Sunday, October 31, 2010

Heart With Joy

While I don't read many books for young adults, I probably should read more of them. They are a refreshing change of pace, and when I read books geared toward young adults, I often learn a thing or two that help me understand or relate to my own children better. Recently I read Heart With Joy by Steve Cushman, a new young adult book published in 2010.

Heart With Joy is the story of fifteen-year-old Julian Hale. His mother has suddenly left their home in North Carolina and moved to Florida, leaving Julian and his father to fend for themselves. Julian is not sure why she left, but he senses this is a separation between his parents. He was close to his mother, and misses her company, especially in the kitchen. In her absence, Julian begins to cook meals for himself and his father.

"Mom always made it look easy, the way she sort of fluttered around the room, moving a pan this way or that, sipping on her wine, Van Morrison singing about some poor lost soul in a faraway land. And working with my mother, I discovered that I actually liked to cook and enjoyed the challenge of reading a recipe, placing all the ingredients on the counter and turning it into a complete meal. Not that I would confess this to anyone but her. If Dennis, or any of my classmates knew, I was pretty sure they'd give me a hard time about it."
~Heart With Joy, Steve Cushman

Heart With Joy is a character-driven novel. I appreciated the fact that the characters have flaws, just like real humans. Although he's a good kid, Julian isn't perfect, and neither are his parents. His mother, a writer, smokes and drinks a lot of wine, and his father, a nurse, is a bit of a workaholic. At the beginning of the story, Julian and his father do not really have much of a relationship, but as time goes on they spend more time together, eating, exercising, and talking. Soon after his mother leaves, Julian becomes friends with his elderly neighbor, "Old Lady Peters", who has a way with birds and teaches Julian about them, and about the importance of following your heart, of following your passion (akin to Joseph Campbell's "follow your bliss"). Julian's friend, Dennis Kindl, is a great side character, because many of us have had friends like him, who tend to hog center stage and are domineering, especially if we were on the shy side, growing up.

Although I don't watch much TV, I do enjoy watching cooking shows every so often, so I liked the fact that Julian would watch and learn from contemporary cooking shows. Julian's salmon and spinach with butter sauce à la Rachael Ray sounds quite appetizing, and I must admit that I was eager not only to sit down to a good meal but also to create it because of this book. Julian's love of cooking is shared by his new friend, Tia Brogan, who works at the local Harris Teeter where Julian and his father shop for groceries together. Heart With Joy has all the ingredients for a terrific novel: characters who develop over the course of the story, realistic family relationships and friendships, a bit of romance, and the idea that even if things do not work out exactly as you may want them to, life can still be joyful. In my book, this is a good message for young adults, and older adults, to keep in mind.

Special thanks to Steve Cushman for sending me this book.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Really Random Tuesday #10: Memoirs I Want to Read, New Titles, and Pumpkin Ice Cream



















Welcome! Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to copy the button and use it on your own blog. Please leave a link in the comments if you’re participating.

I can't believe this is my tenth RRT post! I am not sure I will continue numbering these posts (it might get a bit awkward if I continue to, say, Really Random Tuesday #117). Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and special thanks to the wonderful bloggers who are participating in RRT this week. Please be sure to visit Giving Reading a Chance, Serendipity, Spiral Upwards, and the bookworm. (If this keeps up I will need to add a Mr. Ms. Linky!)

Marlo Thomas was one of my favorite actresses when I was a child. I loved her show, That Girl. She was so pretty and funny--I wanted to be her. I'd love to read her memoir, Growing Up Laughing: My Story and the Story of Funny, which "takes us on a funny and heartwarming adventure, from her Beverly Hills childhood, to her groundbreaking creation of That Girl and Free to Be . . . You and Me, to her rise as one of America's most beloved actress-comediennes, to her marriage to talk-show king Phil Donahue". I'm also very interested in reading Keith Richards' memoir, Life. Although as a teenager I had a mad crush on his band mate, Mick Jagger, I also secretly liked Keith a bit, too. After reading about his book in the NY Times on Sunday, I know it would be fascinating to me.

As much as I want to read these books, I don't really understand either of these titles. I mean, shouldn't Keith Richards' book be entitled My Life? I'll just call it Keith! As for the other title--what's meant by the "the story of funny"? I'll just call it Marlo! Or maybe I just need to read these books to find out. :)

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To usher in the season, my daughter and I made some pumpkin ice cream last night. It is so easy to make. We used a Donvier ice cream maker but you could probably just use your freezer instead. If possible, use organic ingredients.

PUMPKIN ICE CREAM
Combine 2 cups of whipping cream, 1 cup of whole milk, 1 cup of canned pumpkin, slightly less than 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon. If mixture is lumpy, briefly use electric beater. Pour into pre-frozen canister of Donvier ice cream maker and "crank" every few minutes. In about 45 minutes the ice cream is ready to enjoy. Store in freezer. Makes about 1 quart.

I thought the ice cream would be a bright orange color from the pumpkin, but it isn't.

I know what I'm having for lunch today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Broken Birds: The Story of My Momila

Whenever I read a book or watch a movie about the Holocaust, it's always a very sobering and heartbreaking experience for me. The Holocaust (1933 - 1945) was a horrific period in world history, a time of brutality and mass murder, a stark reminder of man's inhumanity to man on a large scale. Approximately six million Jewish people died in the concentration camps and gas chambers of the Holocaust, which ended in 1945 at the conclusion of World War II.

I suspected that this book would affect me on a deep, emotional level.



"This is the story of my parents, my four siblings, and me. Although this group has rarely gotten along for any length of time, these people made me who I am."
~Introduction to Broken Birds: The Story of My Momila, by Jeannette Katzir

Broken Birds: The Story of My Momila is a highly personal, honest account by Jeannette Katzir of her mother's life as well as her own, one that's been shaped and affected profoundly by the experiences of her parents, Holocaust survivors, especially her mother or Momila, Channa Perschowski. Published in 2009, the book is an attempt by Jeannette Katzir to show how the war and specifically the Holocaust affected future generations, in this case herself and her four siblings (and their families). Broken Birds is also, simply, an attempt by a loving daughter to understand her mother better.

The book starts with a tense meeting in a courtroom, then goes back in time to Channa's family and childhood in what was then Poland. Channa's idyllic childhood ended with the cruel persecution and extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Like many others, Channa lost her family at a very young age, except for her older brother, Isaac, to the horrors of the Holocaust, and her mantra becomes, "If so many people have died, then I can bear losing my family, too". Still a child, Channa learns from her brother how to evade the Nazis, how to survive on mere scraps of food, how to live in the forest and sleep in the snow, and she even becomes a resistance fighter. This terrifying time shapes her future, and as an adult she finds it nearly impossible to trust strangers.

Fortunately, Channa and Isaac manage to escape to the U.S.. Young, spirited, and beautiful, Channa falls in love with and marries Nathan Poltzer (who's tall, dark, and handsome), and seems to adjust easily to her new life. She has five children, including the narrator of the story, Jaclyn (the author has changed her name and those of family members in the book), and we discover quickly how the events of the Holocaust have affected and scarred her. Channa is married but very insecure, and worries that her attractive husband may leave her for another woman. Operating on a lack of trust, she surreptitiously hides money throughout the house and in safety deposit boxes at various banks, and instructs her children not to trust anyone but family. Channa emphasizes the idea that family always comes first. Although Channa loves her children (they are her "five fingers"), she's also at times very critical of their choices, although she's generous at other times, and holds the family together. When Channa dies, the Poltzer family falls to pieces, and Channa's will causes the rest of the family great conflict and distress.

Broken Birds is emotionally gripping, and I found myself thinking about my own sibling relationships (which are also puzzling to me at times). In the book, Jaclyn does not want to betray her mother's wishes to put family first, but after years of trying she's frustrated and disheartened by the often cold, resentful behavior directed toward her. Although she wants to love and care for her family, to be close to each of her siblings (and their spouses), this becomes quite challenging as the years pass, and she has numerous difficulties with her sister, Shirley, in particular. Apart from the intense struggles between Jaclyn and Shirley (and other family members), another aspect of the story that broke my heart was the denial of the existence of the Holocaust during their visit to Germany. Many people acted as if it had never happened, and the concentration camps were cleaned up and altered, giving a false impression to visitors. Although the truth is painful to behold, we cannot and should not deny or minimize the existence of the Holocaust.

A powerful story about struggle and survival on many levels, what makes it even more potent is that it's true, and the author has spent years researching the impact of World War II on survivors and their families.
Jeannette Katzir is a natural storyteller, and the story flows well. The book is painfully honest at times, and although some family issues remain puzzling and unresolved, I do think this book is an important, personal look at the lasting and damaging effects of the Holocaust on families.

Special thanks to Jeannette Katzir for sending me this book. For more reviews of Broken Birds please visit the bookworm and Diary of an Eccentric.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wondrous Words Wednesday: Random Words


Wondrous Words Wednesday, hosted by Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog, is an enjoyable and educational meme. One of my pleasures is reading the dictionary, and today's words are from The Random House College Dictionary. (I know, I deserve the Nerd-of-the-Week award!)




1. graminivorous: feeding on grass or the seeds of grass

"Sheep and goats are graminivorous, but sheep browse assiduously and steadily, whereas goats shift their ground rapidly, and browse only on the tips of the herbage."
~ The History of Animals, Aristotle

2. hedgehop: to fly an airplane at a very low altitude, as for spraying crops, low-level bombing in warfare, etc.

To hedgehop is to fly low (at the level of hedge tops?) and to avoid obstacles as necessary. I think that a plane that does this type of flying is referred to as a hedgehopper.


3. quadruped
: a four-footed animal, creature, or machine (noun or adjective)

While many animals are quadrupeds, humans, birds, crustaceans, snakes, and insects are not quadrupeds, although there are a few exceptions. Among insects, the praying mantis is classified as a quadruped.


4. relume
: to light or illuminate again; rekindle

Nightly in October, my youngest daughter wishes to relume the candles to make our house cozy, inviting, and fragrant.

I like the elegance of this word, and will ask my daughter to relume the candles this evening. Hopefully, the word may be used in this manner.


What wondrous new words have you encountered during recent reading?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Really Random Tuesday #9: New Books and My Space

Welcome to the ninth "edition" of Really Random Tuesday!

But first, am I too late for Mailbox Monday? This month, Avis from She Reads and Reads is hosting this meme, which was created by Marcia from The Printed Page. I realized that I'd better post this now--before too many more books (and links!) accumulate. (I hope it's okay to mix memes from different days of the week.) Pictured are the new books I've recently acquired.


I couldn't resist getting the second book in the Outlander series, Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon, because I enjoyed Outlander so much. A friend gave me Harry, Revised by Mark Sarvas as a gift. Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera arrived for an upcoming TLC tour. Both Anasazi Intrigue and Mayan Intrigue are new books by author Linda Weaver Clarke. The author sent me complimentary copies to review. It has been perfect reading weather lately, cool and quite stormy, and I'm looking forward to reading all of these books. I also won some really good coffee from a giveaway hosted by a terrific blog, Teresa's Reading Corner.


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Here's a snapshot of my computer desk, where I currently blog. As you can see in this photo the area around the keyboard is clear, but there's a lot of paper and other stuff nearby. It's not too terribly cluttered, though. How is your blogging space?


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Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to copy a button and use it on your own blog. Please leave a link in the comments if you’re participating. Be sure to stop by Serendipity for Vivienne's Really Random Tuesday post this week, for fun photos and more.














Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And the Pursuit of Happiness

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
~Abraham Lincoln

In May of 2009, I reviewed The Principles of Uncertainty and concluded with these words:
"In January of 2009, Maira Kalman started a new illustrated blog for The New York Times; the first entry chronicled her visit to Washington, D.C. for President Barack Obama's inauguration. I won't be disappointed if the author publishes a second graphic book based on the new blog in the near future."
And guess what? She did!

And the Pursuit of Happiness by artist and writer Maira Kalman is based on her blog and will be available as a book to the public on October 14, 2010. This new hardcover, illustrated book begins in January with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and concludes in December with a chapter about our first president, George Washington. Each chapter features a calendar month and a different subject.

How can I do justice to this book? A traditional review would not work for such a book. And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman is EXUBERANT! Unabashedly exuberant, joyful, and hopeful. It is confident.

It is a celebration of ideas and ideals, places, and people including:

President Barack Obama
H
ALLELUJAH !

Democracy
History
Diversity

The Military
"Everyone is beautiful. Everyone makes you proud. Everyone breaks your heart."
~And the Pursuit of Happiness, Maira Kalman
Abraham Lincoln (You may even develop a crush on this tall man, who loved Mozart's The Magic Flute--my favorite, too--and Shakespeare's Macbeth.)

G
eorge Washington (Apparently, his false teeth weren't wooden, but were made from hippopotamus ivory! Other myths are shattered as well.)

Thomas Jefferson (He changed the words of The Declaration of Independence from Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of "Property" to the pursuit of "Happiness".)

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
~The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (primary author)

Benjamin Franklin (He wasn't president, but he signed both The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, became Ambassador to France, invented and created countless things and organizations, and is featured on the cover of this book! )

Susan B. Anthony (She challenged the law because she believed that women should vote.)

Eleanor Roosevelt (She confidently wore "improbable" hats.)

Washington, D.C. (Called "a mad frenzy of pink", full of energy and promise.)

New York City
(I call it "New York City" for clarity, but a real New Yorker just calls it "New York". I grew up in Manhattan.)

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And the Pursuit of Happiness
is also a celebration of the little things that make life sweet. The luscious, lemon layer cake. The fancy hats worn in the Baptist church. Perfect red eyebrows. In this spirit, I took a few photos of some of the little things, small pleasures, I noticed nearby:


A bright orange plate, a ripe avocado, and a nice, sharp knife


A pretty little pitcher from Mexico, a gift from a friend


Lovely glass jars of organic spices, found at Target(!)


Dazzling, sparkly eyeshadow (my favorite summer find from Sephora)


Maira Kalman's art is colorful, expressive, radiant--irresistible! She draws and paints and photographs in a way that is charming, fresh, and quirky. While reading her hand-printed prose I laughed out loud so often that I had to explain why to those within earshot (this book is so funny!). It was a very enjoyable experience to read And the Pursuit of Happiness, and I can’t wait to read it again! Classrooms should have this book on hand because it would be a wonderful way for students to learn about history in a lighthearted yet substantial way. It has the ability to make you fall in love with life again. It left me with a sense of joy and optimism. I LOVED IT!

"A city can be optimistic. Now I need to decide what it is that I will volunteer for. I will have something to do with making the city sparkling and shining."
~And the Pursuit of Happiness, Maira Kalman












Special thanks to Trish from TLC for sending me this remarkable book. For more reviews, please visit the other stops on TLC's And the Pursuit of Happiness book tour. Visit Maira Kalman's NY Times blog or website to view her distinctive art and illustrations.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Here's to the Hop!

Cheers! The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly event for bloggers and readers, a wonderful opportunity to connect with other book lovers, make new friends and followers, and share an appreciation of books. I've discovered a lot of top-notch book blogs in this manner. Hosted by Jennifer from Crazy-for-Books, this Hop lasts from October 8 until October 11, so there's ample time to sign-up and enjoy the blogosphere's best BOOK PARTY. If you'd like me to visit your blog, please leave a comment.



It was a great surprise to discover that this week's question is from--me! Thank you, Jennifer! What's your favorite beverage while reading or blogging, if any? Is it tea, coffee, water, a glass of wine, or something else?

Over the summer, I was enjoying iced coffee, but now that it's cooler, I'm sipping an assortment of hot coffee and tea again. I also enjoy Trader Joe's spicy cider, and spicy Mayan hot chocolate; both are delicious treats on chilly evenings. And I should probably make an effort to drink more water! What about you?

Thanks for hopping by!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

13 rue Thérèse

"La vie est la fleur dont l'amour est le miel."
~Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr


I had high hopes for 13 rue Thérèse by Elena Mauli Shapiro. This eye-catching, antique-looking book arrived gift wrapped in matching checkered paper, along with a small tin of candy and a personal note. While I did enjoy it, I can't say that I was wowed by it. I found it clever, but I didn't truly love it.

13 rue Thérèse
is mostly narrated by a character who's a scholar of French literature, Trevor Stratton. In letters addressed to "Sir", he tells a story within the story about Louise Brunet, a Frenchwoman who lived through both World Wars, based on a box full of artifacts, which his secretary, Josianne Noireau, has placed in a cabinet for him to surreptitiously find, open, and examine.

Perhaps I'm too old-fashioned or "old school", but overall it felt too much like traditional male fantasy to me, because it includes a bold sexual proposition from Louise to someone she has just met, adultery, lying "inappropriately" in confession, and a bit of lesbianism. I'm sure Louise was supposed to seem ahead of her time, especially sexually, but it just didn't seem all that believable to me. In this Parisian story, passions don't simmer but ignite instantly, without much thought about repercussions. But, I guess the story is male fantasy after all, given that Trevor is the one telling the story.

For me, the most successful aspect of the book is the design, the imaginative and unique layout. Many of the chapters have French titles, and sprinkled throughout the book are lovely, old style photos, letters, postcards, and miscellaneous illustrations--contents of the box Trevor has discovered--along with vibrant prose, and copious footnotes. Visually it's quite nice, although some of the footnotes were long and it was a strain for me to read the tiny print. I didn't love love love 13 rue Therese, but if you are looking for a light, amusing book, saturated with sex, then this might be the book for you. It will be available to the public in February of 2011.

Special thanks to Reagan Arthur for sending me this book, my first (and hopefully not last) one for The Reagan Arthur Books Challenge.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Really Random Tuesday #8: Bedside Books and a New Button

I should be reading. I should be writing reviews. Instead, I'm writing another Really Random Tuesday post. I wasn't intending to do this meme today; I opt to do it on random Tuesdays. But I changed my mind after reading the RRT posts on the following book blogs, which originate from India, the U.S.A., and England, respectively:

Giving Reading a Chance!!!

the bookworm

Serendipity

You're Next!
(My makeshift "Ms. Linky"!)

Be sure to stop by these blogs for some really terrific Tuesday posts!


*****BEDSIDE BOOKS*****

This is the low bookcase by my bed. It used to be neat, like the photo below. I'm not really sure what happened!




These are the books by my husband's side of the bed. We have some built-in shelves and many bookcases, but books seem to gather near the bed of their own volition.

This is my daughter's night table, piled with books. She's quite an avid reader and has recently ventured into the world of book blogging, as I've mentioned before, with a blog called Chapters. Please stop by when you have a moment.

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For those of you who wish to adorn your Really Random Tuesday posts with "artwork", here's a new button I created on Wordle. (Believe it or not, I don't have Photoshop!)










Really Random Tuesday is a way to post odds and ends--announcements, musings, quotes, photos--any blogging and book-related things you can think of. If you're inspired by this idea, feel free to copy a button and use it on your own blog. Please leave a link in the comments if you’re participating. Thanks!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mailbox Monday: A Pictorial Guide


Oh, happy day! Having read and reviewed The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman, I was very excited to receive And the Pursuit of Happiness by the same author, which arrived compliments of Penguin Group for an upcoming TLC book tour. This book will be released to the public on October 14, 2010; I feel so privileged to have a copy in advance!

I purchased Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham from Amazon because of Bermudaonion's review, and Be Love Now by Ram Dass arrived from HarperOne, also for a future TLC book tour. Last but not least, I won Mr. Darcy's Little Sister by C. Allyn Pierson on Laura's Reviews.

But wait! There are more packages to open! I thought I was done but two more packages arrived from UPS.




One of the perks of being a book blogger is being privy to giveaways and winning books. I won GoD and DoG by Wendy Francisco on Renee's blog, Black 'n Gold Girl's Book Spot, and Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons on Darlene's blog, Peeking Between the Pages.

I anticipate getting a great deal of enjoyment from these books.


Created by Marcia from The Printed Page, Mailbox Monday is currently on tour. During the month of October, Avis from She Reads and Reads will be hosting this fun meme. What new books have you gotten recently in the mail or from elsewhere?

BLOG ARCHIVE










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.