Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Life of Reading

One of my favorite quotations is C.S. Lewis' "we read to know we are not alone." I have been thinking lately about how our reading life is colored by the stage of life we are in.

I had a friend once who told me that she thought it was a waste of time to ever re-read a book. I couldn't disagree more. I read MADAME BOVARY when I was a young teenager. I had no experience with love, relationships, marriage, motherhood. Although I enjoyed the book, many of the subtleties were lost on me. As an adult, I reread the book and discovered so many nuances and meanings that I had previously missed because I couldn't understand them at that point in my life. As we age and mature, we read through different lenses. Although I could be moved by stories about motherhood before, I experience those stories in a completely different way now that I am actually a mother. While I puzzled over tales of marriage and its joys and difficulties before, they are now brought into completely new light now that I am a wife.

This is one of the things I love about reading. You can return to a book years later and experience it in a completely different and new way due to your life experiences.

Currently on deck:
TINKERS by Paul Harding

Review coming soon!

Monday, February 23, 2009

It Was a Wonderful Night for Oscar

That was the BEST Academy Awards I have seen in years!!! Hugh Jackman was a fantastic host--charming...funny...talented...and oh-so-handsome! I thought the musical numbers were great and the new method of presenting the acting awards was sheer genius! For those of you who didn't watch, for each acting award, the Academy brought out five of the previous award winner. Each former winner highlighted one of the nominees. It was clear that the nominees were very moved by being presented by some of Hollywood's greats. The stage was beautiful, the music was great, the length was just right. Usually, the Oscars feel like a death march but I was sorry to see last night's show end. Hugh Jackman should host ALL awards shows!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SING THEM HOME by Stephanie Kallos

I can't remember where I first heard about SING THEM HOME but the subject matter intrigued me. Hope Jones, mother of three, is taken up in a tornado in 1978 and is never seen again. Her family must live with the consequences of that fateful day. SING THEM HOME follows Hope's three grown children who have all been shaped by the loss of their mother. But it is much more than their story. Every one in the small town from Hope's husband to the dead themselves are affected by Hope's disappearance. The story is told from many different points of view and each individual reveals small parts of the greater story from a different perspective. SING THEM HOME is a tale of family, legacies and secrets. However, it is also a peek into the microcosm of small town life.

This chunkster was slow to get started but once I got into it, I couldn't put it down. I had to find out the truth about Hope's story and disappearance. Kallos lends a bit of whimsy to the story by making the town's dead active participants in the tale. It's a lovely story and I can't wait to go back and read Kallos' first book.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. Don't let the length deter you. This is a great family drama.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson

It seems appropriate that THE GARGOYLE came to me when it did...just around Valentine's Day. It is a very non-traditional romance but a love story nonetheless. After reading the first few pages, I was hesitant about what lay in store for me. The book opens with a horrific car crash where the narrator is burned over the majority of his body. Following this inauspicious beginning, we hear about what a licentious life the narrator lead before his accident and then an almost unbearable description of his burn wounds and their treatment. The narrator explains that he plans to kill himself upon his release from the hospital. But then he meets Marianne.

Marianne shows up in the narrator's hospital room and tells him they have been lovers for centuries through many lifetimes. She begins to tell him their story and slowly transforms him in the process. This is where the book started to pick up and from that point on, I was hooked.

This is not a pretty love story. We are taken through time and space to witness great tragedy and suffering. We are even literally taken through Hell. Yet, there is great hope within this story as we see how love can be transcendent and liberating. In THE GARGOYLE, love is a true meeting and connection of souls.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. While some of the depictions in the novel may be difficult for some readers, the story makes it all worthwhile. In the midst of the darkness and tragedy, there is great beauty. A highly satisfying read.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The One About Blogging

I started blogging back in 2003 along with my buddies Genevieve and Ellen (both college buddies). Genevieve's blog is still up and running. Ellen was the first person I knew who had a blog and it was called "Sugar in the Raw." Later, Ellen morphed her blog into the delightful "Reign of Ellen." Her blogs no longer exist and that is a shame for everyone.

I thought a blog would be a great way to stay in touch with friends and family. This blog started out as an edited online journal. Over the years, I discovered the many applications of blogs. I realized I needed to edit myself a bit more and became much more general in my writing. I decided to focus my blog on books, politics, and semi-personal matters. I created separate blogs for religious matters and crafting/creativity. And so far, I haven't gotten tired of writing them.

I have seen many blogs come and go. I miss so many of them. It often feels as if I just discover a wonderful blog only to see it disappear. I think this happens for many reasons. First of all, I feel that some people feel pressured to post every day and keep their posts interesting in order to create a following. I briefly worried about raising my "blog traffic" and getting a "readership." But then I started to dread posting. It felt like work. I gave all that up. I don't really care who reads my blog anymore. If someone finds something useful here, that makes me happy. But I'm not looking to post a bunch of ads or try and make money off of my blog. I think some people also get too personal and then they worry about how much of themselves that have put out into the blogosphere. Other people just go through life changes that change their interests. Perhaps you started blogging to fulfill a certain need or purpose and then that need resolves itself in another way.

I only know that I have met wonderful people through blogging. I have learned all about swapping which filled me with joy and rapture. (like having modern-day pen pals!!!) I have found people who share similar interests and life experiences. I have learned lots of fabulous crafty things through tutorials and the publishing of people's work on their blogs. I have found and purchased the work of artists and crafters that now graces my home. I have been inspired to try new things and to think about new ideas. It's a wonderful thing.

So, if you blog, I challenge you to let go of any concerns about keeping up with posting or coming up with interesting material or worrying about advertising or readership or blog rankings. Just follow your bliss and follow the links that your favorite bloggers post because you never know what interesting and wonderful people you will meet.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

LITTLE HEATHENS by Mildred Kalish

LITTLE HEATHENS: HARD TIMES AND HIGH SPIRITS ON AN IOWA FARM DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION is a charming memoir. It is the current selection of my book club and I wasn't sure what to expect. Millie Kalish brings us back to her childhood during the Great Depression on a farm in Iowa and the subject matter couldn't be more timely. Kalish shares with us all the little economies that her family practiced as well as the great joys and entertainment they found while living on a farm without modern conveniences. The book reminded me a great deal of Barbara Kingsolver's ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE in that it offers an almost idyllic view of a simpler, greener life where people grow their own food and recycle items naturally.

I grew up in Texas and my grandparents had a farm at one time. Much of the story reminded me of them. One chapter focuses on idioms and aphorisms and I recognized quite a few that my own grandmother used to say. The book had me feeling nostalgic for a time that I never ever experienced. Many of the economies practiced in the memoir were especially compelling to me considering the hard economic times we are currently facing.

My only complaint about the book is that it often felt disorganized. Kalish jumps around in time and in subject in an almost dizzying fashion. The ending of the book seems very rushed and abrupt. However, I loved reading about this particular time and place and all the recipes and advice that Kalish included.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. If you are looking for a quick, charming memoir full of recipes and humor, look no further. This book could almost serve as a self-help book in that we could all learn something from it about being more self-reliant and less addicted to technology and on appreciating all the little things that life has to offer.


In LOVE AND BIOLOGY AT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE, Mira Serafino's life takes an unexpected turn when she discovers that her college-sweetheart husband is unhappy in their marriage. In response to this revelation, Mira flees her conventional small-town life in order to find herself while working at a coffee shop called the Center of the Universe in Seattle. The cast of characters includes Mira's rebellious 20 year old daughter, a former rocker friend named Lannie who runs a music/yarn shop and Mira's elderly matriarch Italian grandmother.

I was really disappointed by this book. In spite of the fact that the characters are going through very relatable life issues, I didn't connect with any of them. Mira ultimately came off as selfish, whiny and impetuous. The author kept hinting at other story threads that had the potential to be compelling such as Mira's broken relationship with her little brother. However, these story lines never panned out. The book felt all over the place and never reached the great depths that the story promised. I wanted so much to care about the characters but the author tried too hard to tell the story from different viewpoints and flashbacks and spread the story too thin. I couldn't even understand the point of the inclusion of some of the characters and storylines.

BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended. The book had a lot of potential but ended up being a mess of shallow characters that didn't prove very interesting or compelling.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Your Most Cherished Family Memory

On my favorite radio show, the Bob and Sheri show, they discussed a quiz out of the book THE BIG BOOK OF RELATIONSHIP QUIZZES. The quiz was focused on the nature of our most cherished family memories.

Let's take it together.

Each of the following words or phrases represents a SCENT memory. Choose your favorite smell:

1)maple syrup

2)spiced apple cider


4)roaring fire

Have you picked one yet?

Okay, here is what they mean.

If you chose the smell of "maple syrup," your favorite family memories are those that are luxurious. The luxury items you invest in provide comfort and security and are not just frivolous indulgences and these people are the most likely to make new happy memories because they can make the connection between happy memories and the effort that it takes to create them. They understand that happy memories are made and don't just fall out of the sky.

If you chose the smell of "spiced apple cider," your favorite family memories are linked to achievement. People attracted to strong spice scents tend to be achievement-oriented extroverts whose most important memories center around early success. They are not afraid of being noticed for what they can do and they are born risk-takers. When they need an emotional boost, memories of past achievements can provide that.

If you chose the smell of "pine," your favorite family memories are linked to nature. Among adults born twenty or more years ago, most childhood memories center around being outdoors. If you choose pine, you have a youthful attitude which endears you to children and helps you to maintain a youthful exuberance.

If you chose the smell of a "roaring fire," your favorite family memories are linked to togetherness. Your probably cherish family memories like baking cookies with mom or spending lazy Sundays reading the comics, neighborhood block parties, etc. These people tend to have warm, generous hearts. They love to have home fires burning and lots of people around.

I found this really interesting. I happened to choose "roaring fire" and I think it really describes me. I am an adopted child and I think adopted children often subconsciously work on building family. I am disappointed that none of my brothers-in-law have children because I am an only child and Baby will never get to experience having cousins. I have always wanted to tight-knit family that spends joyful holidays together. Still working on that....