Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lots of Food in the Books

Wow, has it been so long since I've written on this blog? Time sure does fly when you are living life, eh?

Strangely enough, as I'm looking through all of these books that I'm about to list, I'm noticing that I've been buying a lot of books that center around food. Am I lacking something in my life? Some type of nourishment that's missing? Hmmmm, food for thought.

anyway, let's get right to it, shall we? A couple of weeks ago, I felt like I hit the thrift store book find jackpot! The Salvation Army was fully stocked and I walked away with a stack of books. Then, I went to Beth's Book Box, a new used book store close to my 'hood and bought a few more books there. At the Book Box, I found:

The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal
Spotted in France by Gregory Edmont
Finding My Way by Evelyn Stefanson Nef
Cranberry Queen by Kathleen DeMarco

At Salvation Army:

Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi
Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Luscious Lemon by Heather Swain

In an attempt to find The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan for my required book club reading, I stopped in at Half Price Books and bought:

Ines of my Soul by Isabel Allende (loved all of her other books!)
The Wise Virgins by Leonard Woolf (yes, I do believe I already have this one, but, I couldn't pass up buying a LW book in a book store since I rarely see them).

I ordered The Middle Place online and am half way through. Sad, has had me on the verge of tears in a couple of spots, but a nice read. I'm pulling for her, hoping that all ends well, but I think her dad is going to die. Don't tell me!

We are going to be doing some kitchen remodeling so I popped into Borders to look through their remodeling books. While my husband was entertaining my two year old by allowing her to go up and down the escalator about two thousand times, I walked over to the biography section to browse. I happened to pick up A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi. I know, I never (or rarely) buy new books. I'm the one you see in a new book store either writing down the titles of books that I want to look for used or even going so far as taking pictures with my phone (when I'm either too lazy to look for a pen or paper). But, I was in the mood to spend some money and said, "What the hell, life is short." I bought it, read it in a couple of days and then looked her up on Google.

She is an American chef and food writer who, while traveling in Italy, meets an Italian man, falls in love, moves to Venice and marries the stranger, as she lovingly refers to him. She writes a lot about food and the Italian people. I loved reading it and reflecting back on my journies to Italy. Yes, the food was delicious and the people fascinating in their "old world" culture and traditions. I found that she has several other books that have come out after the one about her life in Venice. She travels to Umbria (which is the region in Italy where my husband and I were married), Tuscany and somewhere else.... can't remember. But, the point is that I now am going to order all of those other books, make my friends who enjoy cooking read them too and then have a dinner party with the recipes that come at the end of the books. Fascinating idea, isn't it? I bet you want to come to one of those dinners.

Then, I was book shopping at BookPeople for K.A. Holt's new book Mike Stellar: Nerves of Steel for my soon-to-be eleven year old son's birthday. Just so happens that K.A. Holt is a local author and they had signed copies in stock. Score! While there, I also picked up It Sucked and then I Cried by THE Heather Armstrong. Normally, I would have also looked for that used cause I'm cheap, but it was signed as well and I love Dooce! So, I am in the middle of reading that simultaneously, as I read The Middle Place-- book club is less than a week away and I didn't want to be "one of those" who don't actually read the book for book club.

I started to read The Ballad of the Low Lifes by Enrico Remmert and put it down without even making it out of the second chapter. My husband read it and really enjoyed it, but the way it was written just made it feel wrong. It's written as if someone is talking to me. I just didn't get into it and with so much to read, it wasn't worth my time to pull through. I'll save it and attempt it again when I run out of good books. Sorry Enrico.

And that's about it. I'm taking a book buying hiatus to try to catch up. I'll be back soon!

Monday, August 3, 2009

I Bought More

It's been a long time since I've bought any thrift store books. If I have to buy a book, it's only because I am reading it with my book club. IWhy is that? Why is the thrift store book bloggin' lady not buying anymore books? I have so many books that are unread from the past several months of thrift-store-book-buying sprees that I've had to really hold myself back each time I go into a thrift store. And, the last few times I've gone, they have been pretty low on quality-looking books. That was, until a few days ago.....

I couldn't resist the urge to buy. The Salvation Army was fully stocked again. Maybe they heard my grumblings about the lack of selection during my past visits and decided that they really didn't want to lose one of their best customers. Or, maybe all of the people who buy up thrift store books to sell on Ebay were on vacation. Whatever the case, they had some books in stock.

I only bought two because I was there with not only my two kids (one being a toddler who HAD to look at the toys), but a friend and her little toddler as well. So, between watching all three of them and trying to dig through the books, I could only grab two. And they are: Ready, Set, Green: Eight Weeks to Modern Eco-Living and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me.

Now, the Motherhood one I kind of picked up for a friend of mine who reads all things having to do with being a mom. I try to stay away from reading mom books since I write about being a mom on another site and am a mom every day. I kind of want to read something other than what I do everyday, but that's just me. I keep forgetting to give it to her though, so maybe it's a sign that I should read it first, to just give this motherhood book reading thing a try. I'll mull it over and let you know what I decide.

The Eco-Living book looked interesting. I try to be friendly to Mother Earth and so reading a book with more tips to help save the planet makes me feel good. And that's what reading should be about, right? Yes, it's printed on 100% post-consumer recycled stock paper. So all of that paper I drop off at the recycling center may have gone into the printing of this book. Cool, eh? I am going to learn so much about being Green and then will share everything I'm trying with you, HERE on this very blog.

I know, you love me for all of this sharing that I'm doing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm Impressed

In the dead of summer, when I conjure up an image of reading in a comfortable spot, I go to winter. Let me explain. Reading can be about killing time; just doing something to wile away the day. Or, reading can be about digging your butt into a comfy couch, wearing your most comfortable pajamas with a roaring fire burning in the fireplace, as a blanket of snow covers the ground outside. It becomes your safe, comfy place. It's warm, it's cozy; it's where you go in your head when you need to escape. For me, that place is winter, especially since I live in Austin- a place that offers months of relentless 100 plus degree weather in the summer time.

When I first opened up Einstein's Daughter: The Search for Lieserl, I immediately went to that comfort reading spot in my head. I imagined myself- no matter where I really was at the time- tucked into that cozy spot in the dead of winter. I sighed with contentment after reading the first chapter and settled in for the journey that I was about to embark on. It must be Michel Zackheim's writing skills, her way of telling a story, that makes me love her second book as much as I loved Violet's Embrace. Well, not quite as much, but close to it!

Once again, Zackheim goes in search of something; this time, it's finding the lost daughter of Albert Einstein. His first child, Lieserl, was born out of wedlock to his first wife, Mileva. Lieserl was born before they were married and before they added two more children to the family. Isn't that sad when you have to give up one child because you are not married or ready for children, only to get married and have more children with the same man? Talk about guilt.

Nowadays, having a child without being married is not necessarily a bad thing. But way back in 1902, in Serbia, where Mileva was from, this love child was not an acceptable thing. It was frowned upon to have a child without being married and so Mileva and Albert never spoke of their first child together. Mileva went to her family home, had the baby and acted like it didn't happen. There is no record of an adoption or of a death and so the mystery of what became of their daughter is born.

The search for Lieserl takes Michele, the author, traveling across several countries, including Serbia, where she met with Mileva's distant friends and relations. There, she had to overcome the Serbian way of keeping everything guarded closely, especially secrets of the family. Zackheim was quick to learn to respect the cultural difference that she was faced with and, many times, overcame this block to gain access to secrets that were supposed to be kept until you went to the grave. She was faced with lost documents, dates that didn't make sense, and people who didn't want to share their knowledge of a lost little girl. It read like a detective story at times, with me agonizing over what she would uncover in her quest for information. Many times, I felt frustrated for her and it made me like Zackheim that much more for her diligence in her art. It took five years for Zackheim to write this story. I bow to her for what she accomplished.

I also had to have diligence while reading this book. Do you know how hard it was to not Google anything about this story? No searches for Lieserl or Mileva. No searches for Albert Einstein (and boy, he sure was quite the jerk). I just allowed the story to unfold in front of me without sneaking a peek at what the outcome was. Tough, I tell you. But I made it through and waited until the end to Google until my heart was content.

I took Einstein's Daughter with me while on vacation with my family; we took a road trip from Texas to Virginia. I'm a bit of a control freak, even when it comes to driving. I don't like anyone else behind the wheel. So I had long thirteen hour days of driving. When we'd at last reach one of our destinations, all I wanted to do was sleep, but I couldn't resist the pull to read this book and to find out what happened to Lieserl. I stayed up when I should have been asleep to prepare again for another long day on the road just to get to the end of this book. It was so worth it.

You'll have to read it to find out who the real Lieserl Einstein is; I'm not going to tell. Stay away from Google while reading it. And give Michele Zackheim a round of applause for yet another well-written, page turner!

And, by the way, I like the name Lieserl. I think I will throw that into the name box if I ever have another daughter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Again and Again

The last book that I finished was a really good book to bring along on vacation. It was intriguing enough to make me want to read it and it was light enough reading to carry around while traveling. The book was Replay by Ken Grimwood. It was recommended by a member in my book club and was chosen to be our May book selection.

Replay is about a man who dies from a heart attack and relives his live several times over, making many different mistakes with each fresh life. The first time that he dies and comes back, he wakes up confused in his college boy body. He quickly figures out what happened (I think I would have been confused for much longer) and goes on to make millions by making bets on things that he already knows the outcome of or by playing the stock market. He marries, has a daughter and then dies again.

And again.

And again.

Each life is lived a little differently with the middle ones being lived in a pissed off way. And no kidding... I'd be pissed too if I had to do it all over again. Sure, maybe reliving one life- having a chance to do it all over again- would be kind of cool, especially if you were rich. And then, what the heck, have a try at it once more. But after that, I'd get a little pissy, too. Poor guy. I felt his pain of coming back again and again.

The middle of the book takes a turn and has a bit of a surprise that I won't share with you so I don't ruin the entire story. But trust me, it's a good read. Very good timing for an interesting beach book, if you happen to be looking for one.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Santa Clara, California, The room is nicely done; it's completely renovated with all of the conveniences a modern hotel should have. And it's not only a hotel room, but a one bedroom hotel room, complete with a door on the bedroom!

I find myself sitting in this nice room, waiting quietly for my daughter to wake from her nap in the bedroom that has an actual door (if you are a parent and do any type of traveling with kids, you'll understand the importance of this door). I'm wondering what to do; I'm not at home so I can't clean or fix something. There's no laundry to do. No dinner to prepare. I can't leave the hotel room to do anything because my child can't be left alone. I stand to look out the window- cause I actually have some spare time to gaze longingly out of a window- and realize that it's awfully bright in here. I like it dark and cozy. What the hell am I doing with the curtains open so that the sun has full access to my room? That's not like me. So I pull the blinders across the window most of the way, allowing a tiny amount of sunlight in, and the room transforms into my den; a dark, cozy room that's now the perfect setting to read or write. I pull up the chair, brew some hotel packet coffee, logon to my laptop and find myself here, ready to tell you about my latest read.

One morning, many months ago, I met a friend for coffee. We both realized around the same time that we were avid readers and decided to use this opportunity of meeting for a book exchange. What a great way- and a free way- to get more books to read. At the end of our session of chatting it up with some brew from the heavens above, we went to our cars and did the exchange. In the stack that I got was a book called Loving Frank by Nancy Horan.

It had been months since our book exchange and I felt kind of guilty for not reading any of the books that she gave me. And what if, at our next meeting, she asks me if I liked the books. I needed a response. A real response, just in case she decided to quiz me.

I didn't know much about Frank Lloyd Wright, and if you're the same, I won't ruin the story for you (like one of my good friends did while I was reading the book- flaunting her knowledge about his life and all!). Loving Frank is about Frank's affair with a married woman named Mamah Borthwick Cheney and the trials and tribulations that they go through to be together. It takes place in a different time- a time when cheating on a husband was regarded as a very, very bad thing to do. Cheating on a wife, that was a little more acceptable- still bad, but not as bad as what a woman might have to endure. Frank was also married to a woman named Catherine, but he seemed to struggle much less with the decision to move on without his kids.

Mamah ends up leaving, not only her husband, but her two kids as well. That really broke my heart to read about. It made me angry to think that a woman can give up her kids to be with another. I understand marriages not working out.... I'm divorced and have a child with my ex-husband. I also have that wanderlust spirit in me and if I didn't have my son, I would have up and moved at least a couple of times now. But, I stay. I stay so that my kid has both parents. I stay because I don't want to have to make him chose which one to live with. And I stay so that I don't ever have to give him up. It's somewhat simple in my mind. Do what you need to do and then be there for your kids. If that doing what you need to do involves leaving your kids behind, figure out something else because you're going to hurt those babies of yours and yourself in the long run.

The author did a great job of making you feel Mamah's sadness because she left her kids behind, but it was a sadness that I didn't really want to feel, especially because I do most of my reading at night, right before I drift off into dreamland. Yes, I had a couple of dreams about this and woke up in a bad mood because of those miserable dreams.

During Mamah's travels with Frank (they spend time in Germany and Italy), she meets Ellen Key, a well-known feminist who wrote several books on the feminist movement. So, that got me to thinking: does being a feminist make it ok to have kids and then run off and leave them because you realize there are other things to do? Does being a feminist mean that you shouldn't always have to be with your kids to raise them and then send them off when they are old enough to cope in the world without mama? What exactly does being a feminist mean? Especially these days? Has the woman's movement pushed us all a little too far and away from our kids by making it ok to not be so into being a mom?

What do you think?

I finished the book depressed by the entire story. Not to say that it wasn't a good book. It was just sad. Definitely not a story to lift your spirits. I did like it nonetheless. In fact, I plan on passing the book down to a friend of mine whose mother just graduated from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Taliesin. I thought she might like to read it since she has a closer connection through her mother to Frank.

Now I'm off to do some reading while the little one still sleeps. A two hour time change has made my little girl sleepy and given me some unexpected spare time!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Red Leather Diary

My book club chose to read The Red Leather Diary for the month of May. I bought the book online and couldn't wait to start reading it. Why was I so anxious to get it in the mail? Because it's about something found in the trash that tells a story of another woman's life. Sounds good, eh?

It all starts with a bunch (I think close to 100, if memory serves me correctly) very old steamer trunks that are being dug up from the basement of an apartment building in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Lily Kopel, the author of the book, is a budding writer for the New York Times who happens to be living in the building at the time that the management decides it's time to clean out the basement. On her way to work one morning, she finds a trash bin full of old stuff in trunks and then hops on into the dumpster to begin her dig.

Let me stop here to say that my chest was tight when I was reading that part of the story. How could all of that cool old stuff be so overlooked? Were they really going to just trash everything without even looking through the trunks? How insane! I wanted desperately to be there, digging my way through the private lives of unknown people with her. Ah, the joy of digging through the trash... you never know what you'll find. (I'm being a bit silly... I don't go digging in the trash, at least not that often.)

Among other vintage items that Lily couldn't part with, she finds a red leather diary that belonged to Florence Wolfson- a teen aged girl who received the journal as a gift for her fourteenth birthday. In her diary, which she writes in on a daily basis, she journals about the big and small things in her life; what it's like to as a socialite living in the upper class of New York City, her dreams and aspirations as a soon-to-be-woman, her lovers (many of them were lesbian relationships), and her school and family experiences. On a side note, I thought people back then didn't have sex until they were married. Wow, there was lots of sex before marriage happening in the 1930's. Very impressive.

Lily uses her skills as a journalist and the help of an investigator to track down the original owner of the diary (Florence lives in Florida now and is in her nineties) and the book is born.

The idea of the book was wonderful, but I thought it wasn't written as well as it could have been. I understand that the author tried to recreate Florence's world, and I appreciated the history of what it was like in New York at that time. However, I thought that her story could have been told a little better. By the end of the book, I still had so many questions.

I finished reading this book while on a plane ride back from a weekend without my kids and husband in Los Angeles, therefore, I had plenty of time to think about it. What's impressive to me is that the yearning that women have for a life of their own, lived on their own terms, hasn't changed much in the last hundred years. But does society still secretly urge young girls to hurry up and find herself a husband to have babies with? Is there still that pressure for women to have an identity that's tied into a man to be successful? I wonder.

Florence was incredibly gifted and could have gone on to make a life for herself, as an artist, a writer; whatever she wanted to be, she was the type of person who probably could have pulled it off. But what did she do? She up and got married and had babies and stayed home to raise those babies. Not that that's a bad thing. But why? Why did she cave to the pressure of society and her parents to do what was required of women at the time? What happened in Florence's life after she quit writing in the diary? What propelled her to make the decisions that she did?

See what I mean? I wanted more when the book was done. Not having closure at the end of a book is never a good thing, unless there's a sequel planned. I doubt it's going to happen with this one, so I will just have to make assumptions in the case of Florence Wolfson and her life that she lived.

What was the general thought from the others in the group who read the book? There were a couple who didn't like it, possibly because she had non-traditional relationships and many people don't like reading about people who are gay (even if they are only gay for a short period of time). I think I asked why, but I can't remember their reason for not liking it now. Must have been the two beers that I had downed by the time we started talking about the book that made me forget parts of the conversation. But, the majority of the ladies seemed to like the book. In fact, we spent the most time talking about this book than any other in our book club for the past year and a half. So I'd say you should buy it and read it. And tell me what you think. But make sure I haven't started drinking yet or I'll just forget what you said.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm Not Moving Anytime Soon

I stayed up until 2:17am on the eve of Mother's Day trying to finish up The Package Deal. I was close enough, or so I thought, to the end, and I thought, "What the hell.... I get to sleep in tomorrow for Mother's Day, so I might as well stay up late to read."

Wrong decision. It's not that the book was bad and that's what made it a bad decision. On the contrary, it was a great read. Why, you ask, was it a bad choice to stay awake way past my bedtime reading? Well, the cute little two year old in my house decided that she was going to wake up early, which would not have been such a biggie because Papa would take care of her. But she also decided to be really cranky and cry until 10:00am. So, I slept for five minutes, woke up for twenty. Slept for five, woke up for ten.... you get it. Not much sleeping in on MY DAY!

Oh well. This is how the story goes if there are little kids around. Gotta prepare for the unexpected, right?

While reading Izzy's book, I had lots on my mind. You see, I have a ten year old son from a previous marriage, and he now has a stepmom of his own. So reading a book about a single woman shedding her single woman skin and growing into her role as full-time mama made me think of the other woman in my son's life- his stepmother. We have a fairly decent relationship with each other- no fighting or jealousy that is typically so common between two women sharing kids. My son's stepmom already had two kids of her own, so it was probably much easier for her to transition to being a stepmom. And she did a good job of not taking over the roll of mother. Somehow we just made it all ok.

Izzy, she didn't have kids of her own. Now, some of you may argue that she became a stepmom to two older kids- like somehow that's easier than inheriting a toddler or a baby. I tend to disagree. While little kids are ton of work, taking two older kids who already know what's going on seems to me like it might be a bit tougher to handle, especially on an emotional level for all who are involved. Less physical work with younger kids, more mental work with older ones. Those older boys have been around the block once or twice. There's no fooling them like you could with a little toddler or baby.

A couple of things that really made me appreciate reading The Package Deal:

1. I am happy that all four of my son's parents live in the same area. Oh, how I've wanted many times to pack up and move. Anywhere, really. In my soul, I'm a wanderer looking for new adventures and new ways to live life. And now that I am married to a German and have an opportunity to live in Europe again, it's very hard to stay put sometimes. The things I could do in Europe! Ah, the places to go and people to meet! But what would moving away do to my son, whose father would stay in Texas (because he LOVES Texas and would never be happy anywhere else)? It'd be horrible on him. He'd likely have to choose which parent to spend the majority of his time with, and there's no way in hell I'd let him go. Off to court we'd surely go.

So, thanks to the story, I know for sure that I will be in Texas for another 7 years. Bummer that for my wandering soul, but happy to know that my child will have one less thing to hold against me when he's older. A small sacrifice to make to raise my child.

And number 2: Where was the biomom in all of this? In the book, they (the four parents) agreed to move in a pack, more or less. If one parent got a job offer that was a better opportunity for their career, they'd all pack up and move together to make the raising of the kids easier. Well, this didn't work out and the real mom ended up staying in California. The two kids moved with the dad (and the writer of this book) to Austin. They ended up staying with them in Austin for months, apparently not seeing the real mom. And then, when Izzy had a chance to sit with the biomom to ask if she was indeed still planning on moving to Austin,(to raise HER KIDS), she was very aloof about it all and actually said something like, "Let me know if you want me to take them back."

What the fuck? Izzy Rose did a very good job not talking bad about the biomom because I instantly judged her from that comment. I'm human. What can I say?
What kind of mother would just let her kids go so easily? It made me incredibly judgemental of the biomom and very impressed with Izzy for standing in as she did to take care of these kids. Sure, I don't know the other side or the extenuating circumstances... blah blah blah... I just wanted to judge her alright. Luckily, for those boys, Izzy somehow knew the bottom line was to take care of these two kids who happened to be born from another. How cool is that?

And, it would appear that biomom has kids from her new marriage (as do I). It made me realize the importance of blending the families so the kids from the new marriages don't feel less special. It's a tough thing to do, especially if there's a huge age difference between the kids. But, I think after reading this, I will make an extra effort to make sure my son knows that he's just as special as the "new" kid in the house! I could never replace him with another.

She cracked me up talking about how she didn't want the dirt from the kids in her house and on her furniture. And let me tell you, she's not alone in that thinking. Birth mothers feel the same way! I can't tell you how many times I look at all of the sweaty, dirty kids with their freakin feet on my sofa and have a little attack of he sight of it. Gross!

Long story short, it was a good book. I talked with another lady who was reading it and said she was offended within the first 14 pages. I thought that was interesting- not the type of book I would think anyone could find offensive, so I'm wondering what you think about it. Have you read it? Did you delight in Izzy's accomplishments as a single woman who turned into super stepmom to two older boys? Did you find her offensive?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Laughing Out Loud

I finished reading In Transit yesterday. I have to say that I was a little disappointed; the book just wasn't as heavy as I thought it would be. I'll admit that the character, Bryan, had some issues. He was a big fan of sadomasochism, slept with many women- prostitutes, transvestites and all- without having much of a need to develop a true tie to anyone. For some reason, I think I was expecting much worse. Maybe I'm just one fucked up woman for thinking that the content wasn't as dicey as I thought it could have been. But writing about a sexually abused character is tough. I should know. I'm stalled out and the character in my book is me!

Some thoughts that I had when reading this book: Do all survivors of childhood sexual abuse grow up to never outgrow their issues? What's the success rate of a survivor growing up to not become an alcoholic, drug addict, loner, sex abuser or all out psycho? What can change in our society to make these many masses of people who were or are being abused heal to go on to lead a happy, successful life? I think that was the heaviest thing about this book for me.

In the book, they tried to figure out what happened to the character when he was young. He had memories of the abuse, but they weren't very clear. Most of the people that knew the people involved kept their mouths shut, as they didn't want to have anything to do with it. I fear that this is how the majority of our society is. And how exactly can someone heal from their past if everyone who may be able to help claims to not remember any details. Yes, that part of the book pissed me off.

I also felt a little disappointed that I couldn't get more into the character's head. I wasn't clear on all of the details of his abuse, nor did I really feel any empathy for him because he was so distant. Which, I'm assuming that's how the author intended the reader to feel about him?

Overall, the writing was good. The story was easy to follow, although it was lacking some of the punch that I thought it would have. Would I recommend it? I certainly would if it was a beginner book for someone reading about sexual abuse. It was sad, but not in a rip your heart out and make you vomit kind of way.

What am I reading now, you ask? The Package Deal: My (not-so) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom is my newest book. It was written by Izzy Rose, another local Austin author. She is the creator of a website that offers support to stepmoms around the world.

I started to read this book before I was finished with In Transit because I am going to Izzy's Book Launch Party at BookPeople on Friday night (If you live in Austin, head down there at 7:00pm... there will be cupcakes from Hey Cupcake and cocktails!!). I wanted to be able to talk with her about it and ask questions, should there be an opportunity. I love it so far. I'm about a quarter of the way into the book and it's actually making me laugh out loud! Huh, I almost never laugh out loud when I'm reading. That's actually a pet peeve of mine, come to think of it. I can't stand when someone is reading next to me and they start laughing. It's like I'm expected to ask why they are laughing and get into the book with them. I don't like that kind of pressure.

Anyway, this book is a must read, even if you are not a stepmom, mom or woman. She's a great storyteller with an awesome sense of humor. Makes me want to go out for cocktails with her so that we can laugh out loud.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Thought I Could

I really thought that I could get away with only posting about books that I find in thrift stores on this here blog. I convinced myself that I could spend most of my time reading said thrift store books (because I have so many of 'em). Instead, what I've found is that more books seem to find their way into my life through other means. Then, I have to read those books and neglect the ones that I find at the thrift stores. Such a sad story, but true.

The thrift store books have been left alone, sitting on top of shelves or armoires, waiting for their turn in my life. This fact, dear readers, contributes to the lack of postings recently.

Yes, I've still been reading. Straight Up and Dirty, by Stephanie Klein because it was chosen by other members in my book club. And we got to sit and chat it up with the author, as she lives in Austin and was kind enough to meet us at a little not-so-good but fancy looking bistro here in Austin.

I've put aside La Batarde because I had to hurry up and read Straight Up and Dirty. I have to admit that I miss Miss. Leduc from La Batarde. I keep thinking of her and want more. At last, I thought I could pick it back up and continue where I left off. Wrong. Foiled again!

Yesterday, I met a very interesting (and I use interesting in the true sense of the word, not the interesting bad kind of way) local author who had a couple of books that she was promoting at the Maifest at the German-Texas Heritage Society. Her name is Ute Carson. She wrote a book called In Transit, which is about a sexually abused boy whose mother just died and he goes in transit to make his way through a relationship with a woman called Blanca. I just started to read it and so that's really all I can offer up at this moment.

Writing a book on my own childhood sexual abuse, I simply couldn't pass this one up. I've been pondering this whole sexual abuse issue over and over in my mind lately. Partly because it's an issue that is always on my mind- it lives in me and will never go away, no matter how much I heal. And, it's also because I'm working out the details in my mind about how I can present my story to others. And I wonder: Is it too heavy of a subject to write about? Will people even want to read something that weighs so heavily on them? Should I write it as a fictional piece rather than an autobiographical one? Should I even care about what others will like and just write it as therapy for myself? Ah, my mind never shuts down, people.

I sat and listened to the remarks that people were making yesterday about the subject of In Transit. One older man, after hearing the description from another, made a comment that it's just not something for him. Another younger woman glazed over when it was being described to her. Me, I will share my tale of abuse with anyone who wants to hear it. I'll also gladly listen when someone needs to talk. It's a heavy subject, but that's probably one of the reasons why there are so many cases of child abuse. If only more people could learn to listen, to talk, things could then begin to change. It wouldn't be swept under the rug and not talked about. Yesterday opened up a whole new perspective for me.

Now, readers, do you see why I have to share what I think and feel about this new book that made its way into my life? Are you willing to listen with an open heart and open mind about a story of a sexually abused man trying to figure out where he stands in life?

I realize that keeping an open mind is sometimes better than sticking to our guns.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Mood Lifter

Funny how an action like reading a book can make me feel excited again. Yes, it's strange that finishing a book and finding another that connects you in the same way can begin to lift the veil of numbness that has settled on me over the past few years.

Sometimes in life we get a little down and out. And that's alright. The important thing about these ups and downs is that we come back out on top. For some people, it takes medication. For me, the revitalisation comes from connecting with a dead writer. Yes, leave it to me to find a strange way to come out of a little depression.

As a child who spent many years being sexually abused, it's taken its toll on my life in many areas, which I won't go into details about- at least not today. The truth of the matter is that words can be a great therapy. And this is what I'm learning from Violette Leduc's writing. I've found some excitement again in what I'm reading. I've found some inspiration in the words that she's written. Finally a sense of who I am comes back.

See what a little reading can do for your life. Who needs prozac?

Want some of what I've got? Pick up a copy of La Batarde and throw away that bottle of pills in your medicine chest.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Finshed It

I finished reading Violette's Embrace. I was sad to end it. It was perhaps one of my favorite books ever. I related so well to the characters in the book and I felt like it was just too good to end. I wanted to snoop around more and find out if Lili dies or if she and Michele stay in contact. Of course, Violette dies and then that's the end of the book. I'm not spoiling it by telling you that, because you know that she's already dead in the beginning. Read this quote from the book and then tell me you don't want to run right out to buy a copy for yourself:
I flew to Paris to find a dead writer. On the airplane, in the bag on my
lap, I carried a lilac-colored copy of La Batard. It was tattered and
underlined, with red paper wrappings from chopsticks marking the pages. Many
years ago, I found this used copy in an old bookstore on Broadway in New
York. The writer, Violette Leduc, wrote on an edge that reminded me of
myself. I bought it for a dollar and devoured it forever.
Towards the end of the book, when they were talking about her death, I almost felt as if I were there. And for a woman who had almost no family, she was dearly loved by many friends and did a great job of surrounding herself by people who truly loved her for who she was. Yes, I was teary eyed.

I wanted to know more about the author as well as the other characters in the book. This book not only gives you a glimpse into the story and life of Violette Leduc, it also gives you an idea of who Michele Zackheim, the author of the book, is. So what did I do? I went online and bought all of her books! I found them on Abe Books and only spent $20 for two of her books and two books by Violette Leduc. I really don't know when I will find the time to read all of these. I only wish that I could be paid for reading. Yup, that is my dream job, people.

Haven't been to any thrift stores lately. From the amount of books that I've purchased online, I think I will find a way to stay busy reading what I already have. Almost finished with Stolen Innocence- a book that I'm reading with my book club. The book club meeting is tomorrow night... very anxious to hear what all of the other ladies think about the FLDS religion! My opinion- I can't believe people are so naive to believe everything that they are fed. But, I digress. That's an entirely different post for another day.

So, I will post later to tell you which thrift store book is next on the list. I'm thinking it's going to be a book called What I Loved. Again, gonna have to go with picking it because of the cover on this one. The front looks like this....

The back cover has a picture of a chair that I want. I wish I could find a copy of the back cover for you, but that would just take up way too much of my time. I leave you now to seek out a copy for yourself. Read it with me, if you dare.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Speaking to my soul

The new book I'm reading is speaking directly to me. It's feeding my soul in a way that only certain things in life can. I know it's been a good long time since I've posted something. Although I've been incredibly busy, I've still found some time to read. It's my escape. I wouldn't give up that. What I did give up over the past month, to make time for all of the other tasks that had to be done, was exercise. Go figure.

I'm reading Violette's Embrace- a story that weaves together the lives of three different women. One is dead, one is very old and getting ready to die, the other is younger and on a quest to find out more details about Violette Leduc's unfortunate life.

Now, when I say unfortunate, it was a very unfortunate life. Violette came from a family that didn't really love her (other than her Grandmother) and was apparently not very good looking, with a big nose and a long, wiry body. She happens to write some of the author's favorite books, so she goes to Paris in search of learning more about Violette.

There have been many others who have gone on this same quest for hidden knowledge, but for some reason, this particular author is different and actually develops a one on one relationship with Lili, one of Violette's best friends. This relationship blossoms into a friendship, and we soon learn about all three of the women's lives- past and present.

Why does this book speak to my soul? Well, it's because that's what I would do if I could. Do you know, dear reader, how I long to walk the different paths of Virginia Woolf? Do you know that I am very nosy and would like nothing more than to sit and read personal letters of long lost dead people to piece together a private glimpse of their life? That's precisely what the author is doing and on top of it all, she gets to go to Paris to do her research. Lucky woman.

I will have to quote some paragraphs from the book to give you a feel for it, but for now, I need to shower and pick up the little toddler from school.

And on a quick side note, went to Salvation Army last week in search of new books. Nothing. Nada. Selection sucked and totally hasn't been replenished since my last shopping spree. But, I did find out that next Saturday, they are having a customer appreciation sale and will be dishining out free stuff. Next Saturday, Salvation Army on Louis Henna Blvd. in Round Rock. Be there.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Just Finished

Not ten minutes ago, I finished The Physics of Sunset. I really enjoyed the book, and let me tell you, it had some crazy, totally unexpected sex details. Won't ruin the story by telling you who is having sex in the book, just in case you plan on reading it. Trust me, it's a very good read!
Immediately after completing the book, I pulled over the laptop and looked up the author. You can always tell if it's really a good book by how curious you are about the author. She has another book called Failure to Zigzag.... anyone read it yet? And another title that caught my eye- yes, possibly because it had the word sex in it, and after reading this last one, I'm even more curious to see what she's got in store for us.
I did my Ebay scan and couldn't A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century: A Memoir. However, I did find a copy on another used book site, but it turns out that it's an advanced reader copy- which I hate. The release date is March of 2009. So not too long of a wait. Definetely going to splurge and buy it.
Lesson in all of this thrift store book buying is that you may end up spending more money on books if you happen to like the author. How lucky would I have to be to find the other two in a thrift store? Very lucky, I'd say.
On a side note, I went to the Antique Mall today to look for a mirror to hang in the bathroom of our old house that we are renovating in hopes of selling(quickly, I might add). While there, I decided to check out the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store. Their book selection was just sad. Not a whole lot to pick from. But, I did find a copy of edible Austin (the fall 2008 edition) and a build your own play set instruction manual of sorts. Thought it was well worth the .25 for each. I'm sure my husband will be pleased when I tell him that he gets to build a playset!
Now, off to start another book!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What I Like Most About Days Like This

Dear Internet,

Why must I be so busy that I can't just lay in bed on a cloudy, windy, rainy day like today? Technically, I make very little money and am still considered a stay-at-home mom. So, in theory, I should still be able to nap when my toddler naps, right? I should be able to lay in my nice, comfy bed with a book in my hands to lull me into a nice nappy time slumber?

I'm convinced. Thanks, internet for helping to convince me to do just that. Enough work for right now. Will read some more of the story and take a nice nap as the wind blows and the storm builds outside of my window.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The One I Picked

It was a toss-up between Violette's Embrace and The Physics of Sunset. Why was I leaning to those two books out of the stack? Let me 'splain....

Violette's has a really cool photo on the cover of a woman who I presume is Violette. She's seated at a table outside of a coffee shop in a city that resembles Paris. It's just a silhouette. Just enough to spike some curiosity in the book. Who is she? What are her secrets? I want to do some snooping around....

Physics has a cool painting-like picture on the front cover of a couple lounging in chairs, smoking, eating (the man sits smoking while the woman is eating what looks like a chicken leg). There's a stack of books on the table behind them and utter chaos all around. Sounds weird but looks like a place that might be fun to be.

Who said you can't choose a book by its cover? I just did. So wrong, I know. I should be more open minded and less judgmental about what it looks like on the outside. But you know what? It felt good to judge the books that way. And I think I made the right decision. I started to read The Physics of Sunset. Couldn't pass that one up. The book is a large paperback. It feels good in my hands.

So far, I'm on chapter three. Didn't read any last night cause Top Chef was on. It's about a few different couples living in Berkeley, California in 1989. The big quake hits. Lives are affected. There's one woman who is from France and married to an American man. They have two kids and she's a bit unconventional- not really caring what anyone else thinks. Next is another couple (they're all neighbors) who have one kid and are incredibly unhappy. They remodel their kitchen instead of divorcing.... if that helps set the tone. She's a poet and likes to think a lot. And lastly, another couple- a little older than the other two. His father just dies and he's grasping the scope of losing a parent. The quake hits and he falls to his knees and starts crying. That's where I left off.

I like it so far.....

Favorite paragraph so far- one that I relate to as well:

"English was becoming ever more complex to Anna as she grew older. In the matter of a dash, for instance: how much pause might a dash be asked to carry? The dash was modern, also seemed to contain all of history. All her favorite writers seemed to balance there and so exist in the tentative."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Newest Finds

I've been a bit stressed out lately and decided that today I would treat myself. Without knowing exactly what treat I wanted, I made a mental list and decided that a trip to the local Salvation Army would do. You see, I just figured out how much money I've made running my own business compared to how much money I've spent last year. The number was depressing and made me want to spoil myself without spending more money. So, thrift store, here I come.

I generally have a few things that I look for immediately when walking into a thrift store: furniture, books, kid's clothing (since I have two of 'em) and silver candlesticks. That last one- I don't know- just a mild obsession that I have lately.

Today, not much in the furniture department that was pleasing to the eye. Ambled on over to the books and within a couple of minutes, I had a stack of four already in my hands. After only about ten minutes total, I walked out of the section with TEN BOOKS! Holy you know what..... when the heck am I ever going to find the time to read all of these new books when there's already a stack of at least fifteen under my nightstand waiting to be read?

Here's what I bought today:

The Last September by Elizabeth Bowen
The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett
Violette's Embrace by Michele Zackheim
Three Junes by Julia Glass
Foreign Brides by Elena Lappin
Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (I just noticed that I already have this on my bookshelf! Will donate to a friend.)
Four Novellas- Valentino, Sagittarius, Family, Borghesia by Natalia Ginzburg
The Physics of Sunset by Jane Vandenburgh
Oyster by John Biguenet

I bought all of the above books, two pairs of jeans, one skirt and one shirt for my two year old daughter for..... a little over $12. Incredibly cheap. I love you Salvation Army.

Now, which book should I read first? Decisions, decisions.....