Monday, July 9, 2012

We are consolidating and moving!!

Hi all,

In an effort to have stuff published on a daily basis, hubby and I are combining blogs over at

I'll be moving posts from here to over there until there are no more posts to be moved. So, you'll see repeats from me until all the content is moved. However, he'll be updating with new stuff about science, books, and cats. 


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Canada by Richard Ford

So, I've read a few books between the last time I posted and now and have neglected to post reviews about them. I hope to go back and catch up.

Today I bring you a review of Richard Ford's newest book Canada. Richard Ford is a Pulitzer Prize winning author in fiction and is considered to be part of the dirty realism movement.

To give a simple summary of this book, it is the story of a boy named Dell who faces unfortunate circumstances in his life at no choosing of his own.

The story is broken up into three parts, which are delineated for you in the book. The first part focuses on Dell and his family, which includes his twin sister Berner, and his father Bev and mother Neeva. Dell and Berner have never felt a sense of place since they were constantly moving due to his father being in the military. Eventually, they settle in Great Falls, Montana. I don't want to give too much away, but his parents come wrapped up in something that lands them in jail. Neeva, knowing that she and Bev would eventually get caught, has made arrangements for her kids to be picked up by a friend and taken to safety. However, before this happens, Berner decides to run away. Dell, by himself, is picked up by his mother's friend and is driven to Canada to live with the friend's brother, Arthur Remlinger. His life is in upheaval because of his parent's poor decisions.

Part Two of the book focuses on Dell's time in the small town in Canada. Dell works for Arthur by helping cleaning the hotel that Arthur runs and eventually helps with the goose hunts that he organizes. Close to then end of the book, it is revealed that Arthur has a somewhat dark past, and ends up dragging Dell into yet another unfortunate situation.

Part Three of the book is short and brings you to a present time in Dell's life. We find out Dell stayed in Canada and established a life for himself there. We also learn about what happened to Berner.

Overall, this book was an enjoyable read.

And a side note. We actually got to see Richard Ford in person at Politics & Prose, a D.C. bookstore. He read from the book, did a Q&A, and then signed books. Richard Ford is my husband's favorite living author, and  he insisted that we go. He was great and was so kind when signing books. He even allowed my husband to take a picture with him. It made me happy that my husband had the opportunity to meet him.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

On my quest to become better educated in American History, I recently read Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. The Founding Fathers and their quest to have an independent nation is something that greatly intrigues me. I've already read about Thomas Jefferson, and decided I would learn about Benjamin Franklin.

This biography is extremely well written and absolutely enjoyable. It covers Franklin's entire life, from his running away from home at 17, to his death at the age of 84, with everything in between. I really enjoyed reading about his life as a printer, as a scientist, and later as a statesman. The book is nicely divided up into sections based on years. You find out many interesting facts, like that he was the toast of Paris when he was in France, with ribbons and coins with his likeness put on them. He had an illegitimate son, who had an illegitimate son, who had an illegitimate son. That's quite the family legacy. Also, he often started flirtations with younger women, but then distanced himself by acting very much the father figure through letters he would write them.

Seriously, this was such an enjoyable read. Find out more about how your country was founded and the role that Benjamin Franklin played by reading this book. I think I'm going to have to make a trip to Philadelphia now!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Help

I recently had the great pleasure of reading "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. If you have not read this book, you should. I really, really enjoyed reading it every night.  

The book centers on and is told through the view point of three main characters: Aibileen, Minny, and Miss Skeeter. Miss Skeeter is a young, white woman living in Mississippi in the 1960's. She is a member of the local social scene, playing bridge once a week and writing the newsletter for the Jackson Junior League. Aibileen and Minny are both African Americans working as hired help in the homes of white women. Aibileen works for Miss Skeeter's friend Elizabeth. Minny recently got fired by Hilly, who also happens to be the antagonist in this story, and now works for Celia Foote.

Skeeter has dreams of being a writer. She sends off an application off to Harper and Row, but gets a rejection letter saying she has promise but needs experience. So, she applies to the local Jackson newspaper filling in for the writer of the housecleaning column. Off course, Skeeter has no experience and decides to ask for Aibileen's assistance. After working with Aibileen, Skeeter thinks that writing a book from the point of view from the help would be something that Harper and Row would be interested in, and they are, especially with the Civil Rights movement.

Minny, who is sassy, works for Celia Foote. Celia is an outcast of the social scene, mostly because she married Hilly's old flame. She desperately wants to fit in, but she is never given a chance. Minny ends up becoming her confidant.

This book is an interesting look at race relations in the deep south. There is a lot more to the story, including the interactions between Skeeter and her mother, Skeeter's search for the truth about what happened to her old maid, Constantine, and Skeeter's relationship with a certain senator's son, but I don't want to give too much away because it is such a good book that you should read. And the movie isn't bad either!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

I apologize for the lapse of time between my last book review and this one. One reason for this was due to the Christmas holidays. I was running around quite a bit and didn't have much time to read. The second reason for this is the book itself, more in that in just a second.

First, my main motivation for reading this book was to be more informed. Many people have preconceived notions about religions other than Christianity, and this bugs the hell out of me. Most of what people know is second hand, and often incorrect knowledge, especially when it comes to Islam.

This book is written by Karen Armstrong, a former nun. She discusses the three major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She explains such topics as the rise of Yaweh, the controversy over the trinity, the prophet Muhammad, God as understood by philosophers and mystics, and the future of God.

The chapter that I enjoyed the most was the chapter on Islam, mostly because I learned a lot. For example, the Koran was revealed to Muhammed over a period of twenty-three years. Also, the Koran teaches that God had sent messengers to every people on the earth, such as Abraham, Noah, Moses, and Jesus, who were the prophets of the Jews and Christians (Jesus is only a prophet, not the son of God). Also, the Koran frequently addresses women explicitly, something that rarely happens in the Jewish or Christian scriptures. However, as in other religions, it was hijacked by the men, who interpreted the texts in a way that was negative for women.

Overall, this book was very informative. However, it can be extremely dense, which is partly why it took so long for me to complete it. However, if you are interested in learning about these three religions, I definitely think it is worth the time and effort to read this book.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

My latest read is Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, a memoir by Rhoda Janzen. Rhoda Janzen was living her life as in English professor when her husband dropped a bomb on her: he was leaving her for a gay man named Bob. Within that same week, she was in a car accident. She decided to take her sabbatical and head back to California to her Mennonite family.

The book focuses on her time back at home, reconnecting with her Mennonite roots. She reflects on her life growing up Mennonite. She reminisces on such things as the food they used to have to bring to lunch at school, such as borscht, or her desire to dance while growing up. She also delves into her relationship with her ex-husband and how it came to end. Her visit home is a healing process, not only physically, but emotionally.

Overall, this is an OK read. The book starts out strong but sort of drags out towards the end. It was interesting to learn about the Mennonites, since I didn't know too much about them before reading the book. Also, it's an interesting going back home story. Though Mennonite culture was not central to her adult life, Janzen never forgot where she comes from, and speaks of her Mennonite life fondly.

So, if you are looking for a  pretty easy read, that will help teach you more about Mennonite culture, this would be a good book to read.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Beaufort Diaries

Recently I read a nice short read, a graphic novel by T. Cooper, The Beaufort Diaries. The husband insisted I pick it up at the "going out of business Borders" since it had a bear on the cover and would provide me fodder for my bear blog.

The Beaufort Diaries centers around a polar bear named Beaufort. He got separated from his mother via an ice floe. He headed south and eventually made it to Hollywood. While waiting tables, he gets a part in a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio about global warming. The film wins critical acclaim and Beaufort is the new hot thing in Hollywood. Then things go down hill for Beaufort. He passes on a part in The Golden Compass 2, his movie Bear bombs at the box office, and he gets hooked on drugs and alcohol. But don't give up hope, Beaufort finds himself again in the theater.

Overall, a quick entertaining read dealing with some real grown up issues. A short film based on the book was shown at the Tribeca film festival. You can check that out at my bear blog (click here).