Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bloomability



















Finally, I've started the book Lori lent me a couple of months ago, Bloomability, by Sharon Creech, the story of a young teen who's been "kidnapped" by an aunt and uncle and taken to Lugano, Switzerland, where she attends an American School. Although she is used to moving frequently--whenever and wherever her father finds his latest job opportunity--Domenica Santolina Doone, "Dinnie" for short, doesn't understand why her parents allowed her to be whisked away to a foreign country (although it is beautiful, and she has a view of Italy from her window). She longs to be back at home with her family, to meet her sister's new baby, even though Aunt Sandy and Uncle Max are terrific, even though she makes new friends from different cultures and has new experiences. As in Eat, Pray, Love, the beauty of the Italian language is emphasized in Bloomability, and Dinnie is complimented by a teacher who says she has an "Italian tongue" (meaning that her pronunciation is good). For children who've ever felt abandoned by their families, or were sent off to school, this book will ring true. As for me, I'm enjoying this book, and find much in it to keep me entertained, including enticing descriptions of Switzerland and Italy. The mark of a good children's book is that adults enjoy reading the book as much--if not more--as children do.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Summer Movies

Lest you think I always have my nose in a book, I also love to be transported into other worlds by movies. Today I saw The Dark Knight, which was too violent for my taste but still very good. As the Joker, Heath Ledger is truly remarkable. Sadly Ledger's life ended by an accidental prescription drug overdose in January 2008. I have seen other notable movies this summer, viewed at home, including: The Bucket List; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; La Misma Luna (Under the Same Moon); Lions for Lambs; and The Kite Runner. I'm really looking forward to the movie version of Nicholas Sparks' Nights in Rodanthe, starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere, which will be in the theaters in late September.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Summer Joys



















We have beautiful grapes! It's an absolute thrill, a real joy, to grow grapes on our property, after waiting two years for the vines to produce this sweet fruit! (You'll have to excuse me please, I get excited about this kind of stuff. Don't ask me about the tomatoes!)


The last section of Eat, Pray, Love, when Elizabeth Gilbert ventures to Bali, is extremely funny and had me laughing out loud. If you go to her website, you can even see photos of the people in her book, which is pretty amazing. I'll finish this marvelous book tonight, most likely.

Yesterday I ordered two books from Amazon.com marketplace sellers, The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks, and also Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith. I was happy to find these books at very low prices and don't mind at all that they are used. In fact, I like the fact that they 're being recycled, and that you can buy books from people all across the United States. (As I've mentioned before, I also sell some books on Amazon; if you're interested in a link to my storefront please send me an email). Anyway, The Rescue is the only book published by Sparks that I haven't yet read (some of you may already know this), and I'm looking forward to reading it. I really don't like to tell people what to read but would eagerly recommend any of Sparks' books to those with an interest in bittersweet romances. A friend just mentioned that she's read The Notebook and The Wedding as well as a couple of books by Sharon Creech as a result of my blog--I'm happy to share this joy with others!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Back from NY


Greetings! I'm back from a week long trip to NY (Manhattan). For those of you that don't know, I grew up in NY, but have lived in Southern CA for many years now. NY is such an energizing city. I love walking around in NY, and dining in it's unique, ethnic restaurants. Every nation has a restaurant in NY--it's amazingly diverse! This time we had brunch at a Japanese/Brazilian restaurant in the West Village, and a dinner at a Turkish restaurant on 9th Avenue between 44th and 45th St.. There's always so much going on it NY that it's truly hard to decide what to do and where to go. Thanks to my family and friends for putting up with me!

I finished The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency on the flight to NY. What a charming book! Now I want to drink the African red bush tea, rooibos, mentioned so frequently in the book, and find the next book in the series, Tears of the Giraffe. Precious and the other characters drink rooibos throughout the day in The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. I bought some red tea today from Trader Joe's. Perhaps this brew will help me to figure out the little mysteries in my own life.

On the flight back I read a great deal of the book by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, the story of her enlightening trips to Italy, India, and Bali. It's really a celebration of life and shows the writer's great love of people. I think you have to genuinely love people to be a good writer. Reading on flights makes the time absolutely fly by (pardon the pun) and adds pleasure to a vacation or trip, don't you agree?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More Summer Reading

One of the best things about vacations is that when there's not that much to do, you really get a chance to read and relax. I finished The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. Guess what? It's another great romance by Sparks. I don't want to spoil the story for anyone who might read it, but will just say that there are actually a few important choices to be made. Now I've read all of Sparks' books, except for The Rescue and The Lucky One (out this September).

For a couple of years now I've been hearing about these books by Alexander McCall Smith. To be honest, I didn't really have much interest in them, because I've never been a big fan of mysteries. However, I found a copy of the first in this series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and am already about halfway through this intriguing book, which features Mma Precious Ramotswe of Botswana, known as Mma Ramotswe. It's not really a mystery per se but a novel about a detective. The real mystery is why it took me so long to give these books a chance!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Short Break

Greetings! Technically I'm "on vacation" right now. I'm back from a weekend at Disneyland and California Adventure; both were a lot of fun. On the way home I bought The Choice by Nicholas Sparks and I can't wait to begin reading it. I found the book at an electronics store and it took about half an hour to purchase due to a computer snafu of some sort! I'll be taking a short break from this blog, but will be back soon.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More Kind Thoughts

While reading Stefan Einhorn's The Art of Being Kind, my thoughts dwell on how kindness benefits both the giver and the receiver, and is part of ethical intelligence. Einhorn says that one form of kindness is generosity with praise and encouragement. There's no reason to withhold praise, which is entirely free and helps to lift up and motivate others, yet it seems many suffer from a lack of encouragement.
"If you ask people whether they think they have been given too much praise and encouragement, hardly anyone would say they have. But there are a lot of people who think they have not received enough encouragement."
~The Art of Being Kind, Stefan Einhorn

Why be stingy with kind words and encouragement? It doesn't diminish the giver in any way. I think we all need to give and receive honest praise and encouragement in large doses. Also important is giving and receiving requested constructive criticism or feedback, in a thoughtful, loving manner. This very attention is part of kindness that stems from caring and love.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Kind Thoughts

In The Art of Being Kind, Stefan Einhorn says that we should try and be kind daily and as we deal with life's ethical dilemmas. As an oncologist, Einhorn practices kindness as he helps his cancer patients. Although there are few people like Mother Teresa, the author assumes that most people want to be good and kind, and presents a view of kindness from many angles. He says that kind people are not spineless but strong, not stupid but intelligent, and deserve honor for the help they freely give to others. Kind people may get "a bad rap" due to instances when kind people are taken advantage of by others--losing their money or other things of value, to the unscrupulous-- but kindness isn't a fault. It's the exact opposite, and it's time to stop thinking of it as the sign of weakness. We gain from being good, and kindness is rewarded for the most part, in various ways. Here are some of the personal benefits Einhorn lists in The Art of Being Kind:

  1. Getting appreciation in return
  2. Avoiding conflict
  3. Feeling that you are a good person
  4. Becoming popular
  5. Cooperating well with other people
  6. Avoiding having a guilty conscience
  7. Getting praise
  8. Feeling needed
  9. Avoiding punishment
  10. Gaining friends
Ten good reasons to be kind to others today, and there are countless more!

'Foolish selfish people are always thinking of themselves, and the result is negative. Wise selfish people think of others, help others as much as they can, and the result is that they too receive benefits.'
~The Dalai Lama, quoted in The Art of Being Kind

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Art of Being Kind


I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July weekend! I finished reading my daughter's book, Just as Long as We're Together, by Judy Blume. It's a very good book about friendship and the beginnings of romantic interest, and also deals with the protagonist's feelings about her parents' trial separation. My daughter is still reading Amy Moves In, and I think she's really enjoying it.

"It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in The Art of Being Kind

Next I'll read The Art of Being Kind by Swedish author, professor, and doctor Stefan Einhorn. I started to feel somewhat guilty as it has been in the to-be-read pile of books on my nightstand for a few weeks. I read little bits of it after I got it but will now read it as a whole. Stay tuned for a kinder person!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Grandma's Treasure Chest


My children have gotten countless books from Grandma's Treasure Chest, which is a chest full of books. Each time they visit Grandma, they get to choose a book to take home and keep. Often Grandma would read their chosen book to them when they were very young. This wonderful tradition has helped us to stock our bookshelves to overflowing. Many thanks to Grandma!

What special traditions are a part of your family's reading history?

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Note to My Readers

First of all, I want to thank you for continuing to "visit" this blog. It takes time to "check in" with me-- know that I appreciate it, although I wish I'd get to hear from you more often via comments. (I enjoy commenting on other blogs, and do so often. How can you resist?) I'm also always open to suggestions about how to improve this blog. Is it easy to navigate? Or let me know what you are currently reading. I'm interested. Do you mind the ads on my site? I have some Google ads on this blog, because I truly think they're useful, as they 're related to the content of my postings and are, in a sense, "sponsors". (For any of you that use Gmail you know that you get similar related, unobtrusive ads related to the content of your email; I actually like this feature of Gmail. )

I have just started another blog, just for fun, La Vache Intéressante, which I hope you'll view when you get a free moment.

Thanks again, and keep on reading!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Amy Moves In

As I read Amy Moves In by Marilyn Sachs I was transported back to my childhood as I experienced the same strong emotions that the book elicited from me as a child. I enjoyed rereading this book very much, felt the intensity of childhood emotions as Amy tries to fit in and make friends at her new school and neighborhood, and struggles with being more honest and standing up for others. I must have identified with Amy when I was a child, and loved this book. Amy also has to deal with the upset of her mother's accident and long stay in the hospital. I remember how greatly that affected me as a child. I think my younger daughter will enjoy reading Amy Moves In; she wants me to read the book she's just finished, Just as Long as We're Together by Judy Blume, so we'll switch books. Afterward we'll have lively discussions about the books.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ending and Beginning



(Photo from Wikipedia)

I've finished reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the story of the young life of Marguerite Johnson, also known as Maya. I loved the ending but won't reveal what happens lest I spoil it for someone else who may read this book. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the beginning book of this seven-volume series by Maya Angelou:

  1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  2. Gather Together in My Name
  3. Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas
  4. The Heart of a Woman
  5. Maya Angelou: Poems
  6. I Shall Not Be Moved
  7. Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now

Maya Angelou's voice feels real and honest, and her stories hold my attention. I'll definitely look for more of her books.

I've a new book to begin, which is actually an old book that I loved as a child, Amy Moves In, by Marilyn Sachs. I wonder if I'll still find it as appealing as I did as a youngster, and if my daughter will enjoy reading it?

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Some of the books reviewed here have been provided
to me free of charge by authors, publishers, and agents,
in exchange for my honest reviews.