Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Revising My Understanding of History

Claudette Colvin:  Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose
This book has been nominated for several awards, including a Newberry Honor and National Book Award, and rightfully so.  It isn't a book you will want to snuggle up with but it is a book that is profoundly important to read.

All along, I thought that Rosa Parks was the person who initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott and ensuing desegregation that swept through the South.  The reason I thought this?  Well, I was taught it!  We all were--I know because I looked it up in our school's history books!  To find out it just isn't true was a bit of shock. 

Don't get me wrong-Rosa Parks was an amazing woman but her true story is even more surprising.  She has been portrayed as a poor black woman who was little more than a pawn in the hands of police.  To know that she orchestrated and was a leader in the Montgomery Civil Rights movement will have me going to learn more about her story because it certainly isn't the version I learned early on and not the one I want to teach to future generations.

This book is the story of an unknown.  Claudetta Colvin was the person who was first arrested on a bus for refusing to give up her seat; Rosa Parks staged the same thing not much later.  Claudette Colvin wasn't the image the world was ready for--a young black teen, unmarried and pregnant, was not the face the Civil Rights leaders wanted to portray.  Claudette's story touched me in a deep way because she has been denied her true place as heroine in the movement and grew up virtually unknown until this book, and her story, came out.

An important book for current and future generations--hopefully Ms. Colvin's story will get her the recognition she so rightfully deserves.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Sweet Treat

The Chocolate Diaries:  Secrets for a Sweeter Journey on the Rocky Road of Life by Karen Scalf Linamen

Ladies, if you are looking for that perfect gift for a BFF, look no further.  This part self-help, part memoir would make a great gift . This would be a helpful and encouraging book to those going through divorce, depression and physical challenges.   The only disappointing part was the lack of really ooey-gooey chocolate recipes.  I don't know why I expected a cookbook, self-advice book but something about the title had me flipping through looking for a "Better than Sex" Chocolate Cake.

It was a new kind of book for me.  While I do love nonfiction, I had never delved into the self-help bucket before.  In the beginning, I felt like I didn't really need the help-to-self advice but I really enjoyed reading the author's stories.  She has a very funny and engaging style that will appeal to a lot of different kinds of readers.  Each chapter tells a little more about the author and how she overcame personal obstacles, mostly having to do with men and heartbreak.  Interspersed are motivational stories from her blog and other interviews from readers and fans.

After I started reading, I realized that many of the stories and advice really did run pretty close to home.  We all have our ow personal difficulties and seeing how another person totally made the same mistakes I did made me feel better.  Misery loveth company!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni
(Quirky Historical Fiction)

I originally picked up this book because it looked like a great paranormal read--eerie title, mysterious cover and a storyline of two girls who can communicate with the dead.  I was wrong, wrong, wrong!  And it was in this wrongness that I found an incredible book!  What I had stumbled on, instead or paranormal fiction, was my very favorite kind of book-quirky historical stories.

This is the tale of two sisters who pretend (or do they?) to be able to communicate with ghosts.  What starts as a childish game has them growing up and becoming quite famous.  The girls' fame causes them to move to bigger cities and holding seances, capturing the attention of America.  When one sister starts to believe her own stories, the other wants to come clean.  That's when the real fun begins!

What made this book so delightful is that is was actually based on true events and real people.  When I found that out, I raced to my computer and spent a couple of hours reading about these wacky, wonderful women.  The storyline seemed to hard to believe-who in their right mind would buy such a story?  This was at a time of mesmerism and spiritualism fever in the US and, really, what has changed since then?  There's even an entire channel on cable devoted to the paranormal.

These fascinating sisters and their stories kept me glued to the book the whole way through and I was sorry when their story ended.  I didn't expect so much from one story and the romance towards the end was just one nugget of fun.  I loved the heartbreaking moments and the fact that the characters so openly admitted their mistakes and fallibility.

This was one instance where I was so very glad to be so very wrong.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Cozy Mystery

Died in the Wool:  Massachusetts Mayhem Mysteries by Elizabeth Ludwig and Janell Mowry
(Cozy Mystery)
Sometimes it's nice to take a break from the stresses and realities of daily life and read a cozy murder mystery.  Strange sentence when you think about it, but that fits this book perfectly.

Monah is a small-town librarian and discovers the body of a local teacher in the bathroom.  Her boyfriend is a local policeman and is called in to solve the case.  The problem?  Monah is the number one suspect.  Can he put aside his romantic feelings and look at her objectively, as a potential murderer?

This is a charming Christian book that is a very low risk, low stress read.  No sex.  No violence.  No bad language.  The characters in the book are somewhat stereotypical:  librarian Monah is described as mousy and shy with glasses; the murder victim, a spinster teacher, is a schoolmarm, prudish and rude; the main suspect, besides Monah, is the richest guy in town.  For all that, though, they aren't flat characters at all.  

Reading this book is a bit like slipping on a comfortable pair of pajamas and settling in for a cozy chat.  Some days, that's a very welcome change.