Monthly Archives: December 2011

Marinating In Life

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The library was not my usual haven today. We had a presidential candidate  visiting and the media took over. I’ve never seen so much equipment!  Some found it exciting and some found it annoying. I felt a little rattled and out of my element. Books were definitely not the focus. I must say I was blown away ( even more than usual) by our Tech Diva, Lyn.  The best ambassador our city (and library) could ask for. She was classy, calm and collected; nothing seems to rattle her. This was the big time with Bloomberg and CNN and she was amazing.  Becky was polished and gracious and together they made a great team. Dave came to lend support and I expected to look up and find  fearless Suzanne behind a camera (the crowds didn’t faze her a bit) and Monica,very elegantly turned out, worked her little black heels off. Judy makes you feel good by just being in the building.I felt very proud. Sioux Center was very well represented today

I’m finishing up”The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, M.D.  If I had access to this information decades ago I could have saved myself lots of money on therapy. It explains a lot about the biological differences in why women think and communicate so differently than men. I knew on some level that men don’t annoy us on purpose (this excludes teenage boys) but this book proves it. We are hard wired by ancient man. The hunter-gatherer thing is still going on in both sexes. Our brains get marinated in testosterone or estrogen. This conditions us for lots of challenges in understanding each other. Women like building relationships and emoting, tend to avoid conflict and like to be socially connected. Men aren’t as threatened by aggression and competition, and the emoting thing is literally something they are not wired for. She explains this all clearly and at times humorously in this fascinating book.

I’m eager to read her book about the male brain so I can further let men off the hook.  I also let myself off the hook after reading this, well I’m trying to anyway. When she described the despair one can feel after rejection by a loved one I felt a familiar sadness. Your brain can generate physical pain and make you feel like you want to die. But outcomes differ for men and women. She explains the power of hormones in both sexes, something we seriously underestimate. She nailed teenage girls perfectly. Let’s face it, girls are bossy. So why don’t we have one for president?

Gabrielle Hamilton’s book was  well written and a very good story but boy could that girl use some therapy! Here is this smart, brilliant food artist who is also a gifted writer but can’t see the elephant in her living room. Or in this case ghosts of mom and dad. I winced at a lot of her choices and her false bravado. I saw a very needy little girl inside the needless woman.  I can’t talk too much about her relationships without giving too much away but the term “train wreck” comes to mind.  She can relate to vegetables and lamb but people, not so much.The restaurant business is brutal on a good day and to  own one is even more abuse. The pressure and hours horrendous so why do it? You’ll have to read the book to find out and please read it on an empty stomach.

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Delicious, Bittersweet, Tangy, Spicy…

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These are words I would use to describe Gabrielle Hamilton’s book “Blood, Bones and Butter”. Her education is diverse from the heady, artsy parties her flamboyant parents gave and being abandoned by her parents  after their divorce. She is thirteen and quickly learns she is on her own. She hits the floor running and you are along beside her in this wonderful rendering of a life that is quirky and harrowing at the same time. I am loving this book. More later.

I also am starting Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey” for next month’s book club. We will have a book and movie night too which is always popular. Then on to Meira Chand’s “Different Sky” and “Grange House” by Sarah Blake. If I am not enthralled with that I might start “Conquistadora” by Esmeralda Santiago. All books new to the library so it is very hard to limit myself to one book at a time. I know it sounds crazy but reading multiple books keeps my brains cells from feeling atrophied. It’s not for everyone but it seems to work for me. Ok…I don’t always read every word. If it doesn’t rivet me I will skim. To me that is the sign of a good book when you can’t bear to skip one delicious word.

I read very little during my days off and that is unusual but I was too busy playing Santa with last minute gifts to finish. You know what would  make a great gift? Reading certificates that allow you to sit around and read for as long as you want, or a jammy day that is spent in comfortable pajamas with a book in hand. Yum.

I was pleasantly surprised today when a young teen came in to get a library card with his dad. He wanted computer access and I assumed it was to go online. I was wrong though, he wanted it for his Kindle so he could down load books. Loved seeing that.  So I’ll ask you if you got an e-reader for Christmas and do you like to read (or not) books simultaneously?

You Ever Feel Like An Underachiever?

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I will have a few days off for Christmas so I decided to start “Blood Bones and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton. This woman owns a restaurant in the East Village called Prune. She also holds an MFA in writing and is published all over the place PLUS has been on Martha Stewart! Gaaaack! I found myself wondering…is this better DNA? Geez. So it took her twenty years searching, I’m still searching and my resume is pathetically puny compared to this power house.  AND this book was a winner on Good Reads. So get ready to feel like you just don’t do enough. We’ll talk soon.

Book Personalities

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We had book club today and it was a blast! I got to pick out books with a Christmas theme for each one of my members. After spending a year in discussion with these ladies you get to know  fairly well what they like to read. I thought it would be fun to match their personality with a story. Today I found out how I did and I was pleasantly surprised.

One member read a book from the Miss Read series called “The Christmas Mouse” and she is terrified of mice (I didn’t know this)and was reluctant to read it but was glad she did. One member read a Philip Gulley book from his Harmony series and enjoyed it so much she got her husband to read it. They are reading the series together and she is thrilled. Who knew?! One reader is an English teacher and looks for grammatical errors(there is at least one in every book) before she settles in. Yikes, I hope she doesn’t do the same thing with my punctuation, I’m random. Not everyone raved about my choices, they are simple formula books after all, but they enjoyed reading books they may have not picked themselves. And me…Can you believe I get paid to do this?

Books are little gifts every time I open a cover. To share that joy is indescribable. Now we did have yummy Butler’s coffee and Christmas sweets too so I can’t attribute this all to books but they were a “delicious” side dish. Next month’s book club is a book and movie night. They chose “Northanger Abbey”, Jane Austen’s fun spoof of Gothic romance. As much as I love Jane Austen via the BBC I’ve never read any of them all the way through so I’m looking forward to this.

Our library director Becky, suggested I read”The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield after discussing Kate Morton’s “The Forgotten Garden”. This was a macabre page turner from the start. Mix an antique book lover with an eccentric writer,  odd twins, ghosts; then throw in a governess, scandal and a topiary obsession and you have a great way to spend an evening. As much as I liked this, I liked “The Forgotten Garden” better but they were very similar. See, Becky is getting the hang of my reading personality already. I’ll have to see if I can throw her off a bit, I don’t want to get too predictable. What kind of book personality do you have?

Keep It Fresh

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I have always loved Laura Childs’ tea shop mystery series. It takes place in Charleston and captures the southern charm and gentility of a bygone era. Lots of money, old silver and mansions which this author descriptively carries off with aplomb. Throw in recipes, murders, creepy Spanish moss and you end up with an entertaining series. I love Theodosia , her tea shop and her starchy, pompous tea blender Drayton. When I lived in the south as a child I was always struck by the unusual names people had.

The newest installment is called “Scones and Bones” and involves pirate lore, jewel encrusted skulls that supposedly belonged to Blackbeard himself and of course a buried treasure. This started out great but left me feeling bored by the end. After reading a series for a while it can get stale. Janet Evanovich comes to mind with her Stephany Plum series. I get bored with the characters and they become too predictable. In the case of this series Theodosia is a very proper southern lady with good manners and a great head for business. Her character has a couple romances and in this installment the author decides to  have Theo shake things up by falling for a new guy before breaking it off with her old one, Parker. The problem is it was too out of character and just didn’t seem like something Theodosia would do. She does move into a new house that sounds very intriguing but I don’t think I’ll look forward to the next one as much as I have in the past. It makes me feel kind of sad.

I get spoiled with authors like Agatha Christie. Who can forget Poirot? I love Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce. He is on book number four and I can hardly wait till the next one. That is the beauty of working in a library, there are so many characters to meet but the competition is fierce! What book character have you gotten bored with?

What Does Madame Curie And Pippi Longstocking Have In Common?

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They are the cross of brains and personality that comprises the firecracker heroine of Alan Bradley’s mystery series. She is called Flavia de Luce and I have never enjoyed the character of a mystery series as much as I do this one. In the fourth book “I Am Half-Sick of Shadows” the whole village of Bishop’s Lacey ends up at Buckshaw , the moldering old estate where the de Luce family lives. A blizzard and a murder make up for a jolly good read (sorry, couldn’t help myself).

Their widowed father and Flavia along with her two older sisters and a demented butler/friend make up the main characters but Flavia continually steals the scenes. Her rapier sarcasm and intellect drive the police inspector batty and the torture she dreams up for her sisters is not to be missed. Oh… did I tell you she has a chemistry hobby and her love is poisons? There is a scene in this book that will stay with me forever where Flavia attempts to put back on the shoe of a dead woman. She is sassy, but sad. Her father is grieving and vacant and buries himself in the study of postage stamps and doesn’t see the needs of his brilliant daughter most of the time. Her sisters gleefully, emotionally torture her mercilessly but this scrappy eleven year old can hold her own with anyone. You will adore her, and wonder  how we ever  survived our siblings with any self-esteem.

My brother used to torture me with practicing “The Three Stooges” stunts on me. We are not close to this day. How did your siblings influence your childhood?

Could You Fall In Love With The Enemy?

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Margaret Leroy wrote a very intriguing book that made me take a deeper look at the idea of war time relationships.  “The Soldier’s Wife” tells the story of a woman living on the Channel Island of Guernsey off the coast of Great Britain. German soldiers invaded this peaceful island during WWII. Vivienne was caring for two young daughters and a mother-in-law while her husband is away fighting, when German soldiers move in as neighbors. At first she is terrified by what could happen but as she watches the men in their daily routines she becomes intrigued by one of them named Gunther. They meet, fall in love, and start a passionate affair.  They agree that they must keep it a secret. Along the way Vivienne is forced to make decisions she is unprepared for. Is it ok to accept chocolate from a lover who is also the enemy? What about medical care? Chocolate rates right up there with medical care for me.

They spend time getting to know each other as people apart from guns, uniforms and war. They share a deep intimacy that is lacking in both of their marriages, but as atrocities surface near by, Vivienne can no longer ignore her doubts about her lover. Is he telling her the truth? She ultimately must decide if she should trust him with the safety of her family.

I was fascinated with that question. What if someone provides you with food, medical care, and pulls strings to protect you from the enemy? What if they don’t agree with what their country is doing and is following orders? What if they have your best interest at heart but are the enemy? And what if you love them? As a mother I know what I would do but the lines aren’t always drawn so clearly during war time. I liked this book a lot. First because it is a great British story, second because I can’t help but be intrigued by the island of Guernsey (which was such a mysterious backdrop) and thirdly the complicated relationships Ms. Leroy presents so well in this novel made it very enjoyable.  I would love to visit there some time.

So, I’ll leave you with the question…How important is personal happiness?