My Summer of Reading!

This is going to be my summer of reading! Yes, I’m going to read every book I’ve been hoarding, storing, stashing, perusing and downloading. This very summer. Mark my words! Continue reading

The Book Shopaholic

Be warned: Do not enter my home. Not if the thought of seeing stacks and stacks of books, piled three and four feet high, terrifies you.  You see I have a penchant for buying books. Every time I see or read about a book that piques my interest in any way, I have to have it. I think I have a deep down fear that, if I don’t purchase the book, by the time I am ready to read it, it’ll be out of publication.  So, I add it to my pile, because when push comes to shove, the pile’s the thing until I find the time to read.

Which is why, this year for my birthday, I’m putting 20 hours more each week, on my wish list. Yes, I want 20 more hours per week for my birthday!  Please note, that’s in addition to the 168 hours I already get each week. I need the extra 20, and preferably not all in one day.  But attached to the weekend would be perfect. Oh, and I’m not greedy. Heck, I’d take 10.  So, what would I do with this time?

Satisfy my addiction to books. I’d read the books on my to-do list.  Here it is, but again, be warned:  My taste in books runs the gamut.

Adventures By the Book Experience:  How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

My friend, Leah, was the first to recommend this book to me. Then my friend, Susan, who runs the remarkable Adventures By the Book, told me about her upcoming event with Margaret Dilloway, which is set to take place August 26th in San Diego’s Japanese Friendship Garden, complete with a Japanese lunch and intimate conversation with the author.  I, of course, adore the idea of an after-lunch constitutional through the historical Friendship Garden. It all sounds too divine, if you ask me. If you’re in the area, be sure to reserve your spot, by visiting the Adventures By the Book website.

As for the book? I’m already halfway through it, as I love learning about other cultures. Margaret Dilloway’s How to Be an American Housewife, which brings thoughtful insight into the Japanese way of life, is largely set in my neck of the woods, San Diego. It is about Shoko, a Japanese woman who marries an American GI and, as a result, struggles to be a proper, American housewife. It is also about Shoko and her relationship with her decidedly American daughter, Suiko.  Leah calls it “a wonderful story, especially if you like tales of mother-daughter relationships.” She also points out that People magazine gave the book four (out of four) stars! And that’s good enough for me!

Other books that have piqued my interest:

The Creepy:  Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The rights for this book, which was released in June, have already been sold to 20th Century Fox to be made into a movie. It is a sinister, spine-chilling tale about a 16-year-old who witnesses his grandfather’s horrifying death and, in searching for the truth, finds himself in an orphanage populated by children with incredible powers, including levitation and invisibility. The book is sprinkled with photos of these children, adding to the realism.  I’m already shaking in my boots.

The New Generation of Nancy Drew’s:  The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley

Move over Nancy Drew! There’s a new girl-sleuth in town and her name is Flavia de Luce. I read the first book in this exciting series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, and found Flavia to be quick-witted, clever and cunning, served up on a platter of genuine humor.  She’s a real kick and an empowering sort of girl.

Social History:  At Home by Bill Bryson

Bryson dissects what many of us take for granted, our homes, and sheds light on how our homes came to be how they are today, including the conveniences that seem routine today, but were once considered only for the very rich.  All in all, Bryson has developed a fascinating social history of the home.

The Dog Lovers’ Book:  Dog Sense by John Bradshaw

Now, when it comes to my relationship with my dog, Henry, I know we’re not perfect. There’s room for improvement—Henry tells me that everyday. Bradshaw’s book addresses just that, how we treat our dogs versus how we really should be treating them, showing us, as best he can, life from a dog’s perspective.

The Environment:  The Big Thirst, The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman

Our most precious resource can also be the most fascinating. Fishman pours through our strange and complex relationship to water and makes you appreciate just how precious it really is. Water, life’s elixir!

Romantic Fun:  The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman

I actually read this book several summers ago and plan to read it again. It’s so entertaining, right from the very first page, reading like a frothy romantic comedy.  Set in the early sixties, it’s about young love, the Catskills and anti-Semitism.

I have many more books on my list, but I’ll save them for another time. Now, what’s on your reading list?

Adventures by the Book!

I love the written word! Some would even say, I swear by it. If you ask me,  it comes in handy when blogging. Yep, I’m passionate about the written word. Which is why I also love to read!

Only now that I’m whipping up tall stories for my blog, I have little time to do read, which is a real shame because there are so many books worth exploring these days.  If someone can figure out a way to give me back my teen years, when I could lounge in bed for hours on end and just read, read, READ, then I’d be forever grateful.

Until that happens, I simply do not want to lose touch with reading.  And thanks to two major events in my life, I don’t have to!

1:  I have discovered the world of audio books. Perfect for when I’m walking my dog. Makes me feel like a kid again, harking to a time when my mother would drop me off at the library for story time. How I loved listening to the librarian’s expressive voice as she read the story of the peddler and his dozens of caps and his run in with some mischievous monkeys, or the adventures of the amazing, self-reared, Pippi Longstocking.  Now, I’m reliving those times, but with books for the adult me!

2: My dear friend, Susan, has launched a very exciting venture, fittingly called, Adventures By the Book.

In this day and age of mass media meets social media, and the rush, rush of ever-changing technology, isn’t it nice to know you can have a cozy exchange with your favorite published writer? Well, that’s what Adventures by the Book is all about! If you ask me, Adventures is sure to turn the world of books—and publishing—on its proverbial head. It has taken the traditional author book signing, many of us have participated in at bookstores, to a whole new level, giving us ordinary readers extraordinary opportunities to network with some amazing writers.

So, instead of standing on long lines waiting for an author to sign your book, Susan’s events are a chance to spend quality time with the author, learn about their writing process and how they got published, ask questions, and have evocative conversations with them in a decidedly personal setting. Voila! It’s so brilliant that I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself!  But—and don’t tell Susan—I’m happy to ride on her coattails and go along for the journey.

Adventures By the Book event, featuring author Eleanor Brown and her book, "The Weird Sisters." From left: Susan McBeth, me, Eleanor Brown & our friend, Valerie Breen.

I’m especially excited that Adventures by the Book is debuting a Friday lunch series with authors guaranteed to delight and open new worlds. A feast for your mind and soul—not to mention your appetite! First up, on May 20th, Zohreh (Zoe) Ghahremani, author of the acclaimed Sky of Red Poppies.  Set in Iran, circa 1960’s, during the rule of the Shah, it is the story of two girls who are best friends, the choices they make and how the different paths they take impact their relationship.

I remember hearing about the Shah when I was a kid, and how he was driven from his country, which came as a surprise to the US at the time, or so it was said, but beyond that I knew little of the impact of his decades-long reign on his people. This book gives a remarkable glimpse into life in an oppressive regime.

Future Adventures by the Book activities will range from spending an intimate evening with an author, to a weekend getaway, to a more extensive trip abroad where, well-loved authors will provide guided tours of their part of the world or whip up a tantalizing dish, evocative of the region.

If you ask me, this is the coolest idea for an undertaking and I’m so glad my friend, Susan, has made it all possible.  It’s the best of all worlds, combining reading with meaningful occasions to connect with authors. So much so that I’m inspired to start reading—all over again.  After all, happiness is wrapping yourself in a good book, one that transports you to another place and time. Happiness also is getting to meet the writer behind said book. It can’t get any better than that!

The Cartographer’s Daughter

That’s me, the Cartographer’s Daughter. That’s what I’ve decided I’m going to call myself.  It sounds much better and more exotic than introducing myself by just saying my name. Boring. That’s so yesterday and I, after all, like to follow a trend. You know which trend I mean. The one in the book publishing business.

Ever notice how many books are titled So and So’s Daughter or So and So’s Wife?  You know what I’m talking about.  Books with puzzling titles that tie relatives or spouses together, sometimes for no good reason, except that it sounds intriguing.  Here’s an example:

This is my favorite novel in this book title genre. Written by Audrey Niffenegger, it is her debut novel.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

The Heretic’s Daughter

The Hangman’s Daughter

The Virgin Queen’s Daughter

The Calligrapher’s Daughter

The Apothecary’s Daughter

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

And

The Zookeeper’s Wife

The Pilot’s Wife

The Senator’s Wife

The Kitchen God’s Wife

The Doctor’s Wife

The Time Traveler’s Wife

These are all actual book titles and from the title, I’m never certain who the book is about—the zookeeper or the wife?  The time traveler or his wife?  The hummingbird or it’s daughter? Or both? And what exactly is a memory keeper? I know what a hangman is. Never met one, but I have a good idea of what he does for a living. But half the time, I’m baffled by these cryptic titles.  And why are there so many books following this fad, anyway?  Have publishers discovered that books with such titles fly off the shelves and sell faster?

Here’s another mystery: Why are there so many books about the daughter yet hardly any about the son? What is he, chopped liver?  In fact, in a search on Amazon.com, the only book that came close was one titled, “The Poacher’s Son.”  If you ask me, I’d be more interested in learning about the poacher than the son, whose only claim to fame is that his dad was a poacher.  Or maybe it was his mother that was the poacher. Kind of like that classic riddle about an injured boy and his dad, who were both rushed to the hospital and the doctor, upon seeing the boy, said, “I can’t operate on him. That child is my son!” Turns out the doctor was the boy’s mother. So maybe the poacher is too.

Well, I’m the Cartographer’s Daughter because that’s what my father was when he was young and dashing, and still lived in Venezuela. He’d fly over the Amazon Jungle in small propeller planes, taking photos of the landscape, which were then used to make maps.  How exciting and thrilling that must have been! Wish I’d known him then. I could have joined him on one of his many adventures. Sigh.

Anyway, I’d rather be known as The Cartographer’s Daughter than by the title of the job he got after he graduated from New York University. Somehow, The Life Insurance Agent’s Daughter doesn’t sound quite the same. And I’m not alone in this judgment. Notice you don’t see any books titled, The Dental Hygienist’s Daughter or The Trash Collector’s Wife. Not exotic enough, if you ask me.

So now that I have my new title, guess I’ll have to write my memoir to go with it.  And even if I end up writing the worst book ever, with a title like this one I can’t go wrong.  The Cartographer’s Daughter is going to sell like hotcakes.  And that you can take to the bank or, better yet, to The Banker’s Daughter.