Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A note to my Blogger followers

Hey guys,

I'm slowly moving my favorite bits from this page over to my new Tumblr page, as well as plenty of new content. Blogger is just getting too glitchy for me. So come enjoy all the new stuff @ the new blog page, Hush It, I'm Reading. Thanks for reading my posts -- I look forward to hashing out a ton more books to come! :-)

Angie, a forever Rebel Reader

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hope & Heartache -- Strife in Japan, China & Cambodia

Right now I'm hoping I can get this post typed! What is it that makes pets want to lean against your arms when you're trying to type?! N E WAYZ... I actually have three short reads to discuss today -- similar themes of strife, but different locations.

The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd -- Mary MacKenzie is 20 years old and recently engaged to a military man in Peking, China. She endures a somewhat arduous sea trip to meet her fella in China (I hesitate calling him her love because the marriage seemed to be of the arranged sort, they didn't seem to know much of anything about each other). Mary marries, sets up house but later on finds herself in an affair with a Japanese man. The affair leads to pregnancy and social ostracization. Think The Scarlett Letter, but in China.

I typically really enjoy epistolary novels but something about this one just seemed to drag too much for me. I was all for it at the start but the entries just started sounding so dry after awhile. I got about halfway in and thought, Why don't I care more about all these people? Have you ever gotten to that point and then find yourself getting mad that you're just now realizing how you feel and you just wasted time that could have gone to a book you'd really love (but then, how do you know it's a book you love until you're all up in it?). I also thought it was odd and just a little creepy that Richard would tell his fiancee, shortly after meeting, that "in China, nothing is as it seems" and she would be good to remember that. WTH is that suppose to mean? I'd be asking what kind of hell I was walking into, with a comment like that! 

I never saw it, but a tv mini-series adaptation of the book was made in 1989.

Silk by Alessandro Baricco takes place between the years of 1861-1866, telling the tale of Herve Joncour, a French silk merchant who, over the course of these years, takes many trips to Japan, to arrange the purchase of silkworm eggs with one particular nobleman. Things get complicated when a young woman close to the nobleman, I got the impression she was a favored concubine, starts making secret passes at Herve (though neither speak the other's language). Herve, married btw, gets entangled in this mysterious infatuation, even encouraging it, though he doesn't fare too well in that dept. Meanwhile, Herve's wife, Helene, holds down the fort in France, enjoys her husband's growing fortune and pretends she doesn't know what's going on... at least not until the very end. And then Baricco throws in the heartbreaker letter.

author Alessandro Baricco

I picked up this book last year, thinking the title sounded familiar but not being able to remember past that. Turns out I hadn't read this book but was, in fact, thinking of The Lover by Marguerite Duras, which I did read years ago but didn't get all that excited over. Not sure why I connected the two in my brain since they have very little in common other than the Asian element and actual physical length of story. Both are easy, super short reads. But for whatever reason, The Lover just didn't pull me in the way Silk did. Baricco has the brilliant skill of being able to say a lot while virtually writing nothing. There are no big, showy "why yes, I did attend an Ivy League" words clogging up the story here He uses only the words you need as a reader to be right there with Herve. This book is less than 100 pages long, but I could vividly imagine every environment, feel the snow and fire, smell the flowers in the garden, you know how those kind of books feel :-) I also liked the history lessons slipped in -- 1869: the Suez Canal opens, making a trip to Japan about 20 days rather than months on end, while the return trip was often less than 20 days. Also, 1884: artificial silk was patented by Frenchman Hilaire Chardonnet. This is why I love historical fiction! You can learn the stuff without it being dry!

From a distance his wife Helene saw the carriage coming up the tree-lined driveway of the property. She told herself that she was not to cry and not to run away. She went down to the front door, opened it and stopped on the threshold. When Herve Joncour reached her, she smiled. He embraced her and quietly said to her: "Stay with me, please." That night they stayed up till late, seated beside each other on the lawn in front of their house. Helene told him... about all those ghastly months spent waiting, and those ghastly final days. "You were dead," she said. "And in the whole world there was nothing beautiful left."

I also got an inside chuckle when, upon reading the first few pages, I realized I knew this story from somewhere. I sat there thinking Had I read this before? Then it dawned on me -- I had actually seen the movie years ago without knowing anything about this novel. I think it was a movie channel freebie that came on one day. I don't remember a whole lot about the movie except the gorgeous cinematography, the woman Herve hires to read the letter from his admirer, and Keira Knightly playing long-suffering Helene (perfectly cast there, btw). Even the book had great cinematography -- I picture all my favorite books as if they're shot like Ang Lee movies lol.

Hold Fast 

Hold Fast by Lang Tang & Nicole Donoho -- This is a Kindle freebie I stumbled upon the other day. I just got a Kindle recently so I've been perusing the freebies pretty regularly to see what comes up. This one sounded like it could be a good educational read. This is Lang Tang's memoir about surviving life under the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. I was never taught much about the Khmer Rouge in school so I figured what better way to fill in the gaps than read a first person account, right? Tang has a pretty riveting story here. The writing is very simple and direct (but keep in mind he's an ESL student) but what he has to say pulled me in right away. I knew enough to know the Khmer Rouge were bad news, but I had no idea it went so far to where they had no qualms about killing their own followers without batting an eye. Tang survived by working for them, running errands mostly. Even being on their good side, as much as you can be I guess, he still spent most of his time under their rule half starved (the KR stole food from their followers / prisoners constantly) and nearly dead. It broke my heart that it took him years to get up the means and courage to travel to America, facing possible execution by the Khmer Rouge if caught escaping, but when he and his family got here, they had a whole new struggle with battling racism, xenophobia, red tape and Tang being color-blind, making finding work difficult. He persevered though. He was granted American citizenship in 1989 and went on to become a successful vitamin / dietary supplement distributor. By the end of this book, I realized that whatever excuse I have for not getting where I want to be is pretty invalid! You can visit Tang's Facebook page here to learn more about him.

**Just read on Tang's page that apparently the free price was just a promotional thing, ending on the 23rd (today) ... sorry readers!**

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Warm Fuzzies Day!!

Happy Valentine's Day, my book peeps! I have a few love inspired reads for y'all, including one for those who tend to cringe at the whole hearts & roses parade going by { God knows I was one myself for a good many years -- I'm still not super sappy but I did get married so I do indulge in cuddly, smooshy feelings from time to time ;-) }. My house has been a sort of sick house here lately with cold bugs & seasonal funk going through. Poor mister has quite the hack going on now, but he's hoping to be feeling well enough to have us out and about for a bit this afternoon. So, I'm getting this out now, leaving the day free to indulge in some rare couple-y time with my fella :-) Here's a few to check out:

 There's an Italian expression, not an expression, really, just a way of saying something, a  useful phrase, probably universal: Non vale la pena, "It's not worth the trouble." But in Italian if you get the gender wrong and say Non vale il peneyou're in trouble. "It's not worth the penis" is what you're saying.... I never quite understood the violent reactions I got, but it didn't matter. I was speaking Italian; I'd broken out of the prison of English. Finally, Signor Cipriani, the English teacher, took me aside and set me straight, but by that time the phrase had become fixed in my head, or on my tongue... It wasn't easy to change. I always had to stop and think: Not il pene but la pena. But you know, sometimes I think it doesn't make much difference, and sometimes I think my way is better. Every woman will know what I mean. ~~ The 16 Pleasures  (funny that this passage was written by a man!)

The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga -- short read, but gorgeous writing. Story of Margot Harrington, an American who goes to Italy in the 1960s to work as a "Mud Angel". Great book to curl up with if you want to spend the night in with no one to bug ya. Lots of talk of religion, classical art, Italian food and a young woman having the classic international romance with the older, "experienced"  Italian lover -- the kind of character that likes to call himself experienced when really it's typically just a euphemism for booty-call connoisseur. Also, I love how Margot talks about "settling" for a career as an antique book restorer. LOL. I thought I settled once when I spent a summer as a barista... hmm, think I could buckle down and "deal" with being a book restorer -- only one of my dream occupations :-P But if you're a hardcore bibliophile like me (and unapologetic about it) who loves not only stories but the paper they're written on and the binding they're captured in, there's lots of those little details given in this story so you should have a lot of fun with this one. The only thing that confused me was why the book flip-flopped between 1st and 3rd person narrative without explanation. Or maybe I missed the explanation in there somewhere.

How To Live With A Man (And Love It!) by Jennifer Worick  -- this is sort of a tongue-in-cheek manual for women on how to make co-habitation with your fella more enjoyable, how to be the perfect woman for him, how to get him to lock it down, etc. It features lots of vintage-y 1950s-60s photos and plays off of all those guides that were so popular back in our parents' day. There's lots of common sense & good advice for relationships here, but delivered in a comically vintage way. The talk of using positive reinforcement on your man reminded me of the Doris Day / Bobby Darin movie When A Man Answers (I think that's the one) where she trains her husband to behave better secretly using tips from a dog training manual. Worick suggests such ideas as "schedule a time to be spontaneous, as contrary as that may sound"; or when designing the baby nursery theme you may consider an outer space theme because "aliens are always nifty". :-)  But one tip she gives I know to be undeniably false in our house -- "Make baked beans and leave out the bacon. He will never miss that smoky pork product." LOL, well I figure if my fella is bringing home the bacon, least I can do is cook it for him! Judging from the grins he gets when he smells me making it, I can guarantee he'd miss it if I said nope, never again. So there's some fun tips and whatnot here, but my favorite part was just all the cool art & funny (but seriously, these are handy!) charts -- a few examples below:

I gotta give him favors every time he gets the oil changed?
Uh-oh... just remembered one of the cars is due! :-S

"A good cover does more than just help sell the work. It's important for the reader, because the image acts as an introduction and an epilogue to the story. It's what you ponder before diving into the first sentence, and what you stare at while the last line reverberates in your head. I have to say though, I think the person the cover of Girls In Trucks affected the most was me. This photograph finished my book for me. Before I saw it, Sarah Walters was just an idea. Now I know what she looks like. She's a girl both walking away and moving toward something. Scared but brave. Curious but hesitant. She's someone I feel I can talk to. And she's wearing a truly beautiful dress."  ~~ Katie Crouch

Girls In Trucks by Katie Crouch -- this is the anti-Valentine's Day (sort of) romance I mentioned at the top of this post. Sarah Walters (our heroine of sorts) is Southern born and bred, raised in the members only Camellias club, a debutante trainee circle where girls are trained in etiquette, classic dances, how to walk pretty and speak like a lady and how to catch a husband. And Sarah couldn't be more bored. But she goes through it all because it makes mamma happy. Well, Sarah grows up and finds what a sheltered existence the Camellias held her under. She leaves the South to find her sister in a bi-racial, bi-cultural relationship (something definitely not endorsed by the Camellias), and Sarah herself goes on to have a long-term, toxic relationship. But through all this, she has an honesty and a sense of humor that had me tearing through this book in one night. I was bummed at how she treats the one guy who seems to want to do right by her but she also admits she's screwed up and probably not a healthy choice for him to date. I loved how honest this girl was about herself, even if it wasn't pretty. At times she gets really dark. But that's the way life goes. I have some seriously dark days myself where it would be a pretty big suckfest of gloom for anyone to be around me. Then other days I laugh and say "Damn, life is crazy!" I guess that's why Sarah's darker parts didn't bother me. I've been there. If you check out this book on Amazon, it's gotten some pretty unfavorable reviews but I say give it a shot and decide for yourself. It's not that long a read and you're bound to find something you can relate to here. 

He looks up and smiles, and yup, there it is again, that pure-ray-of-sun smile. The kind God makes just to remind us of what He can do...Onstage, the ladies from the black church are singing like they are just positive God is right here, listening. And before yesterday, I'd wonder, How can you be so sure, ladies, how do you know? But I've got the best arm in the world draped around my shoulder, and I get it now. Seriously. So thank you, God. Thanks. 

Well, I'll let you get back to your loves, as I get back to mine now. Here's hoping it's a day of chocolate and great books for you all! :-)


 image from How To Live With A Man by Jennifer Worick

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Okay, Maybe Just One More....

With Thanksgiving in mind, I took a detour into a quick nonfiction read about the foods of our childhood, Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed The Way We Eat by Carolyn Wyman. This book is easily read in an afternoon, colorful, glossy, lots of pictures, and a ton of fun, trivial history about products we all remember from back in the day. We're talking Kool-Aid, Tang, Pillsbury, Jello, Green Giant, and a slew of other ones you'd recognize in an instant.

author Carolyn Wyman

It's hard not to get nutty for nostalgia during the holiday season, when so much time is spent around friends and family you either can't see during the rest of the year, or you're avoiding (hey, we all have those people in our lives lol). But what better time to indulge in a fun book like this. Check out all the cool stuff Wyman teaches you that you didn't really need to know, but now that you do, you can have something to throw into those awkward pauses when someone else says something mind-blowingly inappropriate and fight-inducing:

  • The story behind why Dinty Moore stew cans used to have a thumbprint on the lid
  • How sci-fi writer Gene Wolfe helped design the machine that makes Pringles (thank you!!)
  • How the Pringles shape helped inspire the shape of the Sydney Olympic Stadium
  • Jolly Green Giant, Tony The Tiger, Pillsbury Doughboy, Charlie The Tuna and the Keebler Elves were all designed by the same ad agency, Leo Burnett
  • Philadelphia Cream Cheese is not made in Philly, but do try their 3 Step Cheesecake anyway --- like you'd want to turn away cheesecake either way, right!
  • Who knew the inventor of Jell-O was a wee bit of a hottie back in his day!

And here's a little something not mentioned in the book, just my own observation, is it just me or does the 1936 incarnation of the Jolly Green Giant bear a bit of a resemblence to Jerry O'Connell?!

A really entertaining part of this book are the "Unauthorized Uses" sidebars, relating the not-endorsed-by-the-manufacturers uses for the products. Some of my favorites:

Coffemate Non Dairy Creamer :  clothes whitener (mixed with water makes a soaking solution), dry erase board cleaner, OR mixed with 2 parts hot water can be turned into liquid creamer

Tang: can be used to shampoo greasy hair, clean toilet bowls or dishwashers, wart treatment (Tang & water paste with a Band-Aid over it)

Kool-Aid: recreate your favorite discontinued flavors! Sharkleberry is 1/2 tsp each of Lemonade, Orange, Strawberry with 1 cup sugar and 1/2 gal of water. Sunshine Punch = 1 pack Orange + 1 pack Lemonade with the sugar and water. Wyman says you can find other flavor formulas at KoolAid Usernet Group.

Carnation Instant Breakfast: Did you know you can make ice cream from this stuff? Yep, mix 1 packet with 1 cup milk, put in a plastic container, stick in freezer until it's about half-frozen, still a little soft. Take out, throw into your blender, hit pulse until it looks like ice cream. This is just for a single serving so if you have friends around, you'll either have to do the math on that one or send them on their way before trying this ;-)

There's a good amount of quick and easy recipes in this book but the one I must say all of us need to try at least once (honey, I think I see another baked goods testing day in your future ;-P) is the Better Than Sex Cake (Better Than Sex?? You know we have to test that!!)  featuring one of my faves, Cool Whip! Or as we , thanks to Family Guy, like to say in our house, "Coo WHHip". Recipe link below pic. Enjoy!! 

Better Than Sex recipe

One Last Helping Of Harvest

Funny how you find yourself recovering from Thanksgiving excitement only to find yourself right up on Christmas craziness! The Fall / Winter transition with the holidays and all is my favorite time of year but yea... leaves me with a slight but constant weariness lol. My fatigue blended with a holiday helping of sinusitis left me with energy to do little more than delve into my books and my Kleenex box for a few days.

I opened up this book Harvest Moon by K.C. McKinnon (the penname of writer Catherine Pelletier) thinking it's a short read, should be a good, chill break from the more politically themed books I've been tearing through recently. Harvest Moon is the story of Maggie McIntyre, a forty-something whose husband does the mid-life crisis and runs off with his assistant. About to be a divorcee, Maggie herself runs off to re-start her life in the small Canadian town where she spent summers as a teenage girl. She hopes to reconnect with her first love, Robert Flaubert.

Apparently a movie version of this book was made a few years back,
I didn't see it but came across something about it when I was writing up this post.
Doesn't surprise me, this book reads like a Hallmark movie lol

I was pretty underwhelmed by this one. The story wasn't awful, I really liked the Canadian setting, but it didn't feel like the characters were developed enough to make the kind of epic love McKinnon was trying to create all that believable. I would say this had more the feel of a short story or novella. One reason I have a hard time getting into short stories is the length prohibits the kind of in-depth character development I really enjoy in novels. That was sort of the feeling I got here. The little bits of Robert's letters didn't really tug at my heart, they just sounded like a clingy teenage boy pushing too hard to have more than fun summer flings. A girl is suppose to make a forever decision that early in life? Calm down boy! Everyone thinks they "know" it's love with the first one, doesn't always make it so. Young Maggie isn't convinced it's forever love until years later when her marriage to another man flatlines and she starts to ask what if. She moves back to this town in Canada and sadly finds that Robert died a few years back from a heart attack. Within days of her arrival back in town, Maggie finds herself caught up in a romance with Robert's 20 something son, of all people.

I read a number of reviews on this book screaming "ICK!" over this but honestly it's not the worst plotline I've ever come across. It's not incestual, it's just kinda weird and unusual, out of the norm. The idea of the relationship with Robert's son didn't bother me -- I actually read a similar storyline in Emmeline by Judith Rossner --  but the forced "I've loved you so long even though I just met you" sentiment was a bit much. Robert naming his son Eliot because Maggie's favorite author was T.S. Eliot (before she discovers Yeats) even though Eliot's not her son (that WOULD be  exponential ICK!!) -- see what I mean about clingy? .... Eliot romancing Maggie with Neil Young's "Harvest Moon".... the whole book was on schmaltz overload -- though I admit, I do kinda like that song, mainly because it reminds me of my mom playing and singing to the record when I was a kid :-)

TYPO! "Eliot had begun to fidget, the toe of his book kicking now against the broken shards of coffee cup..."


Another thing I found funny, the pic of the Harvest Inn reminded me a little bit of the opening shot of the 1970s British comedy series, Fawlty Towers

The book did remind me of a great T.S. Eliot poem though, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".
Bit of a cumbersome title but definitely a beautiful poem. It's a little long, you can read the whole thing here, but here is an excerpt, just to give you an idea:

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats        5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….        10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,        15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,        20
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Love Me Some Lincoln!

All this election year hoopla has inspired me to check out books on past presidents and their leading ladies. Here I visit one of my favorites, Abraham Lincoln, who, according to a few biographies I've read on the guy, hated being called Abe. Whatever name you want to give him now, this man undeniably had a way with talking simply but strikingly. Not saying the guy was perfect or that every decision he made was brilliant... how could you say that about anyone? But man, to read back on even basic letters he wrote to people, one can find some touching, inspiring words! Most recently, I've read Abraham Lincoln: Theologian Of American Anguish by Elton Trueblood. Gotta say, the title alone intrigued me. Considering the title, I actually didn't get into this book for any Christian reasoning. I looked at it as another sort of history book. And it did not disappoint!

I had the Carl Sandburg Lincoln books when I was a kid {sadly, they got ruined while in storage at my parents' place years ago :-( } but had never come across this title before. This copy I have now was actually in a box of books one of my friends had pulled from a house that he helped clear out. He nearly threw them in the dumpster but I got the box from him, realizing when I got home that I had an autographed copy! Always a bonus :-)

author Elton Trueblood - from mises.org:
"David Elton Trueblood (1900–1994) was a noted 20th-century American Quaker author and theologian, former chaplain both to Harvard and Stanford universities."

At only 141 pages, this is a pretty easy, entertaining read -- easily done in an afternoon or evening lounging at home (if you're so lucky to have those :-D ). I didn't find the writing overly preachy but definitely informative, regardless of your faith. Some of the cool stuff Trueblood discusses:

  • Lincoln was the first President to establish an officially / federally recognized Thanksgiving Day. Lincoln originally encouraged 4 nationwide fasting and reflection days throughout the year but upon suggestion from a Quaker friend, decided one nationally recognized holiday for everyone was the way to go -- Lincoln wanted the day to be non-denominational, just a day where everyone could stop, collaborate and listen... jk.. couldn't resist... nah, he wanted people to stop, reflect, and be thankful and humble for their blessings, acknowledge their misguided actions but appreciate the lessons learned from them. 
  • Even though Lincoln was down for having a Thanksgiving Day, he actually pushed to keep legislation in session during Christmas. In fact, Lincoln had official work-related letters dated on Christmas Day! While he was a man of faith personally, he never outwardly subscribed to any one particular religion or followed any one church's religious holiday schedule. He found things he liked in several faiths. Even the night of his assassination, the night he was attending the theater with Mrs. Lincoln, was a Good Friday. 
  • Terms that are so commonly attached to American Government today, such as "Under God", recited by schoolchildren everywhere with the Pledge of Allegiance,  and "In God We Trust" lead back to Lincoln. Trueblood talks of how "Under God" does not appear in the first draft of The Gettysburg Address, leading one to believe it was something Lincoln ad-libbed in the moment and added in later when it was reprinted in the papers of the day. And it was Lincoln's administration who popularized the phrase "In God We Trust", a phrase we instantly associate with the National Treasury now. 
Abraham Lincoln
"Abraham Lincoln was not a religious leader in the conventional sense. Certainly he was not  professionally religious and he had no formal theological training. What he knew about prayer came not from books but from experience, much of  it agonizing. He was no flaming prophet like John the Baptist, nor was he an ecstatic arouser of men's emotions, like the Mahdi. He was, instead, as Horace Greeley said, 'a plain, true, earnest, patriotic man, gifted with common sense.'"

This book definitely had me thinking about our presidential election this year. Think about how many people on either side  of this election said that the opposing candidate winning would be the worst decision a voter could make. How many, on either side, said the opposing candidate would bring the country to ruination? Well, take a look at what was being said of Lincoln during one of his election years:

"Had we any respect for Mr. Lincoln, official or personal, as a man, or as President-Elect of the United States, his career and speeches on his way to the seat of government would have cruelly impaired it. We do not believe the Presidency can ever be more degraded by any of his successors, than it has been by him, even before his inauguration." ~ The Baltimore Sun

Or the 1864 New Year's edition of The Crisis:

The people of the North owe Mr. Lincoln nothing but eternal hatred and scorn. There are  500,000  new made graves; there are 500,000 orphans; there are 200,000 widows; there is a bottomless sea of blood, there is the Constitution broken; there are liberty and law -- liberty in chains and in a dungeon; thieves in the Treasury, provost marshals in the seats of justice, butchers in the pulpit -- and these are the things which we owe Mr. Lincoln.

WOW. Sound familiar? I'm recalling something about history and repetition... Imagine, Lincoln ever being considered the worst president in history! But in his time, there were people that honestly saw it that way. Just as now, there are people that things couldn't be worse. Trueblood makes a good point regarding the President and the press:

 During his first year as President, Lincoln was faced with public criticism of a bitterness which is hard to believe. All men in public life are forced to bear abuse, but few have faced it as much as Lincoln faced it day after day. The writers in the newspapers could sound smart because they did not have the responsibilities of decision, and they could sound bold by enunciating extreme positions which they were not required to implement. Lincoln, by contrast, in order to maintain integrity had to reject extremes because he was sworn to be faithful to the welfare of the entire nation. 

Reading about Lincoln, and how he solidified his stance on slavery (in part, finding support in the Bible verse Matthew 25:40 -- 'Inasmuch as ye have it done unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me'), it makes me ponder how Lincoln would view our president now. What would he say about the hateful, racist things said about the guy? What would be his words of wisdom to bring people together and pull their heads out of their asses? Would they listen? Regardless of what you might think of our president as a person or a leader, the amount of blatantly racist, uneducated, uninformed comments I've seen thrown his way just off of his race... I've found it utterly ridiculous that with all the information in the world now, people can still choose to remain so f-n stupid when it comes to race and respect for fellow human beings in general. But I was warmed by one story in particular in this book, regarding Lincoln and Quaker Eliza Gurney.

widow of  English Quaker Joseph Gurney and friend of Abraham Lincoln

During the Civil War, Eliza Gurney became concerned for the mental health of Lincoln, what with the stress of brother versus brother out there killing each other and him being held largely responsible. Gurney rounded up three of her fellow Quakers (John M. Whithall, Hannah B. Mott and James Carey) and walked over to the White House to visit him -- back in the days when it was still cool to just walk up to the front door like you were taking over some mail that got mistakenly delivered to your house. Gurney explained that they were not there to request anything of the strained president, but instead offered their spiritual support and friendship. They came in, did a prayer circle with the president. They only intended to stay 15 minutes or so, but Lincoln found himself so lifted and refreshed by being given the opportunity to share the weight of his burdens with genuinely concerned friends that he asked them to stay longer, do some more praying, more talking. One of the Quakers later wrote that at one point, there was a moment of silent prayer where the tears were just rolling down Lincoln's face. Lincoln was so moved by the day and the generosity of these people that he asked Eliza to continue to write to him so that he may continue to talk out his fears and have a friend / Friend to pray over him (a sort of unofficial therapist, maybe?). You just don't hear these kinds of stories that often these days. But it was sweet to picture what a gift this must have been to Lincoln.

"Lincoln was grateful for the confidence of those who supported him so loyally in his difficult task, but he was deeply sobered by the fact that almost two million of his fellow countrymen had voted against him." ~~ Elton Trueblood

Another vintage Lincoln book I highly recommend if you can find a copy is Lincoln: His Words And His World, published by Country Beautiful in 1965. My copy pictured below:

This book explores the man behind the presidency through his letters and speeches. Heavily illustrated, it offers a wealth of info on him that's easy to read in sections. Might be a bit of a treasure hunt involved finding a copy though -- I was given this copy when I was a kid and it's the only one I've come across in person. I'm sure there's gotta be some out there on Amazon and Ebay though :-) But hey, that's half the fun of a collectible library right? The hunt!

And, seeing as how this is a book blog, I thought I'd share the list from Trueblood's book of
Lincoln's Top 5 Most Influential Reads:

  1. The Bible
  2. The plays of Shakespeare
  3. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  4. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
  5. Life of Washington by Mason Locke Weems 

No beach reads for that guy!  :-P  I take that back, Robinson Crusoe is kind of a beach read... of a different sort lol.... see ya next time to talk about Lincoln's missus!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Heaven... I'm In Heaven :-)

I figured I'd title this post Heaven because I have been in some pretty major book bliss here lately AND the two books I want to talk about this time around deal with characters in Heaven. But before I get to those books -- check out my recent scores!!

A few days ago:

LOVE that the Dollar Store sells books! I've found some great ones there in recent months!
 (not just these, but previously too) -- That Evanovich one was one I grabbed for my mom, she loves the Stephanie Plum series. That Love Pirate one sounds dirty but it's actually about Jesse James' son -- the original 1800s one, not one of the slew of celebrities calling themselves that now -- tells the story of how he turned out after the murder of his father. Love me some history books :-) Grand Total here $7

 Clearance tables at Barnes and Noble -- do not miss checking out the red sticker deals! It's 50% off marked price so most of these only cost $2-3 a piece. Total was about $17 I think, with tax. I'm usually the book geek around here but the HG Wells and Jules Verne BDBs (Big Damn Books) were ones my hubby grabbed for himself. Hehe... passing on the illness one shopping trip at a time :-P

And, just today:

Went by the Goodwill to look and see about options for stuff my mom needed, didn't really find what I was looking for for her, thought I'd just glance real quick and see if any titles on my to get list popped out at me. Damn if even my quick glance turned out to be a stretch of time!  Found some great stuff though! About $15 worth here. Those two on the bottom are a couple I picked up at the Dollar Store today while I was picking up some cleaning & beauty product basics.  My husband's reply: "I think you're the only person left in NC who hasn't read Cold Mountain yet." In my defense, it's been on my list awhile, just haven't gotten to it -- and I DID see the movie lol. 

I've really gotta get my library renovation done lol. 

So about those books taking place in Heaven:

I started out with the YA (at least I think it's meant to be YA, the writing is entertaining but nothing super deep) novel Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. Pretty quick read, short chapters but I like the story. Liz is just shy of her 16th birthday when she's hit by a car one day while riding her bike to the mall. She doesn't die instantly, but is in a coma. After some time, the family reluctantly chooses to take her off life support and Liz boards the cruise ship (no really, in this book the dead go to Heaven on a cruise ship) to Elsewhere (aka Heaven) where she meets up with her Grandma Betty, who died from breast cancer before Liz was born. 

Didn't always like how Zevin described Heaven -- called Elsewhere in this book -- but like I'm going to fault her for how she imagines Heaven?
I like how Elsewhere had daily activities, "observation decks" where you can view your loved ones back on Earth, and everyone had to have a job but it had to be a "calling" rather than just something to do for money. You had to work a job that made your soul happy. I like that idea. Even up there, everyone gets to stay busy. I loved how Zevin made Marilyn Monroe a psychiatrist there. Can't imagine where you'd find me, right? LOL. That's right, that would be one stellarly kept library up there! In Elsewhere, there are people who fish all day, people who take care of pets that have passed on and are new to Elsewhere (that's Liz's job there). Just the idea of aging backwards made me sad for some reason. 

There's one of those "interview with the author" segments at the end of this book where Zevin is asked "What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?" Her response: "Assuming they'd read Elswhere, they'd probably be surprised to know how much I don't care about the afterlife. The way I really feel about it is 'que sera, sera'."

"Out my window, you'll see a library built by Frank Lloyd Wright. People who know these things say it's better than any of the buildings he did on Earth. And Elizabeth, it's not just buildings. You'll find new works here by many of your favorite artists. Books, paintings, music, whatever you're into! I just went to an exhibit of new paintings by Picasso, if you can believe it!" Liz's Grandma Betty introducing her to Elsewhere

When I was talking to my husband about some of the stuff I was reading in this story, I was surprised and impressed that a YA novel could so easily bring us to having this really interesting dialogue about how we imagined what's out there. Would we see each other? Would we see our beloved critters? How 'bout the pets from our childhoods? So yeah, this is a fun, fast read for those that like a dash of paranormal in their library, and it'll even get you thinking about life up there. Do we continue to love our loves? Do we get new loves?

Love In Heaven

Right around the time I was finishing this book, I saw that one of my favorite old movies, an adaptation of one of my favorite old books, was being aired that evening, so I went and grabbed my copy of the book to read that afternoon. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir by Josephine Leslie. This is the story of a widowed woman who decided to move out of the home of her husband's family and take her two children to live by the sea. She rents out a cottage formerly owned by Captain Daniel Gregg. Captain Gregg was rumored to have committed suicide and now haunts the house (he later sets the record straight about what really happened). The ghost-captain at first resists the presence of Mrs. Muir but they eventually come to an arrangement agreeable to both of them. Over the years, Captain Gregg becomes Mrs. Muir's best friend (aside from her housekeeper) and uses his skills from "the other side" to help her along in her life, while falling in love with her himself. Sweet, sweet story. Not to mention Captain Gregg's hilarious curses and outbursts at female silliness! Again, a very short read but perfect for a chilly day in! Get yourself a cuppa cocoa and settle in with this vintage paranormal romance


I've seen the film so many times, it's impossible for me to read the book and not put Captain Gregg's dialogue in Rex Harrison's voice :-P. The captain was a fun, salty character in the book but Harrison put a whole new element in it that just tickles me every time I watch the film. Not sure why but once the story made it to the silver screen, the son was not in the picture, only the daughter, played but a very young Natalie Wood. Gene Tierney was freakin' gorgeous as Mrs. Muir. But that fits because the character's name is Lucy, which the captain changes to Lucia, saying Lucy is more for women who whimper and whine and resort to the man for all answers but Lucia is for a strong and beautiful woman with life and spark in her veins. So you couldn't really have a real dowdy person playing Lucy / Lucia onscreen. 

Something interesting I learned watching the beginning credits of this film -- did you know Oleg Cassini designed Tierney's costumes for this film? Lucky girl! Tierney was actually married to the legendary fashion designer between 1941-1952

Rex Harrison as "The Ghost" Captain Gregg

Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison
“The Ghost And Mrs. Muir”, (1947)