Saturday, February 28, 2009

Beyond the White House by Jimmy Carter

From the publisher's website: This is the story of President Jimmy Carter's post-presidency, the most admired and productive in the nation's history. Through The Carter Center, which he and Rosalynn Carter founded in 1982, he has fought neglected diseases, waged peace in war zones, and built hope among some of the most forgotten and needy people in the world.

The Carter Center is the home of the Carter Library and the offices for Jimmy and Rosalynn's efforts around the world. Beyond the White House was organized in three different sections. The first and lengthiest section was about the Carter Center work mediating disputes between nations. This section was arranged by location. Jimmy would say, "Let's talk about Palestine." and then he would tell the tale of that particular situation. That format made it somewhat difficult for me to follow because I think chronologically and I also have very poor geography skills! I kept expecting things to be in a sequence of dates but they weren't. There were the occasional moments that I could actually remember from my own history and with those I had a bit of a peg to place it into a timeline. But for most of that section, I was pretty lost. Carter constantly reiterated that he always sought the permission of the United States government before any mediation or negotiations would occur. However, he reported that sometimes later, the given permission would be publicly denied by the United States government. Growing up in Georgia, we were all very excited to have Carter elected president and my impression of him has always been that he was an honest and Godly man. So I accepted all these assurances that he was operating with the blessing of whatever administration was current. My MIL had a distinctly different opinion and has little respect for Carter's work because she views him as a renegade. No decisive conclusion on that - just interesting to me how opposite our viewpoints could be each based on nothing more than our gut instincts - and hers perhaps on a lot of Fox News.

The next section was Rosalynn describing her efforts with some social program - perhaps literacy? It was fine. As you can guess, "fine" didn't make much of an impression on me.

But then came the section on the Carter Center's efforts to eradicate neglected diseases. This part was good. The descriptions were fascinating. Most of these diseases I had never heard of before, others I knew a little bit about. When David Sedaris described Hugh and his mother experiencing guinea worms in When You Are Engulfed in Flames it tickled me silly. When Carter describes them emerging slowly and painfully from these poor villagers who could have prevented the entire experience with such basic hygiene and health is no longer ticklish, it still gives you a sensation in your stomach but it is not funny. The most vivid image was Carter describing some poor children in a remote area - probably Africa - that from a distance appeared to be wearing thick rimmed glasses. But when he got closer, he saw that the ring of black around their eyes was a circle of flies feeding on the matter. Egads - that picture will stay with you awhile!

I can't say that I would recommend this book to anyone. I listened to it as part of the U.S. President's Reading Project but there are probably better, more interesting choices out there. This is my second book for the U.S. President's Reading Project.

This is one of my books for the 2009 Audiobook Challenge too. 6/12 completed on that one - click on the button to see how it's going!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trash talk

Me, the 44 year old somewhat out of shape old lady, spends my day surrounded by the thousands of young Marines and Sailors that make up our community and that patronize the military facility where I work. Sometimes they make me angry, when they curse in front of ladies or children. Sometimes they bring out my maternal instincts when they are sick or hurt and their own mothers are so far away. But sometimes they just make me laugh. Like today. As I walked from the hospital to my car in the parking lot I passed some litter on the ground, someones award ribbon fallen off of their uniform and a Trojan still in the wrapper ready to go. The pairing made me smile.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

From the author's website: Katherine of Aragon (also known as Catalina) has known her destiny since childhood: to wed Prince Arthur of England. The daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, 16-year-old Katherine leaves behind her beloved home to forge a new life in a foreign land and take her place as Princess of Wales and, ultimately, Queen of England.

To Katherine’s surprise, her marriage to Arthur is a passionate love match as well as a political union. As the Prince and Princess of Wales, they eagerly plan for their future reign—until tragedy strikes five months into their marriage. Arthur falls ill, and before he dies the young prince extracts a vow from his wife. She is to marry his brother, Harry, and become Queen of England. She is to rule England in Arthur’s stead, fulfilling their dreams and her destiny. But to take the throne, Katherine must deny her true love and tell the world that she and Arthur never consummated their marriage.

The Constant Princess is the story of a young girl who was raised to be a queen, the lengths to which she goes to fulfill a deathbed promise, and the crucial lie that changed the course of history.

This is probably my first historical fiction of the kind of historical fiction that seems to personify the genre for me. I joined the Historical Fiction book club on Facebook but our first few selections were not romantic "princessy" books like I have come to associate with Historical fiction. I think that is because I am the only person left who has yet to read The Other Boleyn Girl! It was a little bit difficult to read at first because both the setting and time period are pretty unfamiliar to me and they used some Spanish names for people I might have known in English such as Cristóbal Colón for Christopher Columbus.

I loved Catalina's mother, Queen Isabella, she was a force to be reckoned with. I was disappointed in her father, he was certainly not one to spoil a daughter, he left her hanging on more than one occasion. The idea of the princess having relationships with the first son and the father and the second son is a plot line I think I remember from daytime soap opera (do you know Reva from the Guiding Light?)- apparently some themes can withstand the test of time. There was a peripheral character - another princess, Juana - that caught my interest and I am looking forward to reading a story with her as the main character that has been selected for the Facebook book club this summer. Overall, I think my first foray into the "princessy" version of historical fiction would be called a success - I enjoyed the book and I am looking forward to reading others.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

First Bike

There's a Facebook post making the rounds about being a girl in the 70's. It's Donny and Marie and Shrinky-Dinks and Shaun Cassidy. It's bell bottoms and Dorothy Hamill haircuts and Little House on the Prairie. And, it's bikes - bikes with a banana seat and a plastic basket with flowers on it hanging off the handlebars. Those are my memories! That was my bike!

My banana seated bike took me all over the streets of our subdivision in Florida. The subdivision where we lived was on the Tampa Bay - a series of streets and cul-de-sacs designed to maximize the canal system so that as many homes as possible had access to the bay. I remember riding my bike around the neighborhood, dropping it on someones lawn and heading back behind their house to the canal in their backyard. We'd walk along the sturdy brick wall edging the canal. Just one slip and we would have plunged into the waters - left to claw at the dock covered with barnacles in order to climb up to safety.

I rode my bike to the edge of the subdivision. There was a construction site for condominiums. This part of the subdivision wasn't on a canal but was edged by a sandy beach with all sorts of crabs to chase. We'd build crab houses and try to entice them in. Little crab resorts with crab swimming pools and crab chaise lounges. We had plenty of building material for our crab resorts - construction debris -rusted nails, broken glass, shards of wood. They (the crabs) were never impressed. We made the same elaborate resorts for lizards back home in our yards using our mothers' Tupperware and our old toys but the lizards were equally unimpressed.

A little older, I rode my bike to the five and dime. Next to the Publix grocery store, the five and dime sold every kind of trinket imaginable. Looking back now, it was the dollar store of it's day! I would buy beads. We girls had metal choker necklaces on which you could string beads - big chunky wooden earth toned beads. An add-a bead necklace for the hippie era.

My bike took me to places that made memories. Pedaling hard, wearing my knee high white go-go boots, my banana seated bike took me places that only a girl from the 70's would remember.

This post was written for the monthly Write-Away contest hosted at Scribbit. This month's topic is First Bike.

Monday, February 16, 2009

First in a Series Reading Challenge 2009

I saw this challenge and thought, "That looks interesting, but I'll never get it done." Then as I have been reading this year, I noticed that two of my books read are first in a series books without even trying. So I have decided to throw my hat in the ring.

The challenge rules are...
1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. Read 12 books that are the first in any series. You may read & list your chosen books any time during the year.
3. You can join anytime between now and December 31, 2009.

Here's how I am doing...
1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
2. Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross
3. A Silent Ocean Away by DeVa Gantt
4. Something Borrowed by Emily Griffin
5. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
6. A Child Called "It"
7. The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Just had to commemorate this little milestone...100 posts....woohoo! Wish I had some cute "100" meme to include but all the ones I have seen are pretty daunting. 100 things is a lot to think about!

And, just because I haven't put it out there for awhile...I'm on game #999,026 on Freecell. I keep thinking I'm so close to the 999,000 rollover mark that I will wait and post then, but it seems like I will never get there - darn Facebook.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross

From the author's website: This book begins the series that features the sharp-tongued, but soft-hearted in spite of herself, Julia Springer of Abbotsville, North Carolina. In it, Julia learns of her recently deceased husband's perfidious activities when his mistress, Hazel Marie Puckett, and his nine-year-old illegitmate son show up on her front porch without a nickel to their names. In spite of counselling by Pastor Ledbetter, criticism by her friends, gossip in the community, a kidnapping by a televangelist and the discovery of a new will that threatens to send her to the poorhouse, Miss Julia takes Hazel Marie and Little Lloyd into her home and learns to hold her head up high.

Quick fluffy read - but fun. The book had a gentle feel that reminded me of the Mrs. Pollifax books or the Ladies Detective Agency. This was the same combination of sweet innocent older lady going on a little bit of an adventure. I was surprised to learn it was the first in a series and then to see that there were so many that have followed it already. And as I looked them over, I realised I have read one of them before. That shows you that "read in an afternoon" fluffy books are fun but don't make much of an impression on me! While I enjoyed the book today, I can't imagine wanting to read more of this same character - at least not without a nice long break in between.

Click here to see my progress towards completing the challenge!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

From the author's website: As Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob—knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella has one more decision to make: life or death. But which is which?

What's there for me to say? I am the last one to read the series so it's all been said before. I liked this book better than book 2 (New Moon) but not as much as book 1 (Twilight). The whole "Who will she choose?" question doesn't do much for me because Edward is such an obvious choice. I haven't read the last one yet but she must end up with Edward. If not, I would have heard about it by now. There would have been rioting in the streets, suicide pacts by teenage girls, hackers disabling Stephenie Meyer's website - really, the world would pretty much end. So while there isn't much suspense for me, I am enjoying the journey. It's seductive. My girlfriend keeps getting all deep thoughts on me asking, "What kind of message is this sending our teen daughters?" She thinks Bella being willing to give up her life for Edward is not an example of a healthy relationship. I agree but we are spoon feeding them Prince Charming from the time they are toddlers so why start worrying now? Actually, if you were to take our two teen daughters as the examples, we needn't worry. They both seem to have moved on from the Twilight series without a glance back. It's for us old folks now. Twilight and Facebook - we rock!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Night by Elie Wiesel Review: In Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel's memoir Night, a scholarly, pious teenager is wracked with guilt at having survived the horror of the Holocaust and the genocidal campaign that consumed his family. His memories of the nightmare world of the death camps present him with an intolerable question: how can the God he once so fervently believed in have allowed these monstrous events to occur? There are no easy answers in this harrowing book, which probes life's essential riddles with the lucid anguish only great literature achieves. It marks the crucial first step in Wiesel's lifelong project to bear witness for those who died.

As I listened to this audiobook, I was struck by how at the beginning, and even later when terrible things are occurring, the people of the community of Sighet acclimated to the changes so readily. A change would occur, such as, all Jews being required to wear the yellow star, and there would be this moment of shock but then life would continue and the people would strive to regain their sense of normalcy and in many ways, they would achieve that. With each change, each restriction on their freedom, each tightening of the noose, the Jews would strive to return to normalcy. I'm not sure what this says about human nature. Something about adapting ourselves to adversity and our resilience in tough times - certainly good qualities. But looking back, you just wish they had known and understood. I wanted to cry out as I listened, "Stop, that's not right, this is wrong, get away. Save yourselves!" I can't imagine how Moshe the Beadle felt - trying to warn the community and having his pleas fall on deaf ears. I can't imagine how any of them felt. The Nazi war crimes are horrific. Hearing about the Holocaust is just an assault to your imagination because it is so incomprehensible. The narrator George Guidall does an excellent job bringing the text to life but letting the drama come from the strength of the tale and the images it conjures up. That Elie and his father and so many of their fellow prisoners were able to maintain their faith in God is beautiful. Reading this and hearing this is important.

This is one of my books for the 2009 Audiobook Challenge too. 3/12 completed on that one - click on the button to see how it's going!

Monday, February 9, 2009

I guess I only notice when you don't...

Ex-Marine gave me a bit of grief the other evening about a meal he thought was less than five-star quality. So I look at him and say, "You don't need to be critical, I've had well rounded meals on the table for the last however many days." (This is no easy feat for a working mom with three busy children!) He pauses and says, "I guess I only notice when you don't cook." Yeah buddy, that about sums up the problem right there.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The One Man Band

Yesterday was a busy day. It was a classic example of me being "the one man band" and taking on too much. Not a single thing I did was very difficult - we had a Cub Scout function - there were some directions for the boys about what to do, ordering awards, preparing the food for the the Scouts and their families, printing off a few pages about upcoming events....nothing that was difficult, no rocket science. And with those little, not difficult things - I get into the thinking pattern that it is so easy that is just easier to do it myself rather than to try to explain to someone else how to do it. I think, "It would take longer to call and talk to Other Mom about ordering pizza, I can just stop by and order the pizza." "By the time I explain to Other Mom where to find the songs on the Internet and how many copies to print, I may as well just print them." The problem with this thinking is that it is NOT TRUE. There are only so many hours in the day, I cannot do it all even if it is all very simple little things. Every little thing takes time and I need to learn to ask for help.

Friday, February 6, 2009

John Adams is kicking my butt.

I have had John Adams in my reading spot for weeks. Probably since just a few days after Christmas. I'm on chapter 2. Not good progress.

I did a little math - I'm averaging a book a year about the presidents. Which at 43 more presidents to go, would have me wrapping this challenge up at 44 (current age) + 43 (# presidents)...age 87 years. Except - that while I'm spending the next 43 years reading, we'll elect at least 5 or up to 11 more presidents. This puts my ETOCC (Estimated Time of Challenge Completion) somewhere between the year 2057 and 2063 and my age would be between 92 and 98. And while I am reading those 5-11 more books we'll have between 1 and 3 more presidents elected and I will then be quite possibly 100 years old!

Do you think when I am 100 years old, we will still even have the Internet?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Burning Bright by Tracey Chevalier

From the author's website: Burning Bright follows the Kellaway family as they leave behind tragedy in rural Dorset and come to late 18th-century London. As they move in next door to the radical painter/poet William Blake, and take up work for a near-by circus impresario, the youngest family member gets to know a girl his age. Embodying opposite characteristics – Maggie Butterfield is a dark-haired, streetwise extrovert, Jem Kellaway a quiet blond introvert – the children form a strong bond while getting to know their unusual neighbor and his wife.

Set against the backdrop of a city nervous of the revolution gone sour across the Channel in France, Burning Bright explores the states of innocence and experience just as Blake takes on similar themes in his best-known poems, Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

I listened to this one as an audiobook and I have to say that the narrator, Jill Tanner, was excellent. She did a great job differentiating the characters voices and making them come alive for me. This was 11 hours worth of listening time and the journey was enjoyable for me BUT...what an unsatisfying ending. I like my ending to be complete; I want it all wrapped up so that I know what happened. Hmm... don't want to give away anything so I'll just say that there was an implication of what was to happen but not a definitive answer - give me the answer!

I'm not big into poetry so William Blake's character and all the accompanying poetry recitation didn't do much for me. I did like the way Chevalier captured the time period. I am new to historical fiction so it impressed me. However, reading the online reviews, apparently it didn't impress others with more historical fiction experience.

This book is my "B" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

This is one of my books for the 2009 Audiobook Challenge too. 2/12 completed on that one!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

From the author's website:For Bella Swan, there is one thing more important than life itself: Edward Cullen. But being in love with a vampire is even more dangerous than Bella could ever have imagined. Edward has already rescued Bella from the clutches of one evil vampire, but now, as their daring relationship threatens all that is near and dear to them, they realize their troubles may be just beginning...

Legions of readers entranced by the New York Times bestseller Twilight are hungry for the continuing story of star-crossed lovers, Bella and Edward. In New Moon, Stephenie Meyer delivers another irresistible combination of romance and suspense with a supernatural twist. Passionate, riveting, and full of surprising twists and turns, this vampire love saga is well on its way to literary immortality.

I'll say this very quietly at the risk of angering all the rabid Twilight saga fans...I didn't really like this one....shhh! I am writing this review after I have read not only this book, New Moon, but also the next book, Eclipse. Eclipse was better. Twilight was better than both of them - hands down. So of the three, New Moon is just not my cup of tea. Probably because Jacob is just not my cup of tea and he is a major player in this book. I'm all about Edward.

This book is my "N" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Manic-Depressive Weather

I have daffodils blooming in my yard because we have had temperatures in the high 70's and low 80's recently. I also had a pipe freeze this week because we had overnight temperatures in the 20's recently. This weekend I am going to visit a girlfriend at the beach - it will be in the 70's. Mother Nature is obviously bi-polar and South Carolina is taking the brunt of it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Soul Catcher by Michael White

From the author's website: In the tradition of Cold Mountain and Widow of The South comes an epic novel of love, freedom and a country on the brink of war.

Cain is a scarred, but proud man haunted by a terrible skill--the ability to track people who don't want to be found.

Rosetta is a runaway slave fueled by the passion and determination only a mother can feel. And she will risk everything for the promise of freedom.

In the perilous years before the Civil War, their fates will intertwine in an extraordinary adventure--one of hardship and redemption that will take them from Virginia to Boston and back. it is an odyssey that will change them forever.

I read this book as part of my Facebook Historical Fiction Lover's book club. Same group that read Loving Frank. The book club leader, Jennifer from The Literate Housewife, has done a great job picking out books so far - I really enjoyed this book. It was a compelling story and it made me want to know more about some of the elements within the story - I'd like to read a tale with the backdrop of the Mexican-American War and I would like to know more about the abolitionist Brown. There were scenes that were filled with old fashioned gun fights and roughhousing that wouldn't normally be something I would think would appeal to me but they were fun to read and just right as part of this story.

Cain was a great character despite the fact that the idea of the "gruff but lovable" hero is a bit too romance novel for my taste. I enjoyed seeing his evolution and acceptance. I had fun when he would seem to be at a dead end and he would find a way out. The epilogue surprised me, but I was content with the ending.

I couldn't help but notice that Cain is very similar to a current TV character Dr. House. In fact, the resemblances are so marked that I began to suspect something. My hypothesis is that Augustus Cain and Gregory House are the same person AND...he's a vampire. It really makes perfect sense. Everyone who has read Twilight knows that once you are a vampire you remain the same age and just have to keep reinventing yourself into a new person in order to live amongst the mortals undetected. So Cain has probably undergone several transformations before his current persona as Dr. House. If you need further convincing, please examine the chart.

Augustus CainDr. Gregory House
Has a bum leg from the Mexican –American war.Has a bum leg from I don’t know where.
Addicted to laudanum.Addicted to Vicodin.
Lost great love – the Indian girl.Lost great love- the brunette who marries the other guy.
Performs surgery on self to remove bullet.Performs surgery on others – he’s a doctor!
Despite his arrogant, crusty demeanor – girls love him. Ditto.

Hmm... it is verrry suspicious.

This book is my "S" for the A-Z Reading Challenge! Click on the logo to see my progress.