40 Things…

My Year in Lists
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Boof at the Book Whisperer turns the big 4-0 this year and is counting down to her birthday in October (shortly after mine!) with a 40 Day Book Challenge!  I think I’ll play along (when I can) and also will write about my own list of “40 things to do before I turn 40” from a few years ago!

Her first question was:  1) A favourite book of 2011 (so far)
When I looked through my Goodreads “read” shelf, the books that had five stars include all the Harry Potter books, which I listened to on audio this year, two Maeve Binchy books, and “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky”.  So I’m going to say my favorite of the year is “Finding Frankie” by Binchy.  I’ve expounded on my love of all things Binchy before, so I’ll just leave it at that.

My friend Deadra and I were both looking at turning 40 in 2008 and wanting to commemorate it in some way.  We love lists so decided to each write our own list of 40 things to do before turning 40.  We wrote the lists in late 2006, giving us plenty of time to accomplish them.  Looking at my own list of 40 Things Before 40, my #1 started out simple –
1)  Re-read “Pride and Prejudice.”
And I did.  To me, Austen is a great book to laze away the summer with, absorbing each word, paragraph and page.  It’s relaxing and a lovely way to spend time.

My list of Things was a lot of fun to write and accomplish, even though they were pretty small feats, for the most part.  Some of them were more about a way of thinking than doing.  It’ll be fun to relive it a little here…

Off to read!


Book: The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee

Cover of "The Piano Teacher: A Novel"
Cover of The Piano Teacher: A Novel

This book takes place in two different decades in Hong Kong, 1943 and 1953.  It describes the lives of the people from many countries who live in Hong Kong, the atrocities that happened during WWII, and how they survived.

I liked this book but didn’t love it.  It puts into words more horrific details from WWII – never easy to read.   I blame some of my indifference to this book on the fact that I was slow in reading it and didn’t get a good flow going, so maybe lost something in continuity.

Excerpt from B&N from goodreads:

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Exotic Hong Kong takes center stage in this sumptuous novel, set in the 1940s and ’50s. It’s a city teeming with people, sights, sounds, and smells, and it’s home to a group of foreign nationals who enjoy the good life among the local moneyed set, in a tight-knit social enclave distanced from the culture at large. Comfortable, clever, and even a bit dazzling, they revel in their fancy dinners and fun parties. But their sheltered lives take an abrupt turn after the Japanese occupation, and though their reactions are varied — denial, resistance, submission — the toll it takes on all is soon laid bare.

Enter Claire Pendleton from London. Months after her husband is transferred to Hong Kong in 1951, she accepts a position as a piano teacher to the daughter of a wealthy couple, the Chens. Claire begins to see the appeal of the sweltering city and is soon taken in by the Chen’s driver, the curiously underutilized Will Truesdale. A handsome charmer with a mysterious limp, Will appears to be the perfect companion for Claire, who’s often left to her own devices. But a further examination leaves her with more questions than answers.

An intricately woven tale of lives changed by historical events, Lee’s debut brings this hothouse flower of a city alive with passion, and imagines characters both unforgettable and tragic.
(Spring 2009 Selection)

Books: Is Anybody Out There?

Cover of "Anybody Out There?: A Novel"
Cover of Anybody Out There?: A Novel

Anybody Out There? (Walsh Family #4)” by Marian Keyes

Eh. I listened to this book and think it would have been better as a quick read. The format is told with a lot of email messages, so consequently, there is a lot of: “to: so-and-so@such-and-such.ie.net from:someoneelse@somewhereelse.com re: another topic”. Would have been faster to skim those bits and the flow would have been better. Also, I noticed that this is book #4 in a series about this family. I think it works as a stand-alone (I didn’t notice the series title til 3/4 through the book) but probably you get more emotional investment if you know the rest of the family as well.

The book’s primary character is Anna, who is Irish but lives in NYC.  “Something” happens, you know it does, but you don’t find out what “it” is until about halfway through the book (or so).  And I could have guessed, but it was kinda weird.  And then the search for answers, closure…

I like Marian Keyes all right but this is not a great audiobook.

A flood story – on the anniversary

Rushford, MN, August 24, 2007 -- A FEMA repres...
My former neighbor's home - Image via Wikipedia

Below is a story that was written about Marissa and me after the flood.  College students were enlisted to interview people and to write the stories for a compilation, which I don’t believe has been published yet.  It’s hard to believe that it has been four years, as in some ways it seems like it was a LONG time ago.  Many things have changed… 

Danette Grimsrud’s description of herself as “not an alarmist” is one that has come to define her during and in the aftermath of the August flood.  This denotes the primary difference between Danette and her teenage daughter, Marissa.  Danette said, “I was expecting the best and she was expecting the worse.”  This became especially apparent when Marissa lay awake that night thinking of all that would be lost while Danette realized she “had no control” over the situation and could do no more than was possible.  Even when Danette was leaving the house, one of her first thoughts after grabbing her purse and camera was to take a basket of clean towels to keep them dry once they reached the evacuation site.

Later, this failure to submit to alarm and a lack of understanding about what was actually happening caused Danette to feel guilty for leaving without attempting to see if neighbors needed to be warned.  In fact, Danette was surprised to have woken up to the warnings at all.  “I never wake up; I’m a sound sleeper,” Danette said.  But, because it was cool and Danette likes the sound of rain, she uncharacteristically slept with the windows open that night.  Marissa considers this a sort of miracle.

When Danette did wake up to sirens, like many, she thought perhaps they were to indicate a tornado warning.  Then, she heard of the flooding inStockton, but “that just seemed unrelated to Rushford,” Danette said.  After Danette’s mom called unsure of what was happening, Danette decided to go back to bed.  Danette’s mom called a second time when she heard the announced evacuation order.  At this point, Danette woke Marissa and Inna, their former foreign exchange student who had returned to work in Rushford for the summer.  The three were told to evacuate to the High School, but once they reached the bridge they were unable to cross because a tree had fallen on the bridge.  Danette said, from here they “could see water going through the houses on the other side of the bridge.”

They drove the backroads out of Brooklyn, past many cars lining the road leading out of town and admittingly driving over washouts, to north Highway 43. They stayed at Larry Dahl’s house, the father of Danette’s friend Deadra, for the rest of the night,  drifting between sleeping and watching TV, but were unable to get a weather report.  At about 6:30 a.m., they lost power.  “Then we grilled toast and made coffee on the grill,” Danette said.  Shortly thereafter, Danette’s mom called, saying, “Your house is under water.”

“I didn’t even want to go see it,” Danette said.  “We had three feet [of water] on our main floor.”  Since they were not allowed into town, they stayed at Danette’s parent’s house, which had power.  Marissa and Inna first went back to the house in a canoe on Sunday afternoon, but they couldn’t get the door open to get into the house. Then Danette’s dad and brother got in the canoe with them and the men went in and grabbed Danette’s contact stuff, make-up bag, the guitar, a laundry basket of dirty clothes that was floating, and anything else Marissa and Inna told them to grab! The men were wearing waders – the water was still thigh deep.   Danette and Marissa went back to their home after a few days, but were only allowed to stay for about 15 minutes.

When they were able to assess the damages, it became apparent that everything in the basement would have to be thrown because the walls had collapsed.  Only a plastic tub of Barbies and one of T-shirts was saved.  On the first floor, “anything above three feet,” pictures on walls, books and home movies on shelves, as well as most photo albums were saved from water damage.  In addition, the dining room table that Danette’s grandparents  received as a wedding gift and a cedar chest that her dad built for her graduation were saved.

Danette and her family took Marissa to college the following Saturday after the flood, and brought Inna to the Cities to fly back to the Ukraine on Sunday/Monday morning. Luckily she had grabbed her passport and things when they evacuated! What a hassle that would have added to the week!  But as a result, they were not in town when a lot of the cleaning was going on.

In fact, it was Labor Day weekend, “almost two weeks after the flood,” Danette said before the house was stabilized well enough to start their own cleaning – including digging out the basement and supporting the house. She was amazed at all the people who continued to come to help with the house.  Marissa especially appreciated the help, saying, “they just came in and got it done, whereas it was harder for us because we were attached to everything and already emotionally strained.”  Danette enjoyed the fact that “they just wanted to talk to us, too – to hear our story.  They wanted to know who they were helping.”

Danette decided to sell her Rushford home and is now settled inRochester.  Danette said if Marissa had been “10 or 15 life would have been different; but she’s 19 so I just could make different decisions.”  But it was still “a hard decision to make,” she said.  “It was hard to think about leaving.”  The flood was “like a kick in the butt to do something different,” Danette said.

Books: Catching Up

I am simply dThe Housekeeper and the Professoroing a copy/paste job from goodreads.  Much faster way to keep updated on the books I’m reading.
Saw “The Help” movie tonight and it was awesome.  I’ll try to write more about it later.  Good stuff.

Another sweet, quick read! A Japanese book about a housekeeper and her son who take care of a Professor who has an 80 minute memory of anything beyond 1975. He pins notes to his suit to help him remember things and teaches the Housekeeper about the beauty of numbers. Beautiful.

Wild Designs

I can’t believe this is the fifth book by this author I have read this summer. Either she is growing on me or I am choosing better books. I liked this almost as much as the last one of hers I read. Good light reads perfect for summer.

Wedding Season

Wedding Season

by Katie Fforde

Well the sixth book I’ve read by Katie Fforde this summer! Not great. Not bad. Three women get involved in different aspects of planning weddings – dress making, cake making, hair and makeup and general organization. Predictable. Sarah pointed out that there is a lot of dialogue in these books and this one felt very cumbersome in repeating details. Not the best I’ve read.

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

I didn’t finish this book (shame on me) but I wasn’t enamored with it. There’s something about doing a project with the intention of writing about it in the end that just rubs me wrong. She certainly put a lot of thought into her project – writing her commandments, doing lots of research on happiness – and I will look at her blog and hopefully pick up the book again sometime and finish it (I stopped in July – money is a sticky subject right now).

Moving on…

Books: For when you need a life coach

self help is sometimes impossible
Image by the|G|™ via Flickr

I received the book, “Where Will You Go From Here?” by Valorie Burton, through Blogging For Books. I chose this book over the others offered because of the subtitle: Moving Forward when Life Doesn’t Go As Planned.  It seemed appropriate that I get some advice as I move through this latest life change.  I am currently looking for a job and evaluating career goals, etc., so I thought using this book to help examine things would be good.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the book for me.  As a social worker, I have always looked at the power of thoughts, words, actions and relationships in daily life as well as in difficult times. One thing I didn’t consider much was the power of prayer, so that was a good lesson for me.  The book was pretty basic stuff but I would feel very confident recommending it to others who don’t have a background in counseling or social work, as I do.

It definitely was good information, presented well, with great opportunity for insight and reflection.

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

Cover of "The Girl Who Fell from the Sky&...
Cover of The Girl Who Fell from the Sky

I’m trying to figure out how to get goodreads to update my blog, but it’s not gonna happen. And I hate the thought of not posting about a book that I read!

This book came from Sarah and it was a sweet little read! My Goodreads review: I really enjoyed this book. it was a quick read but I really liked the development of the characters and the plot. She did a great job packing a punch into a nice sweet book.

Goodreads summary: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky: This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl – and society’s ideas of race, class, and beauty.

A sweet book I can heartily recommend!

P.S. – THIS IS MY 100th BLOG POST on this site! Sarah posted once, so I guess it’s my 99th! 🙂  Good times.  Still not enough comments, though!!! C’mon friends!

Off to read! (Today’s theme: Happiness!)

School Library Days

Here Come the Littles
Here Come the Littles Image via Wikipedia

I read a lot of book blogs and someone posted some questions about memories related to school and books.  I have a lot of memories about reading when younger, so I’ll answer a few of the questions – and hope you will too!

  • What’s your favorite bookish school memory?
  • Did your teacher read aloud to you? Do you remember what book it was?
I vividly remember Mrs. Karnath reading aloud “The Call of the Wild.” I know she read a lot of books aloud but that’s the only title I can remember right now. That was 5th grade!!
  • Do you remember what books you checked out at the school library?
I was just telling my niece that my favorite book that I would check out over and over was “No Flying in the House.” It was about a girl who realizes that she is a fairy and can fly around. You can tell if you’re a fairy if you can kiss your elbow. 🙂 Years later I went to the elementary library and looked for this book and it was gone. I haven’t searched for it online … yet. I also remember reading all the books about the Littles – little people who lived in the walls and had tails. I never read the Borrowers, but think they’re similar genres. And Trixie Beldon books were favorites with me and Maureen.
I loved the library and going there.
I didn’t start going to the public library until after college. It was always such a dark and quiet place with a crabby librarian, so it didn’t feel inviting at all.
  • What was one of the first book reports you did for school?
  • Do you have a favorite book or author that you first heard about from a teacher or school project?
  • Do you have a not-so-pleasant bookish memory from your school days?
How about you? Any answers to the above questions? Any great memories of reading in your school years?
Off to read!

The Art of French Kissing

Eiffel Tower, seen from the champ de Mars, Par...
Image via Wikipedia

Not a how-to manual, but a cute little read about a girl, almost 30, whose life appears to be crumbling around her – her fiance’ cancels the wedding and kicks her out of their home and she loses her job in PR with a Boy Band record label. So when her friend from college offers her a temporary job helping her out in Paris, she jumps on a plane and attempts to forget the worries she is leaving behind.

A cute, easy read. I supplemented the experience by watching Craig Ferguson for the first time, because his show was shot in Paris for the week! I hear good things about the Ferguson but as a Fallon lover it’s hard to convert.  So I relied on the DVR for the week and listened to Craig Ferguson. It really did add to the reading experience, and make me want to go to Paris!

After I go to Ireland, in search of that wild Irish man. 🙂

Off to read!

Books: Love Letters

Not my cheaters, but almost as cute! Image via Wikipedia

I had the pleasure of a beautiful day at the end of the dock and a good book. Often when I’m at the end of the dock, I don’t get any reading done because, as I say, “basking in the sun is best done with eyes closed!”  But Saturday I was able to get a short cat-nap in and, with the help of my new cheaters sunglasses and a great breeze, I was able to read quite a bit in Katie Fforde‘s book, “Love Letters.”  I already wrote about Fforde’s books being not as good as other British chick-lit, but this one was the most enjoyable of the four.

From goodreads: When her bookshop closes its doors, Laura agrees to help organize a literary festival. Her initial excitement is followed by panic when she realizes that an innocent mistake has led the festival committee to believe that she is a personal friend of the reclusive writer Dermot Flynn. Even though Laura has been infatuated with Dermot since her college days, traveling to Ireland to persuade him to come out of hiding is not what she had in mind. Nevertheless, she sets off to charm her literary hero into headlining the festival. Unfortunately, Dermot is maddening, temperamental, and up to his ears in a nasty case of writer’s block. But he’s also infuriatingly attractive….With all the warmth and wit that have made Katie Fforde’s novels huge bestsellers in the U.K., Love Letters is an irresistible tale of love and literature and the quest for a happy ending.

Maybe I loved this one so much because Laura was so knowledgeable and passionate about books?  Or maybe because I hope to attend a literary festival someday? Or maybe because I love the name Dermot? Or maybe all of the above, and then some?  Anyway, it was a quick and pleasurable read and I can recommend it to anyone who loves light and breezy and fun books set in England/Ireland.

And it made me think… what author would I love to meet? Dermot wrote two novels in his early 20s and then became reclusive to his small Irish village, refusing all publicity and speaking engagements.  Laura studied Dermot’s books in college and was star-struck by the opportunity to meet him.  Anyone that you would feel the same about?

I’ve been lucky to have some great meet-ups with authors.  I’ve spent time with Lorna Landvik and Jenna Blum.  I’ve traveled to meet Satellite Sister, Lian.  Memorable experiences and wonderful women. I’m gonna ponder this question a little more… I hope you do, too!  Let’s discuss!

Off to read!