment. This year the adjustment seems to be less about getting used to a new routine, and more about adjusting to the next phase in life. And not just for Madeleine.

Madeleine's First Day of Junior Year in HS

Katie's First Day of Sophomore Year in College

Looking back I can see why the summer flew by. It was a busy and sometimes chaotic summer. But there was a lot of fun and love, too. All in all, a good summer. How about you? What did you do on your summer vacation?


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