Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Cause for Celebration

One of my very favorite lighthouses is having a birthday party and you are invited! Today the Cape May Lighthouse is celebrating it's 150th birthday and there will be a party with a Civil War feel...and cake! According to the Cape May County Herald,

"The Cape May Lighthouse, one of the oldest continually operating lighthouses in the country, was first lit Oct. 31, 1859.

In honor of the beacon’s 150th anniversary, the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC) is holding a celebration from noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 31 at Cape May Point State Park on Lighthouse Ave. off Sunset Blvd.

The official ceremony kicks off at 1 p.m. with brief remarks on the Cape May Lighthouse’s history and costumed re-enactors including General George G. Meade who will be accompanied by his honor guard and Dr. Emlen Physick.

Afterwards, the candles on the Lighthouse’s birthday cake will be blown out and the cake along, with light refreshments, will be served to the public.

There will also be storytelling on the grounds, music and book signings."

Sounds like a swell time..and did I mention, there will be cake!
Of course, while you are there, I recommend you climb the lighthouse's 199 steps to the top for a lovely view of the city of Cape May and out to the Delaware Bay. A visit to Cape May, with her shops and restaurants and an unrivaled collection of beautifully restored Victorian houses, is always lovely, especially in the fall. Then, maybe you can take a short drive down to Sunset Beach for a view of what remains of the concrete ship and a walk on the beach to look for Cape May "diamonds". And, as you might guess by the name, lovely sunsets.

Did I mention there will be cake?

Happy Birthday Cape May Lighthouse!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hey! That's Sort of Cool!

I admit that I check out the NY Times bestsellers list. I like to see what is on there, see which I have read and might want to check out. But folks, let's be real. Dan Brown is locked into first place once again and we all know that I, along with a large number of readers, don't have the highest opinion of his work. So what if there was a site that melded together the NYT list and some big review site, say the star rating from Amazon. Certainly a lot of reviews there.
Well, someone has done it and the result is Reading Radar, a site created by self described "mashup posterboy" John Herren. It employs something called API, application programming interface, which I have absolutely no understanding of...but the result is cool.

By the way, you will see that Dan's book might be the #1 seller...but it only got two little stars.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

a review of "Baking Cakes in Kigali"

Baking Cakes in Kigali: A Novel by Gaile Parkin
(Delacorte Press, ISBN 978-0385343435)

The aptly named Angel Tungaraza, the woman at the center of this book is, as described on the jacket,
"mother, cake baker, keeper of secrets- a woman living on the edge of chaos, finding ways to change lives, weave magic, and create hope amid the madness that is swirling all around her."
She has moved from her native Tanzania to Rwanda with her husband so that he can take a job at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, a new university in the capital city. They live in a compound of apartments, in a neighborhood housing a wide variety of people from around the globe, Americans, Canadians, Indians, Japanese, Europeans and Africans from throughout the continent to name a few, who have ended up in this post-genocide Rwanda, a nation trying to rebuild. They are there for a variety of reasons, diplomats, workers at the university, volunteers and UN workers and perhaps even a CIA agent. Many with a story that they share with Angel as they come to her so that they can hire her to make one of her very special, very beautiful cake for their 'occasion'. And it is these stories that are at the heart of this book.

There are the cakes for a birthdays or a christening, cakes for dinner parties and anniversaries, but then there are others of a more unique nature. There is the cake for a young man, kidnapped to be trained as a soldier when stll a boy, who has found, after years of searching, his mother and a sister who survived the genocide. There is the young girl who became a 'sex-worker' to support her younger siblings, who wants a cake for her sister confirmation. There is a soldier, perhaps driven mad by his past, who thinks a cake can convince a stranger to become his bride. And then there is Angel's own story, how she and her husband have had to take on the care of their two sets of grandchildren, five in all, after the deaths of both their son and daughter.

There are tragic stories, as Rwanda is a nation with a history of civil war and almost unbelievable horror and a nation still ravaged by AIDS, but don't get the idea that this is a sad book. No, there are a number of touching stories, a few that are laugh out loud funny and ultimately this is a hopeful, inspiring book. While dealing with a few of her own demons, Angel is a wise, caring woman, trying to make a small differences in the lives of her 'customers', a little fund raising here, a little match making there. This is a book that believes that healing, for a country or an individual is possible, and that one or two or three people, like Angels and some of her friends, can help be the agents of that healing and maybe find some healing for themselves at the same time.

Baking Cakes in Kigali is a pretty fast read, sort of a series of short stories, at least until the last part of the book that concludes in a grand event that weaves together many of the characters and storylines and ties things up nicely. The book has some great characters, especially some great female ones. It is a touching, sad, funny, ultimately sweet book that, against a backdrop of entertaining stories, also gives some insights into a number of the social, political and cultural issues facing many African nations. It is a book that tackle some very serious subjects but does so in a very gentle way and is a book I would certainly recommend to my readers.

Wordless Wednesday-The Capitol Rotunda, D.C.

...for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet Your Way to Tuesday Thinger.

It's Tuesday, time for Tuesday Thinger, from the desk of Wendi's Book Corner. Seems someone pointed out a new feature on LT.."a cool feature under author pages. Library Thing now has a Link box on the right hand side of Author pages where authors and LT users can add/update links. . . including Twitter!"

This Week's Questions: Have you checked out any of the links/tweets on some of the author pages for the books in your bookshelves? Have you added any links/twitter information yourself?

Well, yes I have! I have check this out, checking to see if some authors I am particularly fond of had a link to their web page or if they had a Twitter thingie, whatever a Twitter link is called. I have added links and twitter information for a bunch of authors.

But let me be honest, because if nothing else, I am honest with you all, my dear readers. Well, as honest as I need to be...
Anyhoo, to be honest, I have little interest in Twitter. I have tweeted on the rare occasion, I check it out from time to time, but for the life of me, I don't get the big attraction. I realize there are people, in fact some of my fellow bloggers, some of the people that may read this, that are very fond of the Twitter. And I am glad they enjoy it, but I don't really.
So, I don't really follow any authors on Twitter, Now, if I did, I think the Library Thing feature might be useful. So, you Twitter fans, check it out because certainly it was meant for you...not necessarily me. ;-)

Which raises a bigger issue, the 'following' of authors altogether.
I don't really do that either.
Now, I have a number of favorite authors, whose new books I read, but I don't really read their blogs or check out their websites. I might happen on to one, from a link that I stumble upon as I wander in BlogLand. Or, on the rare occasion, I might want to see when they have a book coming out and actually seek their web site out, but I don't make a habit of it. But if I am looking, that link feature on Library Thing may prove useful!
I guess I am a rotten fan. That is why I no longer read People magazine. Actually, when it comes to authors, or even actors, I don't want to know too much about them. I don't want to know about their personal lives, their likes and dislikes, what they think about this or that. For me it just interferes with my enjoyment of their art. What they want to tell me, they can say in their books.

Now if you were paying attention, I said at the beginning that I have added some links to web pages and twitter pages to some authors on Library Thing. Why, you may wonder, if I don't follow them? because I need a GOLD helper's badge on LT and I need to add a couple of hundred more pieces of info in order to move from silver to GOLD. Yes, I need the stinking

Now, I might not follow author's web sites but I ALWAYS have time to check out Bandit's! I mean really, he is way cuter than most movie stars, let alone authors. It seems that it's lunch time! Pizza for everyone!

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Need A Plan...So I Plan to Check Out Musing Monday.

So, let's see what this weeks question is from the ever curious Just One More Page!

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about note taking…

Do you take notes while reading – either for your reviews or for yourself? How/where do you make these notes (on the page, post-its, scrap paper, notebooks etc)?

I will admit it. I am a bad book reviewer.

I don't mean that the result is bad...I leave that to you, my dear readers, to decide. Maybe yes, maybe no. No, I mean I am very bad at actually going about it. I have no system.

Really, I have been doing this for awhile now, certainly over a year now and I have written a goodly number of reviews, so one would think that I would have it down pat, but I do not. Which may also explain why I have a small pile of books, sitting in my view, waiting to be reviewed. Now that pile is not to be confused with the pile of ARCs to be read. Or the pile of library books to be read. Or the much larger pile of the general To Be Read pile.

I know that there should never be, for me, a pile to be reviewed, because I MUST write the review while the book is fairly fresh in my mind. Not needs to ferment overnight or an afternoon maybe. But I know if I finish a book, put it down and start another book, I am in trouble. My wee mind will soon be full of the new book and it will just take me that much longer to get back to what I felt, what I wanted to say, about the review book. So, sometime it joins The Pile Granted, this is where notes might come in. So, what about notes. Do I take notes and if so, do they help?

Well, here again I have not really found a system that works for me all the time.
I do not write in books.
That is just evil.
A notebook would seem too much like work. And work is always to be avoided.(don't mention that to my boss, ok?)
On occasion, I have used regular sized post-it notes to write some ideas down and stuck them in the book near a quote that it refers to, but that has problems. First, my handwriting is awful. Often I have no idea what the note says when I go back to read it. Second, I hate to pause to find the post-it, the pen, actually write the note. I know, I should be better organized, but I am not and have come to peace with that. So now, I usually stick one of those wee post-its or those arrow-like post-its pointing to what I think is an important point in the book. I love the cute dispensers and I got a big pack of them at Sam's Club, so I can stash some all over the place. Then, before I start to write the review, I go back and look at all the things that I have 'highlighted'.

About half of them usually make sense to me. I study the rest, trying to figure out why in the world I thought that was important.
Then I lay down and take a nap.
Perhaps you now see my reviewing problem.

I really need to get a better system.... ;-)

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Want One...I Want One!!

Ok, I think this is just so cool! And besides being cool, it is a real camera!

According to the Digital Blue web site...where you can go to buy one for any Lego fans on your gift list...
"The LEGO® digital camera looks like it is built completely from LEGO® bricks, but it cant be taken apart. LEGO® bricks can be added to the top or bottom of the camera, so kids can integrate it into their buildings and creations. But this is no toy; its a full functioning 3 Megapixel digital camera, featuring a color 1.5 LCD screen. Take high quality photos with the built-in flash, fixed focus and digital zoom. The camera holds up to 80 photos at a time. Let your imagination go wild!"
I assume their target audience is kids, but there may be a few older folks buying one of these. Except that every time you take it out to photograph something, everyone would be staring and pointing at it.
But hey, it's just $50 and you can add on you own Lego creations to the blocks on

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Books For Sale...Get Your Books Right Here!!

You might have seen the articles about the big sale in the NY Times or on Shelf Awareness recently. Seems that Wal-Mart and Amazon are engaged in a price war...and the subject of the war is BOOKS. It started with Wal-Mart offering 10 soon to be released books, that are expected to be big best sellers, at the amazing low price of $10 at their online store. Amazon, not to be outdone, matched the price, 'forcing' Wal-Mart to go to $9...and finally they are now at $8.99 for the books in question. From Shelf Awareness...
"The price war between Wal-Mart and Amazon (Shelf Awareness, October 16, 2009) escalated last Friday afternoon when Wal-Mart further lowered the price of 10 holiday season hardcovers--including Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, John Grisham's Ford County, Stephen King's Under the Dome, Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna and James Patterson's I, Alex Cross--one more penny to $8.99. Reaction to the price-slashing moves by Amazon and Wal-Mart have been strong throughout the book trade."
And it would seem not in a good way. Smaller stores, independent bookstore are upset, because certainly, there is no way they can match these prices and stay in business. Others are concerned that readers will start to think that this is the price that all books should be offered at, and that it will hurt new writers, whose books will not be offered at these low prices. Others worry that this "accentuates the trend towards best sellers dominating the market" at the cost of new authors and smaller books.

Personally, I think all the hoopla is silly! Small independent bookstores can not and never will be able to compete on price. They must succeed, or fail, on offering something else to the buyer. Personal service, atmosphere, tie ins to the local community..they must offer what the Big Book stores or the online stores can not.
As to accentuating bestsellers, is this the same industry that says it was saved by a few huge sellers like the Harry Potter series in recent years? Folks, that is why they call them bestsellers. They get the ads, the promotions, the big book tours, the TV interviews and magazine articles..because the publishers know they will sell big numbers. Certainly more unknown books or authors would like that sort of attention from their publishers, but there is nothing new going on here.

So what of this price cutting. Is this something unheard of? Well, one fellow quoted in the Times would have us think so.
"Rafi Mohammed, a consultant and author of “The Art of Pricing,” said he was surprised by the radical discounting because he could think of no other industry in which retailers cut the prices of the newest or most popular goods. “You always pay the highest price for the latest and greatest,” he said."
Now I don't know where he shops, but that is just not true. As a college graduate with a liberal arts degree, I spent a number of years in retail. An old and well established policy in retail is the Loss Leader. You all know it...the ad for the 69 cents 2 liter bottle of Coca-Cola with the big end aisle display at the store, the brand name TV at $200 less than any other store is offering. Stores commonly offer a top of the line product at an actual loss to them in order to get you into the store, and that is exactly what Wal-Mart is doing with their online book store. They want you to start thing of Wal-Mart online as a place to look for values in books and to do that they want to get your attention. Nothing new, nothing radical here and I find the book industry's reaction as a bit disingenuous and over the top. In fact, looking at the press this is getting, it seems to have worked much better than Wal-Mart could ever have thought!

As for me, I must admit I order a couple of these books for my holiday reading. I love a sale..and a book sale is a lovely thing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday-Worlds End State Park, PA

...for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

a review of "The Last Song"

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks
(Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 978-0446547567)

The last thing that Ronnie wanted was to leave her friends and favorite haunts in NYC and spend her summer, along with her little brother, in Wrightsville Beach, NC, the home of their estranged father Steve. But she is only 17, and even though she has not talked to him in the three years since her parents divorced, she is given no choice in the matter. He is a pianist, once a teacher at Julliard, then a concert performer and composer, and she blames his traveling and weeks away from the family as the cause of the breakup. She is punishing him, not only by not speaking to him, but by giving up the piano at which she also excelled and undergoing a little rebellious phase, complete with purple streaked hair and black finger nails. Without question, it is going to be the worst summer of her life or so she thinks.

But very soon after arriving she meets Blaze, who seems like a kindred spirit, and her bad boy boyfriend Marcus. She also runs into, literally, the handsome, preppy Will and against her first judgment, finds herself liking him. It seems that not everyone is who they seem at first glance. As Ronnie finds, as she starts to learn more about herself, maybe she even made a few mistakes about her father. In fact, Ronnie learns she made have made a number of serious mistakes in her young life, but hopefully there will be time to make them right.
"For an instant, Ronnie felt a crush of memories overwhelm her: the fire and subsequent rebuilding of the church, the stained glass window, the song she finally finished. She though about Blaze and Scott and Marcus. She thought about Will. She was eighteen years old and remembering the summer she'd been betrayed, the summer she'd been arrested, the summer she'd fallen in love. It hadn't been so long ago, yet sometimes she felt that she'd been an altogether different person back then."
But time is the most limited of resources...

I must say that I have never read a Nicholas Sparks book before, but when Miriam from Hachette suggested that I might like it due to the seaside setting, I was thrilled to take her up on the offer of a copy. And I must say, I loved the setting. A shacky house on the beach, turtles fighting their way from their nest to the sea, the beach from the hot summer to the cool autumn days...what's not to love. But that is not the only enjoyable thing about this book. Mr. Sparks is a good writer, there are some very good characters, and I must say even my cold, gray heart was moved by the touching ending. It is also very refreshing to have a mainstream book give a very positive example of the role of God and religion, and such themes as faith and redemption, in a person life.
Ok, that is the good news.

On the more negative side, there is something rather formula like about this book. I can't say for a fact, but I would not be surprised if there are more than a few similarities between this book and others of Sparks' books. It was almost as if you could see Sparks making a list "rebellious girl, bad boy, good boy, loving parent, life changing crisis, stalking, fire, cute animals...ok, all set." To my mind, he squeezed just a bit too much into the story, went just a bit too over the top, made it all just a bit too melodramatic. When I read that he originally wrote this as a screenplay and that at some point in the near future we will see this as a feature film starring teen idol Miley Cyrus, I can't say I was at all surprised. This one has Big Screen written all over it.

Bottom line, The Last Song is a perfect end of summer read if you are looking for a heart-warming, coming of age, first love tear jerker. Fans of Sparks will no doubt enjoy it. As a first time reader of Sparks' book, I must admit that it was pretty entertaining, although I doubt I will become a regular fan.

My thanks to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for this book.

Take Your Cue From CueCat..and Tuesday Thinger

This week's Tuesday Thinger question, from Wendi's Book Corner, revolves around the CueCat, a device suggested on Library Thing to assist you in entering your book more quickly by reading the bar scan that is present on many new books. "The CueCat scanner is a cheap but effective barcode scanner that plugs into your computer's USB port. LibraryThing reads data from unmodified CueCats. They cost $15 each." But, as Wendi points out, there may be many other uses as well. Anything that has a UPC product barcode can be scanned, like wine..groceries...CDs...Dvds...golly gosh!

Questions: Do you have a CueCat? Have you thought of getting one? If you had it, would you explore the other uses such as creating a shopping list? Can you think of any helpful uses for the CueCat other than scanning your books into LT?

I don't have a CueCat, but thinking back to when I entered all my books on Library Thing, I wish that I had taken the time and the wee cash outlay to get one. As much as I love Library Thing, and you know that I do, entering 1000 book, one ISBN number at a time was a pain.

On the up side, it helped me organize my books (like I thought that would last) and cull out a few (like 10!) books to get rid of, it was still a time consuming pain. Piles of books all over the floor, double checking what I had entered and what I had not, Kitty (my imaginary kitty)cowering in imaginary fear of toppling real piles. It was a very stressful time for her.

But, foolish me, I thought that my CueCat days were behind me,
since now I only have to keep up with books that come into the house. Never did I consider that there were other uses. Like, that could be nice. Because I own a fair number of music CDs. Not as many as my books, certainly, but a fair number and my CD are subject to the same duplication fears that first compelled me to sign up with Library Thing. No one...I repeat NO ONE... needs more than one copy of The Chipmunks Greatest Christmas Hits. Although we all need one and if you don't have yours, I recommend you get online right this minute and buy one. Or two, since it makes the perfect holiday gift. But back to my point, just as it is so nice to have a neat list of all my books, it would be nice to have one of my CDs...and I can not face manually entering each one again.

Hmmm...seems there is some issue of having to "declaw" your CueCat. This will involve reading various Wikipedia article and I have my new iTouch to play with at the moment. I have games..a level..a nightlight! So that may have to wait. And then how will Kitty feel about CueCat. I don't want a cat fight on my hands...imaginary Kitty vs. electronic Cat-like device....I can see it now!

Speaking of pets...although don't tell him that's what he is...Let's see what little Bandit is up to this week...not that he sent me that promised post-haircut photo yet. But I still love him...I mean just look at him!

Monday, October 19, 2009

I'm Leaving a Wakeup Call...For Musing Monday!

Let's see what I can blatter on about this week, spurred on by the Musing Monday question at Just One More Page!

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS, post is about the read-a-thon…

Are you planning on participating in the upcoming 24 Hour Read-a-Thon (either as a reader or cheerleader)? Have you made any preparations for the event? And, veterans out there, any tips you’d like to share with the newbies?

How to put this in a diplomatic way...hmmmm....well, I am not really a joiner. My level of being part of a group effort in blogland would be...this. :-)
I admit, I have been vaguely aware of this upcoming Read-a-Thon, seeing mention of it here and there. How these various events come up with me having such a limited awareness, I don't quite understand. The same thing happen with BBAW. I have about 90 blog in my Google Reader, 90 that I check out almost every day, so how I missed, as usual, the planning and discussion of this, I am not sure. I live in a cloud...a hazy bubble....such is CaiteWorld. But I have an excuse.

First, what is the Read-a-Thon? Well, to quote the web site...
"What is Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon? For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs about our reading, and visit other readers’ blogs. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.

It was created by the beloved Dewey. The first one was held in October 2007. Dewey died in late 2008. We’re still saddened by her absence, but the show must go on. The read-a-thon was renamed to honor its founder in 2009."
So, people stay up for hours and read, and post about it and there are cheerleaders and prizes. But see, here is my problem with this particular event. As I have mentioned before, I am a shift worker. Not just an ordinary "I Work 3-11 or 11-7" shift worker. I work 12 shifts and they rotate. So, I work 6 am to 6 pm for a couple of days and then I am off for a couple of days. Then I work 6pm to 6am for a couple of day and then I am off again for a couple of days, back and forth, days and nights, nights and days, in 12 clips.

My point in telling ya all this is to explain that I am sleep obsessed. I have been doing this shift thing for years, for decades. As I was recently discussing with a Boss Man in my company that was involved with a federal panel (your tax money at work) studying this sort of shift work (we are federal regulated in our industry) people that succeed in shifts like this (which are common in our industry) put sleep as a top priority. If not, they burn out, get sick, go insane, drive off the side of the road on the way home. I have it down to a science at this point and am really pretty strict, in a bizarre way, about my sleeping schedule.
I am actually awake for 24 hour periods on a fairly regular basis. Often once a week. But for 12 of that I am working and the Boss People, not to mention the Fed Man, might get upset if I read for the entire period. And a non-scheduled 24 awakeness might throw my pattern into Chaos!!

But ya all have fun! If you need any tips at "working" for 24 hours, I'm ya Blogger! One suggestion...limit your caffeine. It will kill ya!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Feel Myself Being Pulled To The Dark Side...

In my continuing effort to bring you all sorts of e-book news, there is an interesting story in the NY Times about e-books and public libraries.
"Eager to attract digitally savvy patrons and capitalize on the growing popularity of electronic readers, public libraries across the country are expanding collections of books that reside on servers rather than shelves.

The idea is to capture borrowers who might not otherwise use the library, as well as to give existing customers the opportunity to try new formats."
Now there are a number of issues to be settled it seems. One is that these books can not, in the vast majority of cases, be downloaded to Kindles, because of Amazon propriety software. So let me see...if I choose an Evil Kindle, rather than the growing number of other e-readers, I cut myself off from major source of free books. Seems like more of an issue for the Kindle than the library or e-readers as a whole.
Then there is the issue that most libraries treat e-book loans like print copies, each 'copy' loaned out to one person at a time. So for a popular new book, there may be a 'line' just as there is for print books now. So the reader has a choice, as they do now, to buy it immediately or wait for a bit to get it free from a library.
And also there is the matter of now publishers feel about this issue of libraries and e-books.
"Publishers, inevitably, are nervous about allowing too much of their intellectual property to be offered free."
I am not really sure how that is any different from the issue of libraries and print books now. Can someone explain the difference to me? But regardless, if this format become more popular, which seems inevitable, I am sure in time it will all be settled.

I must say, I found this article quite thought provoking. Now, you know about my many concerns about e-books. No secret there. But if you combine the convenience of being able to instantly download a book, read it anywhere, anytime on a wide variety of devices from a PC to an e-book device to a cell phone for a 'loan' period of several weeks and then you make it FREE...ok, I must admit it, now you have my attention!

But I can't get that image of that prep school with the empty shelves from my mind... ;-)

Friday, October 16, 2009

a review of Raven Black

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
(Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312359669)

In this, the first in her Shetland Island Quartet, Cleeves introduces us to Inspector Jimmy Perez and the Shetland community that he calls home. On the surface, it is a rather remote community in the already remote Shetland island, a quiet, pleasant place where everyone knows their neighbors and no one locks their doors. But as is true in any good mystery, there are forces simmering below the surface that we will soon see.

Walking home one morning from dropping her little girl off at the local school, Fran Hunter, herself an artist, is drawn to something in a nearby field. She is struck by the image of black ravens, circling in the sky above a splash of red visible against the stark, new, white snow. She crossed the field for a closer look and is shocked to find the dead body of a young girl, a high school student who lived nearby. Around her neck is the red scarf she was strangled with.

Perez, the local inspector, begins the investigation, soon assisted by his colleagues from the mainland. Many of the locals turn there suspicions immediately to a local man, the odd, reclusive Magnus Tait, who was suspected in the disappearance of a little girl 8 years ago. Perez, who is from the neighboring Fair Isle but who attended school on the Shetlands as a boy and knows many of the locals, is not so easily convinced. Soon the investigation, will takes us into the lives of many in this small community, unveiling lies from both the past and into the present, throwing a wide web of suspicion, up to the mystery's quite surprising conclusion.

As I said, this is the first book in Cleeves quartet set in the Shetland Island but it is the second one of the series that I read. The other, White Nights, was one of the first books I reviewed when I started blogging and I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed this one. Cleeves is a very good writer who takes this book beyond a simply mystery story. First of all, the Shetland Islands are a wonderful setting for a book, the discussion about some of their cultural history, life on the island and the beautiful landscape very interesting. Second, Cleeves is very skilled at portraying an interesting cast of characters. Although there are a fairly large number of people in the book each is so very clearly drawn, there is no problem keeping them straight. This is a very character driven story, often advanced by Perez's quiet, unusual inquiries, revealing any number of strong motives. She also excels at portraying this small, isolated community and the interactions that can develop, especially in a group so easily cut off for periods of time from the rest of the world by the harsh weather. Years of history together, secrets know but often unspoken, show us that a small, rural location is no protection from the evils and jealousies of human nature everywhere.

For my money, this book, winner of the 2006 Duncan Lawrie Dagger for Best Crime Novel, and this whole series, including the third, Red Bones and Blue Lightning, which will be out in early 2010, is one that lovers of smart, well written mysteries can't go wrong with putting on their "to read" list.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

It's Lighthouse Time Again!

My dear readers and fellow lighthouse lovers, it that almost that very special time of year again, the weekend of the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge. What is the Lighthouse Challenge you ask. Well, according to the N.J. Lighthouse Society website (cool sound effects!)...
"The New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge® (a/k/a Lighthouse Challenge and the Challenge) is a non-profit event sponsored by the New Jersey Lighthouse Society (a/k/a NJLHS and the Society) for the purpose of raising awareness of and educating the public about lighthouses in general and New Jersey’s lighthouses, specifically. It is a two day event during which participants are “challenged” to visit each of New Jersey’s 11 land based lighthouses and 2 1st Order Fresnel Lenses on display at the Barnegat Historical Museum and the Cape May County Historical Museum. In 2009, we are celebrating our 10th Anniversary of presenting this event. To celebrate, we have added a Bonus Site - Ludlam’s Beach and two Bonus boat trips."
Now, I have mentioned this event before, but this year is very special. Yes, it is the challenge's 10th anniversary and that is special. But it is also, it seems, the last challenge for the near future. The folks that have organized it in the past have resigned and there is no replacement in sight, so if you live in the area and have though about doing it, this might be your LAST CHANCE! If you are interested, all the information is at their sight, with directions to all the lighthouses and times and such.

Sadly, I am working this weekend and can not take part, but I will be doing the Delaware Bay boat trip on Friday, to check out some of our water bound lighthouses.
Just my luck, I think some nasty weather is forecast, so we will see how that goes! :-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday- The Cloisters, NYC

...for more Wordless Wednesday, check out these.

You Can't Do This With an E-book...Lol

Photo from

Don't know what to do with those piles of old books? Need a place to set that martini and plate of canapes as you wile away your evenings? Well, here is an idea that will solve both problems. From the folks at Design*Sponge, the book strap side table!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Chance to Rant and Library Thing Together! How Perfect!

Oh my, it is late but still Tuesday. Once again that darn job and having to work for a living has delayed the really important things in life like Tuesday Thinger! So let's wander over to Wendi's Book Corner and check out this week's question. And maybe we will reward you with a wee picture of wee Bandit when we are done.

Questions: Do you read ebooks? Have you used Library Thing to record ebooks in your book shelves? Whether you do or don't currently read ebooks, if you read one, will you be including it in your book shelves, and will you tag it as an ebook?

You know, I try to be good. Try to keep the obsession under control and not rant about the Evil E-Books and then Wendi has to bring the topic up again. Well, what am I to do...I will have to talk about e-books, right? :-)
Now this may come as a surprise to you, my dear readers, but I do actually 'own' a few e-books, locked away somewhere on my computer. I have actually read a couple of them. I did not love the experience but I read them. Why, you may ask? Because they were free! And I was foolish and did not realize I would not like the format. Now some of you fans of those horrible e-reader devices will blame my lack of a pleasurable experience on the fact, perhaps, that I read them on a PC rather than an Evil Kindle device or such, and I admit, grudgingly, there may be something to that. But that was not the question was it? Which was...

Do I read e-books? No, not as a general rule. The few I read, in some distant past, like a couple of years ago, will remain unmentioned. I was motivated only by curiosity (it was a new idea) or greed (as I said, they were free). But if/when I do take up buying and reading e-books then yes, I will include them in my Library Thing library. Because as you may or may not remember, the primary reason I joined Library Thing was to keep track of my books. What I own, what I have read, what I own but have not read, what I borrowed, what I gave away. So I don't make the very foolish mistake of buying the same book twice.
Which has happen.
More than once.
So 'real' books, e-books, audio books or whatever form of books they come up with, they are all going in my LT library. And yes, I will tag them as such and in fact, most likely put them in their own collections.

But it seems that, at least for the foreseeable future, they will be very small collections. Tiny, empty collections.

Speaking of tiny things, I wonder how little Bandit is. I asked him to send me a picture of how he looked after his haircut last week, but he didn't, the little rascal.
So, since there is a chill in the air and the holiday season will be here before you know it, here is an old one, from Bandit's Christmas card last year. It goes nicely with the picture in my profile at the moment, wee caite with Santa. I'm beginning to think snowy, winter thoughts....

Monday, October 12, 2009

100 Favorite Musing Mondays of All Time!

I know that I, for one, love a good list, so let's check out this week's Musing Monday question from Just One More Page, which, oddly enough is about book lists...

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about books on your top book lists…
This past week, Borders re-released it’s 100 Favourite Books of All Times. Do you vote in these kinds of polls when they arise? Do you look through the list, or seek out books featured?

I don't know why, but I can't say that I have ever seem one of these lists to vote on. And quite honestly, while I must admit I went over and had a look at that Borders list, I don't put a lot of stock in lists that are voted on by 'regular' people. I much prefer ones voted on by irregular
Really, take a look at it...The Da Vinci Code, one of the favorite books OF ALL TIME!. All time?
If I believed that, I might give up reading altogether.

Sorry, I think my Da Vince Code issues might have gotten out of control there for a minute. Not for the last time no doubt. ;-)

But it is true. Lists like this are a better gauge of passing whims and popularity than quality and I am more interested in lists that might guide me to real quality books that somehow, in my many years of reading, I may have missed. I can see my copy of "1001 Books To Read Before You Die" sitting on my shelves and I have spent many a fascinating hour looking through it. As to there being some I have missed, I can assure you that sadly there are more than a few of those. Someday, I hope to correct that shortcoming in my education...if I live to be really, really old. Not least of all for the simple reason that many of these classics are simply great reads, rip-roaringly good stories. That is something I think we sometimes forget and would be wise to consider when we are looking for our next book to read. Maybe we should reach for one of these lists for a suggestion and consider picking up a classic rather than what is on the NY Times bestseller list this week.

One list of that sort that I saw recently was Newsweek's Top 100 Books, a "meta" list, complied from top 10 lists from a variety of sources. There is a wide variety of books on this one, from classics to modern fiction, from all sorts of writers, many I am sure we could all agree on and a few some of us might question. But bottom line, it is interesting and contains a number of books that I know I should read but haven't yet. If it contains books I think I should have read somewhere along the line, I know it is a pretty good "Best" list. And lists have a use, as the compilers of the Newsweek list say,
"..lists—dating back to, say, the Ten Commandments—have an undeniable appeal. And they often serve a useful purpose. They can focus the mind, stimulate discussion, help us make judgments, convey valuable information, and, yes, even encourage us to read books."
Thinking about books, talking about books, discussing, even disagreeing about books but most of all, reading books...I think we all agree those are good things!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Yes, the winner of Bending Toward the Sun is JenniferB and before you know it, the book will be on it's way to...wherever she is.

Thank you to all that entered my rather infrequent giveaway and thank you to the ever useful for picking a number when I ran out of fingers.

Last Chance...

A reminder that today is the last chance to enter the giveaway for Bending Toward the Sun. Run over and leave a comment if you haven't yet and are interested in having a chance to win!

Friday, October 9, 2009

a review of "Her Fearful Symmetry"

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
(Scribner, ISBN 978-1439165393)

Death, love, and obsession are at the center of this book from the sad opening scene to the very creepy last, our constant companions in this rather bizarre tale. The story begins with a death when, after a long, painful illness, middle aged Elspeth Noblin shuffle off this mortal coil. But while she is happy to be rid of the pain, she is not ready to be done with this world. As she hovers above her hospital deathbed, watching her grieving boyfriend, she realized that she might not have to.

"All the regrets and guilt and longing of her life came over her. No, she thought. I 'won't go.
One promise she certainly makes good on, because Elspeth, in all her spectral glory, is the central character of the book.

To the surprise of everyone, with two conditions, Elspeth has left her considerable fortune and her huge apartment, overlooking London's famous Highgate Cemetery, to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina, the daughters of her own estranged twin sister, Edie. The two conditions are that the girls, when they shortly reach the age of 21, will move from their suburban Chicago home and live in the apartment for a year. Elspeth's younger boyfriend, Robert, will be their downstairs neighbor. The second condition is that they will not allow their parents to enter the apartment. It seems there are secrets to be hidden, not the least of which is why the older twins have not seen each other for almost 20 years. And then there is the fact, which of course she was unaware of when she made the will, that Elspeth, or at least her ghost, will be residing in the apartment as well. Elspeth will be there, growing stronger, more knowledgeable in the abilities of ghosts, and casting her influence over Robert, still desperately in love with her, and the twins, especially the weaker, both physically and emotionally, Valentina. All of this will lead to a very shocking end.

This a very creepy book, but I don't really mean that in a necessarily good way. Don't get me wrong. I love creepy. After all, two of my favorite writers are Dean Koontz and Flannery O'Connor, two authors who excel at creepy. But this book is creepy without the grace, the goodness, that is ultimately at the heart of the work of those writers. Bottom line, all of the main characters of this book are rather unlikable. They are selfish and aimless and obsessed , making decisions that seem irrational at best and silly at worst. For example, we are to believe that Robert is totally in love with Elspeth, yet are never given any reason to know why. In fact, he says of her at one point,
"Elspeth isn't nice. Even when she was alive she wasn't very- she was witty and beautiful and fantastically original in- certain ways, but now that she's dead she seems to have lost some essential quality- compassion, or empathy, some human thing- I don't think you should trust her, Valentina."
But then why is Robert still so obsessed, so naive as to go along with her? The twins are also oddly unlikable, purposeless, obsessed with each other, still dressing alike, rarely apart, holding hands and sleeping together.
Yes, a bit creepy.

Actually, the only likable characters are their upstairs neighbor Martin, a very intelligent man with a very terrible case of OCD and his wife Marijke, who loves him deeply but must leave him to save her own sanity. Their story, about the length that real love will go to save that love was, for me, the brightest point in the book. The only likable thing about Julia is her friendship with Martin. Then there is the neighboring Highgate Cemetery, which is itself, in all it's overgrown, damp, mossy glory, a fascinating presence. I wish the rest of the characters had a touch of it's charm for me.

I must admit that I have not yet read Niffenegger's very popular previous book, The Time Traveler's Wife, and while I did not love this book, fans of that one may find it more appealing than I did. But even for Her Fearful Symmetry's issues, Niffenegger is a good enough and original enough writer that I look forward to checking that one out in the future.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wordless Wednesday- Canada Place

Thought I would try this out.
For more Wordless Wednesday check here.

As if E-Books Were Not Bad Enough....

You may have noticed that I am not a huge fan of the whole e-book "revolution". I have issues, issues with the readers and issues with the e-books themselves. In my opinion, e-books have not developed to a level that can match the experience of reading a book. Maybe they are more efficient, maybe the offer a certain convenience, if you are looking just in terms of relaying information. If a book is just a series of images of words, then maybe the e-book is a capable medium. But for me, dinosaur that I am, reading a book is about more than just the transfer of information. It is an experience and the e-book experience has some serious problems at this point.

But fear not! It seems that some publishers are ready to meet this challenge. According to an article in the NY Times,
" the age of the iPhone, Kindle and YouTube, the notion of the book is becoming increasingly elastic as publishers mash together text, video and Web features in a scramble to keep readers interested in an archaic form of entertainment.

On Thursday, for instance, Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King, is working with a multimedia partner to release four “vooks,” which intersperse videos throughout electronic text that can be read — and viewed — online or on an iPhone or iPod Touch."
Yes, it seems that what that "archaic form of entertainment", the book, needed all! But wait, there is even more on the horizon. Jude Deveraux, an author of some 36 romance books, now known as "straightforward text novels", has even more suggestions for the future "book".
"Ms. Deveraux said she envisioned new versions of books enhanced by music or even perfume. “I’d like to use all the senses,” she said.
Brian Tart, publisher of Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, which released “Level 26,” said he wanted the book’s text to be able to stand on its own, but the culture demanded rethinking the format."
Personally, I like using my imagination. I don't think the "format"...formally known as books...needs "rethinking."

And maybe I am not the only one to see some problems with this vision of the future.
If people develop a taste for this enhanced medium...formally known as books...will the next generation have the patience to sit and read Henry James or George Eliot? Will centuries of classics sit unread in the future, unless someone goes back enhances those dusty, old books and let's us smell the cologne Mr Rochester wore? Oh wait, that's right, they won't be sitting anywhere because all the libraries will be going digital, like my favorite prep school.

Happily, not everyone is on board.
"Some authors scoff at the idea of mixing the two mediums. As a novelist I would never ever allow videos to substitute for prose, said Walter Mosley, the author of “Devil in a Blue Dress” and other novels.

“Reading is one of the few experiences we have outside of relationships in which our cognitive abilities grow,” Mr. Mosley said. “And our cognitive abilities actually go backwards when we’re watching television or doing stuff on computers.”
So, what do you think? Is there something, anything, unique and special about the traditional book or is this just me, yet again, fighting the inevitable?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The FTC Says We All Have Our Price...

No doubt, you may have heard about the new FTC guidelines that it seems will effect bloggers and a need for "full-disclosure". Certainly, it seems to be all the talk on Twitter and various web outlets. If you have not heard about it, here is a bit from the AP story

"The Federal Trade Commission on Monday took steps to make product information and online reviews more accurate for consumers, regulating blogging for the first time and mandating that testimonials reflect typical results.

The FTC will require that writers on the Web clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products...

For bloggers, the FTC stopped short of specifying how they must disclose conflicts of interest. Rich Cleland, assistant director of the FTC's advertising practices division, said the disclosure must be "clear and conspicuous," no matter what form it will take..."
Now, we have had this discussion before, as to whether, as book bloggers, getting a free book effects our reviews. I will assure you, for what it is worth, that it does not in my case. No matter what the source, if I like it, I like it and if I don' will know it. But bottom line, you either believe that or not and quite honestly, that is a decision you have to make for very review, of every product you see online. Is that true with every blogger? Maybe, maybe not. I am sure most of us can name a blog, most likely one we no longer read, where the relationship between the blogger and a publicist or publisher seemed to get a bit too friendly and the 'review' seemed more like an advertisement. You know the old saying...Caveat Emptor. Yes, Buyer Beware, on the internet, even more than elsewhere. I don't have a problem with that.

What I do have a problem with is that so-called "legitimate" news sources do not fall under these rules. Because these institutions have a code of ethics, it seems, and can be trusted to self regulate. Because, I assume, a reporter or an editor can't be bought with free stuff or gifts...right? Hmmmmm....

So, anyhoo, if anyone gives me a free trip to Disney World in return for a review {{hint, hint}}, I will say so. More realistically, I will be happy to make note every time a review is of a book that I was given for free...even if it is one that Bandit gave me for my birthday! He knows I love books but he always tries to influence my reviews...

They Did the Mash... They Did the Monster Tag Mash ...on Tuesday Thinger!

Yes, it is once again time to extol another feature of my beloved Library Thing...and once again time to cyberly shout out to the world's cutest doggie, Bandit!
He thinks it should actually be called Bandit Tuesday, but that seems a bit over the top if you ask me.

So what could the Tuesday Thinger question possibly seems familiar...oh wait, I suggested it. Thankfully Wendi, over at Wendi's Book Corner made sense of the confusing info I sent. Now, even I understand Tagmash!

What is tagmash you ask? Well, on LT, you, and every other LT member can add tags to your books, describing categories or subjects you think describes your book. Fiction...chick-lit...vampires...English history...philosophy...whatever. But sometimes, the really interesting part is when you see how others tag the books you own, which Tagmash Overlap does, or when you want to use tagmash to find books similar to a book you liked. The possibilities are endless....and fun.

Questions: Have you searched for books using the Tagmash feature on the search page? If you took a look at the Tagmash Overlap, what did you think? Anything surprising pop up under the tagmashes? Any suggestions for next week's topic?

I have mentioned that I am not really looking for more books at the moment, haven't I? That I have a couple of years worth of a TBR pile? But once you look at tagmash, it is just too interesting to not look a bit. Pick any topics that interest you, from the search page go to tags, and enter them. As an example, I entered Russian, tea, cats...and came up with Alice in
Another interesting feature it that you can use one or two minus signs to exclude a tag from the search. A "single hyphen demotes it; two hyphens exclude it from the search."
It is a great search tool if you are looking for books about particular subjects. NOT that I am looking...much.

But the use that I really love is to see how other people tag my books and how, if you look at all my books as a whole, others tag them, what shakes out. Go to statistics/meme tab on your home page, on the right go down to tagmash and up they pop, sorted by "interestingness". As Tim explains it, "The results is, I think, a good list of topics you're interested in—topics more complex than a single tag can express." It really gives you an interesting overview of your library, as other see it, not just how you tag your books...murder, mystery, woman detectives, serial killers, horror, classic, crime, Catholic, humor...yep, that seems pretty on target for me!
Of course, it is also fun is to look at other people's libraries and their tagmash.

So, bottom line, if you have a library on Library Thing, tagmash can be both a useful tool to find books you might like, a fun way to take a different look at your own library and another great way to waste some time!

Speaking of a great way to waste's Bandit Time!!
Let's see if we can find a picture of the little fellow....

Of course, you might not know, but Bandit is a huge UofF Gator fan. Looks like he is settling in to watch a game here...

..and because he is so cute, here he is getting one of his many, many daily hugs.

Have a nice haircut today Bandit...and be sure to send us a picture of the outcome!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Musing Monday...Wishing List...Part III....

Seems someone is now interested in what is on our wishlists from last week, or so says this week's question from Just One More Page...

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about books on your wishlist…

Last week we talked about keeping a wishlist. Why not pull out that list and show us some of the books you’ve been eyeing off?

As I said last week, I have a wish list on Library Thing but it will be very hard to show you some of the books on it. Because as of the moment, I only have one book on my wishlist.

I had two, Evil at Heart and Her Fearful Symmetry but then I got Her Fearful Symmetry from the library and am reading it now, so that just leaves the one sad book. That is just pitiful, isn't it. How can a book lover have only one book on their wishlist?

Well, it may be because I have piles and piles, towering, imaginary cat threatening towers of books, hither and yon, upstairs and downstairs. See, where books are concerned, I have zero aptitude for delayed gratification. Which is unusual for me. Other purchases, I can mull over for weeks, months...years. Thinking if I really want to buy it, comparing different items, checking prices. But I hear or read about an interesting sounding book and I am off in search of it. Ideally, a used copy from Amazon Marketplace. If there is a very good copy, especially a hardcover copy for some unidentified reason, it is just too, too, easy to hit that "Buy Now with One-Click" button. Way too easy.

If it is a new book, I try that newly rediscovered resource of the library. Amazing...even if it is not out yet, I can put myself on the list for it...and it seems to be a short list usually...amuse myself with others books and soon they will call that it is in, just waiting for me. But the library is a dangerous place. They are still selling those books as one steps off the elevator, before you even get into the library, for just 25 or 50 cents. I went to pick up one book and can home with three.
Now you may start to see the problem with me and books.

Have you ever seen that TV show Hoarders? It is about people that hoard all sorts of junk, Collyer Brothers level hoarding. I saw it for the first time yesterday and I had a dream, a nightmare, about it last night. But it was my house and it was ALL BOOKS! Thousand and thousands of books. Of course, it was just a dream and my piles actually only take up a few square feet but I really have to consider using that BookMooch or PaperBackSwap or having a lot more giveaways.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Magical, Magical Place!

Have I ever mentioned that I am a HUGE Disney fan, especially a very big fan of Walt Disney World? Well, I am, because it is Magical Place! You didn't know that? You don't believe it? Well, I have proof. Ok, maybe not proof, but a swell look at a day in Disney World, shot in a way that gives it the appearance of a miniature world. I just love the very last scene.
"“A Day at the Magic Kingdom Park” is a never-before-seen look at the park in miniature scale. The video is created from a series of photos snapped inside the Magic Kingdom Park. And the trick is tilt-shift photography.

It’s a sunrise-to-sunset story told without words. But the message is clear — celebrate."
Check out this video... A Model Day At Disney World!

Friday, October 2, 2009

a review of "Bending Toward the Sun"..and A Giveaway.

Bending Toward the Sun: A Mother and Daughter Memoir by By Leslie Gilbert-Lurie with Rita Lurie
(Harper Collins, ISBN 978-0061734762

In a way, this book contains two different stories, two different, interrelated stories. The first is the story of Rita, who was just 5 years old in Poland in 1942, when her family was driven from their home, to spend the next two years hiding in a neighbor's attic. The second is the story of the how her trauma has affected the generations that have come after her, her children and even her grandchildren.

The first third or so of the book is Rita's recount of her early years and a remarkable story it is. For two years, almost to the day, she and 14 other members of her extended family hid in a small attic, with barely enough food to keep them alive, constantly in fear that someone would turn them into the Nazis. They watched as other members of their family were shot in the farm yard, and they watched as Rita's baby brother and then her mother died in front of their eyes. But even when the war came to an end, the trauma was not over. For another 5 years, her family wandered through Europe, from displaced person camp to displaced person camp, finally ending up in Italy, waiting and hoping to get visas to come to the United States. Medical issues, no doubt related to her confinement and malnutrition, plagued young Rita and fractures in the once close family began to appear. Her father remarried a woman he met in the DP camp, herself a survivor of Auschwitz, a stepmother Rita always has had a bad relationship with. Then they come to the US, first NYC, then Chicago, and ultimately for Rita, California, where the young woman, now married to Frank Laurie, raised her own family..and deals to this day with her own demons, including, at times, crippling depression.

The second part of the story is that told by her daughter Leslie and explores the legacy of her mother's experience on herself and her siblings and on the next generation, Rita's grandchildren. As Leslie writes about herself and her own daughter Mikaela,
"I learned that as a result of trauma passing from one generation to the next, it was not unusual to find children of Holocaust survivors, or the "Second Generation," as we came to be known, weighed down by feelings of loss, guilt, and anxiety, and trapped in a dynamic of mutual devotion and overprotection between parent and child...There was something particularly resilient about the strain of fear Mikaela seemed to have inherited...Like me, Mikaela, too, seemed to be trapped in the vortex of a tragedy that had taken place a half century before she was born."
I am sorry to say I did not find this part of the book as interesting as the first or convincing in it's ideas about the affects of trauma on the next generation. And it is an argument that takes up a large part of the book. Certainly Rita, like many parents, have had to cope with horrible childhood experiences and without question, what has formed a parent, for good and bad, is passed on to the next generation in some ways. Simply from a biological point of view though, Rita has suffered from severe depression her whole life, but I am not sure there is a connection to her childhood experiences since it seems her father and perhaps the generation before also suffered the same issue.
But most of all, I am afraid that emphasis may paint a not positive enough picture of what Rita has been able to accomplish. Coming from a terrible childhood, a childhood with lingering effects and without a well adjusted home life to draw on as an example, she and her husband Frank (an unsung hero of this family I would have like to know more about maybe) were able to establish what seems like a very good marriage, a marriage strong enough to deal with some real problems over the years. And they were able to raise three very accomplished, very successful and pretty well adjusted children. Rita is a beautiful, accomplished woman in her own right that has had nightmares to deal with, but she seems to have done a great job doing it.

For me, that was the real message of this book. Not so much what is the lingering effect of horrible experiences, but rather how a strong woman can overcome so much. As the title of the book say and as Leslie says about her mother,
"This book was written with the hope that children and grandchildren of trauma survivors—as well as others facing their own challenges—might find inspiration in my mother's courageous story...The fire of hate that the Nazis lit did not consume everything. The earth was scorched, but from the blackened ground new seeds sprouted. Their genes had been affected by the intensity of the heat, but grow they did, and thrive they would, as my mother would put it, "bending toward the sun." It is evidence that despite the depth of pain and horror we may experience, the will of the human spirit is irrepressible, and the blessing of life, of a new day in the sun, will ultimately prevail."
For those who are interested in reading about the Holocaust, the aftermath in Europe after WWII and an interesting story about a family dynamic, "Bending Toward the Sun" is a book that I think you will want to put on your 'to be read' list.

And in order to help one lucky reader do that, I am going to offer my very, very gently read hard cover copy in a giveaway. Just say you are interested, in a comment, and leave your e-mail info so I can get in touch with you to find where to send it. The contest will run a week and the winner will be chosen the evening of Saturday 10/10. I would hope that the winner will pass on their own opinion of the book in their own review.

My thanks to Julie at FSB Associates for this copy.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

For Your Viewing Pleasure....

I have mentioned before that my poor state, New Jersey, is so often misunderstood, the butt of jokes, so I like to take every opportunity to highlight positive things about my rather wee state. This afternoon, as I was watching the T and V, a movie came on, a great NJ movie, that I want to share. Not a mobster in sight, no urban blight, not one refinery to be seen, but rather a glimpse of a different side of the Garden State. The movie is The Station Agent, and it is, without a doubt, one of my favorite movies. Set in NJ, filmed in NJ, it is a small, lovely movie about loneliness and friendship, sweet and touching and, at times, quite funny. A must see if you are not familiar with it, a movie with three great performances by Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale, a movie that I think will just make you smile. If you have that Netflix thingie (a truly wonderful invention BTW), I recommend you put it in your queue.

A description from the movie's web site...
Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) is a man trying to live life on his own terms. Looking only to be left alone, he takes up residence in an rural town's old train depot. But much like the station agents that occupied small town depots before him, he finds himself reluctantly becoming enmeshed in the lives of his neighbors, especially Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), a forty-year-old artist struggling with the break up of her marriage, and Joe (Bobby Cannavale) a thirty-year-old with a talent for cooking and an insatiable hunger for conversation - whether anyone wants to talk to him or not.

The STATION AGENT is about three people with nothing in common, except their shared solitude, until chance circumstances bring their lives together. Before long, from this forgotten depot, this mismatched threesome forges an unlikely bond, which ultimately reveals that even isolation is better shared.