Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Five: Decisions, Decisions

A decision from history:  This chair still sits in the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall).  Legend has it that it was George Washington's chair, the back carved with a half sun. Benjamin Franklin would look at it and wonder whether it was a rising or a setting sun. Eventually Franklin decided it was the hopeful symbol of the rising sun, a sign of the future of our new republic.

How do you decide?  Which of the following pairs appeals to you most? Share your choices with the RevGalBlogPals.

1)  Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset ~ I grew up watching the sun set behind Lookout Mountain.  I have just moved from St. Elmo, on the eastern side of that mountain, to a part of town where the setting sun shines in the small side window of my new bedroom.
Lookout Mountain beyond Chattanooga

2)  To the mountains or to the beach?
Beach ~ I live surrounded by a bowl of mountains, so I occasionally go TO the beach for vacations.  (But I wouldn't want to live there.)
3)  Coffee or tea?
Tea ~ I've never liked the taste of coffee, but I drink tea all the time.  It's so hot today that I stopped at Walgreen's to buy a bottle of cold tea, discovered it was on sale for half price, and bought four.
4)  Advent or Lent?
Advent ~ Being a joyful person, I like the pink "Joy" candle among the purple ones, representing the four Sundays before Christmas.

5)  "Raindrops on roses" or "whiskers on kittens"?
Whiskers on kittens ~ Even though I didn't know Kiki as a kitten, she was only a year old when I got her, running and very active whether she was playing inside or outside.  Here's a photo that shows her whiskers (click to enlarge).
For those of you who may be concerned by Kiki's Caturday post, she actually likes our new place.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

BTT (#10) ~ night owl

btt button asks if we're night owls.
What’s the latest you’ve ever stayed up reading a book? Is staying up late reading a usual thing for you?
I am not a morning person.  Nope, not at all.  I can do mornings when necessary, but I'd rather stay up late (reading, of course) and then sleep late in the morning.  Now that I'm retired, I can do that on a regular basis.  Okay, I'll admit that I read late into the night even when I had to get up early to get my three kids off to school and me off to work.  I got by on little sleep rather frequently, but it's harder to do that now that I'm in my 70s.

The question specifically asks what's the latest I've ever stayed up reading.  I've stayed up all night.  Yes, not a wink the whole night through.  Reading, yes.

The owl collection around my house could represent night owls, though I like owls because Athena had one.  She's the goddess of wisdom, you know, and is represented by an owl.  I fancy myself in the wise-old-woman (i.e., crone) stage of my life.  For awhile, Hedwig, the snowy owl who delivered mail in the first Harry Potter book, hung from the ceiling at my house.  It had wings extended (like this picture) and would bounce around when I gave it a bit of a lift and let go.  I gave that one to my best friend, who considers herself the number-one HP fan -- she bought the current HP book at midnight when we owned a bookstore and would be selling them the next day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Library Loot ~ July 27-August 2

Imagined London ~ by Anna Quindlen, 2004
Summary:  "Anna Quindlen first visited London from a chair in her suburban Philadelphia home--in one of her beloved childhood mystery novels.  She has been back to London countless times since, through the pages of books and in person, and now, in Imagined London, she takes her own readers on a tour of this greatest of literary cities.  While New York, Paris, and Dublin are also vividly portrayed in fiction, it is London, Quindlen argues, that has always been the star, both because of the primacy of English literature and the specificity of city descriptions.  She bases her view of the city on her own detailed literary map, tracking the footsteps of her favorite characters:  the places where Evelyn Waugh's bright young things danced until dawn, or where Lydia Bennett eloped with the dastardly Wickham.  In Imagined London,Quindlen walks through the city, moving within blocks from the great books of the 19th century to the detective novels of the 20th to the new modernist tradition of the 21st.  With wit and charm, Imagined London gives this splendid city its full due in the landscape of the literary imagination."
I'm still in the process of getting the last things moved across town, but yesterday I picked up this book at my NEW branch of the library. Well, actually, it's my OLD branch, once again. It's where I used to go all the time. It's where one of my daughters worked for awhile after graduating from college. It's like coming home again.

Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  Marg has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share a list of the loot you brought home.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Caturday ~ No, not Sammy!

I can't believe Bonnie is doing this to me — again.  We're moving, and I don't wanna move.  I don't like things to change.  I don't like boxes in my house.  I don't like strange people in my house.  I don't like this at all.  Not only that, but Sammy will be my roommate again, and I don't like Sammy.

No apartment — no house I've ever seen — is big enough for the two of us. On the other hand, Sammy will bring Donna with her, and maybe Donna will give me treats.

I'll have to think about this.

Kiki Cat, signing off

By the way, Bonnie calls this picture "first things first."  But I don't see what's so important about books and boxes of books — the first and most important thing, of course, is cat food.  And I don't see any of my food there.  'Nuff said.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beginning ~ with religious extremists

The Battle for God ~ by Karen Armstrong, 2000, religion
"One of the most startling developments of the late twentieth century has been the emergence within every major religious tradition of a militant piety popularly known as 'fundamentalism.'  Its manifestations are sometimes shocking.  Fundamentalists have gunned down worshippers in a mosque, have killed doctors and nurses who work in abortion clinics, have shot their presidents, and have even toppled a powerful government.  It is only a small minority of fundamentalists who commit such acts of terror, but even the most peaceful and law-abiding are perplexing, because they seem so adamantly opposed to many of the most positive values of modern society.  Fundamentalists have no time for democracy, pluralism, religious toleration, peacekeeping, free speech, or the separation of church and state.  Christian fundamentalists reject the discoveries of biology and physics about the origins of life and insist that the Book of Genesis is scientifically sound in every detail.  At a time when many are throwing off the shackles of the past, Jewish fundamentalists observe their revealed Law more stringently than ever before, and Muslim women, repudiating the freedoms of Western women, shroud themselves in veils and chadors.  Muslim and Jewish fundamentalists both interpret the Arab-Israeli conflict, which began as defiantly secularist, in an exclusively religious way."
I think this beginning of the introduction is great.  My version from 2000 is subtitled A History of Fundamentalism, which I think is rather bland.  "Blah" is an even better term.  If you click to enlarge the cover from the UK (above), you'll see a more accurate and descriptive subtitle:  Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

I read this book about a decade ago, but apparently I bought my copy after 9-11, because it has "A New Preface" that starts like this:
"September 11, 2001, will go down in history as a day that changed the world. ... For the first time ever, the people of the United States were attacked by a foreign enemy on their own soil; not by a nation-state, and not by a nuclear missile, but by religious extremists brandishing only penknives and box cutters."

If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages. Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading. (Sometimes it takes several sentences to get the full thought.) Then, share your impressions of that beginning.  Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

BTT (#9) ~ repeats

btt button asks about repeats.
"What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.)  What book have you read the most times?  And — how many?"
I'm quite sure the FIRST book I read more than once was a Mother Goose or nursery rhyme book.  Or maybe that's technically the first one I requested that my parents read to me over and over and over again.

Even after I started reading for myself, surely the FIRST book I repeated would be inconsequential to us now.  That would have been at least 65 years ago, since I'm 71, and who cares which book was first?

Since I don't count how often I read books, I'll tell you the titles of a couple of books I consider worth reading more than once — or at least once, if you haven't yet read these.
Herland ~ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1915) is one I re-read about every ten years.
This utopian novel describes an isolated society composed entirely of women who reproduce via parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction).  The result is an ideal social order, free of war, conflict, and domination.
Time and Again ~ by Jack Finney (1970) is my favorite time travel story.
"Sleep. And when you awake everything you know of the twentieth century will be gone from your mind.  Tonight is January 21, 1882.  There are no such things as automobiles, no planes, computers, television.  'Nuclear' appears in no dictionary.  You have never heard the name Richard Nixon."  Did illustrator Si Morley really step out of his twentieth-century apartment one night — right into the winter of 1882?  The U.S. Government believed it, especially when Si returned with a portfolio of brand-new sketches and tintype photos of a world that no longer existed — or did it?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Library Loot ~ July 20-26

Here If You Need Me: A True Story ~ by Kate Braestrup, 2007, memoir (Maine), 10/10
Synopsis:  "Ten years ago, Kate Braestrup, her husband, Drew, and their four young children were enjoying a morning like any other. Then Drew, a Maine state trooper, left for work and everything changed. On the very roads that he patrolled each day, an oncoming driver lost control, and Kate lost her husband.  Stunned and grieving, Kate decided to pursue what had been her husband's dream and became a minister.  And soon she found a most unusual calling:  serving as chaplain for search-and-rescue missions in the Maine woods, giving comfort to people whose loved ones are missing — and to the wardens who sometimes have to deal with dreadful outcomes. Whether with parents whose six-year-old daughter has vanished into the woods, with wardens as they search for a snowmobiler trapped under the ice, or with a man whose sister left an infant seat and a suicide note in her car by the side of the road, Braestrup provides solace, understanding, and spiritual guidance when they're needed most."
I checked this book out at closing time (6 pm) Friday and had it read before I slept that night.  Yes, I read into the wee hours of the morning, but the book was that compelling to me.  Whenever I find a book I can't put down, I rate it 10 of 10, which I showed on Sunday in my Still reading ~ second half of the year post. 

The House on the Strand ~ by Daphne du Maurier, 1969, fiction
Synopsis:  "In this haunting tale, Daphne du Maurier takes a fresh approach to time travel.  A secret experimental concoction, once imbibed, allows you to return to the fourteenth century. There is only one catch:  if you happen to touch anyone while traveling in the past you will be thrust instantaneously to the present.  Magnus Lane, a University of London chemical researcher, asks his friend Richard Young and Young's family to stay at Kilmarth, an ancient house set in the wilds near the Cornish coast.  Here, Richard drinks a potion created by Magnus and finds himself at the same spot where he was moments earlier — though it is now the fourteenth century. The effects of the drink wear off after several hours, but it is wildly addictive, and Richard cannot resist traveling back and forth in time.  Gradually growing more involved in the lives of the early Cornish manor lords and their ladies, he finds the presence of his wife and stepsons a hindrance to his new-found experience.  Richard eventually finds emotional refuge with a beautiful woman of the past trapped in a loveless marriage, but when he attempts to intervene on her behalf the results are brutally terrifying for the present.  Echoing the great fantastic stories of H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, The House on the Strand is a masterful yarn of history, romance, horror, and suspense that will grip the reader until the last surprising twist."
Doesn't this sound interesting?  However, I've already tossed it into my car to return this morning because — ta-da! — I'm trying to move before the end of the month.  Remember I told you about the burglary at my house?  I'm moving closer to my children.  Therefore, I don't have time to read this now and it could easily get lost among the million books I'll be moving.  (Okay, okay, not quite a million, but if you are a bookie, you understand what I'm talking about.)  I'll have to remember to check this out again later or, as Marg says, "re-loot" this book.

The Good Husband ~ by Gail Godwin, 1994, fiction
Synopsis:  "As a young woman, the brilliant and eternally curious Magda Danvers took the academic world by storm.  Then, to everyone's surprise, she married Francis Lake, a mild, midwestern seminarian, who has devoted his life to taking care of his charismatic wife.  Now, Magda's grave illness puts their marriage to its ultimate test.  Though facing what she calls her 'Final Examination,' Magda continues to arouse her visitors with compelling thoughts and questions.  Into this provocative atmosphere comes Alice Henry, retreating from family tragedy and a crumbling marriage to novelist Hugo Henry.  But is it the incandescence of Magda's ideas that draws Alice or the secret of 'the good marriage' that she is desperate to discover?  Alice, Hugo, Francis, and Magda will learn that the most ideal relationship — even a perfect marriage — doesn't come without a price."
Another book to re-loot.  I read the book back in the 1990s, but I'm ready to read it again and, having no idea where my copy got to, I checked out the library's copy.  I think this one can wait a week or so, maybe even a month or so, until I get moved to my new place.  But I do plan to re-read this book.

Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  Claire has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share a list of the loot you brought home.  You may submit your list any time during the week.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Still reading ~ second half of the year

Raegan's still reading
This time, Raegan is engrossed in her sing-along book about "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" that was given to her by her Nana (my daughter).


Books read in the second half of 2011
Title links go to book reviews, if I've written one.
The list for the first half of the year is here.


121.  Pocketful of Names ~ by Joe Coomer, 2005, fiction (Maine), 8/10
122.  In the Bleak Midwinter ~ by Julia Spencer-Fleming, 2002, mystery (New York), 10/10
123.  A Change in Altitude ~ by Anita Shreve, 2009, fiction (Kenya), 9/10
124.  Mysteries and Monsters of the Sea: True Stories from the files of FATE Magazine ~ edited by Frank Spaeth, 1998, essays, 9/10
125.  Sacred Time ~ by Ursula Hegi, 2003, fiction (New York), 8/10
126.  The Queen of the Big Time ~ by Adriana Trigiani, 2004, fiction (Pennsylvania), 9/10
127.  Being Perfect ~ by Anna Quindlen, 2005, essay, 8/10
128.  Skinnybones ~ by Barbara Park, 1982, children's MG (middle grades), 9.5/10
129.  Sometimes I think I hear my name ~ by Avi, 1982, YA fiction (New York), 8/10
130.  The Book Group Book: A Thoughtful Guide to Forming and Enjoying a Stimulating Book Discussion Group ~ by Ellen Slezak, 1993, essays, 9/10
131.  Here If You Need Me: A True Story ~ by Kate Braestrup, 2007, memoir (Maine), 10/10
July favorite (#131)
4 fiction
1 YA fiction
1 children's
3 essays
0 graphic novels
0 history
0 humor
1 memoir / biography
1 mystery
0 philosophy
0 religion
0 science
0 women's studies
0 writing
Total = 11

132.  Before I Fall ~ by Lauren Oliver, 2010, YA fiction, 9/10
133.  Homelands: Women's Journeys Across Race, Place, and Time ~ edited by Patricia Justine Tumang and Jenesha de Rivera, foreword by Edwidge Danticat, 2006, women's studies, 8/10
134.  Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America ~ by Firooyeh Dumas, 2003, memoir (California), 9/10
135.  Imagined London: A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City ~ by Anna Quindlen, 2004, memoir (England), 8/10
136.  Save Me ~ by Lisa Scottoline, 2011, fiction (Pennsylvania), 9/10
137.  The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts ~ by Maxine Hong Kingston, 1975, fiction (California), 8/10
138.  Cooking for Harry: A Low Carbohydrate Novel ~ by Kay-Marie James, 2004, fiction, 9/10
139.  St. Francis of Assisi: A Life of Joy ~ by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., illustrated by Dennis Nolan, 2004, children's, 8/10
140.  The T. F. Letters [TF = Tooth Fairy] ~ by Karen Ray, 1998, children's chapter book, 9/10
141.  Judge Tenderly of Me: The Poems of Emily Dickinson ~ afterword by Winfield Townley Scott, illustrations by Bill Greer, 1968, poems, 8/10
August favorite (#134)
3 fiction
1 YA fiction
2 children's
1 essays/poetry
0 graphic novels
0 history
0 humor
2 memoir / biography
0 mystery
0 philosophy
0 religion
0 science
1 women's studies
0 writing
Total = 10

142.  Martyr's Crossing ~ by Amy Wilentz, 2001, fiction (Israel), 8/10
143.  Yokota Officers Club ~ by Sarah Bird, 2001, fiction (Japan), 7/10
144.  A Man's Journey to Simple Abundance ~ by Sarah Ban Breathnach, edited by Michael Segall, 2000, essays, 8/10
145.  Off to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World ~ by Susan Hughes, 2011, essays for middle grades, 10/10
146.  Adam and Eve ~ by Sena Jeter Naslund, 2010, fiction (France), 8/10
147.  Write for Your Soul: The Whys and Hows of Journaling ~ by Jeff and Mindy Caliguire, 1998, essays, 9/10
148.  Can't Wait to Get to Heaven ~ by Fannie Flagg, 2006. fiction (Missouri), 8/10
149.  A Light in the Attic: Poems and Drawings ~ by Shel Silverstein, 1981, children's, 8/10
150.  Falling Up: Poems and Drawings ~ by Shel Silverstein, 1996, children's, 8/10
151.  Epaminondas and His Auntie ~ by Sara Cone Bryant, 1907, children's, 10/10
152.  A Day No Pigs Would Die ~ by Robert Newton Peck, 1972, YA fiction (Vermont), 8/10
153.  The Face on the Milk Carton ~ by Caroline B. Cooney, 1990, YA fiction (Connecticut), 9/10
September favorite (#150)
4 fiction
2 YA fiction
3 children's
2 essays/poetry
0 graphic novels
0 history
0 humor
0 memoir / biography
0 mystery
0 philosophy
0 religion
0 science
0 women's studies
0 writing
Total = 11

154.  Whatever Happened to Janie? ~ by Caroline B. Cooney, 1993, YA fiction (New Jersey), 9/10
155.  The Voice on the Radio ~ by Caroline B. Cooney, 1996, YA fiction (Massachusetts), 9/10
156.  What Janie Found ~ by Caroline B. Cooney, 2000, YA fiction (Colorado), 9/10
157.  Who Were They Really? The True Stories Behind Famous Characters ~ by Susan Beth Pfeffer, 1999, essays, 8/10
158.  Wild Girl ~ by Patricia Reilly Giff, 2009, children's fiction (New York), 8/10
159.  The Wild Girls ~ by Pat Murphy, 2007, YA fiction (California), 9.5/10
160.  Good Night, Baby ~ by Elizabeth Hathon, 2000, children's board book, 8/10
161.  Joy for Beginners ~ Erica Bauermeister, 2011, fiction
162.  Close Your Eyes ~ by Amanda Eyre Ward, 2011, fiction, 8/10
163.  Smiles to Go ~ by Jerry Spinelli, 2008, YA fiction, 9/10
164.  House of Dance ~ by Beth Kephart, 2008, YA fiction, 8/10
October favorite (#158)
1 fiction
7 YA fiction
2 children's
1 essays/poetry
0 graphic novels
0 history
0 humor
0 memoir / biography
0 mystery
0 philosophy
0 religion
0 science
0 women's studies
0 writing
Total = 11

165.  The Heart Is Not a Size ~ by Beth Kephart, 2010, YA fiction (Mexico), 8/10
166.  Undercover ~ by Beth Kephart, 2007, YA fiction, 9/10
167.  I Am the Messenger ~ by Markus Zusak, 2005, YA fiction (Australia), 9/10
168.  The Old Woman Who Named Things ~ by Cynthia Rylant, 1996, children's, 9/10
169.  Bitsy's Bait and BBQ ~ by Pamela Morsi, 2007, fiction (Missouri), 10/10
170.  A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage ~ by Beth Kephart, 1998, memoir, 9/10
171.  We're in Big Trouble, Blackboard Bear ~ by Martha Alexander, 1980 (2nd edition, 2001), children's, 9/10
172.  A You're Adorable ~ by Martha Alexander, 1994, children's, 8/10
173.  You Can't Take a Balloon Into the National Gallery ~ by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman, illustrated by Robin Glasser, 2000, children's (Washington, DC). 10/10
174.  Te Amo, Bebe, Little One ~ by Lisa Wheeler, 2004, children's, 8/10
175.  Bookstore Cat ~ by Cindy Wheeler, 1994, children's, 9/10
176.  Peony's Rainbow ~ by Martha Weston, 1981, children's, 7/10
177.  Abdul ~ by Rosemary Wells, 1975, children's, 9/10
178.  Porky and Bess ~ by Ellen Weiss and Mel Friedman, 2010, children's reader, 8/10
179.  One Little Chicken ~ by Elka Weber, 2011, children's, 8/10
180. The Ballad of Tom Dooley ~ by Sharyn McCrumb, 2011, fiction, 8/10
181.  Runaway Twin ~ by Peg Kehret, 2009, YA fiction, 10/10
182.  Zen Ties ~ by Jon J. Muth, 2008, children's, 9/10
183.  Coming Up for Air ~ by Patti Callahan Henry, 2011, fiction (Alabama), 8/10
November favorite (#181)
3 fiction
4 YA fiction
11 children's
0 essays/poetry
0 graphic novels
0 history
0 humor
1 memoir / biography
0 mystery
0 philosophy
0 religion
0 science
0 women's studies
0 writing
Total = 19

184.  Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World ~ by John Shelby Spong, 2011, religion, 9/10
185.  Zen Shorts ~ by Jon J. Muth, 2005, children's, 8/10
186.  The Twenty-four-Days Before Christmas: An Austin Family Story ~ Madeleine L'Engle, 1984, children's, 9/10
187.  Uncle Wiggily and His Friends ~ by Howard R. Garis, 1939, children's, 8/10
188.  Why I Will Never Ever Ever Ever Have Enough Time to Read This Book ~ by Remy Charlip, illustrated by Jon J Muth, 2000, children's, 7/10
189.  Come On, Rain! ~ by Karen Hesse, illustrated by Jon J. Muth, 1999, children's, 9/10
190.  I Will Hold You 'Til You Sleep ~ by Linda Zuckerman, illustrated by Jon J. Muth, 2006, children's, 8/10
191.  Mr. George Baker ~ by Amy Hest, illustrated by Jon J Muth, 2004, children's, 9/10
192.  Zen Ghosts ~ by Jon J Muth, 2010, children's, 6/10
193.  The Three Questions: Based on a Story by Leo Tolstoy ~ by Jon J Muth, 2009, children's, 9/10
194.  Old Turtle and the Broken Truth ~ by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Jon J Muth, 2003, children's, 10/10
195.  A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children ~ by Caroline Kennedy, illustrated by Jon J Muth, 2005, poetry, 10/10
196.  Children and Fire ~ by Ursula Hegi, 2011, fiction (Germany), 8/10
197.  Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited ~ by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein, 2007, memoir, 9.5/10
198.  Around the Campfire ~ by Peter, Paul, and Mary, 1998, book of sheet music (plus 2 music CDs), 9/10
199.  Turtle in Paradise ~ by Jennifer L. Holm, 2010, YA fiction (Florida), 10/10
200.  Zora and Me ~ by Victoria Bone and T. R. Simon, 2010, YA fiction (Florida), 8/10
201.  Our Only May Amelia ~ by Jennifer L. Holm, 1999, YA fiction (Washington), 8/10
202.  Most Ministers Wear Sneakers ~ by Nancy Werking Poling, 1991, children's, 8/10
203.  It's a Book ~ by Lane Smith, 2010, children's, 10/10
204.  Light a Single Candle ~ by Beverly Butler, 1962, YA fiction, 9/10
205.  The Silent Boy ~ by Lois Lowry, 2003, YA fiction, 9/10
206.  Himalayan Dhaba ~ by Craig Joseph Danner, 2001, fiction (India), 8/10
December favorite (#199)
2 fiction
5 YA fiction
13 children's
0 essays/poetry
0 graphic novels
0 history
0 humor
1 memoir / biography
1 music book
0 mystery
0 philosophy
1 religion
0 science
0 women's studies
0 writing
Total = 23

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weighing my words

August 2009, in part of my library

September 2009, in my kitchen

May 2011, in the park

"If I must weigh my words and be careful what I say to you, then what you hear will not be completely true —  or completely me."  This idea came from reading Ronna Detrick's Lesson's (un)learned yesterday.

Will the real Bonnie Jacobs please stand up?  Me, myself, and I were all standing up — in every one of these photos.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Five ~ my name spells gratitude

Today's Friday Five is tricky, because both of my names (first and last) each have SIX letters.
"Use your name or nickname of about five letters and express your gratitude about something that starts with each letter."
But hey, I can manage to get exactly five different letters from Bonnie!

Raegan laughing
Bonnie feeding Jaxon

B ~ I'm grateful for my two Babies (great-grandBabies, that is)
O ~ I'm grateful to be Old(er), 'cause it beats the alternative
NN ~ I'm grateful for Nice Neighbors like Donna, my best friend
I ~ I'm grateful for Ice for my tea on these hot summer days
E ~ I'm grateful for my Eyes and the words they are able to read

Beginning ~ in a taxi

Homelands: Women's Journeys Across Race, Place, and Time ~ edited by Patricia Justine Tumang and Jenesha de Rivera, foreword by Edwidge Danticat, 2006, women's studies
I always talk to cabdrivers, because my father was one.  If they are black and from the Caribbean, I survey their ID cards and mull over their French-sounding names before cautiously asking, "Haitian?"
Edwidge Danticat wrote that, which comes from the first page of the foreword.  I really liked her 1994 novel Breath, Eyes, Memory, which was my introduction to the Haitian-American experience.  Now she is drawing me into a book about immigrants from a variety of places.  Summary from the back cover:
"In these poignant essays, women writers explore the complexities of immigration, war, exile, and diaspora as they seek to redefine and reclaim the meaning of homeland.  Whether home is an actual geographic place, a self-defined community, a cultural heritage, or a wavering memory, Homelands reveals a truth that is known by all who have wandered from their roots."
If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages. Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading. (Sometimes it takes several sentences to get the full thought.) Then, share your impressions of that beginning.  Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

BTT (#8) ~ biographies

btt button
The topic for this week's Booking Through Thursday:  "There are so many crappy biographies … would you rather read a poorly-written biography of a fascinating life, OR an exquisitely well-written, wonderful read of one of a not-so-interesting life?"
Okay, first some definitions. I read lots of memoirs and occasionally a biography or an autobiography. How are these alike or different?'s definition of a memoir
1. a record of events written by a person having intimate knowledge of them and based on personal observation.

2. Usually, memoirs [with that "s" at the end]. An account of one's personal life and experiences; autobiography.

3. a biography or biographical sketch.
Wikipedia's definition of memoir
Memoir is autobiographical writing ... Memoirs are structured differently from formal autobiographies which tend to encompass the writer's entire life span, focusing on the development of his or her personality. The chronological scope of a memoir is determined by the work's context and is therefore more focused and flexible than the traditional arc of birth to old age as found in an autobiography.
Gore Vidal, in his own memoir Palimpsest, gave a personal definition:  "a memoir is how one remembers one's own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked."  It is more about what can be gleaned from a section of one's life than about the outcome of the life as a whole.
What I like about memoirs is the focus on a particular aspect of someone's life and not how s/he got there.  Some memoirs I've read recently:
Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books ~ by Paul Collins, 2003, memoir (Wales), 8/10
A book lover like me wants only his time among the books, not a bunch of stuff about his childhood.
The Year of Magical Thinking ~ by Joan Didion, 2005, memoir, 8/10
It was the year following the sudden death of her husband.  As a writer, Didion dealt with it by writing.
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise ~ by Ruth Reichl, 2005, memoir (New York), 8/10
I don't need a full biography to have fun watching a food critic try to hide her identity from restaurant owners.
The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University ~ by Kevin Roose, 2009, memoir (Virginia), 9/10
This one isn't a whole year, but a college semester.  This liberal student goes "undercover" at Jerry Falwell's school.
The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible ~ by A. J. Jacobs, 2007, memoir/religion, 9/10
Once again, it covers a year in this man's life.  The subject is fascinating because it has a focus.
So to answer the original question, I'd rather read the fascinating stuff of a person's life, whether they are famous or not.  What matters is how well it is written.

Being Perfect ~ by Anna Quindlen, 2005

Being Perfect ~ by Anna Quindlen, 2005, essay, 8/10
Summary:  "Quindlen believes that when your success looks good to the world but doesn’t feel good in your heart, it isn’t success at all.  She asks you to set aside your friends’ advice, what your family and co-workers demand, and what society expects, and look at the choices you make every day.  When you ask yourself why you are making them, Quindlen encourages you to give this answer:  For me."
This is a relatively tiny book, full of photos and what seems to me to be one long essay.  I enjoyed reading it, and two parts seemed to have been written for me.
"The perfect student can never step outside the safe box of the right answer, can never take a flyer on the honorable failure that may be more compelling than the safe paper that gets an A" (p. 35).
Uh-huh, that's me.  Until that time I decided to try writing a book report about a story I invented out of thin air.  Oh, and there's that time after I retired when my best friend and I decided to open a bookstore — and didn't succeed, at least not financially.  (I had lots of fun.)
"Someone sent me a T-shirt once that read WELL-BEHAVED WOMEN DON'T MAKE HISTORY.  They don't make good lawyers, either, or businesswomen.  Perfection is static, even boring.  Imitations are redundant.  Your true unvarnished self is what is wanted" (p. 39).
I wrote about that tee-shirt also, though mine says Well-behaved women RARELY make history.  A fun book I read in one sitting, this rates 8 of 10 — a very good book.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Library Loot ~ July 13-19

The Book Group Book: A Thoughtful Guide to Forming and Enjoying a Stimulating Book Discussion Group ~ by Ellen Slezak, 1993, essays
I'm enjoying these essays, not toward forming another group, but just for myself.  From the back cover:  "On any given afternoon or evening, hundreds of book groups are meeting in living rooms, libraries, coffee houses, and kitchens to share their love — or hate — of a book.  Interests and reading lists vary tremendously, but in each successful group, members are firmly linked by a passion for books and a fierce loyalty to each other."  The book includes insider tips on what makes a good group tick, firsthand advice on how to organize meetings, select books, stimulate discussion, and attract (or discourage) new members, how to turn a flagging group around, and reading lists.
Atlas Shrugged ~ by Ayn Rand, 1957, fiction (New York)
I bought the mass market version of this book in May, but its teensy print gave me a headache and I quit reading at 76 pages.  Finally, I have the library copy that I've waited two months to get.  However, this 1168-page hardback weighs four pounds (yes, I put it on a scale), and now it's my arms and hands protesting rather than my eyes.  Adding to my frustration, the characters seem totally unreal to me because Rand uses them simply as "mouthpieces for particular points of view."  (I got that perfect description from Stephanie Patterson's essay on page 63 of The Book Group Book, above.)
Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.  Marg has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share a list of the loot you brought home.