(Below is the book review I wrote for Crucial Pop this week)
It is pretty rare for me to read a book twice.
I mean, I work in a library. Every day I walk through the stacks, and there are soooo many books to read, so many books already checked out to my account, and sometimes it saddens me to think that I’ll never be able to read everything I want to, even in my lifetime as I walk through aisles and aisles of books.
So, for me to read a book twice is pretty rare.
But, on this holiday long weekend, I made a pledge to unplug from the TV, loaf on the couch with my new puppy, nibble on tasty bits, and read, read, read.
(Y’all can keep your barbecues – especially since it’s raining!)
And to start my weekend of words, I revisited a book I read years ago and loved. It’s short, it only takes a little time to read, but it says so much.
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is the perfect book for an easy, inspirational read.
Amy, as she says in her own words… "I have not survived against all odds. I have not lived to tell. I have not witnessed the extraordinary. This is my story."
I mean, how can you not want to read that?
I knew I did when I saw it.
This is shelved in the biography section, and is quite literally an encyclopedia-style memoir of Amy – some entries are funny, some are short, some are touching, and some just make you smile, and want to start an encyclopedia of your own – in alphabetical order, of course. Packed with quirky tidbits and well-written entries, you get to know Amy in such a real way. It may not have the revelations of Nietzsche, or the insight and impact of Proust, but is just as real and honest in its own way.
Entries range from everything to anagrams of her name to the effect of leaning in a bowling game to sad stories to tales of her husband, her jobs, and her life. Some may be trivial, but you have to applaud anyone willing to write down not only the extraordinary, but also the mundane and then share it with the world. If only every struggling writer, myself included, had the courage to expose so much of themselves in their words – trivial or no.
There are a few excerpts (and lots more goodies) on Amy’s website for the book, http://www.encyclopediaofanordinarylife.com, and here is but a sample:
My brother, who grew up with three sisters, was I won’t say how many years old when he finally realized that he did not have to wrap the towel around his chest when he came out of the shower.
Doesn’t that make you want to read more?
This is the perfect book for inspiration, amusement, and easy reading with a puppy snoozing in your lap.
Ordinary life, indeed.
Amy can be found on the web at: http://whoisamy.wordpress.com/
Labels: book review
I got the idea from a library system out east (I can't find the article right this second, though!), who set up a "Biggest Loser" competition for their patrons, but I tweaked it a bit for our staff use.
I think we're all hyper-aware at the library of staff health and fitness, having had three staff members die within a two year period, (plus, let's face it, we all want to lose a pound or two!) so I created our 15-week challenge, from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Every participant will wear a pedometer (we even bought pedometers for staff who didn't already own one) every weekday, tracking their steps. They get one point for the first 3,000 steps, then an additional point for every additional 1,000 steps.
The kicker is that every participant has to chuck $1 a week, or $15 total, into the kitty. Whoever has the most points after 15 weeks wins the whole pot - which, by my calculations, should be close to $200.
I'm all for that!
I can't wait to see how competitive we all get, pushing each other for more steps, and to see how our health and wellness improves over 15 weeks. Every staff members but three are participating, which I think is FABULOUS! I was afraid people might scoff at my idea, but everyone jumped on board, which was pretty gratifying. :-)
Does anyone else have any workplace wellness programs going? I'd love to hear what other staff challenges people have set up, maybe something we can use in the future.
In any case, stay tuned for a report in September about how we did! :-)
"Condensing your childhood favorites and random classics into bite-sized, sure-to-be-a-thesis pieces. "
(This is the Collected Works of Jane Austen):
I secretly love Male Lead. He must never know.
I secretly love Female Lead. She must never know.
(THEY FIND OUT.)
On my front door, I have a wreath that I won at a Relay auction a few months ago. Looks pretty, no?
But I squeaked in surprise when a bird flew out of it and sailed past me. Upon closer inspection, I found a delightful surprise...
Note to self: avoid the front door for the next few weeks.
Cool, huh? :-)
So, last time, some time between midnight and about 3am, Zoe (who I have now nicknamed "The Weasel") launched herself out of bed and had herself some fun.
When I discovered this at 3am, I was NOT happy.
She, on the other hand, looked awfully pleased with herself.
As Jen said,"Clearly the tp was a danger to you and the house. Zoe was only protecting you!"
I think not.
I think she's just a weasel. ;-)
Note how pleased she is with herself:
I love getting a peek into the daily happenings, and some great candid shots you won't find in the regular press. Way to go, White House!
(felt weird to add them as a contact, though. Maybe they will add me and have hundreds of Zoe pics in their stream? *snort*)
(By the way, nice D, Mr. President!)
So here goes!
I love walks in the woods...the ticks, not so much...
Yaaaaawn during a car ride...
Dirt + water + being unsupervised by Grandpa = BLISS!
She didn't eat her sister during their playdate, despite this photo. Really.
I is exhausted. G'night!
She couldn't be cuter, no?
Here's my column from Crucial Pop this week about The 19th Wife...
When choosing a book for a library book discussion, one always has to find a book that will provoke, well, discussion, in addition to raising questions and answers, and springing forth some sort of emotional response from the reader, making for a lively and often heated discussion.
Recently, my library chose The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, and I think we’re in for one wild ride of a discussion.
This is actually a novel of two parallel stories – the first being the story of Ann Eliza Young, who was the 19th wife of prominent Mormon leader Brigham Young. In reality, Ann Eliza was probably more like the 52nd of 56th wife, though records from that time are sketchy. Ann Eliza created a sensation in 1875 when she left Brigham Young and extricated herself from her marriage, then toured the country talking about polygamy in the wilds of Utah – isolated areas that still harbor polygamist sects today. She even wrote a story of her experiences, entitled Wife No. 19.
Along with that story is the modern-day story of Jordan Scott, who grew up in polygamist society Mesadale, then was forced to leave the sect as a teenager. He returns to his roots to investigate the murder of his father by his 19th wife – who happens to be Jordan’s mother. Jordan’s story is filled with fantastic secondary characters, and he himself is an unlikely narrator for polygamy, a notoriously straight-laced lifestyle.
Ebershoff beautifully weaves these two stories together, told in alternating voices but showing clear parallels between the two women caught in a marriage with not only a husband, but many wives. Not only are they engaging stories in their own right, but Ebershoff sheds so much light on the beginning of the Mormon movement, and shows the struggles that the follows of Joseph Smith endured in following their prophet across the wilds of America in the 1800s. Filled with rich historic detail and engaging and lyrical prose, one can’t help but be pulled back in time to the age of Smith and Young, as well as illuminating the continuing struggles today.
Both stories are so engaging, the reader hates to switch to the “other” story, but then gets pulled back into that one as well, again hating to switch back again – the sign of a great storytelling vibe.
Initially, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this book, but I ended up devouring it in hours – and then found myself surfing the internet for more information, more background, pictures, anything. Any novel that makes me want to know more is a great one – librarians always thirst to “know more”.
And based on all of that, I think the discussion is going to be a lively one – should polygamy be accepted in our age of religious freedom? What sort of characters are Jordan and Ann Eliza, and how are they similar? Did you have any idea how big Mormonism is in America, both in the 1800s and today? Did you like this novel? Which storyline was your favorite?
I can’t wait to ask these questions, and to see what answers percolate through our discussion. Stay tuned…
If you enjoyed The 19th Wife and want to read more Mormon polygamist memoirs (which have exploded in the publishing world in the last few years), check out Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, When Men Become Gods by Stephen Singular, Escape by Carolyn Jessop, Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall or Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer.
David Ebershoff and more about this novel can be found on his website at: http://www.ebershoff.com/.
Labels: book review
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
A memoir set in Poland during World War II about a Warsaw zoo, and the story of the family who lived there, and served as part of the Jewish "underground railroad".
The Girl She Left Behind by Karen Brichoux
Novel of the big city girl who goes home again to Montana. Fast, fast read - unexpected ending, but satisfying after all.
Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz
Second in the YA series "Blue Bloods" about vampires in NYC society. Another good addition to the series - stay tuned!
Dead As a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
Book five in the Sookie Stackhouse "Southern Vampire" series explores a lot more about the werewolf and werepanther part of Sookie's locale.
Definitely Dead by Charlaine Harris
Book six in the same series - and this time, Sookie is dating a weretiger. Hot, huh? :-)
Sex With Kings by Eleanor Herman
A really interesting non-fiction read about mistresses, power, revenge, marriages and more over 500 years of kings in Europe. A companion to Sex With the Queen, another great non-fiction read!
Wild Card by Lora Leigh
*wipes steam from the monitor after reading this erotica-filled adventure novel*
Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley
Cute YA novel about teens who choose to become vampires - it's in their DNA, after all. Cute premise, cute story.
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
It has to do with Harry Potter. I had to read it. Cute - but very short.
Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers
Kind of depressing YA novel with an unlikeable heroine - which, I suppose, is the point.
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
Interesting twist on the typical ghost love story in this inventive YA novel. Didn't end as I expected, but a nice premise.
This is the latest YA novel from Brashares, author of the wildly popular "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series (and the movies they spawned). While this novel focuses on three new girls, there are hints of the previous sisterhood, and even a few characters from previous novels.
Jo, Ama, and Polly are going in three very different directions over the summer - one to the family beach house, one to an Outward Bound type of adventure, and one desperately trying to find herself while staying at home. Interestingly, the previous novels showed the strength of the friendships during the adventures, whereas this with title, the girls are almost on the outs - not sure if they even are still friends. Of course, the summer changes everything for all three girls, and strengthens their friendships after all...
This is another pleasant YA read from popular Brashares - recommended!
Labels: book review
Since I enjoyed Barrett's previous novel (This Is How It Happened: Not a Love Story), when I saw this title on the library shelf, I grabbed it and read it in an afternoon.
Kathleen Connor King is the reining queen of Houston society, along with her richy-rich boyfriend Dylan, except for one small problem: they're both broke.
Some matchmaking, an oil discovery, a gala, and a quirky cast of secondary characters help these two right the ship, throw a great party, and find a happy ending for all involved - with a lot of laughs and drama along the way.
This is such a breezy, fun novel - easy to read, fun to follow, but with a great cast of well-developed characters. This is a fun glimpse into high society somewhere other than NYC - I loved it!
Labels: book review
You are Elinor Dashwood of Sense & Sensibility! You are practical, circumspect, and discreet. Though you are tremendously sensible and allow your head to rule, you have a deep, emotional side that few people often see.
I always loved the character of Elinor...
When I was offered a copy of this title, I jumped on it - as you probably know, I'm a sucker for anything set in the Tudor period, and this sounded like an interesting twist on King Henry VIII's always entertaining court...and how!
Michael Devereaux has traveled from Ireland to take part in King Henry's annual Order of the Garter celebration, having recently recovered from an illness and carrying a heavy burden of fitting in to a court he knows nothing about. Once there, he is quickly plunged into a spinning web of treachery, murder, mystery...and is quickly captivated by Princess Renee of France, a fiery and savvy court-goer with a devious plan of her own...
But when murder and mayhem take over the court, Michael and Renee must join forces - in more ways than one - to solve them.
There are two interesting things to note about this title - it's billed as historical fiction, but does have elements of the paranormal, which I found totally intriguing (to avoid spoilers, do NOT read any Amazon reviews! I did and was bitterly disappointed). Also, this title is written in true period literature - the way folks spoke in the 1500s, which took some getting used to, but eventually flowed (you know, like how Shakespeare takes a few minutes to "click"), but I did learn lots of historically accurate words and phrases.
This isn't a book I could read quickly - I had to take my time, and try to follow all the twists and turns, which Sharon writes with aplomb. She also writes some pretty smokin' love scenes, and does eventually give the reader a happy ending. I've read several Tudor historicals, and found this one to be one of the most unique, and certainly the most creative - and gives another glimpse into Henry VIII's courtly intrigues.
Recommended for fans of historicals and twisty paranormals!
Labels: book review
When I got a delightful email from Judy which included the words: "Would you be interested in reading the story of a broken-hearted Mississippi girl who did the right thing for a stranger's dog no matter what it cost her??", of course I said yes. Anyone willing to take a stab at self-publishing and at writing funny fiction gets a thumbs up in my book.
And so does her novel.
Testing Haskell is just snortingly funny - Haskell, our heroine, has just dumped her man, is stuck in the same small town as him, lives in a run down apartment, and doesn't have much going for her - until a truck wreck, an enormous dog and a pair of fetching eyes turns her life upside down. What follows is a funny romp through small town Mississippi, a few cat-and-mouse chases, some law enforcement eluding, a lot of trash bags, a creepy character with murder on the mind, and of course, a kickass dog. :-)
This is a great Southern read - fast and witty, well-plotted, and with a happy ending. Way to go, Judy!
(Judy can be found on the web at : http://judysanders.org/
Labels: book review
I've never read Barbara Vine, the alter ego of Ruth Rendell (whom I've also never read), but after seeing blurb after blurb about her fantastic writing, I grabbed one of her books off the shelf and began reading.
This mystery/suspense novel is very much about the "why", rather than the "whodunit". For three quarters of the book, there is little action, just a slow build to what you KNOW is going to be an almost inevitable end, but which is still surprising. This is definitely a character-driven novel, focusing on Kristen, a newly-hired "caretaker" for John, a 39-year-old man considered "mad" by his family, who are themselves not exactly the picture of mental health. Taking place in Britain in the 1960s, the reader quickly recognizes autism, rather than madness, in John's actions, but so many years ago, it was a different story.
I was pulled into this story, and despite initial misgivings, found it a great piece of suspenseful literature. Recommended!
Labels: book review
I've listened to several Scottoline books now, and really enjoy her pace and style of mystery featuring interesting female protagonists. This time, Natalie Greco, erstwhile law professor, daddy's girl and girlfriend to the "eh" Hank, finds herself drawn to a fellow professor. But when a routine visit to a jail for a class turns into a riot, a murder, and a cryptic message given to Natalie by a dying man, things have definitely taken a turn for the weird...and the deadly.
This is a great cat-and-mouse game, full of intrigue, action, and a great lead character that women will sympathize with and root for. The twist at the end was out of the blue for me, but I found the entire story compelling and interesting. I really like Scottoline - you should too!
Note: I listened to the audio edition, narrated by the unparalleled Barbara Rosenblat. Her voice is fantastic, and she narrates all Scottoline's books - as she should. This is a great listen!
Labels: book review