Friday, January 31, 2014

This Post is Not About Books - February ( I know, I'm one day early) and February preview

Today we're going to talk about other blogs that I read and that might interest you! Follow them, subscribe by email or follow their social media if they tickle your fancy.

My friend Sarah is one of the first people I told when I started to blog. She has been wonderfully supportive and Im trying to not harass her with too many questions.Her blog is so beautiful and crisp and clean you can't help but ogle at it. She offers sewing DIYs, decorating tips and projects, scenes from her Western landscape and pictures of her new puppy! She also loves to read, though she is still iffy on Ray Bradbury.(I'm working on converting her). Her blog is Neroli Blossoms.

Robert Bruce is reading his way through Time magazine's 100 best English speaking novels since 1923 ( plus "Ulysses"). Is he crazy? Maybe. Is it entertaining to watch? Yes. I read a lot but there almost exclusively books I pick for myself, I can't imagine getting through someone elses' list. A lot of these books are dense, complicated and obtuse. There are a few books that I've read and enjoyed ("Death Comes for the Archbishop" and "Watchmen") but also some I will never read ("Lolita"). Follow Robert as he makes his way through the list over at 101 Books.

If you like pictures of Corgis, The Daily Corgi is a great bet. I mean what's better than peeping on other people's dogs while you wait for your own? They also are very active in fundraising for sick puppies.

Another entertaining blog: Awesome People Reading. It's...exactly what it sounds like.Pictures of awesome people reading.

Feel free to check out these other places but don't forget about your old friend Library Educated :)


I had a book run in yesterday as I was leaving work. Being in an elevator with someone you don't know is awkward, and one of my most uncomfortable parts of working in a multistory building. My elevator riding buddy yesterday is a rather intense (though not unfriendly or mean) attorney and I saw he was reading a book. Before I could stop myself the words "Oh, what are you reading?" go flying out of my mouth. (Here's the thing about me. I don't talk to strangers hardly ever, the only time I talk to strangers is if there are dogs or books involved.)

He flips the book closed and shows me the cover's "American Psycho". Remember when I reviewed that book? Yeah. So once again words fly out of my mouth unbidden, "Oh my gosh that book scarred me for life. How are you liking it?" He laughed and me and we talked for the rest of our 15 second ride about how he thought it was a worthwhile read if you could "get past all of the perverted stuff, which is kind of a lot."

So that's why you should read books. You can talk about books filled with cocaine and murdered prostitutes with a coworker who you don't know. Hooray!


Coming up in February: a book reviews with giveaway, a Q&A with a Pulitzer prize winner with a giveaway, books about wine, a book about a man who gets pulled into the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, bad literary boyfriends, and much much more!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: "The Know-It-All; One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World" by A.J. Jacobs

When I was in 5th and 6th grade and I would get bored after finishing my homework I'd page through the dictionary, I was desperate for something to do. (That would be until my teacher told me to stop. This was the same teacher that told me I should read less.Not one of my better teachers, truth be told).

If I got yelled at for reading the dictionary I can only imagine what would happen if I got caught reading the encyclopedia from A-Z like our author does. AJ Jacobs decides that he is slowly getting dumber, he feels his brain turning to mush. This might have something to do that he worked for an entertainment magazine that specialized in the pop culture phenomenon before leaving to work for Esquire.It doesn't help that almost everyone in his family is a genius. His dad is a well respected lawyer who has written more than 24 books, a sister who is a German professor at an Ivy League college, and a brother in law who knows almost-literally everything.

The book is split up into chapters by letter. Each one contains interesting words with their definitions,an interesting story, and a snarky remark.Throughout the chapters through the stories he weaves in his own life stories and experiences. This includes stories about he and his wife's struggle with infertility.(These stories are kind of what keeps him from kind of sounding like an obnoxious braggart and know it all.) Though that still does happen occasionally.

As he makes his way through the encyclopedia he decides he needs to go on Jeopardy! to put his knowledge to use. (He finds out that this isn't possible, because he interviewed Alec Trebek which means he's ineligible.) This makes him quite angry. His next option is Who Wants to Be a Millionare, with Meredith Viera. He gets on the show, but isn't quite as successful as he had hoped.

Here are my some of my favorite tidbits I learned:

-The Holland Tunnel in New York City is not names after the country. It's named after an engineer named Clifford Holland whose claim to fame is inventing a ventilation system that refreshes air in a tunnel every 90 seconds. Hooray for Clifford and his vents preventing brain damage.

- Bony fish have right or left oriented sex organs. Which means a right oriented boy fish can only mate with a left oriented girl fish (or vice versa, whatever). It's like Romeo and Juliet for fish!

-Ancient Egyptians used geese for guard animals.


-Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin was a French conjurer.(A certain Eric Weiss from Appleton Wisconsin loved him so much that he named himself after him: Harry Houdini.) In 1856, Robert Houdin was sent by the French government to Algeria to discredit mystical dervishes and to inspire loyalty to the French.

I was a little worried that this book would be boring, repetitive, or that the author was going to be pretentious and insufferable. It turned out not to be a problem.There are points where you roll your eyes at the author's ego but it's humorous. I liked how the chapters were short too, little bites of information without being overwhelming. I give the book 3 out of 5 stars. I learned a lot, it was funny and I'm thankful for all the smart people in the world.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: "The Alteration" by Kingsley Amis

Guys, do you remember the post that I did about alternative history? (If you don't have every blog post memorized, click here for a refresher). In the post I mentioned a book about a world where  Martin Luther actually became a Pope. So that book was "The Alteration" and that's what we're talking about today. Though, Martin Luther is mentioned only in super brief passing, and the book wasn't quite what I expected...getting ahead of myself.

You're A Lutheran If
Gratuitous Lutheran joke complete.

Let's set the scene first. We're in Europe (most of the time in England and Italy), but it's not like the Europe that you know. As we established before, this is an alt-history England. Science is not encouraged, and because of that we never got past the more dangerous early years of electricity, so everyone is still using gas lamps. Cars, trains and buses are in use but no airplanes. The lives of some famous people don't turn out how you thought either. Martin Luther becomes Pope Germanian, Thomas More becomes Pope Hardrian, Edgar Allen Poe is a famous American general....

The Catholic church is like a nation-state, hearkening back to the days of the Holy Roman Empire. There is still colonialism, a couple of emperors and viceroys, and it seems that anti-semitism is still in swing because the Jews are forced to wear yellow stars and stay only amongst themselves.

To sum up (TL;DR) Pope is boss, it's like living in 1770 Europe when it's really modern day. Good enough for you? Good enough for me. Let's get to stepping and talking about the actual plot of the book.

Hubert Anvil is a ten year old English boy with a beautiful soprano voice (because he's ten). He sings a beautiful solo at the funeral of King Stephen III and attracts a lot of attention.The higher ups in the church (including the Pope, who would be The Most High Up, I guess) decide they want to have him castrated ("altered") to preserve his beautiful voice forever. Does he get a say in it? Meh, not necessarily.

Hubert is torn. Being famous, being able to sing for famous people all the time, and everyone saying that this is an amazing blessing from God all sounds good. But he has qualms. Even at 10 he understands that this means no marriage, no family, and that his life will pretty much be devoted to his art. He tries to figure out if this is an even trade. Since he doesn't have any experience in the love and family department he asks different people if he will be missing a lot if he doesn't get to experience these things. His family chaplain tells him that the highest form of love is between a person and God. (Which is interesting because the priest is having an affair with Hubert's mom...) but he does everything he can to stop the procedure. He asks his brother if he will miss not being able to have sex, and his brother makes some kind of analogy about sex being like galloping through a field like a gazelle while eating your favorite ice cream and kissing a girl you REALLY like all at once.

He and his father are summoned to Rome for an audience with the Pope. The Pope asks him to be in his official choir,and that he basically will be it's star. Hubert is awe struck and agrees. However he and his father have a disconcerting encounter with an "altered" man where he rants and raves about how terrible it is to be altered and how people treat him like a freak. This freaks them both out to no end and that's when Hubert decides he can't just let this happen to him....

I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars, mainly because it's just sad. I think the concept is really interesting, and the people that help Hubert are good eggs. And it's pretty short.Also there's kind of a happy ending?


In other news, Kingsley Amis is the father to Martin Amis who is a famous novelist. On a far more interesting note, towards the end of his life he shared a house with his ex-wife and her new husband (her third). That's an understanding husband, me thinks!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

January Book News and Notes

In the December 6th edition of the Wall Street Journal there was an interesting article about the unusual trend of adults reading books meant for children, mostly grade school age.My boss (who pointed out the article) and I were thinking of reasons that this might be. Do people just want a quick, easy read, where everything is happily resolved for stress relief? Does it have something to do with reading them before giving them to your children? Do they do it so they can talk to other moms in their play dates about it? (It would probably be helpful if I had kids, in regards to this topic at least).

The article points out that more and more things are made to cater to adults and children. Pixar movies were held up as one example, I know I watched the Monsters Inc sequel a couple of weeks ago just because I wanted to see it. John Grisham writes a series of children's books about a kid detective. Some popular bands have put out children's albums.

I don't know quite what to make of it. I don't think that most authors go out of their way to write a children's book that adults will enjoy. Is it marketing? Is it our kids getting smarter and so the books appeal to adults as well? Is it just marketing?

I have no idea. Anyone have any thoughts?

The WSJ article is called "See Grown-ups Read.Read, Grown-ups, Read: by Alexandra Alter.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review:"Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy Tale Ending" by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

At some point every little girl wants to be a princess. Hopefully not a real princess, probably more of a Disney/sanitized/true love/talking dishes/forest animals are my friends kind of princess. (The more I think about it the weirder I think talking dishes are). Anyway, this book talks about actual princesses, and most have lives that no one would want for themselves.

The book kind of categorizes the princess in different ways: mad princesses, princesses who did things their own way, tragic princesses, etc. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a portion of the princesses were slightly more recent, not everyone was rocking the beehive powdered wig.

The princess who talks to angels: Princess Martha Louise was born in 1971 and is the fourth in line to the Norwegian crown. She also claims to be clairvoyant. She's even opened a school to help people find their "spiritual passwords" and try to communicate with angels.

The princess who defied the Nazis: Princess Noor Inayat Khan was the daughter of an American mother and an Indian sultan father.In 1940 she became a British spy and was the first female wireless operator, she was stationed in Nazi occupied France. In 1943 she was betrayed by a contact and ran from the Gestapo for months until she was finally caught. She was executed in 1944 at Dachua, and before she was shot in the head she yelled her last words "Liberte!" (Now that's someone I would have loved to know. I hope there are books written about her because I'm officially intrigued).

One of the most interesting stories was told kind of as a sidebar, but I would have loved to see a whole chapter. There was a princess who (in her 20s) told everyone that as a young girl she had swallowed a full size glass piano and it was still inside of her. She walked very carefully so as to keep the piano and therefore her insides, in tact. She was sent to a convent and became it's Abbess and was also a famous children's author. Which seems like a pretty happy ending for someone who thought they were toting around a piano in their gullet.

The book centers on the princesses but also on the men who love/tolerate/hate/marry them.The author describes one hapless husband as "as dumb as mittens on a cat". Which might be my new favorite insult ever. (I mean, it's cute and kind funny but not useful.)

I liked this book, I give it a  3 out of 5 stars. I'd be interested in someone with a psychology background's take on this book. There's a lot of abandonment issues floating around in this book and I wonder how that effected some of these women.The chapters were short, the content was amusing in it's telling even if a lot of it was sad.As a wrap up, I will give this advice. Never, ever make a baby with someone with whom you share a family tree.This will help you avoid so many problems!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything" By Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

I am not one who does math willingly. Mostly because I'm terrible at it and when I do math I'm usually wrong which invites ridicule from my math teacher husband. Knowing that, "Freakonomics" might seem like a strange choice of reading material. I remember when it came out and what a sensation it caused, and then again when the documentary came out. I've seen a few minutes of the documentary and that was enough to make me think that it would be worth the read,even with all of it's talk about math and numbers and talk of bell graphs.

The book's chapters are the answers to the chapters titular questions like "What makes a perfect parent?" Or "Why do so many drug dealers still live with their moms?". (Spoiler alert: no such thing as perfect parents and the book does admit as much.) 

Here's some of my favorite little factoids that I learned.

In the (fascinating) chapter about drug dealing and the hierarchy and structure of a dangerous inner city gang they talk about the danger of being a drug dealer. It's not surprising that this is a dangerous position and that death is common. However, you are more likely to be killed dealing drugs on the street than being executed as a death row inmate in Texas.(crazy right?!)

There is a chapter that discusses why the experts prediction of a huge crime wave in the mid to late 90s never actually happened. Many people argue that it had to do with changes in gun control and keeping guns out of people's hands. Did you know that in Switzerland every man is issued an assault rifle (for militia duty) and is allowed to keep it in their home? Therefore Switzerland has more guns per capita than almost any other country but is one of the safest places in the world. ("Guns don't kill people,people kill people",huh.)

This place is FULL of guns.

There's also a whole chapter devoted to kids with weird names and how it effects their career and life in general. (A chapter after my own heart).This chapter also has a couple of interesting graphs regarding names/economic status/race as well.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. I found some of the chapters really fascinating,and it was nice to see the the math right there. Even if you don't find the chapters interesting or you disagree with some of their conclusions the book still has worth. The boom shows how easily statistics can be manipulated and molded to fit a purpose or a cause. Always good to be reminded that it's good to be a cautious consumer.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"How do you find all these books to read?!"

I get this question a lot. And it's a good question, so if you are looking to build up your "to be read' shelf, here are some suggestions.

-I've already pined about how much I loved in this post. But I think it's worth repeating. Fill out a couple of you favorite books and see what their recommendations give you. I've found a lot of books this way that I know I would have picked up otherwise.

-This is obvious but ask your friends! If they get passionate about a book that they love, pick it up! It's a good way to get out of your reading comfort zone and then you have someone to discuss it with when you're done.

-When I get really stuck, I go to the library and try to find books about books. Nancy Pearl has written at least 5 books full of recommendations. I've had some hits and misses with some of her recommendations but the books themselves make for fun reading.

There's a book I'm reading right now called "The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlesness; 761 Books to Cure What Ails You". The book is kind of laid out like a medical dictionary. If you're scared of death they suggest you read "100 Years of Solitude" to get some perspective on life's never ending cycle. Scared that you're a coward? Get some encouragement from Scout in "To Kill a Mockingbird". Also I love the cover, books as medicine sounds just right to me!

In 2 unrelated notes:

These just arrived in the mail! Sometimes people ask about the blog and I worry that when time comes to sit at their computer and try to find it they won't remember the name. So I got these cute simple cards with the info on it. Also I love stationary so it was a good excuse to buy some paper goods. Let me know if anyone wants a few to shove off on their friends and family, haha.

Did you guys enjoy the giveaway with "Across Great Divides"? I had a really great experience working with "Closed the Cover" (the company who was helping the author promote the book) so look for another book review and giveaway in Feburary. Apparently the giveaway with that book is really good!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Author Highlight: Bill Bryson

I think that it would be fair to say that Bill Bryson is one of the great American travel writers. He has written books about travels in Australia, Africa, England, across Europe and through small town America. He's an Iowa boy, born and raised but has lived back in forth in the United States and England. He writes in a kind of humorous, sometimes self deprecating style, it's very conversational but you still learn a lot about the history of the places that he visits.

And Bill doesn't just do travel. If you enjoy his style of writing but don't care for his travel topics he has books on the science and the English language.

Also he looks like an English professor, which is awesome:
Bill Bryson edit.jpg
VIA Wikipedia

I've read a few of Bill's books but I'm going to highlight three here:

"In A Sunburned Country" - The sunburned country in question is Australia. Bryson spends time in the big cities and out in the middle of the outback. (There's a moment when he falls asleep in a car while someone is driving him around on a tour, and when he wakes up he realizes he's been asleep for like an hour.Cringe worthy AND relatable.) He talks about the Melbourne vs Sydney attitudes, why Canberra is the capital, and doesn't shy away from talking about the terrible treatment of Australia's native peoples. Every animal in Australia is designed to eat or poison you, but the people are lovely, so maybe it evens out?

"A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering American through the Appalachian Trail" - The Appalachian Trail is an American treasure. It stretches thousands of miles, from Maine to Georgia. Bill Bryson decides he wants to hike it. He and a hapless friend set out to go as far as they can with their shiny new hiking equipment and their blissful naïveté. The book centers on their own hike, the history of the trail, and the characters they meet. It made me want to hike about 10 miles of it, and then find a hotel with HBO and a pool. I know my limits.

"Notes From a Small Island" -  As mentioned before, Bill has done a lot of bouncing between the United States and England. He accepts a teaching job in the United States and so he decides to take a road trip around his beloved country as a farewell tour. (Obviously it doesn't stick, but hey, he didn't know that then.) He visits big touristy cities, small coastal towns and everything between soaking in all of the great things and people that make England the place that it is.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

ARC Book Review: "Across the Great Divide" by Monique Roy

I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher. Also I don't know what in blazes is going on with my text background. I know it's distracting. I'm ever so sorry.


Helene and Oskar live in Berlin with their twin daughters Inge and Eva and their son Max. Oskar runs a successful diamond factory, and they live comfortably. But since it’s 1933 and their Jewish we know this won’t always be the case.
In 1933 Inge and Eva are about 16 years old, and they are each other’s most treasured companions. They have one other close friend, a girl from school named Trudy.She’s practically a member of the family and participates in all of the family actives even Shabbat, even though she isn’t Jewish.
Things start to go south for the family slowly at first. There is trouble for the girls and Max at school, restrictions on where they can and can’t go, and casual racisim from their peers. One day Eva goes to Trudy’s house to see her and Trudy’s mother won’t allow it. Trudy isn’t allowed to hang out with Jews anymore. Max gets more and more involved in the underground and resistance movements. He repeatedly tells the family that they need to get out of Germany before it gets too late. No one heeds is warnings.

Eventually Oskar is forced to sell his diamond business at an incredible loss. On his last day he smuggles out some of his most rare and special pieces so that he can support his family. He stuffs them into cream filled pastries and walks out the front door of his former business. A Nazi stops him, and takes on of the pastries. Oskar runs home, hoping that the soldier had picked one of the empty ones, but that’s not the case.

After Kristallnacht the family decides that they need to get out of Germany, like now. They are only able to get as far as Belgium, thanks to Max’s underground connections and Oskar’s smuggled diamonds. One of the people that helps them along their way is a member of the underground named Isaac. There’s a little mutual attraction thing between him and Inge but there’s not a lot of room for romance when you’re on the run from the Nazis, amirite?

They eventually get to Antwerp and are surprised by the thriving Jewish community and settle in quickly. Oskar even finds a job in a Jewish owned diamond factory and even better, he meets an associate named Carmen (a Jew who had escaped with his family from Krakow) and he has a little mutual attraction thing with Eva.
In 1940, Isaac and Inge get married, however their joy is short lived because as they are celebrating the wedding with family and friends the Nazis come rolling into town, literally, in their tanks. Not long after Belgium is invaded France and the Netherlands fall. The family realizes that they need to get all the way out of Europe if they want to survive. Carmen and Eva get married in a small, quiet ceremony behind locked doors, and the next day the family of 7 starts to make their way out of Europe.

Through much trouble and scary situations they end up in Brazil. They struggle to settle in, and find jobs. No one spoke the language so they feel increasingly isolated. In 1944, after 2 years of struggle in Rio, the family (including a pregnant Eva) decides to move to South Africa.

Things go well in Cape Town. Eva’s baby is healthy, Isaac becomes a college professor, Carmen and Oskar get back into the diamond business successfully, Max enrolls in university and things feel good. But there are rumblings in South Africa that trouble (most) of the family – apartheid. 

In South Africa Max gets into trouble, an old friend makes an appearance, and the family gets to know more about the Cape Town that they don't often see....

I liked this book. I was a little scared about taking on two such weighty subjects in a 215 page book. I like that the story was based on the author's family story.I give it a 3.5. I have but one complaint about the book...

Coco Chanel said "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and remove one accessory" (I'm no fan of Ms Chanel but she has a point here). I think maybe the cover art should have taken a note from this quote. I know what they are getting at, but there's a lot going on here and it's a bit distracting

There is a giveaway going on here! Enter to win a copy of the book!

As a last note: Monique gets a virtual high five from me, because when I received my copy of the book to review, there was a lovely handwritten card tucked into the pages. The art of the thank you note is a dying one and it slays me. So snaps to her.

Monique loves writing that twitches her smiling muscles or transports her to anothertime or place. Her passion for writing began as a young girl while penning stories in a journal. Now she looks forward to deepening her passion by creating many unique stories that do nothing less than intrigue her readers.

Monique was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and her grandparents were European Jews who fled their home as Hitler rose to power. It's their story that inspired her to write Across Great Divides, her debut, historical fiction novel.

Monique holds a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and is also the author of a children's book Once Upon a Time in Venice. In her free time, she loves to travel, play tennis, pursue her passion for writing, and read historical fiction. 

In 2008, she was chosen by the American Jewish Committee's 
ACCESS program to travel to Berlin, Germany, on the 70th anniversary of 
Kristallnacht, to explore German and Israeli relations along with 20 other Jewish professionals from across the U.S.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: "Perfume -The Story of a Murderer" by Patrick Suskind

(First order of business, pretend there's an umlaut about the u is Suskind, I can't figure out how to make one)

After you read this book you will never look at your bottle of perfume again. (Or if you're a guy your pressurized can of whatever it is that is in there...)

What secrets do you hold random bottle of perfume ?!?
This story (originally in German) centers around a unfortunate creature named Grenouille. (Grenouille means frog in French. I know this from watching NCIS). He's born in 1732, while his mother is at work at a fish stall at a busy Parisian market. She's had 3 previous still-births while working so she just births him, cuts the umbilical cord and throws the body on a top of discarded fish heads. Luckily about this time the police come by and rescue him. (His mother is charged with infanticide and is later beheaded).

At his new home at a church ran orphanage the wet nurses don't like their new charge. He eats too much and he smells like nothing. This makes them all refuse to care for the child no matter how much the priest offers them. The priest cuddles the baby, fantasizing about impossible fatherhood but then the baby wakes up. Greouille stares at the priest and takes long purposeful sniffs of him. This really freaks out the priest (he feels like he can smell the sins on his soul) and he quickly takes the baby to another orphanage outside of town.

After a time at the orphanage (where all the children are scared of  him but they don't know why) the 7-year old orphan is set to apprentice at a tannery. During his time there he is treated, at best, like a working animal. However this is about the time he discovers his olfactory gift. He wanders the city, in his very infrequent down time, and absorbs all the smells. Soon he can wander the whole streets of Paris with his eyes closed.I think that it's interesting that he doesn't think of a smell as good or bad. He's just as eager to smell "a sweaty horse" as a "lard laden roast."

One night Grenouille smells a scent he has never smelt before and it stops him cold. He chases the smell for a mile until he finds the source. It's a young girl, about 13 who is slicing fruit in a quiet back street. He stands quietly behind her trying to soak in her smell, but she sees him and panics. He ends up strangling her, this is his first but not last murder.

After apprenticing at a failing perfumiary (thats probably not the right word and/or spelling) and revitalizing it, he disappears into the woods and lives in a cave for 7 years.He emerges looking like a caveman but is brought in to the house of a local aristocrat.More murders follow: all fresh, young, virginal girls. Grenouille gets caught and then the crazy twist ending comes up. The last 50 pages are awesome and insane. I really want to tell you about it but I don't want to spoil it for you so I will give you some keywords to intrigue you.

Public orgy (yep)
Botched execution

To be fair only two of these happen at the same time. Yeah...

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. Grenouille is an interesting character who you feel sorry for in the beginning but then you're pretty sure he's a mad man towards the end. The writing is easy and flows well even though it's translated from German, sometimes I get wary of translations it can get hairy. It packs a good punch for a short book, about 255 pages. And this book made me think of when I was in a perfume factory in Paris years and years ago so it gave me the warm fuzzies that way too. This book is also a movie, but it's in French so get ready to get your subtitles on.

Be sure to check in on the blog on Saturday, there's a giveaway going down with that book review!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Toes in the Sand, Book in my Hand: Vacation Reads Book List

I know none of you will believe this, but when I travel I take a big old stack of books with me. I'm not the greatest flier so being absorbed in a good book is good for my sanity during my time in those flying metal tubes. When it comes to picking my vacation reads, I like to pick books about travel, and books that I know I should have read but have never gotten around to it.

This is generally the face I make on an airplane.Usually the airplane doesn't make the face.

Here are some good ones:

"Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality" by Jacob Tomsky

Tomsky has worked several jobs in the hospitality industry. He's been a valet, a front desk worker, a front desk manager, and a housekeeping supervisor just to name a few. He's worked in brand spanking new beautiful hotel in New Orleans and a slightly worn Belle of the Ball hotel in New York City.

He had some really interesting tidbits that he shared like
-if you book through a booking engine (Orbitz, Expedia) you're pretty much getting the smallest room in a undesirable location (by the elevator, ice machine whatever) so take that into account.
-if you want a better room don't be afraid to slide your front desk clerk some money on the sly.They aren't going to upgrade you if you tell them it's your birthday.Everyone has a birthday, not everyone slips you some cash.
-always be nice to people. This makes you a better human being and it keeps the staff from talking smack about you on their breaks.

"Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet" by

Heather Poole.
It's easy to see why people would think that the life of a flight attendant is a glamorous one. Exotic locations, cheap travel, meeting all kinds of people sounds great. I don't think the trade off is worth it! Poole is a still-active flight attendant and she has some wonderful stories. She starts with talking about the training process for flight attendants, it is arduous.I can't believe the amount of things they have to learn and how strict the instructors are. People get kicked out for not being in full hair and makeup everyday.

Once she actually begins her flight career things get even more crazy. It amazes and saddens me how rude and inconsiderate people can be, and I feel like air travel makes it worse! She tells stories of creepy passengers, inter-flight crew dating and airport horror stories. The stories are funny and educational (Diet Coke is the drink that takes longest to serve because of it's fizzy head) and are great for the beach! And always say please and thank you to your flight attendant!

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll

Be serious, whose actually read this book? I saw this Disney version and read the watered down kids picture book story but not the actual book. I took this book with me on my first all-inclusive trip to Mexico. I knew I was drinking too much when all of the opium smoking caterpillars and mice in teapots were starting to make sense. But now I can say I've read it!

Here are some books next on my vacation reads list:
- "Not So Funny When It Happened: The Best of Travel Humor and Misadventure" - Tim Cahill
-"How the States Got Their Shapes"-Mark Stein
-"The Beach" - Alex Garland

Anyone else have any special ways to pick vacation reads?

Friday, January 3, 2014

This is Not a Post About Books - January . AKA Let's talk about Cuba.

This post is actually kind of about books, so liar liar pants on fire.

I'm a library clerk at a never-to-be-named law firm. And once a month the library staffs from all around the city where the never-to-be-named law firm is located get together and have a meeting. Sometimes there's vendor demonstrations, sometimes we just complain/share gossip, and sometimes there is a speaker.

We had a speaker recently and I thought that the topic was interesting and would make a fun blog post.
Jennie is the director of Pewaukee Public Library, she and 2 others (librarians, one being the director of my home base library) went to Cuba to take part in the International Book Festival earlier this year...well that was the plan at least.

The International Book Festival took place in an old military fort in Havana. Unexpectedly on display were some HUGE Russian missiles (you know, like the kind we had pointed at us not very long ago). The group thought that maybe something of the international incident type was afoot, but it turns out the Cuban government just trotted them out on display because they thought that people would enjoy seeing them.
The Book Festival wasn't enough to keep our adventurous librarians attention so they ditched the festival and got their explorer on!

Is...this going to be a problem....

A lot (read: almost everything) of things are named after Jose Marti. Jose Marti was a symbol for Cuba's independence from Spain, he was also a translator, poet, journalist, etc etc etc. His pictures were all over the place. Also lots of pictures of Che. But almost no pictures of Fidel, per his own instructions.

Jose! Again!

The illiteracy rate in Cuba is 3%. (Freaking 3%, it's amazing.) A large part of this is thanks to Fidel Castro's Literacy Campaign. The Campaign was basically this: people who could read (a lot of them young children) from the city move to a rural area for one year, stay with a local family, and teach that family how to read. To prove that they had become literate the families were asked to write a letter to Fidel. The Literacy Museum in Cuba has several hundred thousand letters of these letters from the 800,000 people who were taught to read during this campaign.(This makes my little book reading heart go all pitter-patter and warm and fuzzy).

Easy access to the internet is something I take incredibly for granted .The whole nation of Cuba was on dial-up until early 2012. Some parts of Cuba have been upgraded but Havana will be on dial-up for probably at least another 5 years. Also no one is allowed to have a private email address (like a gmail or a yahoo or what have you). Mostly the only people who have emails are state issued, and are held by state employees or educators. The internet is also heavily censored. Not a big surprise on that one.

When a lot of people picture Cuba they think of cool old cars (I think of mojitos, but I love mojitos and don't care about cars). I had assumed that the reason behind the lack of new cars had something to do with the embargo or that the cost was prohibitive. Turns out the real reason is that you are not allowed to own a car that was made post-revolution.So people really take care of their rides, because that's your only option. (Thank God this isn't a rule in the Midwest, we have too much salt damage and rust issues for a car to live that long).

Very subtle!

My sister always jokes that she wants to go to Cuba. (For her, I think, it's less about the history and the people, but more like she wants to look at their hotels and she hates when people tell her what she can and can't do). I used to make fun of her, but now I totally would go with a safe, legal way that would allow me to get back into the country.

Buckets upon buckets of thanks go to Jennie for letting me use some of her hundreds and hundreds of pictures and for letting me do a little write up on her talk.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years, New Totals and New Goals

Happy New Year all! Hopefully no one has a terrible hangover today. (I'm writing this in advance, just in case, haha.) Today we're going to finally put a pin in 2013 and talk about what might be in store for 2014.

Reading Total for 2012:140
Reading Total for 2013:185 

(I don't know why such a jump from 2012 to 2013. I read more graphic novels in 2013 then 2012, but there was no more than 8 of those. I think maybe it was because I was willing to give up on books that I didn't like where as in 2012 I felt obligated to read them to the end?)

Reading goals for the New Year:I'm not going to set reading goals for 2014. Itll be my first year reading for a blog (is that like eating for two when you're pregnant?) so I don't really know how that will effect me. But I'm thinking it will be about 120. 

A goal that I set for 2013 was to read the Bible chronologically.I only got about 7 read. The one reading goal I'm going to set for this year is to complete what I started!

I have a lot of posts already plotted out, and even some written! In 2014 expect posts on: travel, amazing survival stories, wine, dead bodies and so much more. None of those necessarily together. I'm open to your suggestions if there's something that you'd like to hear/read about too!

I hope and pray will be a beautiful,peaceful and wonderful 2014!