What I’m Into | 8.2014

Well, August sure seemed to fly by. We visited the Renaissance Fair for the first time and had a blast. Lots of fun things filled the month, including these books and shows.

Read & Reading

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

My commute was made far less annoying by listening to The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett and Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson. August, or rather just Labor Day weekend, provided some good reading for me. I finished No More Words by Reeve Lindbergh, Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner, The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphical Biography by Sid Jacobson and The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. All of them were quite good!The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

Watched & Watching

Bachelor in Paradisethe drama is just too much fun.

ManhattanThis is well-scripted, produced and cast. It’s amazing. It airs on WGN.

MarriedI really like Judy Greer, and I’m happy to see her in a starring role. Dark and funny!

Saving for Later

 

via

This recipe for Italian Pot Roast & Parmesan Risotto looks amazing!

I’ve pinned a lot of navy blue and gray pieces and outfits to my Fashion board for fall. Various additional items in those colors will really fit into my current closet.

What were you into this month?

**Linking up with Leigh Kramer**

Top 10 Characters at my Lunch Table

You Can't Sit with Us! | The Top 10 Literary Characters at my Lunch Table | The 1000th Voice Blog

Well, these ten fictional and nonfictional characters can always join my lunch table.

Laura Ingalls Wilder & Rose Wilder Lane, from The Little House series & Others

The dynamic between this mother-daughter literary duo would be fascinating to see in person, but each of them separately would also be great lunch table guests. Of course, in addition to my literary characters lunch, these two would make appearances on my authors table as well.

Hermione Granger, from the Harry Potter Series

Hermione is intelligent, well read and all around fascinating. Her stories of life as a Muggle at Hogwarts would fascinate the lunch table to no end.

Anne Frank, from The Diary of Anne Frank and Tales from the Secret Annex

Throughout her experience in hiding, Anne grew and developed a deep understanding of the human condition. Her contribution to lunchtime conversation would be astounding.

Winn Van Meter, from Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Winn Van Meter turns out to be the token male at the table. His pompous, self-righteous attitude would, honestly, be most unwelcome, but all-together fascinating.

Mamah Borthwick Cheney, from Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

I definitely do not agree with Mamah’s decisions, but her education, desires and impact on women’s rights can’t be understaded. For that, she makes a great addition to the table.

Jane Eyre, from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane’s headstrong ways and willingness to live on her own terms would fit nicely with the others at the table.

Rachel Kalama, from Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Despite a devastating diagnosis with leprosy, Rachel learns to truly live life to the fullest. Her communicable disease wouldn’t be welcome at the table.

Irene Beltrán, from Of Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende

Irene is typical of Allende’s strong, female characters. As a journalist during a revolution, she has to have fascinating stories for us.

Anne Shirley, from the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery

And, why not, Anne. Grown up Anne would be an excellent addition.

Who would join you at your table?

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**Linked up with The Broke and the Bookish**

RIP, Robin Williams | Thoughts on Brilliance & Legacies

In recent months, Nick and I have watched Hook and Aladdin with our four year old, Claire. It was fulfilling to introduce Robin Williams to a new generation–in fact to the third generation for my family. I recall as a child watching Good Morning, Vietnam with my parents who talked about “Mork and Mindy.” I was too young to understand the movie, but it wouldn’t be long before I fell in love with Aladdin and Hook and eventually with Dead Poet’s Society and What Dreams May Come.

In his comedic and dramatic roles, Robin Williams was intense, engaging and inspiring. His intensity was palpable; his work suffused with a persistence and a desire almost for perfection.

He was entertaining across his long career. It’s almost unheard of to see an actor with his range, his ability to be both dramatic and comedic, and his ability to appeal to audiences of all ages. His movies will continue to be watched for years to come by those craving sentimentality, to be transported back to the moment we first discovered this genius.

***

For those of us interested in artistic pursuits–whether our own or others’–we can rattle off the names of authors, poets, musicians, artists, actors and more visionaries whose brilliance was cut short by their own hand. We mourn not only that person, but the loss of their brilliance. And we’re left wondering how much their brilliance had to do with their struggles, how their brilliance may have contributed to a tightening darkness. The brilliant genius with a dark side has become a trope, a cliche.

In The Wire, Dashiell Bennett wrote about an episode of “Mork and Mindy” in which Mork meets Robin Williams. In this episode, Williams himself addresses the curse as Mork. Bennet writes, “Yes, celebrities get money and attention, but they also get harassed and attacked and everyone who comes in contact with them makes unreasonable demands on their time and energy.” Mork learns that “if you can’t learn to say no, then ‘there won’t be no more pieces for yourself.'”

Between the demands for time and energy, the drive and the pressure to be brilliant, it seems, darkness lies. We can speculate that acting and substance abuse helped Robin Williams and others cope, but there comes a time that without treatment those things won’t work. It seems we need our own self worth to come from the inside, not the outside. But amidst the utter darkness found in deep depression, there’s almost no way to understand this, to embrace it.

***

This summer Williams visited Hazelden in Minnesota for maintenance at the substance abuse rehab facility. He took a picture with a local Dairy Queen employee, looking a little tired, shabby and slightly unenthusiastic–not the public Robin Williams we’ve come to know and love. But what demands we place on celebrities to be who we want them to be, to be the person we see on the silver screen. Ultimately, the demand we place on them to be brilliantly entertaining all the time.

The picture made the rounds on the local TV news–Williams had essentially hit up two Minnesota establishments. Watching the 10 o’clock news later that night in June, Nick turned to me and said, “If I ever meet a celebrity, I don’t want their picture. I want to talk to them, see how they tick, how they think. What makes them who they are on the inside.”

In our “no picture or it didn’t happen” society I thought that was an interesting approach. Last night, as we discussed William’s untimely passing, we both wondered what would have happened if more people had demanded less from him and had gotten to know and understand the inner Robin Williams instead of just taking a photo.

If you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at  1-800-273-8255.

A Review of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

As I mentioned in this post last summer, my first experience with Geraldine Brooks was her nonfiction The Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women. Brooks used her years of experience reporting from the middle east to write a great book that provides a lot of background on Islamic women to those of us far from familiar with their beliefs and lives.

After reading Year of  Wonders last summer (which I realize I’ve never reviewed), I fell in love with Brooks’ fiction work and couldn’t wait to read another one of her books. People of the Book was next up on my list.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book
By Geraldine Brooks

Review

People of the Book begins with, Hannah, an ancient book restoration expert in 1996, traveling to Sarajevo to inspect the Sarajevo Haggadah, an important Jewish book that hadn’t surfaced since prior to WWII. As  Hannah inspects the book, she discovers clues that eventually transport us back in time, following the book to its creation.

We follow the book back in time and witness the various atrocities Jews have endured over the years. We learn how the book’s owners survived or lost their lives. Throughout the book, Brooks emphasizes humanity among the atrocities from those who saved the book to those who saved the owners of the book.

Rating

Writing 5 out of 5 stars

Brooks’ writing was clear and transported me along the journey of discovering the book’s origin.

Character Development  4 out of 5 stars

As we travel back, we get to know a lot of fairly well developed characters

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

The organization of the book works really well to move the plot forward.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

Using the real life discovery of the Sarajevo Haggadah, Brooks tells a deep and intriguing story.

Total 4.75 out of 5 stars

Have you read People of the Book? What did you think?

Top 5 Memoirs I’d Recommend to a Memoir-Reading Newbie

I’ve found over time that I’ve read a number of very good memoirs. Using a creative, narrative approach, these authors embrace and dig into their lives with a no-topic-off-limits approach, discussing everything from race relations to tragedy, murder and more.

I’d recommend the following memoirs to someone who hasn’t embraced the genre:

Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Brother, I’m Dying (Audiobook)
By Edwidge Danticat
Read by Robin Miles

Danticat’s clear, strong voice shines in this memoir about the two men who raised her–her father and her uncle. America may be the land of progress and second chances, but Danticat and her younger brother found themselves left behind in Haiti while their parents tried to and succeeded in creating a new life for the family in New York. This memoir is touching, moving and, at times, infuriating.

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

The Solace of Open Spaces
By Gretel Ehrlich

Ehrich has lived in and loved Wyoming for years. Her clear, open writing paints a beautiful picture of the quiet, wide-open prairie where she chose to make her home.

Midnight in the Garden of good and Evil by John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
By John Berendt

Berendt brought his journalistic profile approach to this book. Part memoir, part nonfiction mystery and so much more, this book tells the story of Berendt’s time in Savannah, GA, and the trial that changed the face of the city.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster
By Jon Krakauer

Krakauer is a celebrated outdoor writer. In this memoir, he recounts his experience climbing Mt. Everest during a particularly deadly season.

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile by Isabel Allende

My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile
By Isabel Allende
Read by Blair Brown

Like Haiti, Central American countries such as Chile experienced great political strife in the 60s and 70s. While many of these continue today, Allende provides background to Chile’s struggle and the events that would shape her celebrated fiction work.

What memoir(s) would you recommend to someone who hasn’t experienced the genre?

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**Linked up with The Broke and the Bookish**

Weekly Reads | 8.3.2014

How was your weekend? I only got about an hour of reading in this weekend. Most of that time was in a bubble bath.

So this week, I’m continuing to read

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway
By Virginia Woolf

If you’re interested in my thoughts as I read the book, check out my new Tumblr Totally Contains Spoilers.

In the car, I’m listening to

Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson

Our Lady of the Forest (Audiobook)
By David Guterson
Read by Blair Brown

Recent Posts

Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From

What I’m Into | 7.2014

Major Book Buying Mode

What are you reading this week?

**Linked up with Book Journey**

Major Book Buying Mode

There was something about the month of July that set me on a book-buying binge.

It began early in the month when I got a coupon mailer from Half Price Books. The mailer was for 40% off ONE book, but I walked out with five.

Then, this week I picked up a handful more at my favorite thrift shop.

What all did I purchase? I thought you’d never ask!

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From the top:

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

The Awakening and Selected Short Stories by Kate Chopin

Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende

The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas by Jerry Dennis

No More Words by Reeve Lindbergh

Zenith City: Stories From Duluth by Michael Fedo

The Women by T.C. Boyle

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

What books have you purchased recently?

What I’m Into | 7.2014

While this post may not make it seem so, I’ve felt super busy this last month. Take a look at what’s been going on…

Read & Reading

Reading is a place I’ve excelled this month, finishing Zenith City: Stories from Duluth by Michael Fedo, The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer, Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois and Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. My favorite read this month by far was definitely Cartwheel!

Currently, I’m not exactly reading anything. I finished Zenith City at lunch. I have a number of books queued up at home, but I’m not sure yet which one I’ll grab.

Watched & Watching

While Claire was with her grandparents lat week, we watched a few of the movies that we can’t watch with her. Prior to that, I think I just watched a ton of kids movies.

World War Z….I haven’t read the book and honestly probably won’t. The movie freaked me out. I like to think of my zombies as slow moving and easy to outrun.

Chernobyl Diariesjust don’t.

Friends with Kids…loved it! Jennifer Westfeldt did a good job writing and directing.

We also very quickly finished True Blood’s sixth season. It’s so much fun to watch!

We recently watched The Lego Movie and Rio 2. Both were a lot of fun!

Saving for Later

Treehouse, house in the trees...It's all a little tomato/tomahto to me when it looks like this.

Treehouse, house in the treesvery tomato/tomahto when it looks like this! Bonus: it’s built from a recycled barn! I’m pretty sure I found a new blog to follow!

Cooking

I have no concept lately of what cooking is.

Obsessed With

I'm so obsessed with succulents and succulent arrangements right now.

My Pinterest board for a party I’m helping plan is full of various succulent arrangements. I love how they mix with rustic or more glam items!

I'm in love with the concept of capsule wardrobes.

Two words: Capsule. Wardrobes. I’ve been obsessed for awhile. So simple to get ready every morning. Now I’m thinking about how I can make this happen in my own closet. My goal will be to create a capsule of basics and add in some pieces of color and pattern. I’ve been pinning quite a bit. My favorites are ones that show the items and all the outfit possibilities.

What were you into this month?

**Linking up with Leigh Kramer**

Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From

I’m excited to participate in The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday for the first time! I hope the topic this week (ten authors whose books I own the most of) will provide a fun insight into my bookshelves and reading life!

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I have my stuff together more than this Christmas-time photo
might indicate. It was taken months ago!

Counting down, here are the ten authors I own the most books from with many ties:

Five -

Stephen Covey (2) I’m a business school graduate. Enough said!

Geraldine Brooks (2) People of the Book and Year of Wonders were both amazing.

Barbara Kingsolver (2) I haven’t read The Poisonwood Bible yet, but I really liked Small Wondera collection of post-9/11 essays.

Four -

Frank McCourt (3) I first read Angela’s Ashes in high school and fell in love. I quickly purchased Teacher Man and ‘Tis when they were published and mourned McCourt’s passing.

William Shakespeare (3) Why not?

Jon Krakauer (4) I will never climb Everest or do many of the things he’s done and written about, but I love Krakauer’s writing style.

Isabel Allende (3) – One of my favorite authors, I have Zorro, Portrait in Sepia and Daughter of Fortune.

Three -

Laura Ingalls Wilder (4) – Obviously, I should have more. I do have three Wilder-related books on my shelves, though.

Two -

 J.K. Rowling (8) The Harry Potter series, of course, and The Casual Vacancy have treasured spots on my bookshelves.

One -

Fraggle Rock Series (15) We found these for Claire at a garage sale. We all enjoy reading them!

Top Ten Tuesdays hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

**Linked up with The Broke and the Bookish**

Weekly Reads | 7.28.2014

With Claire visiting my parents last week, Nick and I got to work on some household projects. I didn’t have much reading time, but I took as much time as possible.

Beginning this week, I’ll be reading the second half of

 

Zenith City: Stories from Duluth by Michael FedoZenith City: Stories from Duluth
By Michael Fedo

On my commute I’ve been switching between the radio and

The Magician's Assistant by Ann PatchettThe Magician’s Assistant (Audiobook)
By Ann Patchett

I wasn’t sure I’d stick with this after the first few minutes, but, as usual, I’m glad I stuck with it.

If you’re interested in my thoughts as I read, check out my new Tumblr Totally Contains Spoilers.

Recent Posts

July Book Lists

Pick out your next read from these great lists.

A Review of Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty

Not comedy, but Martin’s distinctive voice shines through.

What are you reading this week?

**Linked up with Book Journey**