Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Story of Resilience - Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals the Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor

Image result for stir by jessicaOne of the things I like best in a book is resilience.  It is in abundance in Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals the Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor.    Fechtor poignantly describes her recovery from a burst brain aneurysm.  She dwells not on the bad days or difficulties, but on taking each day as it comes and forging ahead.  Life is filled with roadblocks and difficulties for all of us.  The quality of our lives depends on how we respond to these occurrences and how do or do not let them define us. 

Fechtor lets the aneurysm and subsequent surgeries (and problems) define her only in terms of how she can recover and how she can make the best of it.  This leads her back to the kitchen where she felt most at home and where she begins to write about her experiences.   Each chapter ends with a recipe relevant to the subject or person contained therein.  After I finished to book, I felt like I was one of her friends and was invited to her place for dinner.  This is one of the best books I've ever read.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner

I first read reviews of this book last spring and I knew immediately that I wanted to read it.  It sounded like a fun, quick read and I thought maybe I'd learn a little Bridge lingo in the process. The book did not disappoint and the further I got into the book, the more the book became a multi-layered personal reveal of mother/daughter dynamics - without being heavy or burdensome.

What begins as a memoir of her mother's weekly bridge group grows into a reflective memoir on mothers and daughters, families, family secrets and friendship.  The big winners here are friendship and the author's acceptance of her mother as she is.  The mother/daughter journey can be difficult to navigate, but Betsy Lerner is like an explorer. She never gives up, whether asking questions about her mom or learning bridge. 

There are some difficult subjects, but Lerner's empathy and honesty will help others who have faced similar losses.  Her sense of humor is quirky and helps keep the tone light.  Readers will admire her tenacity and will love getting to know the Bridge Ladies.  This is a delightful book to read.  Highly recommended.

To learn more about The Bridge Ladies, check out this YouTube clip:

Friday, September 18, 2015

How intergrated are our personal libraries?

Most folks I know have diverse music collections.  Their CD's and playlists include a wonderful mix of music by everyone from Wynton Marsalis and Stevie Wonder to Beethoven and Diana Krall.  But how many of us have personal libraries that share the same unique and diverse blend of American creative artistry?

I wonder if we take the ease of crossing cultural/stylistic musical lines for granted and think "yes; I like a variety of music styles, so I'm a modern, open-minded person ... so I'm not a racist, blah, blah, blah."  Is that true?  Is enjoying Marvin Gaye, Najee and Snoop Dog enough?  Not to belittle music at all, but that's just music.  There's so much more!

How many Caucasians have read Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, or Terry McMillan?  To enjoy, respect, and appreciate African American culture, we need to read and try to understand their experiences and literature offers us an incredible opportunity to immerse ourselves in this wonderful culture.  I've read Terry McMillan and Tina McElroy Ansa.  I've tried to read J. California Cooper, but gave up because it was hard for me to follow and it was painful.  I have not read Toni Morrison ... yet.  Like I said, there's so much more.  Take a look at your bookshelves and grow it into a multicultural collection.  In the meantime, a whole world awaits and it's all available at your local public library.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Moments of Grace

Today I had a moment of grace.  Of course, moments of grace occur all the time, especially throughout the workday in a busy public library, but this one was uniquely special.

I was helping out at a new branch library.  I've helped the manager with some special projects over the last few weeks as she prepared to open the branch.  She graciously offered to buy me lunch to thank me.  So, she went out to a barbecue restaurant and returned with lunch for the two of us.  She set two cans of Diet Coke on the table in the staff lounge.  Both cans said "Dad" on them.  The barbecue came with two kinds of sauce:  regular and North Carolina.  I chose NC because my dad was from NC.

This moment of grace was a wink from my dad.  Here's to you, dad.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Libraries Change Lives

Public library staff make an enormous difference in people's lives.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently posted an article about Gratia Countryman, a librarian in the early 20th century who made a difference. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Busy Winter and Spring

I can't believe it's almost the first of May.  After taking a few online classes and finding myself overwhelmed (in a good way), I am trying to catch up on reading and writing.  Here's a link to some read-a-likes for the uber-popular title The Girl on the Train.  Click here to learn more.  Courtesy of OverDrive, distributor of e-books and more.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

13227454What a delightful book!  This is a sleeper - you don't realize how good it is at first and then, bam, you fall in love with it.  There are a lot of layers here and Harold's journey, while seemingly unrealistic at first, is reflective of our desire to do something drastic, to really take a stand and make a difference.  Just how his journey - the pilgrimage of the title - progresses and transforms him and others is deftly told and you'll find yourself cheering him on.  The author weaves all the layers together into a very satisfying ending.  Highly recommended.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Music

This is a great time of year for music lovers - every kind of musical taste can be satisfied.   As I get older, I lean more towards the calm, soothing instrumental-type of music with a jazz lilt.  For many years, just about any title in the Windham Hill catalog was a favorite:  nightnoise, George Winston, the Celtic Christmas series, etc.  This year, though, those songs seem tired and stale. 

Last year, I borrowed a CD from the library where I work, Christmas with the George Shearing Quintet.  I didn't listen to it then, but put a copy on my laptop for this year.  Holy cow!  What a joyful and soothing CD.  Always a jazz vocal fan, but never really a jazz instrumental student, this CD opens up a whole new world to me.  The best word I can some up with is hip.  This is the most hip CD I've ever heard.  This makes me feel like I'm at a cool dinner party in NYC or a nightclub, waiting for Billie Holiday to take the stage.  Excellent music.

Christmas and CocktailsAlong those lines, my long-time jazz favorite, Beegie Adair, has several Christmas compilations and a regular favorite is Christmas Cocktails.  Love it, love it, love it.  I was one of the staff in charge of the Christmas party at work and I played this in the background.  One of my colleagues said the music made her feel like she was in a fancy restaurant. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry


Charming.  This book is a charmer - it pulls you in and gets a hold of you and keeps you hanging on during the (few) slow parts.  A fast-paced narrative that seems far-fetched at times, hums merrily along and never seems beyond reach. 

The storyline is deceptively simple:  a widower/bookstore owner adopts a baby, finds love in more ways than one and, even though the ending isn't happily ever after, the characters are richer for their experiences together. Isn't that what life's about, anyway?

The last third of the book is the best because there are a lot of unexpected twists and turns that explain some of the earlier sub-plots or behaviors.  Great story, great characters and great writing.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

New Year’s Reading Resolutions

When it comes to resolutions for the New Year, most people focus on their physical health – lose weight, exercise more, eat healthy food.  What about your reading health?  Are you an avid reader or an occasional one?  Do you read only newspapers?  Do you read only fiction?  Only biographies?  Only romance?

Now is a good time to shake up your reading habits and expand your horizons.   The Internet offers a wide variety of reading challenges for the New Year and some examples are listed below.  Try one out and see if it works for you.  If it doesn’t, try another one.  Go easy on yourself.  Set realistic reading goals to keep your mind and spirit active in the New Year.

Read the classics.  Did you skip some of the classics in high school in favor of popular titles?  This is a good time to catch up.  You’ll be glad you did.

Try out a new genre.  Branch out.  Read a mystery instead of a romance novel.  Read a non-fiction title about one of your favorite (or least favorite) subjects.  Push yourself to read outside your comfort zone. 

Create fun monthly or yearly challenges.  Read a book about each U. S. President this year or all of Agatha Christie’s novels – even all of Shakespeare’s plays.  Search the Internet for things like “50 Novels Featuring Famous Authors as Characters” or “Around the World in 80 Books” to find fun, yet different types of books to read.

Write brief reviews of what you read.  Share your thoughts with others.  Join and write a one or two sentence review about the books you’ve read.  Book reviews can be as long or short as you want them to be.  The important thing is to share.

Join a book club – in person or online.  The Roswell library offers two books clubs, Noonday Nosh (general fiction and non-fiction) and the Mystery Readers’ Book Club.   Most libraries offer book clubs.  Join and search for groups that read similar genres (or challenge yourself to find a new genre to read).

Read the best books of 2014.  At year’s end, websites, magazines and newspapers recommend the best books of the year. Type the words “best books of 2014” into a search engine like Google or Yahoo and see what appears.  Take a look, read a few and see if you agree. 

The suggestions above are just a few ways to begin your reading year with a new twist. Whether you make a reading resolution or not (or keep it or not), always remember the most important thing is … to read.  Library staff are always happy to help you find books to read.  Just ask them.