Showing posts from March, 2011

Princess Muffin

One of my favorite people requested a photo of Muffin, post-grooming session, so I'm sharing the joy with all of you, too!

This and That

From Gadgets You Should Get Rid Of (or Not) in the New York Times:

BOOKS Keep them (with one exception). Yes, e-readers are amazing, and yes, they will probably become a more dominant reading platform over time, but consider this about a book: It has a terrific, high-resolution display. It is pretty durable; you could get it a little wet and all would not be lost. It has tremendous battery life. It is often inexpensive enough that, if you misplaced it, you would not be too upset. You can even borrow them free at sites called libraries.

Interesting take here from Penelope Trunk about the book she's self-publishing. I'll note that having a very successful blog, as she certainly does, is a big headstart in the self-publishing world, though I definitely don't agree with her comment, If your content is not interesting enough to build up a blog readership, it’s probably not interesting enough to sell books.

I'm still dreaming of getting published one day, and I need to get mov…

Mail for Max

My best friend passed the link to this story along to me, and, yes, this sounds exactly like something I want to do. Hope some of you may be interested, as well!

From a Des Moines Register story here:

“Mighty” Max Low of Neola, Ia., began battling leukemia shortly after he started kindergarten in 2004.

Today he’s a 12-year-old sixth grader, still battling away at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.

If you want to send a card to Max, the address is:

Mighty Max Low
P.O. Box 111
Neola, IA 51559

The First by Saadia Ahmed

[Full disclosure: I received a review copy from the author.]

Synopsis for The First by Saadia Ahmed (2011) from Barnes &

Reena Jamil doesn’t do taboo. She’s a simple girl from a conservative Pakistani family who wants nothing more than for her to settle down and marry a nice Pakistani guy. But, unknown to her family, she falls for a white guy - something that would shock her parents. Deeply in love, yet torn over her familial duty, Reena must decide whether to pick love over obligation.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Sofia Azeem, is facing her own romantic struggles. She’s in love with her best friend from high school - but the feeling’s not mutual. Or is it?

Reena and Sofia each have soul searching to do. Should Reena choose the man she loves or accept a guy her parents would approve? Should Sofia wait for her feelings to be reciprocated or should she move on? Will each woman get a happy ending?

Its premise is a clash of cultures but The First is also a story about relationshi…

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick's Rules

Getting Maya's hair braided is a bit of a torture session for everyone involved. I promised we could see the movie of her choice yesterday to reward her for Saturday's braiding session. Of course, she chose the movie I dreaded seeing, Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick's Rules. The first movie seemed to last forever and easily ranks as one of the worst movies I've ever seen.

Imagine my surprise that Maya and I both really enjoyed this second movie. We laughed often--Maya to the point that she had giggle fits at times. I can't really ask for more in a kids' movie.

Basically, the movie revolves around family relationships, especially as seen by the middle child of three boys, friendship, and crushes. Pretty typical seventh-grade themes.

Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think?

My Book Boyfriend(s)

Missie over at The Unread Reader, a really fun book blog that just reached 1,000 followers (!!), is inviting other bloggers to share a book boyfriend in this post.

Not too surprisingly, I'm going to be greedy and select two boyfriends.

Kind of a traditional choice, but I love, love, love Mr. Darcy from Pride & Prejudice in the book and as portrayed by Colin Firth. Jennifer Ehle is also my favorite portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet, and I think part of the appeal from the mini-series is the way they interact.

What's not to like about a man willing to anonymously help his beloved? And, despite Elizabeth's taking offense, I actually find it rather charming that he loved her in spite of thinking he shouldn't.

On a more contemporary level, I choose Zsadist from J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

Oh, yes--a dark, dangerous bad boy who is really a lonely, hurt, misunderstood man in need of the right woman. Sign me up!

Who is your choice for your book boyfriend?

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

If a controversial discourse means success in a book club discussion, I hit the lottery with Kathryn Stockett's The Help (2009) as the second selection for my work book club.

Set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, The Help covers the story of three women who come together across the racial divide. Recently returned from college, white Skeeter starts a project to compile the stories of black maids, including Aibileen and Minnie.

Overall, I can't say I particularly enjoyed reading the book, especially as Skeeter seemed under-developed while some of the vernacular used for other characters rang as insulting. Skeeter's dialogue certainly wasn't presented with any kind of identifiable Southern accent, so why the effort to give others a very definitive accent?

We certainly had a lively book discussion, though, centered around racism!

My overall personal rating of The Help is a C+.

I Won!

I'm so excited that I won a free book from StephanieD at Misfit Salon. Whoot!

What book would you have chosen from the list here? (I selected The Postmistress, though it wasn't an easy decision!)

And, while you're there checking over the list of books, look through the rest of her postings if you aren't already a fan. Misfit Salon is absolutely one of the best blogs out there--and not just of the book blogs, but blogs in general. I've raved about StephanieD's blog before, so don't think that I can be bought for the price of fun mail, either!

Hope you're also having a winning week.

Random Facts about Me

I always enjoy when bloggers I read provide a little insight into their lives and personalities by sharing random thoughts or pieces of trivia.

Since I enjoy reading those kinds of posts, I should probably do my own, right?

So welcome to my first posting of Random Facts about Me. I don't really have a schedule in mind, so I'll just plan to make these postings with approximately five bits of information about me when the mood strikes.

And feel free to share your own random facts about yourself in the blog comments. I'd love learning more about you, too!

1. I don't eat hamburger alone or in anything.

2. If a native Spanish speaker says my first name (Maria) unexpectedly to get my attention, I don't respond because it just doesn't sound like my name to me.

3. Maya is a "surprise baby" because Herb and I planned not to have kids. Herb's mom actually thought he was kidding when he called to tell her about the pregnancy! And now my life basically revol…

To the End of the Land by David Grossman

I really wanted to like To the End of the Land by David Grossman, translated from Hebrew to English by Jessica Cohen in 2010, mainly because I read this article in before reading the book.

The first paragraph from the article:

Staff Sgt. Uri Grossman, 20, the son of renowned novelist and peace activist David Grossman was killed Saturday in Lebanon, just days after his father made a public call for the government to halt its military operation and enter negotiations.

At the beginning of this almost 600-page book, the reader meets three young people--Ora, Avram, and Ilan--in quarantine in 1967 during the Six-Day War, who go on to form a complicated relationship. Ora goes on to become Ilan's wife and the mother to both Ilan's son, Adam, and Avram's son, Ofer.

The main part of the book involves a long trek Ora and Avram, himself a survivor of a stay as a POW in Egypt during the Yom Kippur War, take while their son voluntarily serves an extension of his military duty …

How to Ruin Your Boyfriend's Reputation by Simone Elkeles

How to Ruin Your Boyfriend's Reputation (2009) is the third book, following How to Ruin a Summer Vacation and How to Ruin My Teenage Life, by Simone Elkeles.

Amy Nelson-Barak heads back to Israel for a two-week military training course, sort of a taste of the mandatory post-high school military service for Israelis. And the thought of spending some time with IDF (Israeli Defense Force) boyfriend Avi provides more than a little motivation for the trip. Since the course of true love never did run smooth, especially not for Amy and Avi, they spend most of the book at odds, though.

I absolutely love Amy, including her insecurities, klutziness (verbal and physical), and overall snarkiness, so I really enjoyed this entire series. Can I hope for a fourth book?

Since Elkeles' other books are so popular, especially Perfect Chemistry, I'll just note that I wouldn't guess this series was written by the same author if I didn't know. The books about Amy and Avi are much lighte…

Mercy Corps

My friend in the Portland, Oregon, area put a notice on her Facebook wall about donating to Japan through Mercy Corps, an organization I hadn't heard about before.

Besides providing emergency assistance to the people of Japan, they're doing a lot of longterm work around the world, from Afghanistan and Guatemala to Lebanon and Zimbabwe, in terms of community building.

In case you're interested in donating, too, you can learn more about Mercy Corps through their main site here, which is really detailed, and blog here. Your donation is also tax deductible in the United States as Mercy Corps is a 501(c)3 corporation.

Moonlight on the Magic Flute by Mary Pope Osborne

Maya and I just explored our first Magic Tree House series book, Moonlight on the Magic Flute by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca, (2010), and Maya's ready to try all the other books in the series, which is currently on number 45.

Assigned by Merlin to encourage a young artist on his path to make millions happy, Jack and Annie travel back to late 1700s Vienna to meet a young Mozart.

The children are adventurous and resourceful, and Maya wanted to learn more about Mozart after reading the book. That's more than enough for me to recommend the other book for young readers!

I actually wanted to know more about Mozart's older sister after reading the book, so I guess that's another positive sign about the potential of the series.

My overall personal rating of Moonlight on the Magic Flute is a B+.

This and That

The New York Times has a review of the new Jane Eyre movie, which I'm really looking forward to seeing. My favorite line from the review is really referencing the book:

She [Jane] is brave, humble, spirited and honest, the kind of person readers fall in love with and believe themselves to be in their innermost hearts, where literary sympathy lies.
If you're looking for a pen pal, Maarten's Snail Mail Pen Pals is a great online site. You can post your own free listing, or you can browse by country of interest to locate a potential new pen pal.

Going through a bit of a "be careful what you wish for" phase at the moment. Along with wondering if you still have the "right" to complain about a situation if you don't take advantage of potential opportunities to get away from said situation.

Or maybe I'm just suffering from sleep deprivation since Maya and my husband are both sick with the flu. Of course, the crabby bear of a husband is a much more dem…

The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community by Mary Pipher

[Full disclosure: This is a book I borrowed from the library where I work, so I read the book for free.]

I've waited a few days to blog since reading The Middle of Everywhere: Helping Refugees Enter the American Community by Mary Pipher (2002) since I couldn't quite decide what I wanted to say.

Probably best known as the author of Reviving Ophelia, Pipher is a clinical psychologist who happens to live where I live (Lincoln, Nebraska), though I've never met her. She obviously has a great love for Lincoln and a strong interest in helping refugees build new lives here, one of the top American cities where immigrants are sent to live. There are thriving communities of Vietnamese, Sudanese, Bosnian, Kurdish, etc. people living in Lincoln now.

My biggest complaint about The Middle of Everywhere, which is obviously written to provide a roadmap for groups and individuals interested in assisting refugees and as a way to increase the understanding of those born in the United States a…

Personal Rating Poll

Please vote in my poll.

I'm considering dropping the last line, where I assign a personal rating or grade, from my book blog postings.

Let me know what you think, and feel free to add a comment to this posting if you want to expand on your vote.


Post Pals

Continuing along with the theme of sending mail, visit this wonderful site based in the United Kingdom.

Post Pals--Post a Smile on a Sick Child's Face by sending an e-mail, postcard, card, or letter to a child facing a serious illness.

From the site:

5 Easy Steps to Brighten a Sick Child's Day

1. Click on a child's face or select "Find Pals"
2. Read their page (each child has one page)
3. Write a card, letter, Email, sign their guestbook or even send a gift to the child and post it to the address on their page (NB this is not the child's home address, but a forwarding one). Please don't expect a reply.
4. NEW Report post sent on our stats page

5. Sit back and know that a child is smiling because of YOU.

You Know When the Men are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

Siobhan Fallon used the babysitting services offered at Fort Hood during her husband's two tours in Iraq to find time to create a selection of short stories about the effects of deployment on families and the very bonds of marriage. Titled You Know the Men are Gone (2011), I can already see this being included on my list of favorite reads for the year.

Fallon shows a Fort Hood of loneliness while being surrounded too closely by others (military housing), money shortages (the base is surrounded by pawn shops and money lenders), and youth (in age and length of marriage). The families left behind face a grim reality, and she doesn't sugarcoat the subject.

A recurring theme in the loosely-connected stories is infidelity. What I consider the strongest story in the collection is actually about a soldier who comes home on leave in secret to hide in his own home, hoping to learn the truth about reports of his wife having an affair.

Fallon provides an insider's view of military f…


Maya and I had the chance to see Beastly, the movie based on the book from Alex Flinn with the same name, which I haven't read, on Sunday.

Starring Alex Pettyfer as Kyle/the "beast" and Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy/the "beauty," the movie also includes Mary-Kate Olsen as the witch, Neil Patrick Harris as a blind tutor, Lisa Gay Hamilton as the maid, and Peter Krause as the shallow father of the "beast." Decent cast, yet the movie just doesn't quite gel for an audience past the age of, say, 13.

There just isn't anything new or exciting in this adaptation of my favorite fairy tale. Yes, we have the chance to learn more about the parents of the main characters, and the "beauty" and the "beast" meet while he's still a handsome young man. And we're certainly given cause to think the "witch" did Kyle a big favor with her curse.

Frankly, I'm not a fan of animated children's movies, and I'd still rather wa…

Rebuidling Cairo's Public Libraries

Two public libraries in Cairo, Egypt were senselessly destroyed this February by vandals who stole and burned the contents and left the buildings in ruins. Queens Library has a formal partnership with the Integrated Care Society which operates the network of public libraries in Cairo. We are issuing a rallying cry to libraries and library lovers globally to help our Egyptian friends rebuild and reopen as soon as possible. Together, the millions of people who support libraries worldwide can help reopen the doors to the information and opportunities that libraries provide to the people of Cairo.

Head here for more information and to donate to the cause. Thank you!

Save the USPS--Write a Letter

To say that finding a piece of personal mail on mail delivery days is one of my life's greatest joys is absolutely the truth, and I'm worried about the health of the USPS and how much longer I'll have that daily joy to look forward to.

An alarming factoid from an announcement in my local paper about the upcoming closure of one of our post offices:

Mail volume nationally has declined by nearly 33 billion pieces in the past two years.
Already in financial trouble prior to this decline, the postal system is bleeding heavily now.

What can you do? Write a letter, send a card, or drop a postcard in the mail every week.

Need ideas?

Get creative with some construction paper and glue; seriously, people these days know handmade takes time, and, therefore, equals love.

Send a local postcard to someone who moved away from home.

Have everyone in the office sign a card for a co-worker in need of a pick-me-up, on medical leave, or celebrating something new and wonderful in his/her world.


Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

A resounding Happy, Happy Birthday to Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), more commonly known as Dr. Seuss!

To celebrate, Maya's school had the annual Stop, Drop, and Read and book parade this morning. Children dress as favorite book characters and parade through the halls while parents and grandparents watch. Then students read in their classrooms with their guests.

Seems like a fitting tribute for an author who left a lasting legacy for children.

I leave you with these important words from Dr. Seuss:

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.

Be awesome! Be a book nut!

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn

I'm a woman; in so many ways, I've been programmed to please. I took the job and spent time hunkered over figures, budgets, charts, and fiscal-year projections. I tried, but I hated it.

"Working at a job you don't like is the same as going to prison every day," my father used to say. He was right. I felt imprisoned by an impressive title, travel, perks, and a good salary. On the inside, I was miserable and lonely, and I felt as if I was losing myself. I spent weekends working on reports no one read, and I gave presentations that I didn't care about. It made me feel like a sellout and, worse, a fraud.

Taken from p.8 of Kathleen Flinn's The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter and Tears in Paris at the World's Most Famous Cooking School (2007).

The title pretty much summarizes the memoir. At age 36, American journalist/writer Flinn attends Le Cordon Bleu Paris after losing her soul-crushing London job. Throw in her friend-turned-more-than…