Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The world was hers for the reading....

I just finished the great American classic, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn," last night. It's a book I have always wanted to read - I have looked at it many times when shopping at B&N, but always put it back on the shelf. Truth be told, I like my reading a little on the light side - I get enough technical, intense reading in grad school, so tend to stick with easier reads to offset the heavy reading I do for school. It's summer, though, and I am not taking classes, so I decided to dive into this book, and am so glad I did. I guess when I hear "American classic" I assume that the language will be a bit cumbersome and it will take some effort on my part to get into the book; this was not the case with this book at all! It was nearly 500 pages long, but I read it pretty quickly. Would have read it even quicker had I not picked up a knitting addiction in the last couple of weeks!!

The book is written by Betty Smith in 1943. It is about the coming-of-age of the central character of the book, Francie Nolan. There is a great foreward by Anna Quindlen that talks about the history of the book. Originally, Betty Smith wrote this as an autobiography but the publisher asked that she transform her personal story into a novel. As a result, much of the book reads like an autobiography. There is no central plot to this story or 'pivotal' event per se; the book just basically follows the life of Francie from birth to the age of 18. It might seem like a book with no major event would be a bit boring, but this book is far from that. Francie's family lives in such a state of poverty and experiences many hardships through her life, so it is very easy to stay interested in the meandering story.

Even though Francie grew up in a different time and under completely different living conditions, it's easy for me to relate to her; Anna Quindlen actually comments in her foreword on the ease with which the reader can relate to Francie. I used one of my favorite quotes for the title of this blog entry. Towards the beginning of the book, Francie talks about going to the library to check out books and comments that "The world was hers for the reading."

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars (I'm pretty stingy on giving out 5 stars... just an FYI)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The perfect weekend...

I spent the weekend up north at my parents' cabin on Battle Lake. Saturday was one of the most perfect days - the sun was shining, the lake was like glass, and I was surrounded by my family. All 4 nephews were present so I had fun hanging out with them... and took a TON of pictures!!

The day was spent relaxing in front of the cabin,

watching Dad try to master parasailing (or whatever this thing is called!)

eating delicious BBQ courtesy of Chad & Kevin, the bbq pros,

watching Andrew, Kolin, and James play in the water

and capturing some great pictures of Matthew, whose name has now been unofficially shortened to Matty. It just seems so fitting for him!

We also celebrated James's 4th birthday! Hard to believe he's already been in our lives for 4 years!

The only thing that could have possibly made the weekend better would have been if Abby & Ryan could have been there. They were there in spirit, though!
As a result of the beautiful weather & picture taking, I didn't get much reading done...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A gem is discovered....

So last night, I was out and about in the Linden Hills area of South Minneapolis. For those you who don't live in Minneapolis, you need to check this area out on your next visit. For those who live here already, you need to check this area out asap if you haven't already! Linden Hills basically borders the western edge of Lake Harriet (I think... I am directionally challenged...) The area we were in last night was off of Upton on 43rd street. We were in route to dinner at Cafe 28 which is a wonderful little restaurant located in an old Firehouse. As we were walking on foot, looking for the restaurant, we stubbled across 'Wild Rumpus' - a store that I had heard about from the girl that does my facials. We were in no rush so decided to duck into the store & check it out. So glad we did - it is one of the COOLEST bookstores I've ever been in. It is geared for children, so has lots of real, live animals. For instance, we walked in & Eric points to a ledge & says, 'that's a real rooster!'. (see picture to the left!) That was just the start of it. There were birds & chinchillas (both in cages) as well as some cats and other animals. Pretty cool place.

The store was actually inspired by the book, "The Salamander Room," which James will be getting from me this weekend as part of his birthday present (shhh, don't tell him!). You can go on the Wild Rumpus website (see hyperlink above) & read about the store & how it was designed with this book in mind. We actually got to meet the owner & creative mind behind this gem of a store. Truth be told, I could have spent hours (and lots of $$) here, but figured we better head to dinner. The woman that was working was so so helpful, too, which was nice.

I recommend checking out the website at a minimum. Each employee has a page where they recommend books so it's a great place to come up with gift ideas for kids... or books you missed out on as a child. There's even a book club for 'immature adults' that want to go back & read books they might have missed out on as a child. When I finish up grad school, I can totally see myself joining this book club!

For those of you with young children, nieces, nephews, etc, I think it'd be a great place to go for the afternoon. Plus, Sebastian Joe's Ice Cream shop is a few blocks away - what kid wouldn't be thrilled at the thought of a seeing live animals, getting a new book, and having some delicious locally made ice cream? Actually... what adult wouldn't enjoy that sequence of events!!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

A reprieve from reading...

So before I started this blog, I was reading about a book a week... then I decided to start this blog and the amount of time I spend reading has drastically diminished. I'm not sitting around with idle hands though - my new hobby is knitting! I started taking a class a few weeks ago and have taken to knitting like a house on fire!! I think this new hobby will be good for me, though. My family can attest to the fact that I can often be found curled up with a book at the lake... which means I spend alot of time solo instead of socializing with the family. Now I've gotten good enough at knitting - I can knit AND join the conversation.

I've committed (loosely) to knitting scarves for my 4 nephews, so I think I'll be doing quite a bit of knitting and a little less reading. My first project is the blue scarf in the picture above. It's going pretty well - have only have to go back & undo the knitting to fix a mistake a few times. Hopefully I'll become more prolific by the time I get around to knitting the boys' scarves. I've also decided to take another class at Bella Lana so will learn how to knit a sweater this fall as well.

I still have lots of time on the bus to spend reading, though, and the knitting will probably lose it's 'addictive' feeling soon, so I'll be back on track and reading a book a week in no time I'm sure....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lean Forward into Your Life

Last week I was trying to kill time before my knitting class at Bella Lana (highly recommend this store for anyone who wants to learn to knit... or loves yarn). So I wandered into Bibelot on Hennepin Avenue. This is a wonderful store to wander around, especially if you are looking for a gift for someone... or, unknowingly, for yourself! I swore I wasn't going to buy anything, but ended up purchasing this book, another book for myself, and a gift for my mom (Mom, you'll have to wait until your big bday to see what you got!). I immediately recognized the handwriting on this book. Maybe you recognize it too? I have actually gotten 2 framed quotes by this author, Mary Anne Radmacher, as gifts - one from Brooke when I turned 23, and one from my friend Dawn back in college.

So I couldn't resist picking it up. This is not the kind of book I typically read, but I couldn't resist buying it. The book is based on a poem that the author wrote. This poem talks about giving life your all and discovering your purpose. It made me think back to when I was training for my marathon - back then, when I was doing the long training runs, I needed some sort of mantra to get me through those last few miles in the 16-18 mile training runs. So I would repeat over and over in my head, 'run with a purpose' - in my mind, this meant intentionally putting one foot in front of the other... and it got me through those runs and the marathon. This author talks about applying this concept to life. The book is broken into mini chapters that address the lines of that poem she wrote and other life lessons like knowing when to leave & risking love. It's one of those books that you read & wish you could send back to yourself at an earlier age... But something you can still apply to your life in the here and now.... lots of little bits of wisdom and things to think about. Also some journaling exercises if that is something you enjoy doing (who can't benefit from a little self-reflection and journaling?).

I wish I had this book when I prepared for speeches I've made in weddings in the past. I'm always trying to come up with something meaningful and succinct that sums up the couple that just exchanged vows. Well, this book has plenty of little tidbits that would have really enhanced any speech I've given. But who knows, I'm sure I've got plenty of weddings down the road where I can put some of this material to use!

So I'll just close w/ my favorite page of the book. It can be found in the "Risk Love" section. I read this when I was in Bibelot & thought - I have to get this book...

'you are every whisper of a promise.
when i look at you i hear the laughter of my life,
i remember every dream i have forgotten just after awakening,
i believe in any possibility that i have once touched.

even when you are not with me,
you are part of the memories i make.

and now... i will be the soil of your rich harvest season. the season where the pain of the fallow and the burden of the bountiful come together. i am the orchard in which you walk and ponder and begin to hear the wind whisper of the immeasurable breadth of your strengths. i am the growing places in which you wander and begin to see the richness of your own knowing. it is in this place where you may both rest and soar.'

Another Blog is Born

Greetings faithful Blog readers out there!

Some of you that followed my travels through France encouraged me to keep blogging... At first I thought y'all were just being nice... but after getting enough prodding, I've decided to keep it going. To be quite frank, my life back home isn't nearly exciting enough to warrant a blog... so I have decided to blog about another great love of mine, (no, not Pete...) BOOKS.

Even though I keep pretty busy with working full time & doing grad school part time, I still find time to do quite a bit of reading. About a book a week these days, actually. So I'll use this blog as a Book Review hub. Might throw a random post out there about a new artist I'm listening to or an upcoming trip, but for the most part, it will be book reviews.

I own about 99% of the books I read (it's a serious addiction), so if you read a review of a book that piques your curiosity, please let me know - I'm all about sharing books. So, unless it falls under the 1% of books that I borrow from someone else, give me a shout-out and I'll lend it to you.

Oh, and if you disagree w/ a review, please feel free to comment. It's always nice to get another person's perspective on things!

Happy reading everyone....