Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Stranger and the Statesman by Nina Burleigh

I vividly remember a shopping spree I had several years ago in Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC.  Richard and I had made our first trip to our nation's capital and had fallen in love with the place.  So much so that we weren't disturbed when we had to stay an extra day because South Florida had been clobbered by Hurricane Jeanne.  The hotel of course wanted to get rid of us, so we arrived early at the airport, checked in and went shopping. 

Since I'm always looking at the books, I thought The Stranger and the Statesman would be the perfect souvenier. This is the story of how the Smithsonian Institute came to be.  It a story that I bet most American's have no knowledge of yet we flock to the variety of Smithsonian Museums in droves.  The museums do exactly as their benefactor intended, for the increase and diffusion of Knowledge among men.  James Smithson never set foot in America and his motives for leaving his estate to the US is sketchy at best. 

Most of us also wouldn't know that once this fortune arrived, the Congress allowed it to be squandered away before John Quincy Adams stepped in to save it. 

Sometimes reading the story got bogged down in the details of English royalty and France during its Revolution but what I learned from this book astounded me.  It has grounded me back to knowing how fortunate we are to live in America and what a truly wonderful country this is.  The Stranger and The Statesman is not a quick or easy read, but it is a history lesson you won't soon forget.


Monday, August 22, 2011

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

My copy of this book has a sticker on the back that says 'Oprah Book Club #3'.  It's been sitting around for a very long time I fear.  As I plow through my list of unread books, I'm getting to the really thick books that I probably bought because everyone else was reading them at the time, but they really scare me. 

Macondo is an imaginary town in an imaginary place where people live.  Yes, of course people live in a town but what I mean is they live life.  They get married, have children, visit prostitutes, go to war, start businesses.  The list of life goes on.  In Macondo the gypsies charge the villagers to see ice for the very first time.  A lost child brings the insomnia plague, another visitor brings the banana plague.  Once it rained for four years straight and then the sun shone for ten years. They go through life living and dying and rolling with the punches.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of those classics that everyone should read.  I found the story amusing and entertaining.  I had difficulty however, keeping track of all the characters.  The men and their many sons, had the same names.  The women too repeated their names.  Only Ursula, the matriarch of the town refused to allow anyone to name their child after her.  Someone did manage to slip in Ursula as a middle name for a child when they thought Ursula was on her last legs.  

This is a story worth reading.  It's funny and sad and crazy and twisted.  But be aware that it's not an easy read.  But then again, it's about life.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Turn Off the Television

There was nothing on television tonight. Our beloved Tampa Bay Rays had a well deserved night off.  So You Think You Can Dance had its grand finale last week and I've never really cared for The Office.  I watched 5 minutes of it with Will Farrell and I liked it even less.  Channel surfing was our only option.

Richard landed on a TLC show called Tattoo School.  Neither of us cares for tattoos.  We don't understand why someone would want to do that to their body in the first place.  But that doesn't stop our fascination with Kat D and LA Ink.

Did you know that in Tattoo School the students learn to tattoo on a banana?  It has a smooth skin.  After they tattooed the banana, the class moved immediately onto the real thing.  A live person.  One guy threw up at the thought.  Time to change the channel.

The movie, Conan The Barbarian, appeared on the screen.  The movie was made in 1982 so it looked really old and grainy even on a big screen TV.  Words began to pop up at the bottom of the screen.

Story Line: James Earl Jones is also known for playing another character who wore a black helmet.
Movie Line: They wanted to shoot the movie in Yugoslavia but decided it was too dangerous.  The movie was shot in Spain.
Story Line: Arnold S. hung the sword Conan used on the wall of his office while governor of California.
Movie Line: There was a coup in Spain while the movie was being filmed there.

This went on and on, one trivial fact after another.  And I hate reading subtitles.  It's too distracting. Richard asked me whose head was just cut off and I had no idea.  I was too busy reading.

Back to Tattoo School.  The amateurs had graduated to the real thing.  The guy with the queasy stomach was now drenched in sweat while poking the ink filled needle into his unsuspecting victim.  I moved on to watching people try to buy and sell million dollar properties in New York City.

By this time Richard was sound asleep on the sofa.  I turned off the TV and took Ginger for a walk.  If this is what it takes to entertain the American public, then I'm really going to be in trouble when baseball season ends in October.  There's a long stretch in between baseball season and the start of American Idol.  I've been thinking of furthering my education.  Do you think I can get a scholarship to Tattoo School? On second thought,that won't work.  I'm allergic to bananas.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Society of S by Susan Hubbard

If you've read enough of my book reviews you'll know.  I don't read vampire stories.  I just don't.  Vampires are not my thing. 

In May I attended the Creative Writing Institute at Florida Institute of Technology and I took a class from Susan Hubbard.  She was positively amazing as a professor and as a person.  I learned so much from her in a very short period of time.  The entire class had fun together.  It was an awesome experience.

I downloaded The Society of S onto my Kindle. The thought that keeps coming to my mind to describe this book is, "It had me at hello!"

Ariella lived a sheltered life, home schooled by a reclusive father.  He has sheltered her for a reason known only to him as an adult vampire. As she begins to develop as a teenager and is given a taste of the outside world, she begins to question her unusual life. Her mother disappeared when she was born and her father finally reveals his story to her.  After the death of her only friend, Kathleen, Ari sets off to search for her mother.   On the road she discovers her taste for blood and struggles to come to terms with the morals she's been taught by her father and her physical desires as a vampire.

I loved this book.  Susan is a wonderful storyteller using beautiful, descriptive prose.  The characters are rich and real.  A good portion of this book is set in Florida and I swear I saw a Green Cross truck make a delivery down the street just the other day.  The lesson learned here is to keep an open mind and read a variety of genres.  You just might find a treasure like The Society of S.   

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