Sunday, June 28, 2009

The School of Essential Ingredients


Lillian has loved cooking since she was a young girl. As she put it, "she thought smells were for her what the printed words were for others, something alive that grew and changed. She also knew that many people did not comprehend the language of the smells that she did."

She became one of the lucky few who were able to follow their passion and not only cook for others to enjoy but to teach others to see, smell, touch, and taste what different foods had to offer.

Ms. Bauermeister serves us up a cast of characters that are different as night and day and yet they come together to learn to cook from Lillian. Well maybe that isn't exactly right. They come together in a cooking class but we soon learn that they are each receiving something different or more than just cooking lessons from Lillian. Some are searching for love lost, while others are trying to lose the feelings of love, and still others are adjusting to the changes that aging brings about.

Early on in the story, the one thing that stood out for me was how much I was able to get into the characters. It was more than just reminiscent of two other wonderful books that are high on my list of all time favorites to read and re-read. Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner, and Light Years by James Salter. The characters were complex, with deep emotions. You would want to have these people in your life.

For anyone who likes to cook or enjoys the art of eating, or both, this is a wonderful to book to savor. You will be left wanting more when it over.

Salon Sunday

This day has been unusual in many ways. I have been following and visiting links to a number of sites and a common theme has been rising to the surface. Writers of color, writing, publishing, etc. etc.

It started when I visited Bernice McFadden's site, Naki and read her referral to Nordette Adams' commentary about Penguin's decision to throw more exposure to their under-served books and authors. Nowhere was there a mention or category for the African American authors or books.

I, then found a link to Clareen Brice's blog, White Readers Meet Black Authors where I enjoyed her video on the African American Section of the bookstore. Very Funny.

From there I worked my way to an interview of Toni Morrison by Tom Ashbrook of NPR, On Point that discusses her new collection of essays, Burn This Book, from PEN writers all over the world on the issue of banning not just books but writing and thought as well. Well worth listening to the 45 min. interview. During the interview, Tom also asked her about the letter that she sent to President Obama during his campaign and wanted to know if her hope for him and our country was still as strong as it was before the election. She provides an interesting response which I agree with but won't give away.

From there I found myself at another site, Literary Obama which follows the writing, readings, and book news of the President and First Lady, where I learn that the President just read the latest book by Dave Eggers, fellow San Franciscan, entitled What is the What. I feel like I have been on a trip around the world and somehow just magically returned home through the power of books, writing, and reading. And of course, I have several new books to add to my wishlist and some new blogs in my Reader. Hope you are having a wonderful trip today.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Literary Blogger Award

I am very honored to have received this award from Gwendolyn at A Sea of Books. Thank you so much. I will try to measure up by continuing to bring you new and exciting books and book reading news. I am just starting but loving every aspect of the process.

The Literary Blogger Award acknowledges bloggers who energize & inspire reading by going the extra mile. These amazing bloggers make reading fun & enhance the delight of reading!

As part of the process, I would like to pass on this Award to three blogs that I have been following for quite some time. They are in my Google Reader so I never have to worry about missing a single post.
The Rules:

1) Put the logo on your blog/post.
2) Nominate up to 9 blogs.
3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.
5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

I am pleased to pass this award on to:

1. In an earlier post, I sang the praises of one of my nominees, Annie Coleman of St. Louis, Mo. who has devoted untold hours recording classics for Librivox. For me, it is much like those who wait for the author to publish the next book in the series, I wait for the next book that Annie records. I would like nothing better than if she read the whole series of Anne of Green Gables as well as all the Jane Austen books. Needless to say, I think she has great voice.

2. My second nominee, is Jen, Devourer of Books. I first read her on LibraryThing Early Reviewers and ARC Junkies and then started following her blog. She is always on top of new upcoming releases in genres that often appeal to me.

3. My third nominee, is Tina, at Tutus Two Cents, who just recently attracted my attention on LibraryThing, and was very helpful when I had questions about Book Bloggers. Thanks Tina.

My hat is off to all of those who are out there sharing their time and effort to spread the love of books and reading. If each of us bring one more new reader into the fold, we won't ever have to worry about the book industry. Teach one someone the love of reading.

Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother's Story

Rating: 5 out of 5

Ms. Bandele has written a moving, and very personal memoir of the trials and triumphs of motherhood, in particular, single motherhood.

I was touched by much of the personal pain she was willing to share. I believe that there will be just as many children as there will be mothers who will benefit from her honest and frank discussion of the feelings that children have when they have lost their mother relationship. Let us hope that her discussion and revelations of therapy may help others not repeat the mistakes of their mothers. She is forthright in her acknowledgment that it is painful to admit the demons of hate that she had to overcome.

Her most profound statement in the book, "Parenting is not one moment or ten moments. It's not one year or five years. It's the whole thing, all the moments and years added up together. It's a lifetime......" This is something that needs to be a mantra to young women everywhere. Share this book with someone, a mother, a coming of age young woman, a good friend. Let us help Ms. Bandele get the word out about the worthiness of the "mothers" that raise children.
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Going Down South

4.5 out of 5

Reading Going Down South, was like going back in time in more ways than one. There was a period of time in my reading life when I became quite immersed in the reading of African American women authors. It seemed like the more I read, the more I wanted to read. One author led to another as I would read interviews or reviews as well as books. Alice Walker and Toni Morrison novels, J. California Cooper novels and short story collections. Tina McElroy Ansa, and of course, Zora Neale Hurston. And then I had finished the collections, and I sat waiting for the next books. Others came along over time as well as women of color from other countries.

So when I read a brief snippet of Bonnie J. Glover's new book on Shelf Awareness, I knew I wanted to read the book.

Going Down South takes you back to a time, the 1960's, when various parts of this country were very different from others depending on your race. The beginning of this book starts out with a very common occurrence, a young 15 year old girl who becomes pregnant the first time she has sex. However, what follows is not common. Olivia Jean is pregnant and her mother, Daisy is as unhappy as any mother for her only child, however, Daisy's solution to the problem is to take her back to her hometown, down South, to her mother, Birdie, to hide the problem from the neighborhood. Daisy hasn't seen her mother, since she left home with her now husband, Turk, 16 years ago, and she was secretly pregnant at the time. Daisy has many unresolved issues with Cold Water Springs, Alabama, but she doesn't plan on addressing any of them. Her plan is to leave her daughter with her mother, and return to New York with Turk to revive their marriage. Birdie also has many unresolved and secret issues and she has no intention of letting Turk and Daisy leave their daughter with her alone. She knows there is only one way to deal with her daughter, her granddaughter and this new to-arrive member of their unique family.
The story of these three women is powerful, touching, tough, and memorable. The characters quickly become three dimensional people you may have known and come across in your life. Birdie quickly became my favorite character. She made me laugh with her brutal honesty, and tough, tough demeanor, and also brought me to tears with the injustices that she endured and swallowed throughout her life.

There is inspiration and strength to be gained by any young woman that reads this book and feelings to be affirmed by any older woman that has experienced injustice for just being a woman.

Thank you, Bonnie J. Glover, you have given us such a touching, heart-warming portrait of three generations of strong women.

Firefly Lane


Don't let the size of this book fool you. It is one of the quickest reads I have had in a long time. And yet, it is one of those books you want to savor like a visit with a good friend that you haven't seen in a long time.

This is the first of Kristin Hannah's books that I have read so I had no preconceived notions about style. She has captured the true essence of female "BFF" friendship in this story of "KateandTully". The kind that endures not only through time and growth, but the kind that endures through the trials and tribulations that can sometimes end or cool a friendship that is not destined to be forever.

Even if you weren't of the exact same era as Kate and Tully, all you had to do was substitute the music and current events and you felt like it was you and your best friend. I was the Kate in my life and yet I was able to identify with Tully through my granddaughters that lost their mother like Tully did. It is a powerful lesson to see the impact that mothers, and fathers have on teaching values, developing self assurance, and all the other necessary traits that all of us girls need to make it in this world.

Highly recommend this wonderful story of two women and their lifelong friendship.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Wednesday Sisters


Meg Waite Clayton has definitely captured the essence of friendship among women and proved that while "blood may be thicker than water" you get to "pick" your friends while you "inherit" your relatives.

We meet Linda, Ally, Kath, Brett and Frankie, the narrator, during 1969 in Palo Alto, California where they are all young married women. All but Ally have children and in fact, that is was attracts Ally to the group in the first place as she observed the others in the park each week with their kids. Slowly, this group of women decide they should meet every week to write. Write for writing's sake, you know, that burning desire to release that one "great book" that each of us has in us. The current events of the time have influence on the course that some of them take, but others are simply curious sideline observers. At one point in the book, I almost left the women in frustration, because this had been a prime time in my life. I was a young woman, not married, but on my own and experiencing first hand many of the issues i.e., Equal Rights for Women, Vietnam, Peace Movement, Racism that they wavered on because of the values that had been instilled in them by their families.

I am glad to say that I hung in there with the "sisters" and they grew, matured, and learned that they could choose a different course than their parents, and the world would not come to an end. The depth of the friendship and bonds that developed for these women was heart wrenching at times, and heartwarming at others. This is a book that can be enjoyed by any generation but it is a wonderful read down memory lane for those of us that came of age during the 60's.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I want to sing the praises of a wonderful source site with everyone that I have been using for about the last two years. For those of you who already know about Librivox , join in and comment but for those of you who don't, I invite you to go, visit, use, and enjoy it, then tell all your family and friends about it.

Here is a place made up of volunteers who have painstakingly recorded the great classics for your listening pleasure for FREE. Yes, I said free. Now don't get me wrong. This is not Hollywood style recording but it is for the most part recorded by people who cared enough to volunteer to read, to record with their own equipment, and to listen and edit each others' work as well. Many of them are quite good, actually better in some cases than the ones I have bought commercially.

I know we all know people who love to listen to audiobooks on their commute or while they are doing something else like, housecleaning, laundry, walking, running, knitting or just like to be read to rather than reading to themselves. Although many of our libraries have rather large collections of audiobooks to borrow, they may not contain many of the classics. Librivox is the place to get almost every book that is now in the public domain and not just in English either.

Don't think of this as simply a site for Highbrows. I have listened to children's classics. My all time favorite being Ann of Green Gables read entirely by Annie Coleman of St. Louis MO.

My 16 yr old and I have listened to Sense and Sensibility, and Frankenstein for her 10th grade Literary Criticism Class this year and my 15 yr. old is listening to The Hounds of Baskerville and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on her iPod for her summer reading list for 9th Grade. I have found that it takes more than a fancy new cover to get today's youth into some of the classics that are still required reading for them. I found when we were listening to Jane Austen, we were able to pause the story, and talk about the ornate language and how it compared to the way we would have said the same thing now. This allowed my daughter to really appreciate the character development. I believe she will read or listen to other Austen books now that she was able to enjoy the full meaning behind the language of yesterday.

Many of my friends over at LibraryThing have been discussing audiobooks in general but a thread developed where others were listing their all-time favorite readers on Librivox and it created a new list for me to download to iTunes so I can load them onto my iPod. Do not worry, that is not the only way to listen to them. All the instructions are listed on the site.

This can be a new source for your sole listening pleasure or it may be a new way for bedtime stories with you and the kids, or a family hour in the evening. Whichever way you decide to use it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I feel like I am back in a Book Club again after a long dry spell. It has always been important to me to be able to discuss books that I have enjoyed. It is like anything else good that you want to share with family and friends. You want everyone to like it as much as you did, and then you want to affirm the aspects that were most pleasing to you. Although I miss the get-togethers and pot luck (sometimes themed) meals that we all shared when my last book club was meeting, this blog seems like the next best thing.

I hope you will put me on your "Reader" so you can visit at the most convenient time for you and come back often to check out the latest book off the shelf or book news.

Speaking of which, I was thrilled to hear that Eat, Pray, Love is now in film production and I am anxiously awaiting the next and maybe last Harry Potter film. I am proud to admit that I am a fan and have been right from the first book and film. We have had themed parties and cakes around those books as well.

Have a great day, and I hope you got to pick up a book today and read for a while.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet

RATING: 5 out of 5

This is one of those books that might not come along very often but when it does no one should miss the opportunity to savor it.

Many of us tend to lump history into that category of “we should know it but it is kind of boring.” Don’t make that mistake with this book.

The story of Henry and Keiko is a beautiful blend of the best kind of friendship, young love, and loyalty all rolled into one. The entire backdrop is the history of Seattle, its diverse communities, and World War II. Jamie Ford’s ability to draw you in even if you knew nothing about any of this history before is amazing. Soon you are familiar with the streets and neighborhoods of Seattle, and the characters are people you want to get to know even better. I would give anything to have had a best friend, kind of mentor, like Sheldon. My one hope is that this book, being released now in this time of great hope for change and tolerance, will help many see that there is very little difference in the dreams, aspirations, and feelings of all of us regardless of ethnic differences. It is something we need to be reminded of more than ever and Jamie Ford does with such love and compassion.

This is one of the most endearing books that I have read in long time and I will recommend it to many of my fellow readers.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Work Hard. Be Nice

RATING: 5 out of 5

An absolutely engaging, amazing “listen” about the formation and execution of a middle school design known as KIPP by two teachers driven by their thrill of seeing kids learn.

This is an inspiring story of two young men who find their mission in life early, and don’t waiver from it no matter how many obstacles are placed in front of them. As their story unfolds, you find yourself cheering for them at each triumph, and ready to jump in and help them fight off the naysayer who throws up the roadblocks.

The manner that Mr. Mathews uses to weave all the individual stories together is very appealing and helpful in putting a personal face on the story of public education with all its flaws. So many books have been written about different aspects of K-12 education, charter education, and different models, but this book will engage anyone regardless of their exposure to the subject. Without an overload of statistics or rankings, this story is told with the clear,concise pictures of success and the rewards of that success.

If you have an interest in education, listen to this book, if you have children entering the public school system, listen to this book, if you are a new teacher looking for a successful curriculum to embrace, listen to this book, or if you just love a real world story of success, listen to this book.

I have been involved in the charter school movement since 1999 and have 4 children that have attended charter schools. Two of them have just graduated from a KIPP school and one is entering the 7th grade. That being said, I did not know the story of Mike Feinberg and David Levin or how the design was conceived and refined, I just knew it worked for my kids. The two graduates are both headed off to private schools on scholarships, and I am thrilled that I have been able to listen to the story of KIPP which has given them their head start to college.


After much procrastination and rumination about whether I should take the plunge to blog my book reviews, I am jumping in. I have been reviewing for quite some time. I started out reviewing for my girls' school library as a way to get books for the library, and as a way to encourage the students to read and share their love for a book with their classmates. I was the volunteer librarian for six years and loved the connection with students. It was a thrill to see them fall in love with reading even if they didn't want to be classified as a nerd. The reviews were a simple way to engage with the students and get excited about the same book. Soon they were looking at my latest reads as a way to select their next book.

After leaving the school library, I found and their Early Reviewer program. It has been a joy to find and network with other bibliophiles like myself and see many with the same taste in library collections. I will be reviewing not only the ARC's that I receive from different sources but also books from my collection, old and new.

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