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Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Review: An Unmarked Grave

An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd brings us to French front in the Spring of 1918 as the Spanish epidemic is wiping out troops and civilains alike. Among the bodies waiting for burial is a body that was had suffered neither from battlewounds, nor influenza, and Bess Crawford goes after the murderer.

Originally, when I picked up An Unmarked Grave I thought it was the first book in the Bess Crawford Mystery series. Um…oops. It was actually the forth. Reading it out of order definitely made it difficult at times- it appears that characters and relationships were established earlier in the series, so there was more focus on the story itself and its movement forward. That’s not at all a complaint- I am the one who read them out of order.

I was surprised by some of the plot twists, including the reveal of the murderer. I enjoyed Bess Crawford’s character, and was intrigued by her relationship with Simon and Barclay. And although I was aware of the Spanish influenza epidemic, I had never considered it in the context of World War I.

I will definitely going back to start from the beginning of this series. I give An Unmarked Grave four stars.

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The Books that Shape Us

In my wanderings today, I came across this post by Nathan Harden “Five Classic Books Every Smart Person Should Read” on the Huff Post blog. I am not going to lie, I felt like it took some audacity on Harden’s part to title it as he did and I almost didn’t read on that basis alone…but I was too curious to see his list to not finish the post.

For those curious, Harden’s list includes:

1. Homer’s Oddessy

2. Plutarch’s Lives

3. The Bible

4. Dante’s Divine Comedy

5. Shakespeare’s The Tempest

What I appreciated about the article is that Harden advocated that individuals read these books not because they were his favorites, or because you should have read them as one of  the elite, but because they have shaped our intellectual and moral history. He pointed out that these books are no longer required reading, and that, “Consequently, we are less likely than ever to understand where our political and moral ideas come from.” Often, we are willing to read books that agree with our moral, intellectual, and political ideals, but we don’t fully explore where those ideals originated from. Americans especially seem to disconnect from history, aside from our own.

I will confess, I have not read the bulk of this short list, the exceptions being The Bible and Dante’s Divine Comedy, but I am curious to pick up each of the books mentioned, and to consider them for what they have been- books that shaped the intellectual history of generations.

What about you- have you read any of Harden’s list? Would you add any to this list, and why?

World War I Reading Challenge Announcement

It all started with All Quiet on the Western Front. I had never read anything on World War I before and had only the slightest frame of reference. Then I read A Farewell to Arms, my second book on World War I, my first Hemingway novel, and I found myself reading everything about World War I that I could find.

In my search for titles, I stumbled across the http://warthroughthegenerations.wordpress.com/, which is holding a World War I Reading Challenge which ends on December 31, 2012. Although I am certainly late in my discovery, I thought given my recent fascination with World War I and the Lost Generation writers, I would join in. I am coming at the Wade level, in which participants read 4-10 books in any genre with World War I as a primary or secondary theme.

With that in mind, here’s what I’ll be reading:

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

A Duty to the Dead is a Bess Crawford Mystery, following Bess Crawford, an English nurse serving on the front in France during World War I, who seems to keep happening into murders. I started this particular series out of order, with An Unmarked Grave, and enjoyed the mystery and the storytelling so much I had to try the rest of them.

The First World War by John Keegan

The First World War is an incredibly readable one volume account of World War I. Although Keegan occasionally gets lost in the military details, its been an interesting and very readable account so far. I anticipate this volume taking the longest- the print is small, and its roughly 500 pages.

The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response by Peter Balakian

The Burning Tigris focuses on the Armenian Genocide, and although World War I is more of a backdrop, the two are inextricably linked. I purchased this book quite awhile ago, and decided that this was the time to take it off of the to be read pile and move it to the read pile.

My fourth book will be The Great Gatsby. Part of what drew me to this time period was the works of the Lost Generation, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work fits clearly into that category.

If you are interested in finding out more about the War Through the Generations 2012 Reading Challenge, please visit them at http://warthroughthegenerations.wordpress.com/2012-challenge-info-and-sign-up/.

 

 

 

Weekend Recap: A trip to the zoo

This weekend I headed south into Jersey to spend time with my sister and my nephew. It was a preplanned trip- Sharyn had called me a few weeks ago and asked if I would accompany her, Little Man, and a friend’s daughter to the zoo while she ran a table of information for her job. I was definitely not passing up the chance for some time with them, and for one of Little Man’s first trips to the zoo.

Arriving at the Turtle Back Zoo early so Sharyn could set up for the event, we had the chance to look around and semi-plot our course of action. First up was a train ride: Little Man is a huge Thomas the Tank Engine fan, so we knew there would be multiple train rides throughout the day, but we decided to start while the line was short. The train ride runs through the reserve adjacent to the zoo, along the water. It was a beautiful ride and a fun start to the day.

Then we started through the exhibits. Little Man’s favorite exhibit, without question, was the monkeys and the gibbons. They were high up and moving around quite a bit each time we passed by, and he would watch and squeal each time. He did a pretty good monkey call- he got the attention of all the monkeys with one squeal. Being the climber that he is, I was not at all surprised that the monkeys were his favorite.  What surprised me is that it was my favorite exhibit of the day as well. It made me laugh- you looked up and saw the moneys up high, and then looking down, there was a huge tortise at the bottom. How did he get in there?

Turtle Back Zoo has a fantastic play area, with ducks and frogs to climb on, a spider web, a nest, and a big sliding board. Kids can also see the prairie dogs at their level, with plastic bubbles for the kids to put their heads up through. Little Man ran from the duck to the frog, and climbed in and out of the nest a few times before starting to slow down just a bit.

The zoo has a small stage and a grassy area beside it, and because there was an event, they had a live band. We enjoyed our lunch on the grass and danced to the band.

After the event ended, we rejoined my sister for a stroll around the zoo with Little Man…who proceeded to fall soundly asleep, exhausted from all the playing and exploring he had done. He stayed asleep right up until dinner at a great Tex-Mex/Cajun restaurant in Fairfield. But he was definitely awake enough to steal some of his aunty’s pumpkin milkshake when we stopped at an ice cream a little later.

It was a fantastic day, and I am really kicking myself for not having a camera- this one was totally a pictures worthy experience. It was relaxing to just meander around the zoo and enjoy what a beautiful fall Saturday it was, even if I was meandering with an active 15 month old boy. I highly recommend the Turtle Back Zoo for those who are local and looking for a fairly inexpensive way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Review: A Girl Like You

I came across a review for A Girl Like You and thought it would be the perfect pick for a beach day, which I was still hoping for in mid-August. When I actually had the chance to go to the beach Labor Day Weekend A Girl Like You was tossed into the beach bag along with a blanket, towel, and sunscreen.

Gercaci’s light story centers on Emma Frazier, a writer for Florida! magazine who has a definite crush on her boss, Ben Gallagher. To impress Ben, Emma promises an interview with the incredibly elusive NASCAR legend Trip Monroe, who grew up in Emma’s hometown of Catfish Cove. Emma quickly finds however, that the interview may be more difficult than she ever imagined to land. In the midst of trying to track down Trip, she finds herself pursued by an old friend in Catfish Cove and untangling parts of her past that she never thought existed.

While I enjoyed the subtle and at times, rather unexpected, twists and turns of plot that occurred in the story, I felt that there were alot of elements to the story that just felt unnecessary to me.  Some of it was, well, just drama, and it didn’t add anything to the story. Geraci did impress me with her use of first person narrative, particularly in the moments when Emma would “address the audience”- those moments were funny, and they added to the enjoyment of the read…and honestly, I can’t think of many novelists that can pull of self-deprecating humor from a narrator quite so well.

Although there were things I enjoyed, it was incredibly hard to get past the drama in places. I give A Girl Like You one star.

Review: The Secret Life of Bees

When I was first given a copy of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. It made it to the bookshelf, and occasionally, I would pick it up, read the back, and place it back on the shelf. I just wasn’t interested. Until I actually started reading it…

What finally prompted me to read The Secret Life of Bees is its placement on my Summer Reading Challenge List, and the fact it was short. What prompted me to finish is Sue Monk Kidd’s fantastic writing and ability to tell a story. Lily Owens has wondered all her life about her mother, who died tragically when she was young. She misses her mother, who lives blurred on the outskirts of her memory as she is raised by her abusive and angry father, T-Ray.

Following an incident where Rosaleen insults some of the meanest racists in town, Lily and Rosaleen escape their difficult life in Sylvan, South Carolina and head for Tiburon with a picture of a Black Madonna and a vague notion that the story of her mother lies in that town. Their search ends at a pink house where three black sisters reside and keep bees and they are taken in.

As I mentioned, the writing is phenomenal. Sue Monk Kidd has the amazing ability to paint a picture with words, and paint she does, showing us the world through the eyes of fourteen year old Lily. Isolated on her father’s farm, she doesn’t completely understand the racism that surrounds her until she is thrown into the middle of it.  In Tiburon, Lily discovers who she is, and finally has the freedom to embrace who she wants to be.

Although painfully tragic in places, the descriptions are fantastic, and the characters well developed. I give The Secret Life of Bees five stars.

 

 

Note to self (or my list)

A little over a year ago, amidst this myraid of change happening in my life seemingly all at once, I realized that I needed to remind myself of a few things. So in my journal one evening I wrote a list of 15 things I needed to remember every single day for a variety of reasons. A year later I was thinking about that list, and it seems no less relevant to my life today. Since I was reflecting on it, I thought I’d share:

1. You have permission to say no.

2. There will always be more on your to do list than you have energy for. Prioritize, do what you can, and be prepared to get very little done sometimes.

3. You will fail. Get over it.

4. It’s okay to walk away for a minute.

5. Use your words. People can’t read your mind and its not kind to always make them depend on your body language and facial expressions.

6. You become a jerk when you’re tired. Get enough sleep or make sure you can leave social situations before you become a jerk.

7. If you need something, ask. The worst they can say is no. (And they are allowed to use that word too.)

8. Eat every couple of hours. You think clearer and this also keeps you from becoming a jerk.

9. People you trust will hurt you. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you and it doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it.

10. If you think you need medicine (aspirin, asthma meds, cold meds) take it. You probably needed it three hours ago.

11. People don’t like someone who is perfect, they like someone who is flawed like they are.

12. It’s not always about you.

13. You can’t change you. Only God can, and only if you let Him.

14. One thing at a time. Seriously, you’re not superwoman.

15. People love you. You don’t have to prove you are worth loving.

Please note as you read my list, that, well, its not YOUR list. These are not things I am reminding you of, they are for me.

*This list was originally posted on my other blog on 6/22/11. If you happen across it, its my work, not the work of someone else.

Weekend Recap: The One with the Beach

I can’t say I had a ton of things I must do this summer, but as summer was creeping to a close, I noticed that I don’t really consider my summer complete without a trip to the beach. And so, midweek, I talked two friends into a beach trip on Saturday.

Although it involved getting up incredibly early for a Saturday, it was completely worth the effort. At a hour to early to mention, four of us piled into J’s car and headed south to the Jersey shore, with a coffee stop to ensure everyone was awake. In spite of the fact it was Labor Day weekend, we found a parking spot with ease, and headed towards the sand and waves.

It’s been my experience that I can’t go to the beach with just anyone. It sounds silly, but, well, when I go, its with the aim of relaxation- I want to sleep, read a novel that does not require me to think, spend some time in the water floating, maybe with a walk down the boardwalk or some time spent hunting for shells. Fortunately, I found the perfect group to go to the beach with. 🙂 I definitely got in a nap, I read the bulk of a mindless novel, I spent just enough time in the water, there was a walk down the boardwalk for ice cream, AND I hunted for shells. That, my friends, is definitely a sucessful and restful trip to the beach.

I hope you had a fantastic Labor Day weekend, and that you have a great Tuesday!

Book Blogger Confessions: Following

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme that posts the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, where book bloggers “confess” and vent about topics that are unique to us. Feel free to share, vent and offer solutions.

Just keep it respectful – no bashing authors or other bloggers! If you want to participate just grab our button and include it in your post with a link to either Tiger’s All Consuming MediaMidnyte Reader or For What It’s Worth. We will be providing a linky at the end of our posts so people can “hop” to see all the participants answers.

How do you follow blogs?  I think this depends on the blog. Those that post daily, and that I really enjoy reading I will actually add the RSS feed to internet tool bar so I can check it regularly. I have a few that I receive by email, and then the rest are in my WordPress reader.

Are you more apt to follow people who have less followers?  No…honestly, I can’t actually say I’ve paid attention to that this far. I tend to follow blogs on topics I find interesting and that make me laugh. I especially appreciate bloggers who clearly put thought into their content and book reviews. I blog, so I can understand how difficult it is to really put an effort into regular posts, and in making them interesting.

This makes wonder… do people follow me because I have less followers? Do they follow me in hopes that I will follow them back, or do they actually like my content?

Would you follow a blog to enter a contest? No. While I have no problems with commenting in order to enter a contest, I would rather follow based on content.

What makes you unfollow a blog?  If the blogger seems to have fallen off the planet and hasn’t posted in six month, I will sometimes stop following. Or if the content has really offended me.

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