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Friday, October 30, 2015

October Reading Roundup (Part 3)

This month I have been sharing with you, the places and resources for books to read.  Reading can be costly if you feel you must purchase and own every book you read.  I've tried, in these October posts, to share with you ways you can economize and still read, read, read.

The last resource is the most obvious...your local library.  I signed out all of the books below from my county library.  Sometimes, I just look up titles in the online card catalog and add them to my reserve list. The library calls me when they've gathered them and all I have to do is go pick them up. A great time saver if you are busy.

Here are the titles I read this month:

Belong To Me by Maria de los Santos

This was a follow up to Santos's Love Walked In and as most follow ups go, it wasn't quite as good. It follows Cornelia, the main character from LWI as she and her husband Teo move from the big city to the suburbs in hopes of starting a family. The sub -story of Lake (a single mom) who tries to find the perfect school for her genius son Dev is interesting and provides surprising connections to Cornelia and Teo, but the inclusion of Cornelia's bitchy, Stepford wife, neighbor Piper seems unnecessary. The message of the book is in the title.  Everyone needs someone to belong to them, just as much as everyone needs to belong to someone else.

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

This was my favorite read of the month. The Knockoff is a fun look at the fashion industry and how much social media and technology has impacted the traditional ways of advertising especially in fashion magazines. The main character, Imogen Tate, editor-in-chief of Glossy Magazine returns from medical leave to find her magazine has gone digital and has been taken over by millennial-bitch -personified Eve Morton. Millennials do not come across in a favorable light in this book.  They have the attention span of a gnat and speak (or rather not speak) in text bites like LOL, ROFL and FOMO. At one point Imogen wonders, "have we all become so desperate to share everything that we've stopped enjoying our lives?" Though super entertaining, the book makes one stop and think.

Two books by Sarah Addison Allen

Whenever I need a relaxing yet interesting read, I turn to Sarah Addison Allen.  Her books never fail to capture my imagination.  They are always set in the South and are filled with mystery and a little bit of magic.  The two I read this month are no exception...delightful.  I'm glad she is a prolific writer. This month I read...

The Peach Keeper

and Lost Lake


Airs and Graces by Erica James

I love books set in England.  This story takes place in Cheshire England and follows Ellen, a recent divorcee who was duped and then blackmailed by her philandering husband.  The story seems to be a cliche, but it is made fresh by the mix of characters.  Ellen is best friends with her neighbor, a very elderly Hermione, who is as feisty and independent as can be.  Ellen also befriends a young homeless girl, who was turned out of her parents home because she was pregnant.The lives of these three generations intertwine and provoke much thought from the reader about life and the contributions each stage of life has to offer.

That's it for October...Where do you find books to read?  I'd love to hear how you manage to find books to read without breaking the bank.  Leave a comment.

October Roundup (part 2)

The other day as I was getting a coffee at a local shop ( housed in a former pottery foundry...such charm) I passed a structure on my way into the shop that looked like an ornate mailbox. I didn't stop to inspect because I needed my caffeine, but on my way out I stopped to get a closer look at it.  It turned out this "mailbox" was a library! Maybe you have seen them or heard of them, they are apparently popping up all over the country. They are called Little Free Libraries and can be built by anyone, even you!

This particular Little Free Library was dedicated to the memory of a local farmer, Les Hoffman.  The tribute on the side of the library structure was sweet and touching.  What a wonderful way to honor a friend.

The Little Free Library is a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote literacy and the love of reading.  That Simple! But any one can build a library.  Some people even put them on their own property for their neighbors to use.  For more details on how to build one or where the nearest Free Little Library is to you, visit  this site.

So, these free mini libraries are another source for your reading adventures. I picked up The Wonder Spot my Melissa Bank and left a Nicholas Sparks book in its place.

I chose The Wonder Spot because I had really enjoyed The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing that Bank's wrote a few years ago.  I was a bit disappointed in The Wonder Spot.  It lacked the charm of The Girls Guide.  The novel was actually 8 separate vignettes in the life of Sophie Applebaum as she matures from an awkward twelve-year old to an adult who at 49 is still trying to discover who she really is. I must admit, Sophie is very likable, but a bit frustrating in her slow pace to self-discovery.  Sophie's father, the judge, on the other hand, was a totally cool and noble character.  His character alone is worth the read. The reader gets attached to Sophie, too, but you just want to shake her sometimes for her choices!

I realize I am running out of October for sharing my October reads...YIKES! I'll post this quickly and finish up October Roundup  Part 3, before you can say Trick or Treat.

Have you seen any Little Free Libraries near you?  Would you like to build one?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

October Reading Roundup (part 1)

Variety is the spice of life, so the saying goes, and this month I tried a variety of resources for my reading material.  So sit back and take notes...there are lots of places you can find books and none of them need to cost you any money!

The first resource I'd like to share with you is right at your fingertips...your cell phone.  Yes, I know the screen is small, but I found it surprisingly easy to read a book on my cell phone and, in fact, because I could adjust the lighting or the size of the text, I found it easier even than reading a paper version, especially if the paper version has small print. Old eyes and cell phones... perfect together. I downloaded the free app IBooks onto my cell phone and scanned the titles. Don't laugh, but I chose to read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

I had recently read that Alice was really not intended as a children's story, but rather as a social commentary. So, when I saw Alice on the list of free titles, I decided to give it a go.  Of course, I remember seeing the Disney version, but I had never really read the actual text of the story, so I thought why not read it through the lens of social commentary.  Before I began, I researched some criticisms on line and indeed I could see how Lewis Carroll might be using his story to comment on Victorian society.  
One theory is that Alice is the symbol of a feminist movement.  She is a rebel attempting to break out of the stereotypes of the mouse-like Victorian woman of her era. Alice is everything the Victorian woman isn't. She is confident, independent and curious.  The theory proposes that Victorian women could look to Alice as a role model and think, "what would Alice do?"  I found this to be the least plausible theory.  I mean, Alice is pretty dim-witted at times. She's impulsive, and this trait often gets her into deeper trouble than before. For example she's seeking help from a mouse, but goes on to extol to the mouse,  the mouse-catching virtues of her cat Dinah. "Duh, Alice, you're not going to get assistance from the rodent that way." Somehow, I don't think Alice should be a role model.

In the 1960's another theory developed about Alice.  No surprise here...Alice is of course about drugs, dropping acid and eating magic mushrooms. 

Two other theories about Carroll's purpose in writing Alice seem much more likely to me.  One, is that the book is intended to explain Marxism while criticizing the highly structured class society of nineteenth century Great Britain. Carroll seems to point out the ridiculousness of classes. He appears to make a parody of the upper class. He appears to mock high society with their rules of etiquette and over indulgence and sense of superiority. Alice herself is of the upper class. She is indulged and proud.  Every Christmas she believes she gets new boots simply because she deserves them.  And then there is the royal class... we all remember the crazy Queen of Hearts, running around screaming "off with her head!" Hmmm, what might the author be trying to say about royalty here?

The other theory I find likely, is that Carroll was intending Alice to be a criticism of the British educational system of the day, a system that relied heavily on rote learning.  Memorizing things didn't seem to work too well for Alice.  We often see her bragging about the things she's learned, only to hear her recite something incorrectly.

Whatever Lewis Carroll's intention was in writing Alice, it certainly was entertaining, and the fact that I read it on my cell phone made it even more so. Though I would never encourage the banishing of paper books (I love, love, love them), I would suggest that once in a while reading a book on your cell phone isn't a bad idea. I usually read several books at one time, so if I am ever somewhere where I think, "gee I wish I had brought my book to read," a cell phone with a book app is a perfect solution.

P.S.  I also discovered Lewis Carroll is a pen name!  Didn't know that.

Do you have a book app on your phone?  Have you any suggestions for reading on a cell phone?  Leave your suggestions in the comment section.

More reading resources in future posts!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Love on the Trail

Hmm...I bet I got you interested with that title.  You just never know what you might stumble upon as you're out on the tow path biking on a beautiful fall day. That's what Bob and I discovered as we took to the Delaware biking trails again. This time we biked from Stockton to Lambertville.  We were amazed how much the leaves and trees had progressed with their fall transformation in just a few days.  Take a quick peek at some of the sights we saw...and be on the lookout for the sweet signs of love at the end of the post!

We missed this small cairn on our way to Lambertville, but on our return trip, Bob's eagle eyes ( police training I guess) spotted this lovely tribute.  It was less than two feet high but had a huge impact on the imagination.

The flat rock on left says, "I love you" and is dated August.  The flat rock on the right says, "Love was born here" and dated July 31, 2015.  It also looks like a pine tree was planted to adorn the sight.  It unfortunately appears dead, but perhaps it will bloom again in the spring and withstand the drought of this past season.  Just as I hope this young (or even better, old) love memorialized here will continue to thrive.  What could be better than young love?!

Well... on second thought...enduring love is just as wonderful, I must say.  Here's to my enduring love, who always knows how to make me happy.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Back in the Saddle Again

Couldn't help but think of that old Gene Autrey tune as Bob and I were finally able to resume our bike riding excursions.  Our Jeep has been out of commission for a month and it is the only means we have of transporting our bikes... but finally....we're back!!!

Though we missed September, a great month, perhaps even the best month for bike riding, we still should have a few good weeks left to enjoy the great outdoors before the temperatures become too cold to bear.  And enjoy them, we will!  Today we took  to one of our favorite walking trails in Frenchtown and went north toward Milford following the Delaware River.  Leaves have not gotten far in their brilliant fall process, just a few dried brown early birds littering the path.  Looking forward to the spectacle of fall.

The sun felt glorious after a full week of rain and temps in the 50's and 60's. The ride was pure bliss. Afterward, we prolonged the day by sipping some coffees on a bench outside a local shop on Main Street.   We love these quaint little river towns that adorn the Delaware. We watched the local pizza maker walk from his shop to the bank, deposit bag in hand. Two minutes later, another shop owner made the same trek.  How wonderful it must be to be able to walk from home to work, from work to errands, and back home again at the end of the day. The peacefulness of that scene was so enticing. It made me long for a simpler, slower world.

 Looking at the town's architecture too can make you easily envision  what life was like a hundred years ago.  I can almost picture the horse drawn wagons, the ladies in floor length dresses and bonnets and the friendliness that pervades a community where everyone knows everyone by name.  River towns have such history.  You can almost feel the history in the air.  You just know that Washington or some of his cohorts very likely passed through or maybe even slept in a local's home or the town's inn .  And the river, always the river, gives testament to the immigrants, the laborers, the tradesmen who toiled so hard to build the canals that gave birth to the commerce that sustained these towns.  Frenchtown honors this heritage through the sculptures of the barge mules. It's fun to see how various artists decked out their mules which are proudly displayed outside of area businesses.

The peace of our little coffee respite was disrupted by the awful and noisy Stem brothers!  More on them in a future post.  Until then, get out there and enjoy the weeks of autumn.  Snow, Ice, Nor'easters are commin' all too soon!!!!!