Tag Archives: Reading

Book Buzz: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

Book Buzz: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

So how could a bibliophile not pick up a novel entitled “How to Find Love in a Bookshop?”

Of course I did.

Book Buzz: How to Find Love in a Bookshop

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

Here is my observation about novels with bookshops. They have a sprinkle of whimsy and magic throughout. Any why not? Bookstores are … were … filled with wonder and enchantment. Generations following us may never know the delight of browsing in a bookshop, losing any sense of time and space while paging through new titles, and admiring the art of beautiful covers.

Veronica Henry’s How to Find Love in a Bookshop is set in the Cotswolds in England, a magical place in and of itself, where Emilia has returned following the death of her father Julius to salvage the bookshop he ran for years.

Called Nightingale Books, the quaint and dusty bookshop had been tended with care if not financial acumen. Julius was devoted to his beloved books and also to his customers who became his extended family. With his notion that “a town without a bookshop is a town without a heart,” he created a comfortable space that encouraged lingering and schmoozing.

When he passed away, Emilia — and the townspeople who adored him — were struck with the magnitude of his loss. Emilia vows to maintain the cherished bookshop in her father’s benevolent style, but struggles with the overwhelming debt he had unknowingly accrued. And as property developers circle her like hawks, having to shutter the doors for good becomes a grave possibility.

It is the cast of wonderful characters in the town that truly is the heart of this novel. We come to know and connect to the patrons of Nightingale Books who stop in to get recommendations for their next read … or ask for help in selecting a gift … or simply share their own stories.

There is the wealthy lady of the manor who hides a painful secret, and her daughter whose wedding plans are thwarted by a devastating car accident. There is the single dad desperate to do right by his son through introducing him to books. We get to know the painfully shy young chef who can’t bring herself to approach the man she secretly has a crush on, and the mum of a baby who offers free interior design advice to upgrade the shabby room of the shop.

This is a community of folks that values its local bookshop and its owner, and each other, through the ups and downs of daily life. These human connections that arise from a shared love of books are not to be found, sadly, when simply ordering a book online.

Are there shocking twists and turns? No. Is there murder, intrigue, and violent car chases? No. That’s not what this novel is. Picture yourself in a comfortable chair sipping tea (of course) on a lazy day with a cat on your lap.

That’s the feeling you’ll get when reading this novel.

 

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of How to Find Love in a Bookshop. Please leave a comment below, and a winner will be randomly selected. US addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of How to Find Love in a Bookshop from Viking for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Celebrate International Literacy Day

My grandmother was a teenager when she came to America. Fleeing the hardship of shtetl life in Russia, she landed on Ellis Island with just the clothes on her back and a small valise. She had little money and no formal education; in fact, she did not know how to read or write.

She and my grandfather settled in Pennsylvania and raised four active sons without the help of modern conveniences. No dishwasher, no washer and dryer, no microwave for a quick and easy meal.

My grandmother worked hard to keep her family well tended, with food on the table and clean clothes to wear. She spent her days cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing.

She never got around to learning to read or write. But she was so proud of her sons who excelled in school, all of them becoming college graduates.

Literacy is a human right.

These days we tend to take our education for granted, so it is alarming to discover that there are 757 million adults in the world, age 15 and older, who can’t read or write a simple sentence. Even more shocking, 14% of the U.S. population is illiterate — and 19% of them are high school graduates.

Literacy is not only a basic human right; it is a human need, as basic as water and a daily dose of sunshine.

The good news? The goal to eradicate illiteracy is achievable.

Today, the day that many of our children return to school to start or continue their education, is International Literacy Day. This week Grammarly is working to raise awareness about the importance of literacy.

There are global problems that seem too massive to fix, causing us to throw up our hands in dismay or just give up. What can I do, we ask ourselves.

Illiteracy is not unfixable.

There is something we can do. For starters, and I’m sure you all do this, make reading in your home a part of the daily routine. Develop a love of reading in your kids as early as infancy by reading to them every day. As your children grow, encourage them to read and write for pleasure.

There’s more. You can donate books or money to local libraries and schools. You may even want to volunteer a few hours a week as a literacy coach. Check with your library for information.

The infographic below is being circulated on social media today to raise awareness of the issue of literacy.

Do you have ideas for breaking the illiteracy barrier?

Literacy Day

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Go Away, I’m Reading

Try to interest me in a New Year’s challenge and I will probably back away slowly.

It’s a Pavlovian response. When I hear New Year’s and challenge in the same phrase, my eyes get glassy, my palms clammy. I might start to itch.

Such is my aversion to New Year’s challenges. To be more specific, the ones that involve losing weight, getting fit, or becoming enlightened.

I admit, in days of yore I signed on for New Year’s challenges with gusto. I can change my life, I exulted (in the privacy of my own home). I can be thinner, trimmer, happier, wiser, a better mother/wife/writer/friend/dog parent. I can do this!

I couldn’t.

Well-intentioned I may have been, but out of touch with reality. My reality. I don’t do challenges well. Suffice it to say that my good intentions evaporated as quickly as January snow on a 40 degree day.

I eventually gave up on challenges. January is just another month. I probably won’t lose weight and since I haven’t gone to the gym in over a year, fitness will not be my friend. And my word for 2015 is blintzes.

So there.

But I happened to notice Popsugar’s 2015 Ultimate Reading Challenge a few days ago and was intrigued. A reading challenge? Hey, I can do that. And when I was satisfied that neither food deprivation nor excessive sweating was involved, I jumped in. That’s the kind of cardio I can do.

A reading challenge? Well, hello.

I have no affiliation with Popsugar, I am not being compensated by Popsugar and, let’s be honest,  Popsugar hasn’t a clue that I exist, which is a long-winded way of saying that I am sharing this strictly for fun with no strings attached.

The premise is that in 2015 you will read 50 books of various types. Books that you may have planned on reading anyway, and others way off your radar.  A book written by an author who has your initials. A book written in the year you were born. A book with a one-word title. And so on.

Here’s the actual checklist if you want to print it or pin it.

Go Away, I'm Reading

Book nerd that I am, I put out a call on Facebook to enlist friends to join me, and now I’m in a small but active group of bookies. We will read books, recommend books, review books and talk about books: the book nerds’ equivalent of a spa retreat.

I began with the first one on the list: a book with over 500 pages. That was easy. I had wanted to read “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr and it qualified with a page count of 530.

Just let me say … well, I almost can’t. I’m speechless. OMG. What a book. A National Book Award finalist, it is about the lives of a young German soldier and a blind French girl in World War II-ravaged Europe. The writing is exquisite. As Booklist said in its review, “a novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned.”

Yes, that.

Go Away, I'm Readimg

The only consolation is that now I have a new favorite author whose previous novels I have added to my TBR list.

I am seldom without a book in hand (hence the name of my blog) so you might argue that a reading challenge is not much of a challenge. But what I like about this one is reaching out of your comfort zone for a different kind of book. By the end of 2015 I will have read a graphic novel, a novel 100 years old, a trilogy, and so much more that will be new to me.

Incidentally, if this challenge strikes your fancy and you crave an online group as I did, go on over to Goodreads and see what other readers have to say.

I’ll share a secret with you. I started Weight Watchers three weeks ago. And I’m tracking my cardio every day. So I’m not giving up entirely on personal improvement. I’m doing what I have to do.

And saving the rest of the time for reading.

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Book Buzz: Lydia’s Party and The Office of Mercy

I don’t love airplane travel — who does, anymore? — but I do enjoy having forced downtime that allows me to read for hours uninterrupted. Last week I had two absorbing books with me, “Lydia’s Party” and “The Office of Mercy,” that made the time go by very fast. Before I knew it, I turned the last page and was at my destination.

Lydia’s Party Lydia's Party

As a woman in midlife, I’m still learning, still growing, and making new friends, especially through social media. I have gotten to know people who share my interests and add a new dimension to my life.

At the same time, I cherish the friendships that began at a much earlier time in my life and remain strong. When we moved to our community many years go, I met other women who were navigating marriage and motherhood like I was. Our children are now grown, but our friendship remains.

And even further back on the timeline are my high school friends, with whom I get together a few times a year, despite the miles that separate us. It doesn’t seem to matter how much time has elapsed. We just continue from where we left off the last time.

Being with friends who knew you back in the day is just plain fabulous. And often therapeutic.

I think that is why the bittersweet “Lydia’s Room,” a story of friends in midlife who reunite every year, resonated with me so strongly. Lydia invites six longtime friends to her home for an annual dinner party. Purposely scheduled for the dead of winter when, goodness knows, we all need to come out of hibernation, this dinner is a much anticipated binge of eating, drinking, laughing and reminiscing.

Author Margaret Hawkins gives us a glimpse into the lives of each of the women as they get ready for the dinner. We learn about their marriages and relationships, job successes and failures, doubts and dreams. These are women whose trajectories may have changed, their ambitions sidelined or altered, and their transition to middle age fraught with a few bumps and bruises. Like my circle of friends, they talk about aging, regrouping, celebrating the happy times, acknowledging regret, and trying to maintain a sense of humor about it all.

This particular evening takes place in a snowstorm, which adds to the intimacy and sets the stage for a startling confession from Lydia. Beautifully and touchingly written, this is a book that all women of any age can relate to. If at all possible, read it when the snow is falling and the logs are crackling in the fireplace.

The Office of Mercythe office of mercy

I rarely read science fiction, but the industry buzz about “The Office of Mercy” was so enticing that I decided to take a chance on this book. And I’m glad I did.

Author Ariel Djankian paints a Utopian society known as America-Five in which citizens live forever, never experience pain or suffering, and are programmed to not feel empathy. This futuristic society came about suddenly after a global catastrophe that wiped out nearly every human on the planet.

But not quite everyone.

The America-Five citizens live and work in a high-tech universe called the Dome that is protected from the Outside. The protagonist, Natasha Wiley, works in the Office of Mercy, a government unit responsible for routine annihilation of the survivors, or Tribes, on the Outside. Taught to believe that murder is an act of compassion, Natasha nonetheless feels a twinge of discomfort that grows into fervent rebellion when she ventures Outside and comes to learn about the history of the Tribes.

This is a graphic and sometimes brutal thriller about what might happen when world over-population, food and water shortages and economic collapse spawn an apocalypse. It is a fast-paced page turner with some dramatic twists and turns that I did not expect. If you liked “The Hunger Games,” this book is for you. Like “The Hunger Games” and Orwell’s “1984,” this book portrays a chilling vision of the future that seems simultaneously remote but not far-fetched.

I am delighted to be able to give away a copy of each book to one of my readers. Please leave a comment below and two recipients will be chosen at random.

Viking/Penguin provided me with a copy of each of these books for review. I was not compensated. These opinions are my own.

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I Mostly Hate Glasses

glasses

I hold Dorothy Parker at least partially responsible for my issues with glasses.

You remember Ms. Parker, right? Writer, critic, a fixture of the 1920s literary society and member of the famed Algonquin Round Table. A woman ahead of her time: bawdy and brilliant, caustic and charismatic, the life of the party. I always thought she was the cat’s meow. The bee’s knees.

She was quoted frequently for her witticisms, like these:

“If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

“She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

But then there was this.

“Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.”

Well. When I got wind of this bon mot as an adolescent, I was not amused. It only cemented the insecurity I already felt about my looks. For in addition to everything else I perceived as a flaw, I had poor vision.

And when you were an adolescent girl in the 60s, at least if you were me, you obsessed about your looks and pretty much hated them and wondered if a man (someday) would want to make a pass at you.

I took this bon mot to heart.

My first pair of glasses–a shade of bubble gum pink with pointy tips—appeared in my life when I was about 11. They practically screamed doofus.

As my vision grew worse, the lenses got thicker and the frames uglier, and I was so unhappy with the way I looked that I tossed the glasses in my purse and endured the pitfalls and yes, pratfalls, of  life in a blurry world.

I admit it. I was vain.

That was then. Now? Although I still don’t love glasses, I have to admit they have attained extreme coolness.

With famous actresses sporting them with panache—with evening dresses! On the red carpet!—glasses, and the women who wear them, are fashionable, trendy and attractive.

Now that I am a woman in midlife, I need a little help with my close range vision, even while wearing contacts. Readers, they’re called, those cute little inexpensive glasses that perch right on your nose and make reading a whole lot clearer. They’re fun and cool. The ones I’m wearing in these photos are from www.readers.com and I love wearing them. When?

With these fun frames, my relationship with glasses has improved tremendously. I think I look kind of adorable in them. My husband thinks so, too.

So there, Dorothy Parker.

Disclosure: I received three pairs of glasses plus compensation from www.readers.com. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is the Daily Newspaper Passe?

My husband and I can’t bring ourselves to cancel the two daily newspapers we’ve subscribed to our entire married life, but I wonder if we’re just delaying the inevitable.

 

Newspapers B&W (4)

Newspapers B&W (4) (Photo credit: NS Newsflash)

 

As our reading habits continue to evolve, I suspect the day will come when we suck it up and kick the printed newspaper habit out the door.

It startles me to even think this way, but let’s be honest.

Who has time to linger over the daily paper anymore? With our rushed morning schedules, we barely manage to pick it up from the driveway and toss it in the house.

This is not to say that we are news non-consumers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We just consume differently these days.

While getting dressed, we get the headlines (and much valued weather forecast) from Good Morning America. I can leave for work not only dressed appropriately, but with full confidence that the world has not ended and celebrities are still misbehaving.

Stuck in traffic on the way to work, I check my Twitter feed and scour the posts on Facebook. I might have a minute to look at a few photos on Instagram.

My radio dial is tuned to either Howard Stern or NPR, depending on the subject matter (both informative sources in my world, although not necessarily yours).

At work I receive CNN alerts throughout the day with significant breaking news. If time permits, I may go to the New York Times app on my iPad and do a quick scan of the opinion pages. Over lunch I try to read a few posts from bloggers whom I enjoy following.

Chances are someone will email me a link to a news item of interest. If I have time, I’ll read it then and there; if not, I’ll bookmark it for later.

By the time we get home and grab some dinner, it’s likely that the forlorn daily paper will join its unread companions stacked in a corner of our bedroom. It’s hard to let an old habit go. We tell ourselves that we’ll get to them eventually.

Except that there is a Google+ hangout I want to attend. And that novel on my bed stand is waiting to be finished.  When my eyes are too bleary to focus on the screen or the page, there’s always CNN News or The Daily Show before calling it a night.

However, nothing can take the place of our leisurely Sunday morning ritual: newspapers served with bagels and a bottomless pot of coffee.

Delicious Omega-3s

Delicious Omega-3s (Photo credit: lynn.gardner)

I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

 

 

 

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My Little Town

The lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel’s tune have haunted me this morning, especially these:

Nothing but the dead and dying
Back in my little town

With the news (read the New York Times article here) that Reading, Pa. is now the most poverty-stricken city in the United States, I am overwhelmed with sadness for my hometown, a place that seemed so idyllic as I grew up.

I had the best childhood, the kind every kid should have, filled with opportunity and fearlessness and life lessons that prepared me for adulthood. The children of Reading now have little hope of living the life I have led.

As a child, I had dreams that had every likelihood of being fulfilled. Today, the children of Reading don’t dare to dream, or hope. If current trends continue, only 63% of them will graduate from high school. Just 8% will get a college degree. Too many of them will have babies way too soon, and the downward spiraling continues.

On summer nights I was lulled to sleep by the sound of cicadas. The children of Reading are awakened by gunfire or other forms of violence.  Because with poverty comes desperation and lawlessness.

What happened to Reading? The factories left. The outlets left. The young people left. The minority population surged, along with it the rates of unemployment, crime and drop-outs from high school.

My high school friends and I have remained close, with treasured memories we love to share. We never miss a reunion, our most recent one having taken place just last month. We often comment on how well our classmates have fared. So many have gone on to have thriving careers, successful relationships, truly rewarding lives. We came from different backgrounds, but our parents and teachers gave us the gift of believing that the world was ours for the taking.

The children of Reading will not look back on their high school years the way we do, if in fact they last in school that long.

Reading, my little town, I weep for you.

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