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.

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...