May 30, 2007

Recent Reads

Astrid & Veronika by Linda Olsson

Quick, delightful read. The story of a blossoming friendship between 2 women generations apart in age. A wonderful recounting of the path to intimacy.

From Publishers Weekly
In Swedish novelist Olsson's somber debut, Veronika Bergman returns to Sweden after a childhood following her diplomat father around the world (her mother abandoned the family), and after publishing her first novel titled Single, One Way, No Luggage. She rents a small house in a rural town to work on her second, but in solitude finds herself seized by feverish dreams and paralyzed by the "stillness" of the landscape and the memories of her recently dead fiancé. Reclusive septuagenarian Astrid Mattson, thought by the village to be a witch, takes an interest in Veronika, and the two strike up a friendship based on loss. Against the backdrop of the changing seasons and their small, plangent houses, the two women slowly tell each other their most closely guarded secrets (which concern their mothers and lovers), and venture, tentatively, out of the safety of their routines. Olsson has a clear feel for the emotional wellsprings of both characters, but can't convert her terse lyricism into a fully realized story.

May 29, 2007

Home Again

I spent the past several days in Croydon, UK. My cousin Reena (the youngest on my father's side) got married on Saturday, and it was lovely to catch up with relatives that I have not seen in ages. Her father (my godfather) was diagnosed with cancer late last year, so the entire weekend was rather bittersweet.

I stayed at the Travelodge - great prices with very basic services. There were no phones in the room, or anywhere in the hotel - other than the one the front desk used! It certainly made it interesting trying to sync up with others staying at the hotel - you could not just call them, you had to physically go to their rooms. Needless to say, a few wrong doors were knocked upon :-) When I asked the front desk for an iron, I had to leave a deposit - like I was going to steal the iron, and bring it back across the pond with me. It turns out however, that the 30 irons they started out with have dwindled down to about 10 - who would bother to steal them? Someone clearly.

May 23, 2007

Latest Audio Book

"PS I Love You" by Cecelia Ahern

Classic "chick lit". A cute story, though I was annoyed by all the "giggling, crying, etc". Stuck it out though - a very different fare than what I usually listen to. Completed it this morning, and am glad that I did - though cannot say that I recommend it. Though if you are in the mood for a sappy story, this might be right up your alley.

From Publishers Weekly
Ahern, the mediagenic 22-year-old daughter of Ireland's prime minister, debuts with a sweet, sentimental tale of a young widow's trials and triumphs in the year after her husband's death. Soul mates Holly and Gerry married in their early 20s; when Gerry dies of brain cancer at 30, Holly is utterly bereft. But Gerry has a final gift: a series of letters, which Holly is to open on the first of each month from March to New Year's, and which will guide her on her journey from grief. Gerry correctly predicts that Holly will not have gone through his belongings by June, found a new job by September or considered falling in love again by December, but with his posthumous epistolary encouragement she does all those things. She also enters a karaoke contest, takes a beach vacation and dances at a holiday ball she'd always attended with Gerry. The months pass as close friends help prop Holly up; around her, a marriage falls apart, a couple gets engaged and a friend announces her pregnancy. Within her tight-knit family, Holly's youngest brother makes a revealing film of her birthday party, her elder brothers change places in her allegiance and her parents take in one stray grown child after another for stays short and long. Ahern's speed (she wrote the book in three months) and her youth do show-the wisdom in evidence owes much to Nicholas Sparks and Sophie Kinsella-and her prose is pedestrian. She boasts a natural storytelling talent, however, resulting in a compelling tale sparked by an unusual premise.

May 20, 2007

Quotes of the day

"No matter what's ahead - no matter what I do or don't do, no matter what comes to me or what's taken away - I'm going to die anyway. So what is there to be afraid of? Why all this terror and clenching? Like the trees before the bulldozer, I'm going down. I might as well yield."
- from "LEAP!" by Sara Davidson

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor."
- Mark Twain

May 18, 2007

Rainy Days

We are currently in a rainy pattern, and I am delighted.
This has been a tough allergy season, and I am hoping that all the pollen gets washed away. Would be lovely to be able to take a deep breath outdoors again.

Ten wonderful things about rainy days:
1. Don't need to hunt for those sun-glasses
2. It's fun to play with umbrellas
3. The world looks so shiny and clean, and smells great too
4. Perfect excuse to make a fire and curl up with a great book
5. Also a perfect reason to stay in bed and read all day
6. Ideal day to explore museums, bookstores, libraries
7. Excellent for an indoor arts and crafts activities
8. Fun to splash in puddles
9. Instant car wash - and mine really needs it
10. Instant access to new, fleeting reflections.

May 16, 2007

Latest Audio Book

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamid

Listened to this book on CD on my daily commute, and really enjoyed it. It's a good story and the narrator has a great reading voice - which can make or break an audio book in my opinion.

From Publishers Weekly:
Hamid's second book (after Moth Smoke) is an intelligent and absorbing 9/11 novel, written from the perspective of Changez, a young Pakistani whose sympathies, despite his fervid immigrant embrace of America, lie with the attackers. The book unfolds as a monologue that Changez delivers to a mysterious American operative over dinner at a Lahore, Pakistan, cafe. Pre-9/11, Princeton graduate Changez is on top of the world: recruited by an elite New York financial company, the 22-year-old quickly earns accolades from his hard-charging supervisor, plunges into Manhattan's hip social whirl and becomes infatuated with Erica, a fellow Princeton graduate pining for her dead boyfriend. But after the towers fall, Changez is subject to intensified scrutiny and physical threats, and his co-workers become markedly less affable as his beard grows in ("a form of protest," he says). Erica is committed to a mental institution, and Changez, upset by his adopted country's "growing and self-righteous rage," slacks off at work and is fired. Despite his off-putting commentary, the damaged Changez comes off as honest and thoughtful, and his creator handles him with a sympathetic grace.

May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

I've had this photo of my Mom on my mind the past several days. Due to my amazing :-) organizational skills, I was able to quickly find it - no small feat, since this was back in the day I still used film.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms.

May 12, 2007

Soccer Girls

Photos from my last trip to Vegas. It's amazing how creative I can be while waiting. Really love how the colors turned out.
Click on pics to enlarge.

12x24 LO:

Detail of Left and Right pages:


Here is a page I created while waiting for the Verizon DSL guy to show up and fix my connection problem. I am lucky to have such great models at my disposal.

May 11, 2007

National Poetry Month

Did you know that April was National Poetry Month? Read any good poetry?

Now, I'm not really sure why, but I have never been much interested in reading poetry. Was it a bad experience in primary school? Was it a horrible teacher? Was I confused and befuddled? I honestly do not recall. I do know that I read poems when I was young - after all don't nursery rhymes count as poetry?

Either way - onward! I decided that I would read several poetry books during the month as my way to celebrate the event. I checked out several books, and did actually read one. Hey, one is better than none!

Why I Wake Early: New Poems" by Mary Oliver was the book of poems I did read. Not a thick book, but it still took me the entire month to get through. She has some lovely poems in it, and I especially liked her descriptions of what she observes and feels in nature.

I've come to realize that I really like poetry in the form of the spoken word. I've listened to local poets who have made me laugh, cry, and think. The fact that I do not love written poetry bothers me. Not really sure why. Maybe I just need to find the right ones for me.
The search continues.....

May 10, 2007

Recent Reads

I'm delighted to have gotten some good reading time this past week.

1. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
I listened to the audio book read by the author, and was captivated from the start. I learned much, and it was fascinating to hear how he connects much of my feelings about God to rational thoughts. Feel better armed for future discussions on the topic. There were absolutely times that I felt I would be struck by lightning as I listened to the book, but will certainly revisit the book again to really let it all soak in. There is too much to take in the first time. I would highly recommend this book.

2. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
An Oprah book club selection, but that is not why I picked it. I have read rave reviews about this author, and wanted to read his latest work. It's the story of a man and his son in a post-apocalyptic world. I simply could not get into it. He has deceptively simple sentences that convey much, but the story simply did not grab me. What was the point? Not sure, and I was disappointed by the book. Would be interested to talk to anyone who enjoyed the book.

3. Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran
This is my book club read for this month. The story of 3 sisters who flee Iran, and end up in a little village in Ireland. All the recipes and writing about food made me ravenous - I ate constantly during the several hours it took me to read the book. The book has the seeds of a great story - an epic, but it does not deliver. The writing is not very good - in my opinion it is written at a middle school level - and maybe that was the intended audience. The juices of cultural mores, immigration, interracial relationships, etc, were simply not served up in any way that I found satisfying. Too bad really, because I would have loved a good read that gave me insight into this immigrant story.