Category Archives: life

5 Gifts for your favorite bibliophile (me!)

Some awesomely awesome gifts for your favorite bibliophile. As much as we all love receiving books, these novelties (pun!) are also welcomed.

1. Spineless Classics Book posters (UK) &

2. Poster Text (US)

Pride and Prejudice
3. Literary Clocks (DIY instructions)
Literary Clock

5. Bookmark Pads (Guilty Pleasure/Yes I’m Actually Reading This/You Are Here

The Reading Promise (Alice Ozma) – Review

The reading promise : my father and the books we sharedThe Reading Promise: My Dad and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Format: Audio-cd
Source: Library
6 discs
Find this book at your local library

What started as a span of 100 consecutive nights of reading soon became a streak that spanned almost 8 years. In this memoir, Alice Ozma recounts her memories of growing up with her father using their reading streak as a backdrop to the stories.

The title of this book is a LIE. A big fat LIE. I picked up this audio book with the impression that the stories would center around the books they read together. Their thoughts on the books, or how the books had an effect on their lives. Instead, all I got were touching, and nostalgic memories of growing up with a single father who tried his best to raise his highly precocious daughter.

As a father-daughter memoir, this book is top-notch. As a memoir about their reading streak…it strayed from its mark. I was hoping for more chapters like Ch.18, which centered around their reading of Dicey’s Song. Most of the stories centered around Alice’s youth. At times the stories felt very self-indulgent (ie the chapter in which she discusses changing her name from Kristen Alice Ozma Brozina to just Alice Ozma. I skipped the track about halfway through…)

Other times, the stories and the moments Alice and her father shared were touching; the day Alice’s mother moved out of the house, the day her sister went abroad to Germany for a year, the day she got a C in English class, her car accident, the last day of their streak. The reading streak did help the pair broach topics and get through life’s scenarios that would have otherwise been awkward for a single father of a teenage girl. The love and commitment the two put into the streak is admirable.

Ozma read the book, and her reading is really what kept me going. I might have put the book aside otherwise. Alice’s voice is youthful, and she and she paces the reading really well. I think her dad taught her well in that respect.

I think the entire concept of their reading streak is fantastic. As a bibliophile & as a children’s librarian. It’s incredibly important for parents to read with and to their children. It fosters a love of literature, creativity, reading comprehension and analytical thought. I would love to start a tradition like this with my kids. Although I never read with my parents, they did always make a point to take me to the library every week to feed my reading addiction, and they encouraged and supported my love of reading in other ways.

The Story of My Life (Helen Keller) – Review

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
Age: 12 & up
Genre: Autobiography
Source: my copy
Publisher: Watermill Classics, 1994 (originally 1902
ISBN: 0893753688 / 152 pages

Find this book at your local library  

Most people have first learned about Helen Keller when their elementary school teacher played The Miracle Worker one day in class. That was when I first learned about Helen Keller. Although, to be honest, I didn’t know much about her other than what was represented in the movie. I knew that although she was both deaf and blind, she learned how to use sign-language to communicate with people in her life.

Reading The Story of My Life was a very inspirational and eye-opening experience for me. Although its only a brief 152 pages, I really took my time with this book, trying to value and understand the struggles she went to educate herself. I was amazed to learn that in the course of her life, Helen Keller taught herself French, German and Latin. She even learned to use her vocal chords to speak and went to college at Radcliffe.

For all of her obstacles, to be so well accomplished is amazing and also shaming, I think, on today’s society. We have so much knowledge within a touch of a button, but who really strives to educate themselves anymore? How many people try to learn something new after the required four years of college. Often, when I would tell people that I get bored because of the free time I have due to working part-time, I hear a resounding chorus of “Find another job!” Granted, I already work 2 part-time jobs, so taking on a third just seems greedy. No one suggests learning just for the sake of learning. I’m bored because my friends all work during my off-days. I’m bored, because there is a missing stimuli in my life and I don’t have anyone with which to enjoy an intelligent conversation on those days.

This year, since coming back from Europe, I’ve really made an honest effort to learn French and I’m actually doing pretty OK (reading & writing at least. My accent en Francaise is just terrible). I can’t begin to tell you how many weird looks I get from all sorts of people when I tell them that I’m learning French for fun. The whole idea of “If it’s not for work, then what’s the point of learning” seems like the wrong motivation for education. If Helen Keller can learn to read and write in three languages, why shouldn’t I be able to accomplish something similar?

The Story of My Life is full of quotes and messages that I want to copy and paste onto every social media format that I’m a part of. They’ve all struck a chord with me, and I hope they would as well with others. One in particular really stayed with me:

I have learned many things I should never have known had I not tried the experiment. One of them is the precious science of patience, which teaches us that we should take our education as we take a walk in the country, leisurely, our minds hospitably open to impressions of every sort. Such knowledge floods the soul unseen with a soundless tidal wave of deepening thought.

This book is a great autobiography for kids doing reports, its great for adults who feel in a funk and need some motivation to accomplish a dream or goal that keeps getting postponed.

Weekend Cooking – Foodie 5 Favorites

FOODIE FIVE FAVORITES

Here are a few of my favorite foodie factors (alliteration is fun!). Below is a list of some my top favorite things related to food (cookbooks, websites, etc).

What about you? What are you favorite cookbooks, ingredients, websites, etc? Share in the comments.

5 Favorite Cookbooks
  • How to Boil Water by the Food Network
How to boil water : life beyond takeout.
  • Eating Well Serves 2 – Eating Well Magazine
EatingWell serves two : 150 healthy in a hurry suppers
  • Real Simple: Best Recipes – Easy, Delicious Meals
Real Simple best recipes : easy, delicious meals
  • The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever by Beatrice A Ojakangas; Susie Cushner
The Best Casserole cookbook ever
  • Substituting Ingredients A to Z by Becky Sue Epstein
Substituting ingredients : the A to Z kitchen reference
 
5 Favorite Foodie Blogs (I cheated and put 6…there are too many good ones out there!)
5 Favorite Ingredients
  • Paprika
  • Butter
  • Chicken
  • Cous Cous
  • Cheese
5 Favorite Kitchen Must-Haves
  • Coffee maker/Coffee bean grinder
  • Steamer pot
  • Bottle Opener/Wine Stopper
  • Large frying pan/skillet
  • Rachel Ray Knives
5 Favorite Foodie Books/Memoirs

World Book Capital 2012

Thanks to Jen Robinson’s Book Page, I recently became aware that Yerevan, Armenia has been named the World Book Capital for 2012 by UNESCO.

As an Armenian, I am incredibly proud of this news. Armenia has a rich and troubled history, but it also has a beautiful culture deeply rooted in the arts and sciences.

UNESCO Press Release:

Yerevan is the twelfth city to be designated World Book Capital after Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Antwerp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogota (2007), Amsterdam (2008), Beirut (2009), Ljubljana (2010) and Buenos Aires (2011).

The city of Yerevan was chosen for the quality and variety of its programme, which is “very detailed, realistic and rooted in the social fabric of the city, focused on the universal and involving all the stakeholders involved in the book industry”, according to the members of the selection committee.

“I congratulate the city of Yerevan, which has presented a particularly interesting programme with many different themes, including the freedom of expression, as well as several activities for children, who will be the readers and authors of tomorrow”, said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO. “Mobilizing the entire world of books and reading, from authors to printers and publishers, will undoubtedly help to make the Yerevan programme a major success, with a sustainable impact,” she added.

Every year, UNESCO and the three major international professional organizations from the world of books – the International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Booksellers Federation (IBF) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) – designate a city as World Book Capital for one year, between two consecutive celebrations of World Book and Copyright Day (23 April). This initiative is a collaborative effort between representatives of the main stakeholders in the book industry, as well as a commitment by cities to promote books and reading.

Geek Girls Unite (Leslie Simon) – Review

Geek girls unite : how fangirls, bookworms, indie chicks, and Other misfits are taking over the worldGeek Girls Unite by Leslie Simon
Age: Tween / Teen
Genre: Nonfiction / Pop Culture / Women
Source: Publisher
Publisher: It Books,  2011
ISBN: 9780062002730
193 pages

Find this book at your local library 

I think the full title of this book explains the entire concept:

Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks and Other Misfits Are Taking Over The World.

In this book by author and music journalist Leslie Simon, we explore the world of girl-geekdom. This book is a representation of the cultural progression towards a new identity, that of the geek. Particularly the variety of geek that is no longer relegated to the world of awkward boys. Being a geek is now cool, and its something that women around the globe are embracing and being celebrated for.

The book focuses primarily on 6 types of geek: Fangirl Geek, Literary Geek, Film Geek, Music Geek, Funny-Girl Geek, and Domestic Goddess Geek. There is also a chapter at the end that runs through a number of other geek varieties: tech geek, fashionista geek, athlete geek, etc.

Each chapter has a specific format, a certain breakdown of the geek in question. The format goes as follows (with my general review and thoughts in parenthesis):

  • Pop quiz to gauge how well-versed the reader is in this field. (The questions were something similar to a Seventeen Magazine teen quiz, and Simon probably could have varied the answers in each chapter, as the answer was always the same letter for each quiz).
  • Character Sketch (a quick run-down of what makes up this certain type of geek)
  • Say What? (the lingo most associated with this subset of geek)
  • Geek Mythology (a deeper look into the start of this geek movement, and who was involved in its evolution over time.)
  • Geek Goddesses (notable names of contemporary icons and figures in the media that best reflect this subset of geek)
  • Frenemies (Posers, frauds or phonies. People who think they fit into this geek category, but really don’t because of a series of bullet point, overly broad generalizations as listed and created by Simon).
  • Geek Love (another series of overly broad generalizations and ideas that do more to propagate the stereotypes associated with this level of geek, this time in regards to romantic matches.)
  • Required Reading / Web Bookmarks, Movies / Playlist (this part is actually my favorite of each chapter. I think Simon did a great job assembling a selection of resources for young girls to further learn about their desired geek-topic. Although there were a few links and notable names that I found missing in the book, I think this end summary did a good job of getting young girls started on their path of development.)

Had I known from the get-go that this book was aimed at the tween/teen age range, I would have approached it with a different frame of mind. As a 28-year-old, this book really didn’t appeal to me, or reach me on any volume, even though I am a self-proclaimed literary/domestic goddess geek married to a music geek. I think young girls will fully embrace this book and relate to the notable names (Tina Fey, Natalie Portman, etc). Although I did find the requirements for each type of geek to be restrictive, Simon does make a point to mention that geeks can be anyone who embraces a level of cultural with a passion and intensity and one type of geek is not better than the rest. This book is full of resources for anyone interested in learning more, or even just learning about the different subsets in this book. I’ve already jotted down a number of books to read, movies to watch and CDs to explore.

Book 58 of 2011

Read A Likes

book jacket book jacket  book jacket

  1. Geektastic by Holly Black
  2. She’s Such a Geek! by Annalee Newitz
  3. How to be a Geek Goddess by Christina Tynan-Wood

 

La Grand Therese (Hilary Spurling) – Review

La Grande Therese : The Greatest Scandal of…La Grand Therese by Hilary Spurling
Age: Adult
Genre: History/Biography
Publisher: Profile Books, 1999
ISBN: 186197132X
119 pages

The author of a number of French history books brings us a neatly packaged tale of one of the greatest liars and swindlers of the Belle Époque era, Therese Humbert. A girl of poor means from southern France, Therese quickly developed a talent for creative lies and story-telling that elevated her family’s status among the eyes of their community. Wracking up a number of unpaid debts, Therese and her family eventually found their way to Paris. Through Therese’s ability to craft lies, charm vendors and blend in casually to any group, her family had the honor of hosting parties for a number of political and literary dignitaries, even associated with artist Henri Matisse through marriage. However, the well woven web of lies and deceit soon begins to unravel and Therese finds herself penniless and alone in jail. Her dream castles shattered into a million pieces.

I was drawn to this book for its size as well as its main feature, Therese Humber. The book is about 119 pages and roughly 4×6 in size. Its a small book, a quick expose of Therese’s life. There isn’t much meat in the book, and I’m sure much of it was left to the author’s imagination as the bibliography sources were quite limited and there were few if any citations in the actual book. Although Therese’s life seems to be incredibly interesting, her story was not told well. I found the narrative difficult to follow at times and I still can’t figure out how her lies almost destroyed the French Third Republic. The narrative felt more like a draft or outline of what could be a really interesting and detailed account of a rags-to-riches-to-rags Cinderella story.

This book is not available in the United States

Book 45 of 2011

Fog City Mavericks – Movie Review

Fog City Mavericks – Directed by Gary Leva
Genre: Documentary
119 Minutes

Fog City mavericks : the filmmakers of San Francisco

Although San Francisco isn’t usually the first city to pop-up when it comes to major movie players, it has played an incredibly powerful role in the start and progress of cinema.

Fog City Mavericks is definitely a must-see documentary on Bay Area cinema and celebrities. The film starts with a brief introduction of the start of cinema by a Eadweard Muybridge based on a challenge by Leland Stanford (founder of Stanford University). Leland and a friend wanted to know if at any point in time, a racehorse had all four legs up in the air. From this challenge, Muybridge created what can be considered the first film.

Through a series of interviews centered around George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, we learn about various directors, actors and creators of independent cinematic films that have reached high levels of success and have helped shape the movie industry. While the majority of the documentary focuses on Coppola and Lucas, we do learn about Sofia Coppola’s contribution to cinema, Chris Columbus, Clint Eastwood, John Lassister (best known for Pixar) Steve Jobs’ involvement with Pixar, and Saul Zaentz.

The documentary includes clips of iconic American films such as: American Graffiti, the Star Wars film series, the Indiana Jones film series, The Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, Toy Story, The Incredibles, Lost in Translation, Flags of Our Fathers and many others.

The documentary also includes interviews with those who have worked with the Bay Area mavericks: Steven Spielberg, Michael Douglas, Anthony Minghella, Milos Forman and Robin Williams. I am sad to say that there was no mention of Alfred Hitchcock in this documentary. Many of his films are based in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area, Vertigo, being perhaps one of the more famous of the films.

Who knew that Francis Ford Coppola owned the Centinnal Building for his American Zeotrope Production company? I didn’t. I didn’t know that Chris Columbus, although raised in Ohio, came to San Francisco to start his career. The film offers a unique look at the history of San Francisco and its bohemian culture and acceptance for the off-beat, anti-mainstream, and the fostering of individual creativity.

I would also recommend watching The Pixar Story to learn about Pixar productions headquartered in Emeryville, CA.

Lunch in Paris (Elizabeth Bard) – Review

Lunch in Paris : a love story, with recipesLunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Location: Paris
Source: Public Library
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company,2010
ISBN: 9780316042796
324 Pages

Lunch in Paris is not your typical love story. Lunch in Paris is about the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations of being an American living in France. We follow Elizabeth’s life from when she first meets Gwendal to their dates, the proposal, the wedding, and life afterward. Their romance is not the center of the story. Elizabeth butts heads with France, she has a love affair with the food, carefully honing in cooking skills from her daily trips to the market. Carefully and thoughtfully woven throughout the chapters are Elizabeth’s insecurities, hesitations, successes and problems with assimilating into the French culture.

I connected with Elizabeth from the very moment she described herself as a “bit of an old-fashioned girl. I feel good in old places.” (page 6). As well as someone who was “born in the wrong century.” (page 19). I can’t say I’ve never felt the same based on my tastes in music, hobbies, movies and art. I felt she was very honest with her struggles in Paris. It seems to be every girl’s dream to fall in love with a charming, dashing Frenchman who just happens to be a good cook to boot. To get married and live in a little bohemian love bungalow with the Eiffel Tower in view from across the distance. Elizabeth fills us in on what happens after that happily ever after moment. The truth about the struggles of living in another continent from your family and friends and trying to start a brand new life.

I could readily identify with Elizabeth’s torn self between American and Parisienne. Although she sheds  a certain amount of American traits (talking loudly everywhere, buying less than quality foods, rushing through meals, etc.) there are some habits and rights of Americans that are not available in other countries. The right to a second, third or fourth medical opinion, the ability to get married and work in the country without any restrictions, optimism and a can-do attitude, the ability to rethink and reuse objects for something other than their intended use. Although France is highly cultured, part of that is the strict adherence to the mentality of stasis.

At the end of each chapter, Elizabeth pens a couple of recipes that she had discussed during the chapter. Food and cooking very important to her, as they were the stepping stones of her entrance into the French life. From her first introduction to her then boyfriend’s closest family and friends, to her ability to improve her French and order meat like a pro at the butcher’s. What I like about the recipes is that I already own most of the ingredients in my pantry. They are regular pantry herbs and spices and only the proteins used would require any extra effort to locate, even that effort is limited. The recipes are a mix of traditional French, recipes of Elizabeth’s Jewish heritage, and sometimes a cross between the two styles, with a little American classic comfort foods thrown into the mix. She begins each recipe with a little paragraph explaining its origin as well as how to change certain ingredients to get a more personal and unique flavor from the dish.

Book 29 of 2011

Find this book at your local library

  Book 3

Midnight in Paris – Movie review (Paris in July)

Midnight in Paris Movie

What better way to kick off Paris in July than by seeing Woody Allen’s newest movie, Midnight in Paris. The movie stars Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Carla Bruni, Marion Colliard and a whole ensemble of actors to round out the film.

I knew nothing about its plot when I went to see it, so I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum.  The biggest things that drew me to the movie was the mere fact that it was set in Paris and is a Woody Allen movie.

The movie, is about Gil Pender, a wannabe novelist currently working as a Hollywood screenwriter. He goes to Paris with his fiancee and her parents and soon discovers another world in Paris. One filled with all of his literary heroes from eras past.

As much as I liked the movie, I didn’t fall in love with it the way others have. Woody Allen has hit the key spots of glamorizing the city and its history. I loved the cinematography, I loved the literary, artistic and musical references, I loved the fashions and I loved the concept of the movie. Woody Allen’s Paris is definitely not the Paris that I enjoyed when I was there, but I was definitely with Gil’s stance about the city throughout the entire film, which is utter adoration.

What I didn’t like was the lack of depth in any of the characters (out of a cast of 10+ too). I didn’t like the abrupt ending, I didn’t like that many moments of Gil’s midnight strolls in Paris felt forced. I didn’t like Gil’s character, although I thought Owen Wilson was great in this role. His normally animated acting style was very muted in this film and reminded me of Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction.

As an English major with a minor in Humanities, I caught nearly every reference that made in the movie. It was great to see that all my knowledge hadn’t gone to waste, but still. I felt as if this movie was lacking something. If felt too much like an English major’s fantastical daydream of Paris. I think for a great movie with a lot of depth as well as fantastic shots of Paris, I’d rather watch Paris, Je’Taime.