Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Year of the Family

I always like to do a little recap at year end.  It helps me to keep focused on the good things in life.  I call this year, The Year of the Family because Richard and I spent alot of quality time with people we love. 

In May we gathered in Philadelphia for a funeral and a wonderful tribute to my sister-in-law, Kathy's mother.  We had a heart warming celebration of life with her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends.  The women wore gardenias and we all ate angel food cake with blue icing. 

In June, Richard and I celebrated his 70th birthday in Tampa watching our beloved Tampa Bay Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles.  I secretly had his name put up on the scoreboard, which he missed and didn't believe me until the picture arrived in the mail a week later.  On the way we stopped to see my nephew, Tommy, his wife Lucy and 2 week old baby, Blakely.  We turned out to be the first from our side of the family to see the new baby.  I think that made my sister just a tiny bit jealous. 

Our niece, Laurel from Vermont, played on the 8th grade girls championship basketball team and came to Orlando to play in a tournament.  Richard and I wore our green and gold and waved our hand-made signs.  We had a blast cheering them on!

July meant a girl's trip to Yellowstone with my granddaughters.  We listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, went spelunking in a cave, whitewater rafting and zip lining in Montana.  The Grand Tetons are glorious and the sight of herds of bison strolling the plains is unforgettable.

Next stop Hawaii for a birthday celebration for Kathy.  The family learned to hula dance, took a sunset boat ride at Waikiki and simply enjoyed the beautiful beach and perfect weather.

I barely had time to unpack and I was off to Boston for a wedding.  Georgia, my friend since fourth grade and who I hadn't seen in too many years, was the mother of the groom.  During the summer while growing up, I spent them with her family at their cottage on a lake.  To see this wonderful, welcoming family again filled my heart with joy.  The wedding was beautiful and that it brought us back together made it even more special.  Thank you, Adam and Crystal.

After all that I need a month to recuperate!

There are so many more friends and family that touched our lives this year.  Even though I didn't list your name here, you live in my heart.  I pray that we will continue to love and support each other in the years to come.  Looking back, each occasion gave me a special memory.  Each memory, a gift.  Now it is the end of a very special year.  I'm looking forward to the gifts the new year will bring.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge

First off I have to thank Netgalley for allowing me the opportunity to enjoy Advance Reading Copies of so many great new novels.  I love being among the first to dig into yet to be published works before the rest of the book buying public. I might not otherwise pick these treasures off the shelf since there is so much to chose from these days.

Love Water Memory is truly a treasure.  Lucie Walker suddenly finds herself knee deep in the ice cold water of the San Francisco Bay with no idea who she is or how she ended up there.  She's taken to a psychiatric hospital where she's diagnosed with a severe form of amnesia.  Her face is plastered all over the news prompting her fiance, Grady from Washington State to rush to her side.  Lucie doesn't recognize him.

Their struggle to understand their relationship and to find themselves as individuals begins.  Back home in Washington nothing about her surroundings is familiar to Lucie.  Nothing is familiar to Grady either as her driven, health conscious self centered lifestyle has disappeared.  No longer taking her routine morning run through the neighborhood, Lucie's body softens, and so does her heart.

It is clear from the beginning, Lucie and Grady are meant for each other.  Her amnesia sets them on a course of deep discovery.  What I loved most about this book is the richness of these characters. They became my friends.  I lived in their neighborhood shopped, worked, and ate in all the same places.  I felt their joy for every step forward and pain at their two steps backwards .  Love Water Memory is one of those rare stories that touches every emotion coaxing the reader to first dip their toe in the water before being immersed in the dark, cool water.  

Love Water Memory is due to be published in April, 2013.  Make a note on your calendar.  It's not to be missed.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

I have to say right off the bat that novels set in England are not usually my cup of tea.  It always raining, cold and dreary.  The characters live in funny little cottages with thatched roofs and drive little cars with the steering wheel on the wrong side.  Don't get me wrong England is a beautiful place filled with wonderful people.  I really think it's all the rain that drags me down.  I'm a Floridian.  I thrive on sunshine. 

For The Secret Keeper, however, I didn't mind.  This story kept me involved from start to finish.  Laurel, the oldest of four sisters and one brother is an accomplished actress.  The siblings gather at the family home. Their mother Dorothy, is now waiting on her deathbed for the peace that has eluded her throughout her life, to come.  At sixteen Laurel witnessed her mother killing a man in the backyard.  The event had been kept from her sisters.  Her brother Gerry, a baby at the time was there and always felt something tragic had happened but never knew what it was.  The two of them race against time to solve the mystery knowing once their mother is gone, she will take the secret with her.

This novel weaves through time from the London Blitz during the war to present time.  The author brilliantly hops from scene to scene and character to character building a rich web of storytelling.  I couldn't put this book down.  Each time I felt I had figured out Dorothy's secret, I found out I was wrong.  I stayed up late at night and woke early in the morning to read a few more pages.  The deceit is so perfect and I will not tell you any more than that.  The Secret Keeper is a keeper. And it wouldn't have been so wonderful if not set in war torn, rainy, dreary England.  Don't let this one pass you by.

Tippecanoe to Tipp City by Susan Furlong

Tippecanoe to Tipp City by Susan Furlong

Tipp City is a small town north of Dayton, Ohio.  My sister, Susan, is an 'away girl' who wasn't raised there but came after marrying a man who called the town home.  I was still in high school when she became an away girl. That means she's called Tipp home for a very long time that anywhere else is probably 'away' to her now.  I'd say she's just a Tipp 'girl' now.

Tippecanoe To Tipp City is a charming look back into how we have arrived here in the present day. It's often difficult to imagine a time when a canal had to be dug to get goods from point to point. And to think that passengers on the barges often shared their space on deck with the donkeys pulling them through the canal. We are spoiled by today's modern cruise ships. The dress of the day was button hook shoes and knickers for the boys. We've traded that formality for flip flops and jeans. The town council paid over $500 for uniforms for the volunteer fire department. Today we think nothing of spending that amount for one cell phone or an i pad.

This book is filled with delightful stories and photos of people shopping, going to school, having parties and picnic, doing all the normal things in life. I'm quite nostalgic for a simpler life in a small town. Life had it's headaches then too, however. The mail was a constant source of confusion with a town of the same name also in Ohio. To solve it, the town changed its name. A simple yet controversial solution to a problem that would no longer exist today with the use of zip codes. And besides who gets mail anymore? The email has become our mainstay for communication.

Tippecanoe to Tipp City is a walk through time, in a time and place worth remembering. The photographs are amazing and the stories they tell fascinating. Susan has done a great job documenting the history of this small Ohio town. Even though my connection to the town is only through my sister's family, the story of it's life is captivating.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Best Books of 2012

I love best books of the year lists.  So here's mine. 

Best Classic  -  The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  The book is nothing like the movie that we all remember so fondly.  There's no singing or horses that change color before our eyes.  The story is charming and surprising and a joy to read.  It's always refreshing to take a trip back into our carefree days of childhood to keep our adult world in perspective.

Best Suspense  -  The Breath of God by Jeffrey Small.  This novel took me around the world without a single pause in the action.  It's a page turner with a religious question begging to be answered.

Best Book that Almost Won the Pulitzer Prize  -  Swamplandia! by Karen Russell.  Swamplandia! was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.  No prize was ultimately awarded, the competition ending in a three way tie.  I loved the Bigtree family living in the middle of the Florida Everglades wrestling alligators and selling kitchy souvenirs for throngs of tourists.  Quirky.  Crazy.  Fun.

Best Book Made Into a Movie  -  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  How could I not fall in love with tough, smart and vulnerable Katniss?  Against all odds, she survives.  What's not to like?  The movie didn't disappoint either.

Best Self Help  -  The Magic by Rhonda Byrne.  Learning to express my gratitude each and every day has made an incredible difference in my life.  It's not always easy to keep a positive attitude.  The Magic has taught me that positive thoughts and actions attracts more good things.  A grateful life is a wonderful life.

Best Pick By My Sister  -  Blue Angel by Francine Prose.  My sister recommends books all the time.  This year they've all been good so this was the hardest pick of all.   Writing professor, Swenson and his midlife crisis consumed me.  The author got me so deeply into the workings of his mind, that I got on the roller coaster without hesitation.  And Swenson is not a very likeable kind of guy. Prose is a master.

Best Book Overall  -  The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.   This is not your ordinary novel.  The writing style is unusual but the story is deep and emotional.  I love a novel that makes me feel something inside.  The Buddha in the Attic made me feel, happy, sad, angry, love, friendship, kindness,  disgust and hope.  It's a heart warming and emotional experience about life.

 I wanted to be the first to get my best books of the year list out.  Sadly however Richard has already given me a few that he's torn out of some year end magazines.  I still haven't read all the books I found on last year's book lists.  I've saved them though.  I'll add this year's to them and someday, yes someday I'll have read everything I've ever hoped to read.    


Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Ghosts That Come Between Us by Bulbul Bahuguna

The Ghosts That Come Between Us by Bulbul Bahuguna

I'm on the fence about this one.  I received an advance reading copy and was initially anxious to read this.  I love reading stories set in exotic locales such as India.  In fact awhile ago I read a really wonderful book with a similar title, The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar that was also set in India. 

I was all in on this book.  Nargis is a young Indian girl who tells her story.  I became mesmerized by the viewpoint of this child.  The author had a very uncanny ability to submerse the reader into the life of the child.  I saw everything very clearly through her eyes.  As Nargis grew up so did how she spoke and reacted to life around her.  I was hooked. Even though they had very minor parts, the Bollywood actress named Dimple and Nargis' daughter whom she named Mandy, said this book was made for me.  Dimple, without the 'S' was my nickname in college and Mandy is the main character in my own novel, One Clown Short.

In every story something bad has to happen to give the main character an impactful event that will change their view of the world.  Nargis was the youngest child in a military family.  Her father controlled every aspect of the people around him.  Her mother retreated into her shell because of it.  For many reasons, religion, culture, the family of the nineteen sixties and seventies remained trapped in the father's clutches.

The pacing of the first half of the novel kept me interested.  But when Nargis left home to attend medical school in Russia, the story slowed to a crawl. She met and married an Indian boy she met in Russia.  By the end of the book, she's singing her husband's praises yet we know almost nothing about him.  He's never mentioned throughout her entire struggle to mend her relationship with her mother after her father's death.  And yet the conflict with her mother went on for years.  In fact the author dragged it on to the point I didn't care about it any more.  Sure, Nargis' father was a bad man.  But the child's voice I loved in the first half of the book, made me want to say 'grow up' when used to describe her adult battles.  Enough was enough.

The first half of this story, I loved.  The second half, I could have lived without.  It didn't resolve anything for me.  I don't think it resolved anything for Nargis either.  So maybe we're even.  On this one, I'll just have to stay on the fence.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Carnival Fun!

Now that the election is over we can all breathe a sigh of relief.  No more barrage of unwanted phone calls just as we sit down to dinner.  No more taping every single TV show on the planet so we can fast forward through the political ads.  We haven't escaped however, the analysis of how it turned out the way it did. 

What the research says is that the American landscape is changing.  The educated white man no longer rules.  In fact he's in the minority.  People I grew up thinking were minorities are now the majority.  That's what makes America great in my view of the world. But did we really need to spend millions of taxpayers dollars to tell us this?  No.  The journalists only need to visit the local carnival to see what's happening.

Yesterday was a picture perfect day here in Florida.  The Space Coast State Fair was in full swing over at the stadium.  The stadium is so close that at night I can hear the fairgoers screaming while they enjoy the many rides.  With nothing better to do Richard and I decided to take in the festivities. 

We paid our admission fee and stuck our arms through a hole in the booth so the ticket taker could put on our wrist bands.  Next the Gideons handed me a pocket bible.  And then there we were smack dab in the middle of a world of carny barkers, spinning rides and fair food. 

Richard and I are fascinated by the game barkers.  The games haven't changed much. Ring toss and guess your weight are still dragging people in with the lure of a big bright colored stuffed animal.  In the stand up the bottle game, the prize is an ipad or a Wii.  I don't think too many of those are handed out.  The rides still spin but have different packaging like dragons and hanggliders.  I have vertigo so no rides for me but it's fun to watch the kids smiling after a trip on the Tilt-A-Whirl disguised as a magic carpet ride.

It's the food that amazed me.  I've never been to a fair that served egg rolls and fried rice.  The brightly colored booths also sold chicken wings, pizza and fruit smoothies.  The pizza smelled delicious but I was determined to have what I consider real fair food.  We had a hard time finding our tried and true favorites, a sausage and onion hoagie and funnel cake.  But when we did.  Oh my!  Wash it all down with a diet coke and I was in seventh heaven. 

After we ate, a trip to the port a potty was in order.  I pinched my nose before entering but I didn't need to.  It was clean and actually smelled pretty good.  They've got the air freshener part fine tuned.  And don't forget the hand washing station.  I didn't feel like I needed to take a bath the second I exited the portable bathroom.  

I wanted a fair that took me back to my childhood.  But young people today can't even imagine a world with out pizza and chicken nuggets.  To attract a diverse crowd even the carnival knows it has to change with the times.  I enjoyed this new version of the state fair.  The circus, the bulls, sheep herding and even a Flying Wallenda climbing a 100 foot pole entertained me.  I got my fix of junk food.

And guess what? There wasn't a fried Twinkie anywhere to be found.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Seventh Victim by Mary Burton

The Seventh Victim by Mary Burton

I was fortunate enough to get an advance reading copy of The Seventh Victim when I attended the super, fabulous Florida Writers Association Conference last month in Lake Mary, Florida.  Mary Burton will be the association's guest at next years conference and will conduct a workshop.  I can't say enough good things about the Florida Writers Association and the wonderful things they do.

I don't read alot of romantic suspense.  Mainly because crime and murders don't really float my boat.  And I really hate to say this because I don't want any of you to think I'm being arrogant, but I can usually figure out who did it long before the author chooses to reveal it.

James Beck and Lara Church were strong, believable characters guiding the story through many twists and turns.  The hunt for the Seattle Strangler who was responsible for a string of murders until Lara.  She escaped his clutches but with no memory of the event to help police solve the homicides. After the attack, she wandered around the country until landing in Austin, Texas when her grandmother dies.  The strangler has landed there too.

The Seventh Victim is a well written and tension filled novel.  What left me anxious to move on was that I knew how it would end before I even go to the halfway point.  And the author left the romance until nearly the end of the book in what I felt was a very unnatural point for the characters.   I didn't see sexual tension building between the two leading up to that point.   

If you enjoy reading Mary Burton and romantic suspense novels, you will love The Seventh Victim.  I enjoyed reading it but it left me unfulfilled.  It just wasn't for me. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Christmas Already?

It smells like fall today, that wonderful odor of decay that signals autumn. It also makes me want to get out a rake, make a pile of leaves and jump in.  But alas this is Florida.  There are no dead leaves scattered across the front lawn, no rake in the garage, no brilliant yellows and reds lighting up the landscape.  Fall comes late here.  And stays but for a fleeting moment. 

Fall means a turkey is cooking in the oven today.  We've decided to skip Thanksgiving in favor of a car show in Orlando this year.  We'll have a hot dog for lunch and leftovers when we get home.  Aren't leftovers always better than fresh out of the oven anyway?   

Tomorrow it will be winter.  Winter by Florida standards doesn't include snow.  It rarely requires gloves or hats or heavy coats.  When it does, we have to dig far into the closet to find those things we brought with us when we came south over thirty years ago and kept on hand just in case. Winter here is a pleasant, cool crispness and blends quickly into spring.

The impending onset of winter means it's time to put up the Christmas decorations.   Oh I forgot.  They're already up. 

The Christmas tree is decorated and standing proudly in the living room.  The patio is strung with lights and garland graces the front door.  But Richard won't turn on the lights until someone else in the neighborhood does it first.  This is a 55 community.  Someone else has to have too much time on their hands like Richard.  The giant blow up Santa surely has to appear in the yard down the street soon. Or do I have to wait for them to smell change in the air?  Tomorrow they'll pop out of bed and rush around putting up the decorations, baking cookies, trimming the tree afraid they've missed it. 

Each year the holidays come sooner and sooner.  Where does the time go?  Just for today I'm going to soak up all the sights and smells of fall.  They will be hard to find and difficult to detect.  Tomorrow it will be winter, the day after New Years and the day after that Easter. I'm going to enjoy it while I can. The holidays will come around again before I know it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters is a truly weird, and aptly named novel. And I loved it.

Written in third person possessive, it took a little getting used to.  As the story unfolded, the unusual tense became natural and well suited to the story.  Weird.

Three very different sisters, Rose, Bean and Cordy all make their way back home when their mother is diagnosed with breast cancer.  Rose is the eldest, and feels it's her duty to take charge of everything.  She had earned her PhD and holds a professorship at a nearby university, never having left the comforts of her parent's home.  Bean, the lively party girl couldn't wait to leave small town life for the big city.  The fast and expensive lifestyle however caught up with her, forcing her back home.  Returning to care for her mother served as a cover up for the trouble she'd created.  Cordy was a wanderer, never sure what bed she'd sleep in or where the next meal would come from.  She loved the freedom, but she too had a secret that drove her home.

One thing all the sisters had in common was the love of books.  Their father teaches literature at the small college in town.  He speaks in lines from Shakespeare leaving his daughters trying to figure out what he is truly trying to say. Their mother suffers silently.

The author's talent at creating extraordinary characters is amazing.  Each sister has a distinct personality.  The parents are so immersed in each other, the girls exist in the outskirts of their private world. Throughout the novel the characters remain true to themselves in all the interactions between them.  An amazing feat in a complex story.

The Weird Sisters was weird.  But also wonderful.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Back To My Roots

Books are piling up on my shelf again. I'm back to feeling helpless when it comes to resisting them.  Is it that when I ordered a keyboard cover for my new laptop on Amazon, I had to order a few books in order to get free shipping? Or that while attending the Florida Writers Association conference a couple weeks ago, I couldn't resist shopping in the bookstore.  Or is it that I've felt a new surge in writing lately and when I go to the bookstore for some peace, I'm overwhelmed by all the new books out for Christmas.

All of the above.  I also snuck in a few new titles on my Kindle.  The other day while dusting in the dining room, I saw the books that grace the shelves there. I'd forgotten about them. We don't eat in the dining room very often, only when we have company.  Now I'm feeling overwhelmed by books again. 

That got me to thinking why I started writing this blog to begin with.  Addiction.  I seemed to think that hoarding books was harmless.  I loved to read, what harm could it be.  Yet I foolishly spent money on things I didn't use.  Armloads of books sat silently on my shelf.  As soon as the next intriguing best seller came out, I bought it, tossing aside all the perfectly good books I already had.  When I started writing this blog, I had 76 unread books waiting for my loving eyes to read their pages and warm hands to hold them.  For a long time I kept track of titles I read.  Probably half of that 76 has been read, a few more given away when I started them and couldn't stomach more that the first chapter.  At least another 76 have made their way into my reading mind without ever being logged onto the list. 

The path that initially had me examining my bookshelf also got me to examine my life.  For a long time after closing the book I read before bedtime, I prayed for the will to stop drinking.  And every day at dinner, I reached into the refrigerator for a bottle of wine.  From my drunken stupor, I prayed some more.  And then one day I fixed dinner and set a glass of water in front of my place.  That was almost three years ago.

That first night, I went to bed and said thank you.  The next night, I asked for help me.  Unbeknownst to me, that first night was only the beginning of a long and painful journey.  But I made it down the road.  Oh sure, on days like today, when it's cold out, for some reason I crave a drink.  But I don't have one.  So many things are clearer in my mind.  It's so much more pleasant not driving through life in the fog.

I'll make it through my pile of books.  I'll read them, keeping the ones I love and passing along those I don't like quite so much. My love of books and the written word helped me to understand other shortcomings in my life.  Every book comes into my life for a reason and I promise I'm going to read them.  I know I can do it.  My books showed me the way. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Parent App by Lynn Schofield Clark

The Parent App by Lynn Schofield Clark

After spending a miserable vacation in the amazing beauty of Yellowstone National Park with two teenagers who refused to release their grip on their cell phones, I decided to read The Parent App. 

I wasn't raised on computers or cellphones but as a writer trying to be noticed in today's world, I'm very aware of their gravitational pull.  My husband, who doesn't even know how to turn on a computer, often complains about how attached I am. My computer usage however, is extremely tame compared to my granddaughters who have never known a world without them.

The Parent App is an interesting discussion about children and their parents in this digital age.  Socioeconomic backgrounds play a huge role in how soon a child gets a cellphone and how the parent regulates its use.  Each child is different and the parenting styles have to adjust. I found the comparisons fascinating. 

Instead of being frustrated at my failure to understand teenagers, The Parent App opened my eyes to what it means to grow up in today's world.  That doesn't mean as adults we have to accept a computer's domination of our daily lives.  We must teach our children how to use these modern tools wisely and we must learn how to use them wisely ourselves.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A River Sutra by Gita Mehta

A River Sutra by Gita Mehta

To feed my appetite for books, I take time each day to answer surveys and click on ads to collect points.  Once I collect enough points, I cash them in for Amazon gift cards.  Free books!  Cool and right up my alley.

With a a $20 gift card burning a hole in my computer, I opened up my Amazon wish list to see if I'd wished for anything interesting.  A River Sutra had been added to the list a couple years ago.  The reviews looked interesting, it's set in an exotic local, and has a spiritual message.  I like to mix up my reading material between styles and genres and this seemed like the perfect fit for the moment. I downloaded it.

The story is about a man who retires from his government job and  takes a post at a guest house deep in the jungle along the Narmada River.  A variety of people cross his path, all offering different bits of spiritual advice.  Although the stories and characters were interesting, I never felt a connection between them.  He would begin a conversation with a monk, or a woman or a musician and then they would say, "Let me tell you a story." 

The stories had different messages for the retired man looking to escape from life.  For me at least, I got to the point I didn't want to hear any more stories.  I wanted to know the main character's story.  It was never told to the extent I wanted to find some satisfaction.  The book is beautifully descriptive of the people and places.  I didn't feel the stories came together as a cohesive unit.  I know I often like things to be tied up in neat little packages and life doesn't resolve itself so easily.  I didn't need a pretty bow, I only wanted to see how he processed in his own mind, the lessons told by others.

A River Sutra is wonderfully written and has much to teach.  I wasn't in the right mindset to learn from it even though I thought I was ready.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

For A Limited Time

In Florida we don't have changing colored leaves in autumn.  In fact we don't really know when fall arrives.  A date on the calendar doesn't help much because it can be 90 degrees outside in the middle of September during the Autumnal Solstice.  That's the time I start craving candy corn.  But when the temperature moves downward, indicating the shift to winter, my appetite adjusts.

It all started with a pumpkin bagel from Panera.  Tired of my usual morning pancakes, Richard brought home a pumpkin bagel dusted with powdered sugar.  Slightly toasted in the toaster with a spread of butter.  Yum.  He immediately called Panera and ordered 2 dozen more for pickup the next morning.

Keep in mind that I still haven't lost the five pounds I gained last Christmas, so I try to be mindful of what I eat even though I've been unsuccessful at losing any weight for almost a year.  One morning while Richard was still sleeping, I got up and took a pumpkin bagel out of the freezer, popped it in the toaster and enjoyed.  Richard still slept and the bagel so delicious, I got another one, fixed it to my liking and relished every single bite.  God, it was delicious!  

When Richard finally got up, he said, " I have to admit something."

"What?" I asked.

"When I got up this morning I ate a pumpkin bagel.  It was so good and you were still asleep so I ate a second one.  Then I went back to bed."

I started to laugh, "I did the same thing."

Every since then I want to eat anything pumpkin. My pumpkin craving won't subside so I sneaked out of the house for pumpkin frozen yogurt at Redberry praying they haven't swapped out my favorite flavor.  Mix in the broken waffle cones and some chocolate sprinkles. Mmmm.  

Every week Richard checks the grocery store circular for sales.  The grocery store featured pumpkin pie. After much discussion in the middle of the bakery,  Richard and I  decided we didn't need the extra calories.  I walked past the freezer case and saw limited edition pumpkin ice cream.  Richard and I lingered in front of the freezer much longer than we did over the pie.  But again we decided it wasn't a good idea for our health. I think about that ice cream all the time. I wonder how long it will stay on the shelf.  What does limited edition really mean? It's only a matter of time before I give in. I can feel it in my bones.

I did however, make my way to the dairy case for the pumpkin spice coffee creamer.  Usually I buy the peppermint but now it's available year round, it's lost some of its appeal.

We're almost out of pumpkin bagels.    If we eat them all, then there'll be room to stock up on pie and ice cream and coffee creamer and anything else pumpkin that turns up for a limited time. So much for losing those pesky five pounds before Christmas. I think they're here to stay.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shelter by Harlan Coben

Shelter by Harlan Coben

I've never read Harlan Coben.  I'm not much of a mystery, thriller reader but he is a staple in writing seminars because of his engaging storytelling and brilliant use of words.

The other day Richard wanted to go to the bookstore and I am always in on that field trip.  He sat down to read a magazine and I grabbed Shelter off the table and sat down with him.  The very first sentence had me hooked.  And I mean hooked.  Got me! Reel me in!

I couldn't leave the store without the book.  Richard must have seen the glow of excitement in my eyes.  He took a ten dollar bill out of his wallet.  That never happens especially in a bookstore since he knows how many books already line our shelves at home. Once I got it home, I couldn't put it down.

Mickey Bolitar has lost his father in a car accident, his mother is in rehab and his girlfriend is missing.  He's still trying to fit in at his new high school.  Living in the basement at Uncle Myron's house, the house his father grew up in, spurs him to look for answers to his life.

Mickey is a cool kid.  I couldn't help but love him.  He's teased and bullied for making friends with Ema, a sharp witted girl who's overweight on on the outs with the popular crowd.  And then there's Spoon.   Spoon dishes out all kinds of useless trivia.  He's not part of the in crowd either.  Together the trio sets out to find Ashley, Mickey's girlfriend.  The team, I have to admit is quite resourceful. 

Their search leads them to the Bat Lady, who according to local legend, terrorizes children from her dilapidated house on the corner.  The trail takes them to a sleazy strip joint in the inner city where all hell breaks loose.  But in the end, the road reveals to Mickey a very dark secret about his past and how it will shape his future. 

I loved Shelter. Did some parts seem a little hokey to me? Yes. But Mickey, Ema and Spoon were such a delightful trio of characters, I didn't mind.  There's a sequel coming.  I'll be ready and I hope the cover also sports an intriguing pair of emerald green eyes that follow me wherever I go.  Those eyes are why I didn't have a chance of leaving Shelter behind.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blue Angel by Francine Prose

Blue Angel by Francine Prose

Every now and then I get an email from my sister, Martha, and she tells me to read some obscure title I never would have uncovered on my own.  Usually they are not current bestsellers and are not easily accessible in my local bookstore and I wonder how she's found them.  I've learned through the years though I can't always trust my sister to have the same taste in novels as me.  If I've never heard of it, I say thank goodness for Amazon and check to see if it has decent reviews. If it does, I'm in.  Blue Angel was subject to my vetting process and made it to my reading list.  

Swenson is a professor of creative writing at a small private college in Vermont.  His own attempts at writing his second novel have fallen on hard times. Into his class walks Angela, a student with writing talent.  Swenson becomes obsessed with her and her work after the other students present him story after pathetic story of sex with animals. The political workings of the college administration coupled with an unstable, tattooed, body pierced coed drag Swenson down a path of destruction.

Francine Prose did a masterful job of writing.  As a reader I was inside Swenson's head from the start.  I love when a writer is that good. I admire a writer who is that good.  I feel like I'm walking every step in his shoes.  The professor-like clothing he wore, the food his charming wife, Sherrie, fed him for dinner, the house he lived in, made him a living breathing guy going through some kind of twisted midlife crisis.  I understood his pain, his desires, his frustrations and those of the people around him. I may as well have been in Vermont on his college campus watching his life implode. I could see, feel and hear it that clearly.

Blue Angel is a fabulous novel. I want to read more by Francine Prose.  I'm still going to check out my sister's book reading suggestions but I hope she'll suggest some more gems like Blue Angel.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Voted Today

I voted today. Safe and snug in my own home I cast my ballot.  You may ask why I voted by absentee ballot when I wasn't away from home. 

I'm from Florida and during the 2000 election between Bush and Gore, I lived and voted in Palm Beach County, the center of the chaos.  Hanging chads.  I'm sure I left a few in my day.  Butterfly ballots.  I still have the sample ballot that was mailed to voters that year by the Supervisor of Election.  The picture of that judge's eyeball examining a punch card ballot is ingrained in my brain.

Ever since I've gotten an absentee ballot.  I like it that way.  I don't feel rushed into deciphering all the legalese in the amendments.  Why can't it be written in plain English?  It takes me awhile to figure out if yes means yes or yes means no. I like to think I'm a fairly informed voter but when I read the ballot I think that I'm not.  The words are confusing.

The most interesting thing that I wasn't aware of, was there are plenty more people running for President other than Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. One set of names got me thinking.

Did you know that Roseanne Barr is running for President?  She lost the nomination of the Green Tea Party and moved over to the Peace and Freedom Party.  Her platform is to end the money system as we know it and convert to barter.  We'll grow vegetables in our backyard and trade them for whatever we need like electricity or wine or a night out at the movies.  She wants to legalize marijuana and annex Mexico to stop people from coming here illegally. They'll be one of us already. Plus Mexico's got oil.  And she's against marriage of any kind. Interesting.
Her running mate is Cindy Sheehan, the well known anti war activist who camped out at President Bush's Texas ranch.  I understand her personal pain but was that really an effective way to facilitate change?  

Now that I've had a chance to study other presidential platforms, Romney and Obama don't look so bad.  But who to choose?  I still don't know but I thank God for being an American.  And for hanging chads so I can decide in the comfort of my own home. Maybe I'll light up a joint while I color in the little black circles and hope that on November 7th, I'll be able to do that legally.  Just kidding!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Today's a Busy Day

Today is a very busy day.

Noon  Baseball!  Detroit and Oakland.  My grandparents used to listen to the Tiger games on the radio. Baseball is so much better on television.

3 pm Baseball!  Washington and St Louis.  The Nationals have spring training right here in my back yard.  If they go all the way this year, I want to be first in line for season tickets.  I'll walk to the stadium and watch them play.

5:30 pm  Pick up the $8 large pizza Sunday special for dinner and stop at Publix for buy one get one free ice cream on sale.

6 pm  Baseball!  Yankees and the Orioles.  I'm not a Yankees fan but it's always fun to watch A Rod and Cheater Jeter.  I am, however, a Tampa Bay Rays fan. In a game against the Rays, Jeter claimed hit by a pitch when the ball hit the end of the bat, not his hands.  He also hit his 3000th run against the Rays.  I'm disappointed the Rays didn't make it to the playoffs but they wouldn't be the team they are without competition from the Yankees.

7 pm   Sink into the sofa after a satisfying junk food dinner.

8:30 pm   SpaceX, the private space firm is launching a rocket to take supplies to the International Space Station.  A rocket launch at night is not to be missed.  Plus the noise will be so loud I won't be able to hear the television anyway.

Uh oh!  Looks like I'm double booked.

9 pm   Baseball! Reds and Giants.

9 pm   Boardwalk Empire.  I am a huge Nucky fan.  And at this point, Atlantic City gangsters may be a welcome diversion.  There'll be more baseball tomorrow night and I can watch HBO on demand if the games goes to extra innings.

10 pm  Fall into bed, exhausted. Even when the Rays play on the west coast, I can't stay up past ten to watch.  If I did, I'd be useless tomorrow when there's even more baseball.

I love baseball and post season baseball is exciting to say the least. A pitcher with a $100 million contract couldn't help his team get back on a winning track. Fans threw bottles on the field hitting players in the outfield when they didn't like the umpire's call. I've also never seen the infield fly ball rule enforced, which the critics say was called in the outfield. Missed plays and stolen bases kept me on the edge of my seat. That was only the wild card games.

And if anyone thinks baseball doesn't have a heart, they didn't see a relief pitcher strike out a batter, playing in a game only a few days after the death of his infant son.

People often say watching baseball is like watching paint dry.  Well, they haven't watched baseball lately.  I guess they're too busy watching paint dry.  Baseball is keeping me busy today and I can't wait.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I am not a fan of novels that deal with 9/11.  Fictionalizing this day irritates me.  Too many people suffered and we should never make light of that. In any way.  My sister thought I would like this book anyway.  She was right.

We will all remember were we were on that day.  And my own personal story, which pales next to others will always remain part of my psyche.  I was away from home, on what was supposed to be a three day business trip.  It turned into ten days away from my husband, my family, my friends.  All of whom were suffering too in their own way and I couldn't console or find comfort in their presence.

Oskar Schell is a child with many autistic, compulsive traits.  His mind is constantly racing.  His father, his best friend is lost on 9/11 and Oskar bears a heavy burden.  My heart broke for Oskar and his mother and grandmother.  The lose of his father sets him on a wonderful journey, facing his fears and coming to terms with his loss.  It is that part of the story that had me counting my own blessings.

This novel is a work of art. The speech patterns of the characters were rich and descriptive, letting us know so much about their traits and emotions.  The photographs inserted in just the right spot to invested me even further in the story.  A child shouldn't have to face such a devastating loss on this terrible day.   I cheered for Oskar every step of the way.  I wanted to hug him even though I knew his compulsive quirks would never allow it.

There are parts of this book that are difficult to read not because of the writing but because of the way the author chose to tell the story through photos and newspaper clippings.  If that gets in your way, then watch the movie.  It is the same heartwarming story told on the big screen.  I loved the movie even more. 

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a story about life.  Life is full of love and loss.  Life is unpredictable.  And no matter how hard we might try, we all make mistakes.   But it is never too late to make amends.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

I'm Having a Hot Flash

"I'm having a hot flash.  A tropical hot flash," the actress sang in a deep, guttural voice.

The audience roared. 

Last night I went with a group of women to see Menopause, The Musical at a local theater.  This was girl's night out on a massive scale.  Out of 2000 seats, maybe 20 were filled by men.  And Lord help the poor guy who sprung for front row seats.  He'll never take his wife out to the theater again.

From wrinkles, to failing eyesight, to having to pee constantly, this show covered it all.  Menopause, The Musical was 90 minutes of non stop laughter.  Every woman in the place finally learned that they weren't the only one turning  a bright shade of red in the middle of the grocery story.

I also learned that there is not a woman over the age of 50 that can sleep.  Every single one of them is taking something, none of which works.

"I thought I was the only one who couldn't sleep," I said in the car on the ride home.

"I haven't had a good night's sleep in years," my friend, Kay announced.

"The Advil PM works best for me but even then it doesn't work most of the time.  Has anybody tried that new Nyquil stuff?"   another woman asked.

"Oh, that doesn't work," the driver of the car answered in a very matter of fact manner. "I'll give you my bottle.  See if it works for you."

Now I get it.  Menopause is the one thing all women have in common.  It keeps us up all night so we can talk about exchanging drugs in the back seat of a car.  Nothing illegal going on here.  We are happy to trade with out fellow womankind.  Relief for one may be relief for us all. We've crossed sleep off our to do list because even if we can nod off, it won't last long.  We'll just have to get up and pee again. Or change the wet sheets. Pick your poison. 

I rolled down the window and stuck my head out. I'm all hot and drippy. I'm having a hot flash. Something suddenly hit me.

"How much further?  I've gotta go." 


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Five Kisses by Karla Darcy

The Five Kisses by Karla Darcy

The Five Kisses is a short sweet Regency romance, full of Earls with large estates and women who fall in love with them.  Gillian meets Chad as a young girl while collecting apples for the Christmas kissing bough.  

The pair grows up and their lives take them is different directions but weave back together for a holiday kiss under the apples on the kissing boughs.  Their love comes full circle when Chad returns with surprises that would melt any woman, even in today's modern times. 

The Five Kisses is a sweet, historical romance with full skirts, blushing bosoms and strong women.  It's beautifully written will take you back to a rich and gallant time in England.  This is a quick read, perfect for curling up on a cool autumn day. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sixty or Seventy Inch, Television I Mean

Ever since we got a new 60 inch television about two years ago, Richard's been hounding me for a seventy.

"If you wanted a seventy inch, why didn't you buy it then?" I asked.

"They didn't make them.  Sixty inch was the biggest."

"Too bad.  You have to wait for this one to croak.  I don't see that happening anytime soon."

Every Sunday morning while reading the paper, I'm handed the Best Buy flyer turned to the TV section.  I hand it back.  When he turns on the regular cable channel instead of the corresponding HD, he says, "I could see this so much better on a 70 inch."  I say, "Get a stronger pair of glasses." 

The other day we ran into our next door neighbors. They recently moved in and are spending alot of time getting the house in order.

"Hey, Richard.  We took your advice and got a new TV, 65 inch." George said.

"He wanted the seventy but I think it's too big so we compromised," his wife responded.

Richard looked at me.  "I'm going to their house to watch TV."

Frankly, I'd enjoy the peace and quiet. I am so sick of hearing about this TV, I could scream.

This morning I checked my phone to find a text and a photo from my nephew who lives in Tampa.

The text read, "We took your advice and got a 70"."  The photo was of the brand new TV hanging on the wall of his family room.

"Richard will never let me hear the end of this now.  Gee thx. He can't get one cuz he doesn't have a job." I texted back.   As you can tell I'm not that up on texting abbreviations, but that's a topic for another day.

"Tell him to get a job." my nephew replied.

When I showed Richard the picture, he examined it for several minutes.

"If he can get a new TV, why can't I?'

"When you get a job, you can get a new TV," I promised.

One thing I know, he loves watching TV so much, I'll bet money, he'll never get another job. If he did go back to work, I'm starting to think he should consider selling TVs.  We seem to know a few people who are happy they took his advice.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel

The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel

The Sleeping Night is a wonderful story set in the south in the years surrounding World War II.  Angel Corey is a beautiful young girl being raised by her father in a small Texas town. As the white proprietor of the general store on the black side of town, Parker Corey's best friend is a black man, Jordan High.  The two had served in the first World War together.  Angel's best friend is Isaiah, Jordan's son.  They play and read and help out around the store.  When Jordan is lynched and murdered, the pair begins to see what life may hold for them.  

The story revolves around letters written during the war when Isaiah enlists in the Army and is sent to fight in Europe.  Some letters are mailed and others are not.  We watch their love bloom through their words.  When the war ends and Isaiah returns to town, their troubles begin.  Parker dies and the town views a white woman alone as unacceptable. 

There are many flashbacks in this novel.  I often found it hard to keep track of what time period the characters were in at the present, the changes happened so rapidly.  The story begins in the future, after many years have past.  I actually found the story of the White and Black book club very intriguing and would have wanted more about them.  However it was only a vehicle to stage the rest of the story.  The author did a wonderful job of making sure I felt the heat, humidity, rain and mud in the steamy Texas town. The tension of segregation mounted with each and every change in the weather.

I enjoyed reading The Sleeping Night.  Sometimes we need to take a step back and remember where we came from.  History is often painful but we need to be reminded of it so it is never repeated.  Angel and Isaiah told their story from the heart.  A story that needed to be told.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty

The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty

I am a writer and also a reader who likes stories neatly tied up with a ribbon by the end.  This is a bad habit and I really should let it go.  Life is unpredictable and is never neat.  The Center of Everything left me wanting more.  It ended exactly as it should have, like life itself.

Evelyn Bucknow succeeds despite having all the odds stacked against her.  She's being raised by a single mother, who has been disowned by her father because of the birth of Evelyn.  Evelyn's grandmother, Eileen shows up regularly to try and make peace in the family.  Evelyn's mother, Tina wants no part of it.  Tina becomes pregnant again and the father of the baby, a married man, disappears.

Evelyn is surrounded by friends who skip school, do drugs and have sex.  Her brother is born with special needs.  Tina is consumed with his daily care with no time for Evelyn.  And yet she manages not to be distracted by all the emotion, heartache and struggle that comes along with being a teenager.  Things don't go as she planned most of the time, but Evelyn is resilient to say the least. It's a pleasure to watch Evelyn grow from a little girl to a focused young woman.  And it's heartwarming to watch Tina evolve right along side her.

I loved this book.  The characters all had unique personalities created through the author's description.  Her ability to include all the senses set the stage for rich, real, thought provoking story telling.  Don't think this book is serious and sad.  Many scenes left me laughing out loud. And I mean belly laughing funny.  If a book can make me laugh and cry all at the same time, its worth reading.  The Center of Everything is a novel that did just that.  And it left me wanting more.

I Love Candy Corn

If any of you follow along with my blog, you'll know I love candy corn.  Richard gave me a bag for my birthday in August and it is long gone.  I don't like the pumpkins.  They're too sugary.  Go ahead  Try to figure that one out!!  I crave the plain ol' standard yellow, white and orange corn.

Yesterday I saw a bit on CNN about Candy Corn Oreos.  Everyone loved them in the taste test except for the guy who didn't like candy corn.  I think it's un American not to like candy corn.  Anyway these Oreos are only available at Target and are only around for a limited time.   I have to try them.

I don't normally shop at Target but today when I ran some errands, I decided to make a stop there to get a bag of Oreos.  Now Oreos are not something I ever buy or keep around the house.  At this stage of my life all I really need to do is look at an Oreo and I'll gain ten pounds.  Once I started eating one, I'd finish the bag in one sitting, kind of like I did with that birthday bag of candy corn.  It's not that I don't like them, it's just best not to be tempted.

Entering the store, I walked right up to an end cap filled with Oreos. I thought I'd hit the jackpot.  There were Oreos shaped like footballs and Halloween Oreos filled with orange creme. I examined those to make sure they weren't candy corn.  The label said filled with orange creme.  I couldn't quite decide if that meant orange flavored creme or orange colored creme.  But I knew it wasn't candy corn flavored. 

I walked back to the cookie section.  Oreos command alot of shelf space.  I grew up with chocolate cookies with white filling that we loved to twist apart and lick off the creme before eating the cookie.  Today Oreos have green mint filling, pink berry creme, chocolate, fudge and even what they call golden cookies with white creme.  Oh my! When I stopped being amazed at all the different kinds of Oreos, I took a second look.  No candy corn Oreos.  Bummer.

With my head hanging low with disappointment, I walked toward the front of the store to go home, mission not accomplished.  The Halloween candy caught my eye.  I snagged a bag of real candy corn, and took it to the cashier.  I hadn't even made it to my car before I ripped open the bag. 

I drove home, one hand on the steering wheel and one hand in the bag of candy.  Who needs to hunt for Oreos? I'll take the real thing any day.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Normal Day

For some reason Richard decided he needed a new horn for his bicycle.  I don't know what's wrong with the bell already attached to his handlebars which he uses every time he rides by a dog and its owner on their morning walk.  The tinkling of the bell brings a smile to everyone's face, even the dog.

He found a horn on Amazon with four different sounds, police, fire, ambulance and something else equally as jarring to the eardrums.  It also came with flashing lights and strict instructions to be used outdoors only. The minute it arrived in the mail, Richard rushed outside to attach it to his bike.  The testing of the horn came shortly thereafter.  I went to find my earplugs.

Each morning we ride our bikes for three or four miles. Yesterday when I rode ahead, Richard pulled up behind me blaring his siren.

"Pull over.  I'm the citizen's patrol," he shouted.

I kept pedaling.  "Who appointed you?"

"I'm self appointed to keep the peace around here."  We live in a fifty five community.  The only time we hear a siren is when the ambulance comes to take someone to the hospital or the morgue. We never know which it is until the house goes up for sale.

Today we were out riding and ran into some neighbors, Mike and Irene.  They had just returned from their summer in the Poconos.

"Richard, what's been going on since we left?" Mike asked.

"That house sold for a good price.  They got lucky.  This one is ..."

"They did get lucky." Mike answered.

Richard rang the police siren. "Don't interrupt me.  I'm the citizen's patrol."

Mike laughed.  "Did you take your meds this morning, Richard?"

We continued to gossip for a few minutes longer before riding off down the street, stopping again when we ran into Carol, another neighbor.  She regularly cruises up and down the sidewalks in her Hoveround.  Richard rang the fire siren.

"You need one of these too."  This time he rang the ambulance siren.  "You can join me on the citizen's patrol."

"Oh no. I don't want that on my chair." Carol laughed.  "I don't want to end up like that guy in Sanford."

"Guess you'll have to patrol by yourself, Richard.  Carol has a point you know," I said.

He rang the unknown siren.  We all put our fingers in our ears. Mike walked up behind him, put his hand on Richard's shoulder and asked again.

"Are you sure you took your meds this morning?"

"He doesn't take any." I rolled my eyes.  "This is a normal day."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover

Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover

I received an e-galley of this title through Net Galley.  I have to say I just plain and simple didn't get it. After reading the first four chapters, I still had no clue what was the motive of any of the characters or even their relationship to each other.  The only cute thing I understood was that they used the word butterfly as a cuss word. Overall I thought it was very poorly written. 

Anyone that regularly reads my reviews will know that for me to stop in the middle of a novel and put it down is extremely rare.  I like to finish what I start.

In defense of Point of Retreat, it's the second in a series.  Not having read the first may have put me at a disadvantage from the start.  If you loved the first book, then by all means go for it.  Point of Retreat just wasn't for me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Breath of God by Jeffery Small

The Breath of God by Jeffrey Small

One of my tax clients recommended this title to me.  We had a long conversation about it while I prepared her tax return.  She raved so much that I had to read it.  I downloaded it to my Kindle an that's where it's been waiting since last April. 

I believe that faith and religion are very personal beliefs.  Not being a religious scholar, I only know how I personally reacted to this novel.  Keep in mind it is very much like The DaVinci Code, full of ancient artifacts that modern religion wants to squelch to ensure the money keeps rolling in.  Loaded with suspense in the quest for good over evil, I couldn't put this book down.

The story is of a graduate student's quest for the lost texts of Issa.  He believes Jesus traveled to India and studied other religions before beginning his ministry.  Supposedly the Bible is silent about the portion of his life detailed in these texts.  The people who want to stop him are the backbone of the novel. Throw in some romance and you've got the perfect mix.

Books are few and far between that keep me reading long into the night.  If I don't get my eight hours of beauty sleep, I'm useless the next day.  The Breath of God hooked me from the start.  It drew me and wouldn't let go. I turned off the alarm for the next morning and kept reading.  Ginger, my dog, gave up begging for more bedtime biscuits.  I pushed her persistent paw away so many times, she curled up and went to sleep.  Her beauty sleep is important too. Maybe that's why she's just too darn cute. She doesn't know how to read.

One thing I do know is that our faith is tested every single day.  I found food for thought in The Breath of God in addition to a marvelous, action packed novel that kept me on the edge of my seat.  I'm back to a reasonable bedtime until another novel this absorbing comes my way.  I hope it will soon.  Tax season is right around the corner. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Annual Rummage Sale

I've gotten in the habit of walking for a couple miles each morning around my 55+ development.  I watch the sunrise, listen to the birds sing and say hello to the many bunnies that also call this place home.  It's a peaceful time and I can be all alone with my thoughts taking in the ever changing landscape.

On trash day however, my eyes are diverted to the curb.  Not only are the streets lined with trash cans of all shape, colors and sizes, but I learn where people have been shopping during the week.  I often see the empty cartons that once contained a new office chair, printer or television.  Sometimes I'll find a broken bicycle or a barely used treadmill.  Today, at the end of one driveway were several large Target bags sporting the famous red bullseye,  stuffed to overflowing with more red and white Target bags.  I happen to be a Wal Mart girl but to each his own.  Whoever lived there must have been on a shopping frenzy!  

What goes in must eventually come out. 

Saturday, the association held its annual rummage sale.  It's advertised in the local paper and cars line up early to get in.  Usually people rent tables in the clubhouse to sell what they no longer have room for in their scaled down retirement home.    And this year they allowed homeowners to sell from their driveways.  This place turned into one giant garage sale.

The streets filled quickly with cars and pickup trucks cruising for a bargain. Paintings, golf clubs, mattresses, sweaters and t-shirts and Christmas decorations lay out in the hot beating sun hoping to be snatched up by a new owner.  I watched cars and trucks leave stuffed with all kinds of goodies.

This is what happens when you get old.   The space you live in gets smaller but your desire to go shopping increases.  Maybe it's not so much your desire as the amount of free time that needs to be filled.  I'm not one for shopping at rummage sales but tomorrow is trash day.  I can't wait to see what's going to turn up.  It's been a long holiday weekend with lots of time to fill the coffers again.  Next year's sale is bound to include some really good stuff. I'm making a list.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

I have to admit I'm probably the last person on the planet to read Fifty Shades of Grey.  I only ended up with a copy of my own because every one else had already read it.

Recently I went to Hawaii to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday.  I thought I was so clever when I picked out her gifts.  First I picked out a beautiful card and in it I wrote,

"May these gifts keep you young in mind, body and spirit."

I wrapped up some brain teaser puzzles of odd shaped pieces that if put together correctly form a perfect square.  Next I gave her a small portable zen garden.  And lastly I added a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.  Cute idea, huh?

She'd already read it. As had her husband and everyone else at the party.  Not wanting to be considered an Indian Giver, it took me a few minutes to finally admit I was the only outsider. She slid the book across the table in my direction. I now had a copy of my own to read.

Fifty Shades of Grey  is by far the worst book I've ever read. For being smart and educated, Anastasia lacked any focus in her life.  I don't care how good looking Christian was, her character was full of inconsistencies.  Christian was just an ass.  There was nothing to like about him even during some of the email banter the pair had which I considered kind of cute. The writing was poorly done and the characters, ill conceived. If Anastasia's breath hitched one more time, I thought I would puke.

I had to read a few hundred pages of garbage before there even was any sex.  By the time they finally got around to it, I couldn't have cared less.  Now at least I can say I've read it but I'm really sorry I wasted my time on it.  Two more volumes in the series.  I think not.  

Birthday Blessings

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday.  As the years progress what becomes important in one's life changes.  As a child, I anxiously waited for my birthday to arrive.  Being that it came in summer before school started, I never got to take candy or cookies to school to share with my class.  Like a Christmas list for Santa, I made sure my mother knew what new outfits I wanted for my Barbie doll.  And if Ken got some new clothes that would be even more thrilling.   The new school clothes I got for me weren't nearly as interesting as dressing up Barbie in the latest fashions.

My mother would let us choose what we wanted for dinner on our birthday.  I would always choose shrimp or fish.  Being such a seafood fan at a young age, I was destined to end up in Florida where it is a staple of our diet.  My sisters and brother however, only picked at the fish and loaded up on cake and ice cream.  All of them have made their lives in Ohio where beef and chicken are plentiful.

Here's how I know things have changed.  My husband, Richard loves to give and wrap gifts for all occasions.  Here's the list of gifts he wrapped up for me to open on my birthday.   

3 red kitchen towels
A bicycle bell  (When he went to put the new bell on my bike, he dropped the old bell and it began to work again.  The new bell has to be returned to Wal Mart.)
A bag of candy corn ( I love candy corn and yes the Halloween stuff is already in the stores.)
2 black kitchen towels  (The more gifts to open the merrier!)
3 scratch off lottery tickets ( I won $5)
A bathroom scale

A psychiatrist would have a field day analyzing that list.  I can tell you what it means without making an appointment.  I need to do more housework, exercise and lose ten pounds.  But I'm not going on a diet until I finish what's left of my birthday cake and the bag of candy corn. 

I couldn't decide what I wanted for my birthday dinner.  The older you are, the tougher choices are to make.  I only knew I wasn't going to cook or use my new dish towels to clean anything.  Richard decided for me.

"I ordered a pizza.  It'll be ready for you to pick up in 20 minutes."

I got in the car and drove to the gas station.  After I filled up the tank with gas, I went inside to get my pizza.  Lo and behold, I spotted a penny on the floor.  I picked it up and put it in my pocket. And then I began to count all the wonderful things about having another birthday. 

I'm still counting! It's going to be a great year!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Happy Hurricane Birthday

There are quite a few perks to living in the State of Florida.  The sun shines nearly every day.  The sky is blue and the air is clean.  I don't own a winter coat or even a pair of boots.  Putting snow tires on a car every November is a thing of the past, as is scraping snow off the windshield.  I love my life here in Florida.  Except when it's my birthday.

I was born long ago in a northern spot known as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  My life took me to Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio before it landed me back in Pittsburgh after graduating from college. I spent three more years there struggling to get up an down its hills in the middle of winter while trying to get to work on time.  During a fierce April snowstorm, I made the decision to head south.

I found a job, made friends, got married and became fully entrenched in my Florida life.   I knew when hurricane season was but never paid much attention to it.  Storms would brush by but we never lost power or suffered any damage.  I celebrated my August 26th birthday without interruption.

In 1992 Hurricane Andrew came through South Florida on August 24, a Sunday.  When my birthday fell during week, I'd celebrate over the weekend.  My birthday dinner was abruptly cancelled when the one and only named storm of the season approached us.  I probably made leftovers for dinner and I'm sure I didn't have any cake and ice cream in the house.  We lived far enough north of the storm that we didn't suffer much damage for which I'm grateful.  But using candles to light the house instead of blowing them out on a birthday cake really sucks. 

That was 20 years ago and thus my life without birthdays began.  The last week in August and the first week in September is the most active part of hurricane season.  And not every storm turns into a well known and named storm but many do.  Katrina made its first landfall in Florida on August 26 before picking up strength in the Gulf.  Irene came through last year dumping boatloads of rain, as did Fay and Debby in earlier years. 

This year we're watching Isaac.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a blustery, rainy and overall gloomy kind of day. Hurricanes can turn on a dime without notice so it's best to be prepared.  We never know when the roof might start shaking and the the sliding glass windows will begin to bow.  Once the power goes out, we'll have a mad scramble to eat all the food in the freezer before it spoils.  I'm heading out to the store to stock up on cake and ice cream and maybe a few candles too.  I'd rather eat cake than some old casserole that's been tucked away in the freezer unnoticed for years.  I'll have the bakery decorate it with a hurricane tracking map so I can follow Isaac's path as I un-celebrate another year.

Friday, August 24, 2012

This Is The Moment! by Walter Green

This is the Moment! by Walter Green

I found out about this book from my sister-in-law.  Our family recently celebrated her birthday in Hawaii and she wanted to share with us how grateful she was that we could all be together.  She made up little "yearbooks" for each of us filled with pictures, old and new.  The books were passed around and we wrote notes to each other like we were in high school.  The younger kids didn't quite get the concept but wrote funny and charming messages that I will cherish.

I downloaded This Is The Moment! immediately.  I had read The Magic and had felt the change it made in my life when I began to practice gratitude every single day.  Walter Green's journey to express his own personal gratitude to people is touching and heartwarming.  He traveled around the world seeking out those who had a made a difference in his life to personally thank them.

I learned alot from reading his story. What comes back into our lives from expressing our thanks and gratitude to people, regardless of whether they entered our lives for a moment or for a lifetime, is a million times greater than the energy it will take to say a few ordinary words.  Mr. Green lays out a blueprint on how to make gratitude a part of your life.   Follow his steps and mold them into your own.

Maybe we don't all have the means to do the kinds of things Mr. Green did, but we all have the time to say a kind word.  Gratitude is a very personal journey.  A simple thank you to the mailman as he delivers the mail, or to the grocery store cashier as she rings up your purchases of food that will nourish your body, or to your spouse for taking out the garbage is all that it will take to begin to bring gratitude into your life.  Start simple and feel the rewards grow in your heart and in your life. Gratitude is a gift.  Give it to others and the gift will be yours in return.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

I don't usually read two books at once but since I've been traveling so much this summer,  I developed a bad habit of leaving one behind at home and picking up another in an airport.  I can't be on an airplane without a book to read.  When I started to plan out what I wanted to write about Let's Pretend This Never Happened it occurred to me that I'd been reading it alongside Fifty Shades of Grey

Christian Grey never hesitates to tell us that he is fifty shades of f***ed.  Jenny Lawson, however has mastered the age old craft of writing by showing us that she is far more shades of f***ed than he will ever be.  And I mean that about her in a good way. Oh, in case you were wondering.  I do realize that Christian Grey is a fictional character and Jenny Lawson is alive and well even though her memoir is only mostly true.

I'd seen this book with the cute little mouse on the cover in the bookstore and had been drawn to it, picking it up and examining it on several occasions.  The cover blurbs however, weren't quite enough to convince me to make a purchase.   Then I read a review somewhere that said Let's Pretend This Never Happened was not to be missed, so I downloaded it on my Kindle without knowing why there is a stuffed mouse on the cover. 

This book is laugh out loud funny.  I am not kidding.  From the magic squirrel, to the bread sack shoes, to eating Exlax because it tastes like chocolate, to the human sized metal rooster, I couldn't stop laughing.  And every time Ms. Lawson wrote about a topic that couldn't possibly have happened in my mind, she included a picture to document the real thing. I laughed even more then. The photos would have been quite funny to look at on their own even without the backup story.    

I never like to give anything away in my book reviews, but now I know why there's a mouse on the cover.  There's alot of stories about taxidermy in here.  So if you're squeamish, don't worry. You'll still hoot and holler no matter where you are and people will stop and ask you what you're reading because you're causing such a ruckus. 

Jenny Lawson used the word f*** alot so I think she'll understand when I say she's far more than fifty shades of f***ed.  It's a wonderful quality to have, being able to laugh at yourself.  She is not afraid to poke fun at herself or her family. At least I think that's the case, according to her mostly true memoir anyway.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer Vacation

I'm finally back home from my whirlwind summer vacations.  Thankfully, because I'm exhausted.  Sadly, because I don't quite know what to do with myself now that all the planning and anticipation are over. 

The places I've been and things I've seen have been amazing.  I listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing, rafted down the Snake River in Wyoming, waited for Old Faithful to spout off right on time as usual, watched bison and elk cross the road right in front of me, took a sunset cruise at Waikiki Beach, went to a luau, attempted to hulu dance in a grass skirt, ate multiple boxes of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, dined on lobster, rode in an amphibious DUCK through the streets and waterways of Boston, and topped it all off with a beautiful wedding on a perfect summer evening.

Whew!  No wonder I'm tired.

In between all the activities, I enjoyed time spent with grandchildren, a husband, nieces, nephews, in laws, and old and very dear friends, all of whom touched my heart in very different ways.  I went in as one person and came out the other side changed.  Before I started down the vacation road, I was afraid I'd collapse half way through not being able to complete my journey.  Being faced with new and exciting adventures turned out to be invigorating and uplifting.  But it's the people I shared each leg of my trip with that made it so special.  They opened my eyes to things I may not have noticed on my own.

I'm not anxious to see an airport again anytime soon but I bet once I download all the photos and start making the scrapbooks, I'll be itching to do it all over again.  I've been blessed to have been given an awesome summer.   I am blessed to be surrounded by a loving group of family and friends.  And I am blessed to have a nice, soft bed to lay in for as long as I need.  And right now, it's calling my name.  Nap time. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Letters From Yellowstone by Diane Smith

Letters From Yellowstone by Diane Smith

I picked up this gem on my summer travels through Yellowstone National Park.  If you've never been to see the park in person, put it on your bucket list.  Beauty, awe and wonder abound here.  I had a tour guide that said every day he's still amazed that the adventurers that first discovered Old Faithful actually decided that this place should be saved for all Americans to enjoy instead of putting a fence up and charging admission.   

Set in 1898, the story of scientists and botanists in Yellowstone is told through their letters home.  The main character signs as A. E. Bartram, short for Alexandria.  The leader of the expedition doesn't know A. E. Bartram is a woman until she appears at camp wearing a dress.  Alex is a medical student who longs for something more in her life.  Young and still trying to find her way in the world, she follows her dream of studying botany.

Professor Merriman reluctantly allows her into camp and slowly begins to rely on Alex's precise methods of documenting and collecting plant specimens from nature.  Alex's family on the other hand is desperate to bring her home.  A woman had no place in such primitive surroundings.  She is strong willed and successfully rebuffs all of their attempts to disrupt her studies.

Letters From Yellowstone tells a brilliant historical tale of what life was like at the time.  Men in control of the world and women struggling to make their voices heard in society.  These pioneer women laid the groundwork for us all.   The Yellowstone National Park of their time remains beautiful and pristine today because of their foresight.   For that I am truly grateful.  As we all should be.  Read the book and then go for a visit.  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Claire

I found this title on a list of summer must read books for teenagers.  My summer vacation included a trip to Yellowstone with two teenage granddaughters and I wanted to bring along something they might enjoy reading too.  I was also swayed by the fact that I am a member of SpacecoasT Authors of Romance and I know Roxanne St. Claire. Not being a typical reader of YA novels, in this case the stars were aligned so I nabbed it off the bookstore shelf.

Annie and Ayla lead very different lives.  Annie and her family struggled to make ends meet.  She's never been a part of the in crowd at high school and often finds herself at the brunt of their jokes.  Ayla lives a life of money and privilege and has learned how to use that to the best of her advantage. When Annie ends up in Ayla's life everything begins to change.

The lessons in this story were numerous and delivered in a fun and engaging way.  The bullies got their kicks exerting control over the kids deemed stupid and nerdy.  A closet full of stolen designer fashions even when having an unlimited credit card with which to pay for anything they wanted, made them cool.  Girls viewed losing their virginity as a prize to be won like a stuffed animal at a carnival.  Annie's father's crazy invention changed all that.

This book is now in the hands of my granddaughter and I hope she takes the time to read it.  Kids today are bombarded by so many things good and bad about this world.  Their struggle to grow up is much harder than the one I knew.  Don't You Wish is current and relevant to today's teenagers.  It's a novel that's a joy to read no matter what your age.

I loved Don't You Wish.  I laughed.  I cried.  And I adored the ending.  It made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Those people from Cleveland are literary connoisseurs to say the least.  I knew there was a reason I wanted to read all the books on their most loved list. 

The Tiger's Wife is an intricate mixture of fiction and folklore set in a Balkan country amid years of war.  Natalia, a young doctor tries to unravel the mystery of her grandfather's death.  Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle she tries to meld the details of science which she and her grandfather both love, with the mythology that lives on in small remote villages. Imagination is the key to the story.

The author brilliantly weaves this story, effortlessly moving from the present day through the traditional tales passed from generation to generation that shape the people of a war torn nation.    She shows us how we are all shaped by the past.

I don't want to talk too much about the story line only because it should be read and discovered on your own.   The beauty of The Tiger's Wife is in the discovery. Each page draws the reader deeper and deeper into solving the mystery.  This is not a simple summer read.  It requires intellect and effort on the part of the reader.  Effortless prose will guide you through and leave you satisfied.

I've got a few more books to read suggested by the kind folks in Cleveland.  They certainly do not disappoint.  They are smart readers and I love what's on their must read list! 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Weatherman is Always Right

I turned to my usual channel on the television the other day and saw newscasters I didn't recognize.    An art festival was happening at the Trolley Museum.  Seats from the old PNC Stadium were up for sale for four for $25.  I'd never heard of either of these places.  The weatherman stood in front of a picture of rows of old brick buildings with steep, pointed, roofs that reminded me of Harry Potter's Hogwarts. And the temperature was a pleasant 85 degrees.

"What's going on here?" I asked Richard.  "Are we getting a cold front?"

He grabbed the remote control from my hand and started surfing landing on Brighthouse channel 13.  The cable company has their own 24 hour news and weather channel. 

"Brighthouse and WESH  have not reached a contract.  Their current agreement expired at midnight and WESH has  pulled their broadcasting from Brighthouse.  We have been able to secure the NBC lineup from a station in Wilkes- Barre, Pennsylvania." 

She said Wilkes-Bar.  Any good Pennsylvanian knows, of which Richard and I both are, knows it's pronounced Wilkes-Barre, or like a berry.  It's French actually and long ago lost its accent mark to please the Americans who live there.   The people who live there are probably OK without the accent but not with being called a 'bar'. It's the same way in Pittsburgh.  They get a little cranky if the 'H' is left off the end.  The cable company must have had to scrambled to find a replacement.

"I kind of like this news." Richard commented.

"I do to.  It's very calm.  No drive by shootings."  I said. "And the weather is perfect."

"Let's move there.  I like these people."

"They feel like old friends already. But let's get to know them a little better before we do something drastic like move."  I'm the one who always errs on the side of caution.

It's been three days since we started watching the news from Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and the Poconos.   We still like it and don't miss the real news at all.  And I don't seem to mind the Florida summer heat because the weatherman says it's 85 with a low of 60.  And the weatherman is always right isn't he? With the push of a button on the remote control,  we moved to Wilkes-Barre.  Thank you Brighthouse Cable.  Or should I thank the local WESH news for being so stubborn?  I'm really enjoying summer for a change.



Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Summer Trip Anxiety

My sister told me I should write about my trip anxiety.  I have plenty of it coming at me this summer and I'm really not sure how my jam packed summer even happened. 

Next week I leave to escort my two teenage granddaughters on a trip of a lifetime to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and up to Yellowstone.  It's just the 3 of us.  I have spent months planning and preparing a variety of activities to keep us all happy.   I hope I have succeeded but the wait is killing me.  My writer's block is a product of this I believe.  I put my heart and soul into creating a memory filled vacation for two wonderful kids who have never been west before.  My mind is unable to focus on anything but that. 

I'm packed and have been for a couple weeks already.  If any of you have ever traveled with me before, you'll know I leave no stone uncovered.  If you need an aspirin, I have it.  Diarrhea.  No problem.  Get a blister or need a band aid, my fully stocked first aid kit is ready and waiting.  Anything can happen on a trip, but I know I've got the minor stuff covered.  After whitewater rafting, zip lining and riding like a pioneer in a covered wagon, my guess is my preparations will not go unused.

After Yellowstone I have to dump out one suitcase and pack another.  We'll be off to Hawaii for a family get together.  I will have a grand total of 2.5 days to make the turnaround, pack, refill the first aid kit, get the dog to the kennel, pay the bills, stop the mail and unload the photos from my digital camera. I haven't done much of my usual guidebook review and sightseeing planning that would normally happen before such a trip.  It's a 12 hour flight.  I'll have plenty of time to read up before I get there.

After a week of hula dancing, shave ice and tropical breezes,  I'll have a little more down time, 4 days this time before heading to the wedding of my best friend's son, in Boston.  I can hardly wait to reconnect with a family that I haven't seen in many years.   A family that took me into their homes and hearts from the time I was 8 years old.  Time and distance have separated me from them.  But their love has always been close by. 

I'm taking lots of deep breaths and saying lots of prayers.  Once my whirlwind summer travel starts, there's no turning back.  If I've forgotten something, oh well.  If I make a million new memories, I hope my brain can hold on to them all.  Then I'll have to adjust to an anxiety free life but I might be hooked on adrenaline by then.  And something tells me I'll be itching to do this all again. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Getting a Driver's License

A few weeks ago I got a notice from the State of Florida that my driver's license was coming up for renewal.  Florida has some new requirements to renew in order to make sure I am really who I say I am and that I really do live in the State of Florida.  I've been a resident for over 30 years and I still have to prove it by producing a passport or birth certificate, social security card, voters registration and a mortgage statement or utility bill.  I gathered up these items along with a few extra just in case and cleared my schedule for a day just to renew my license. 

When my number was finally called I sat down in front of the clerk and passed my license under the glass that separated us. 

"Have you ever had a license in Pennsylvania?"  she asked.

"Thirty years ago." I answered.

"You have an outstanding citation and I can't renew your license until you clear it up."

She cheerfully handed me a piece of paper with all the information I needed to give to the State of Pennsylvania and I left.  Now what is quite surprising about this is that a few years ago, my husband Richard had the same situation.  Only if you knew him, you'd know he threw the ticket out the window the minute he was out of sight of the cop.  I, however am known to follow the straight and narrow.  And frankly I don't remember ever even getting a parking ticket in all the years I've been driving. 

"You're a criminal!  I knew it!" Richard shouted when I told him what had happened. 

I called the court only to be told that the ticket was issued in 1979, it was a zero fine and no record of it existed any longer.  I didn't leave Pittsburgh until a full year later so I wonder why no one was looking for me in all that time.  I certainly wasn't in hiding.  Let me think about that for a minute.  I didn't owe any fine?  Now I have to pay Pennsylvania $25 to clear my name out of the database so Florida will give me a license. 

The people elected to serve us have worked long and hard to find a way to inconvenience their constituents as much as possible.  All I have to say to whatever politicians thought up this useless, time consuming bureaucracy... 


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

What can I say about a cardboard life size brother and a sister who can't go anywhere without him?  Or the college co-ed, Julie, who lands in the middle of this barely functioning family when the college apartment she rented on Craig's List turns out  to be non-existent.

Flat-Out Love contains and interesting and quirky cast of characters, Flat Finn, Matty, Celeste and Julie.  Their story however, was very real and believable as crazy as that may seem when the central character is a life size cut out of Finn.

I did think this story was drawn out a little too long.  Sometimes I wanted to say get on with it.  But I have to admit I didn't know what was coming.  I, like Julie remained in the dark until the family secret was finally revealed.  To me, that's a sign of very good story telling.  Flat-Out Love is a young adult novel with a little something for every one.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Magic by Rhonda Byrne

The Magic by Rhonda Byrne

I always thought I was pretty good at saying thank you and being grateful for the many blessings in my life.  Life is good and happy and rewarding and I thank God for that every day.  Like most of us, I too am looking for something more. 

"Whoever has gratitude will be given more, and he or she will have abundance. Whoever does not have gratitude even what he or she has will be taken from him or her."

This quote is the cornerstone of The Magic.  At first pass it seems harsh and unfair.  Walk yourself through the 28 days of practicing the magic and all will become crystal clear.  I left this book on my nightstand and each night before I went to bed I read the next practice.  I counted my blessings and gave thanks for the best thing that happened that day.  You may think that finding one good thing each day is difficult especially if you've had a long day at work or an argument with your spouse or a dinner of fast food because you didn't feel like cooking.  If you are following the steps in The Magic, picking out that one thing will be hard.  Not because there are too few good things in your life but because there are so many!  

I've left this book on my nightstand and I intend to read it over again and again. I want to surpass pretty good and work my way up to truly amazing.  What comes after that, I'm not sure of the words to describe it but I want to experience it.

I am grateful for the air I breath, the food I eat, the beautiful home I live in.  I am grateful for family and friends who share their lives with me.  I am grateful for Richard and Ginger who add so much love and laughter to my life.  I am grateful for this blog and for all the people who graciously come to read it.  I am grateful for the abundance of blessings I experience each and every day. Find The Magic and abundance will find its way to you.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

The Bridge by Karen Kingsbury

I was fortunate enough to get an advance copy of The Bridge from Netgalley.  The Bridge is a bookstore in a small town in Tennessee run by Charlie Barton, a man who loves how the written word can impact a life.  He will give a book away whenever he sees a need which is often.  The store that holds memories for so many people can no longer continue when a flood rushes through town. 

Molly and Ryan who found love at the The Bridge while in college only to be torn apart by Molly's wealthy and determined father, are at the center of the story.  When Charlie has an accident and the fate of the store rests on the brink of closure, The Bridge truly lives up to its name.  People walked across the bridge and came together to save the place where they learned to dream of far away places with their nose in a book. 

The Bridge is a sweet and powerful story about the grace of God and how the simplest of kind gestures can spread like wild fire.  I found the story too predictable.  I knew how it would turn out very early on.  Whenever that happens I lose interest.  Sometimes however, a break from heavy duty literature I usually read is just what I need. 

The Bridge is filled with the love of God.  Often we need to sit back from our busy and hectic lives and be reminded of that.   I have to admit at one point I cried reading about the magic and strength of a simple act of kindness. But the power of love is what we need to be reminded of.   The Bridge did just that for me.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...