Book Review: “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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“I would far rather have two or three lilies of the valley gathered for me by a person I like, than the most expensive bouquet that could be bought!”    –Elizabeth Gaskell

 

The Language of Flowers book cover

A foster child for all of her life, eighteen-year-old Victoria is emancipated from the system with few social skills and a bad attitude.  Now all on her own, Victoria can’t help thinking about Elizabeth, the loving woman who once wanted to adopt her – who took her in and taught her the beautiful language of flowers. After a heartbreaking chain of events separates them, Victoria copes by focusing on flowers, and using them to communicate her pain, until a chance encounter brings her face-to-face with her past – challenging her to move forward as she bitterly clings to the past. This beautifully written novel leaves the reader haunted by Victoria’s choices, but hopeful for the second chance she deserves. After taking this journey with her, you won’t look at a yellow rose or a cherry blossom in the same way, and you’ll find yourself thinking about the characters, again and again, wishing them well as if they were old friends.

Check out the website for this lovely book and learn more about the author here.  Happy Reading!

 

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My Ideal Bookshelf

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“A man’s bookcase will tell you everything you’ll ever need to know about him.”
― Walter Mosley

Lately, I have become enamored by the ideal bookshelf artwork of Jane Mount.  I stumbled upon her website on a Pinterest binge and suddenly became obsessed with trying to decide what books would go on my ideal bookshelf!  I love the slightly whimsical quality of the paintings, and I could browse the site for hours admiring the “shelves” that have been created for others.

idealbookshelf2I’m thinking I would want to choose books that had important meaning in my life, but of course, I would try to avoid being a book snob and choosing books simply to impress others.  I mean, most folks would know that War and Peace wasn’t really one of my favorite books!

So, off the top of my  head here are a few of my picks:

1.  Where the Lilies Bloom (Cleaver):  I read this book numerous times in my childhood and was enthralled by the way a group of siblings took care of themselves after their parents died.

2.  The Master Butchers Singing Club (Erdrich):  I can’t remember many books that draw me in the way this one did.  When it ended, I felt sad that my time with the characters was over.

3.  Autobiography of a Face (Grealy):  This sad story was written with such honesty and some of the most beautifully crafted language I’ve read.

4.  A Thousand Splendid Suns (Hosseini):  One of the most moving friendship stories I can remember.  This book touched me deeply.

Oh, it’s so hard to pick, but I’m going to keep brainstorming.  I just worry that there will be too many books on my shelf!  I really look forward to having one created just for me, and I think I know exactly where it will go!  Happy reading!

Book Review: “Bliss Remembered” by Frank Deford

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“I think that when you’re falling in love you see everything brighter and clearer.  Everything is more vivid.  That’s what love does to the whole world around you.”  –Bliss Remembered, Frank Deford

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“Bliss, Remembered is the saga of Sydney Stringfellow’s life from 1934, when she was a lonely 16-year-old innocent growing up in the Depression in a small town on The Eastern Shore of Maryland, until 1942, when war with Germany has begun and she finds herself personally caught up in it in a way she could never have imagined.” (excerpt from Frank Deford’s website.)

If you’re looking for a great book to start off the year, here’s your next check-out or download!  I recently finished this gem of a novel that incorporates history, love, mystery and a whopping twist at the end to keep you turning the pages.

As Sydney reaches the end of her long, eventful life, she chooses to tell her son, Teddy, the secret of her trip to Berlin to swim in the Olympics.  Almost by accident, she discovers the incredible talent she possesses for swimming as a sixteen year old girl mourning the death of her beloved father. As she follows her bliss, she finds herself crossing the ocean and wrapped-up in a whirlwind romance with a handsome German. This is a turbulent time in world history, and the implications of this love affair shape the rest of her life…as well as history.

I know you will love this book as much as I did.  It’s a perfect book to while away a long January afternoon.  Don’t forget your blanket and tea!

“A natural.  Is there anything better anybody can tell you but that you’re a natural?  I don’t think so.”   -Sydney Stringfellow, Bliss Remembered

For the Creative Book Club: “The Thirteenth Day of Christmas”

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“Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning.”  –C.S. Lewis

(This is a quote from the book.  Marva gives Charlee’s dad his own special apron with this saying to honor his penchant for storytelling.)

“This new Christmas novel by New York Times bestselling author Jason F. Wright is filled with laughter, tenderness, and of course, hope as these delightful characters watch an old Christmas favorite turn into a  true Christmas miracle.”  Shadow Mountain Press

I recently reviewed this book for my upcoming article in Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas.  It’s not too early to start thinking about a good book for your book club’s holiday gathering!  This book is a fast read, and would be perfect for the busy season when many of us are caught up with holiday preparations.  So, if you want to make your next book club gathering extra-special…. here are some fun ideas!

Food: 

One of Marva’s favorite aprons from her collection was embroidered with the quote, “If life gives you lemons, throw them through the candy shop window and grab some taffy.” That’s not the only reference to candy in the book! Charlee’s father describes her hair as the color of “Hershey’s Kisses.”  Miss Marva fills her advent calendar with gumdrops (except for the 26th day, of course). Oh, and Charlee receives some yummy Milk Maid caramels as one of her secret gifts. Why not fill some sweet little candy dishes with saltwater taffy, Kisses, gumdrops and caramels and place them around the room for your guests to enjoy?

If your plan is to just serve munchies, don’t forget to fill some big bowls with popcorn.  After all, Marva and Charlee spent a beautiful afternoon decorating for Christmas which included stringing, and eating, popcorn!

If you want something more substantial, and you don’t want to try to recreate Miss Marva’s entire Thanksgiving dinner with all of the trimmings, perhaps you would like to make “Anything Goes Nachos” that the Alexander’s they enjoy when Charlee comes home from the hospital.

Decor:  This one’s easy!  Since the book is a Christmas story, it’s fitting to decorate for the holidays. However, in the book, it’s important for Marva to have Christmas lights and her nativity, so you won’t want to forget these.

In decorating for this book, you absolutely MUST have an advent calendar.  Can you find one with 26 days?  If so, that would be the ultimate tribute to Marva and Charlee!  If you don’t have one, perhaps you might want to splurge and give yourself an early gift.  The one pictured here is available from WilliamMarie Designs on Etsy.  Check it out!

Any decorations that pay homage to the “Twelve Days of Christmas” would also be appropriate.  I might not be able to resist this set of drinking glasses from The Sisters Pick on Etsy.

Finally, Miss Marva is very proud, both of her apron collection, and also her habit of hanging her clothes on the line to try.  How about hanging a string or wire across an open area, and using clothespins to display a collection of vintage aprons, or perhaps some cute ones made with lovely scrapbook paper.  Better yet, have each guest come to the meeting wearing an apron of her choice – with a prize for the one that Miss Marva would have appreciated the most!  Like this one from CreativeMama213 on Etsy….

Or this one from Sweet Magnolia’s Farm

Discussion:

* Let everyone in the group share a special holiday tradition.  Each of us has such unique and special ways to honor the season.  Why not share them with others?
*Talk about the ways you can, or already do, extend the attitude of Christmas beyond December 25.
*Tell about a special adult mentor or friend who made a difference to you when you were young.

Activity: 

In Charlee’s family, it was a birthday tradition to gather after dinner, and before cake, to say something that they had learned that year from the person celebrating his or her birthday.  This would be a fun, easy activity for book club.  Have each person choose another member of the group and share something they learned from her this past year.

Ask each member of the club to bring a gift inspired by the Traveling Elves during the “Thirteen Days of Christmas.”  Gather these gifts and deliver them to a children’s Christmas charity in your community.  What could they bring?  Rubber ducks, stuffed toy dogs, kazoos, a Big Bird stuffed animal, purple gloves, or perhaps even a stuffed monkey like Charlee’s beloved Melvin.

Gifts/Favors:

I’m sure everyone in your group would be honored to receive a lovely apron with a cute or wise saying on it.  Each time they put it on, they would be reminded of Marva and her selfless acts of kindness.  Or, you could create some of these mini-aprons from the blog Hostess with the Mostess in Christmas fabric and they could be used as little favors.

Feeling Crafty?  I’ll bet you could make something simple and special with these charms from Etsy shop Jewel Be Charmed.

Final Thoughts:

I hope your book club will enjoy this heartwarming book during this holiday season.  Ideally, each person who reads it will be inspired to do something kind for someone in need, and if it leads to your own version of the “Thirteen Days of Christmas”  all the better!  Perhaps a new tradition will begin this year — as a tribute to Marva Ferguson!

I hope you and your book club will enjoy this sweet, holiday story.  I would love to hear from you about your group’s discussion, and whether or not any of these creative ideas worked for you!  Happy Reading, and Happy Holidays!

Photo Credits:  <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/veggiefrog/2145862702/”>veggiefrog</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/unprose/67242158/”>unprose</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebastian_bergmann/334297130/”>Sebastian Bergmann</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/375042268/”>Thomas Hawk</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/mukumbura/4180968389/”>Mukumbura</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

“The Art of Reading” with Mitzi Curi

The Art of Reading

“Our admiration of the antique is not admiration of the old, but of the natural.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today I am so excited to introduce you to a wonderfully creative lady with an eye for all things vintage.  Her blogs showcase an endless array of time-worn treasures that take me back to yesteryear, and her ideas for using found objects in craft projects are simple and delightful! One of my favorite posts of Mitzi’s was a recent one in which she highlighted many of the trends and items that became popular in the 1970’s (a very inspiring decade!) I am a huge fan of antique malls and consignment shops.  When I don’t have time to go shopping in my real life, I can get a little “fix” by visiting Mitzi’s blog. She takes the most wonderful pictures of the best booths in the business!  I’m also anxious to try one of her recent craft projects…. Aren’t these decoupaged plates adorable?

And really, have you ever seen anything so cool and classy?  This amazing necklace is made from vintage wallpaper and can be found at her Etsy shop.  I love it!

Name:  Mitzi Curi

Blogs: www.mitzismiscellany.com  AND www.mitzimadeit.com

Etsy Shop:  www.mitziscollectibles.etsy.com

What creativity do you share with the world:  I’m an antique dealer specializing in affordable wares that can be used to add vintage style to home interiors.  I feel antiques are the ultimate way to “go green” and avoid buying poorly made furniture and home décor from the superstores.  I enjoy crafting with vintage materials and up-cycling pitiful old objects that might otherwise be thrown away.  My passion for my vintage world shines through in every blog post!

  •  Book OR e-reader? Books
  •  Buy OR lend from the library?  Buy
  • Hardcover OR paperback?  No preference.
  • One book at a time OR several?  Several.
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait?  Be patient.
  • Bookmark or fold over the page corner?  Bookmark.
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what?  Abandon.  Time is precious around here!
  • Laugh OR cry?  Laugh!

How do you acquire the books you read?  Bookstore.

How do you choose the books you read?  Often through a book review in a newspaper or magazine.

Do you have a book that you love so much that you re-read it periodically?            I used to read Gone with the Wind nearly every spring.  I loved the romance of it, plus the historical aspect.

Do you have a childhood favorite?   Starting around third grade, I began reading biographies of famous women such as Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.  I think these books inspired me because they told of women who overcame hardships and difficulties in their lives to become successful adults.

Who have been your reading role models, mentors, or companions over the years?  My whole family reads a lot, especially my brother, who also writes.  In fact, he is currently writing a book on art pottery that should be published within a year.

Do you have a favorite genre or genres?  I have always loved non-fiction, biographies and autobiographies.  I love learning about how people lived long ago.  It kind of fits with being an antique dealer.

Do you have a favorite author or authors?    Lady Antonia Fraser.  She’s written several books on “royals” that I’ve enjoyed, such as The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

Here are my top ten favorite books of all time:

  • Helen Keller:  A Life by Dorothy Hermann
  • In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
  •  The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Lady Antonia Fraser
  •  Edie by Jean Stein
  • No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman
  •  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  •  Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney

How do you fit reading into your busy life?  It’s getting harder and harder the busier I get.  I find myself reading more magazines than books, I’m sorry to say!

Do you have any books that are special keepsakes?   If a book is given to me as a gift, I keep it forever.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I have actually read……. “Vox” by Nicholson Baker.

Reading is important to me because….It keeps your mind sharp, you can acquire new information, and it gives you something to talk about with others.

I love to display my books…. I display some of my older books in an antique “barrister’s bookcase”.

 If I could step into the setting of a book, and experience it first-hand, it would be…The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I love the era, the fashions, the decadence of the roaring twenties!

One of the most memorable characters I can recall is….Scarlet O’Hara, of course!

This is what I remember about learning to read…. I don’t remember learning to read, it seemed to just happen.  I feel bad for kids that struggle so much with reading.  It must be so frustrating!

Thank you Mitzi for sharing your reading “history” with us!

For the Creative Book Club: “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.  ~Roger Caras

I just finished reading a book that has left me transported, moved and hesitant to start a new book because I don’t want to break the spell I’m under!  Have you ever read a book at exactly the right time in you life?  Well, that’s how I felt when I started this magnificent novel.  This book is about so many important things…. family relationships, loyalty, overcoming grief, and especially the important connections we form with our pets.  Having just said good-bye to our beloved seventeen year old Aussie, and adopting a puppy really connected me to this book in a meaningful way.

Unable to speak from birth, Edgar is a special boy who has found a way to feel completely normal helping his family raise and train the unique breed of dogs that they sell.  When tragedy strikes their family, Edgar must rely on his keen instincts, as well as his unshakable bond with his dogs, to seek the truth and find his own way in the world.

Favorite quote from the book:

“So much of the world was governed by chance… Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed… You swam in a river of chance and coincidence.  You clung to the happiest accidents– the rest you let float by.”  (p. 457)

Creative Book Club Ideas:

Food:  Edgar’s beloved dog, Almondine, is his best friend and protector.  Their bond goes beyond the ordinary.  So, why not choose an almondine recipe to share with your book club members? Simply put, almondine means “Garnished with almond slices.”  If your club enjoys a full meal together, there are numerous almondine recipes for chicken, vegetables or fish.  This one for citrus glazed swordfish almondine looks amazing!  If your club traditionally serves a dessert, try this delicious Strawberry Almondine treat!  OR perhaps you want to recreate the meal that Henry used to “lure” in Edgar and the pups while they watched from the field:  Root beer, baked beans, barbecued brats, potato salad, and lemon meringue pie.  Yummy!

Decor:  One of Edgar’s jobs is naming the new pups.  He relies on his dictionary to help him choose such important names as:  Baboo, Forte, Essay, and Tinder.  For a creative table decoration, take pages from an old dictionary and either remove them from the book or make photocopies to make simple place mats and/or coasters.  Check out this table runner for inspiration!  Or perhaps make some cute candle holders with canine inspired pictures and/or words.

Activity:  Take inspiration from this poster that illustrates different dog breeds and create your own display of dog pictures.  Give a prize to the guest who can identify the most breeds correctly.  OR  Ask guests to bring a picture of their dog  or a special dog they once had and put them on display.  This post from “How Does She” gives some really great ideas!  Be sure to give guests the chance to talk about their special dog(s) and tell a fun story.  Of course, don’t forget to take a look at the author’s website for background information and discussion questions.

Our beloved Hondo enjoying a high mountain lake

Gifts/Favors:  Edgar communicates entirely through sign-language and written notes.  Why not honor this part of the story by giving your book-club friends a token inspired by sign-language such as this charming pendant necklace.

  If you’re crafty, you can order a digital print of these charming images and make your own sign-language charms as favors.  This Etsy find is also a sweet, affordable gift idea – a Scrabble tile pendant that says “I Love You” in sign language.

Final Thoughts:  If you choose this title for your book club, please send me feedback on your discussion and if any of these ideas worked for your group.  I know you will have a lot to discuss, and your members will have several ideas to debate!

Book Review: “A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life”

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“At the worst, a house unkept cannot be so distressing as a life unlived.”    –Dame Rose Macaulay (1881-1958)

A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life:  How to live creatively with collections, clutter, work, kids, pets, art, etc… and stop worrying about everything being perfectly in its place. (Rizzoli New York)                                     by Mary Randolph Carter  

Have you ever read a book, and thought that perhaps it was written specifically for you?  This lovely book is likely to strike a chord with many of us who live with: collections, memories, children, pets, clutter, work and lots of creativity. Mary Randolph Carter, author of several books dedicated to “junk,”  has written a book that provides much-needed affirmation for those of us who experience a love-hate relationship with our houses.  We hate the burden of keeping them clean and tidy all of the time, but we love to bring lovely things into them, and fill them with the items that speak to us and bring us joy.  Somehow these two desires create a conflict.  Carter’s solution?  Give up the idea that our houses have to be perfect, and simply live in them in a way that brings comfort and joy not only to you, but perhaps more surprisingly, your guests as well!

Seriously, think about the houses you enjoy visiting.  Are they the stark homes in which you feel nervous to set foot inside?  The homes where not a picture frame or throw pillow is out of place?  If you’re like me, you much prefer your friend’s house where you can admire the refrigerator filled with family pictures, paw through the stack of books on the ottoman, tuck your feet under you in a cushy chair, and delight in the creative vignette of collected whimsical items on the mantel.  A little dust?  Who cares.  A friendly dog giving you a friendly greeting?  All the better!

This book is a treasure-trove of lovely photography that gives readers a glimpse into the collected items and lovingly “lived-in” homes of not only the author, but a host of other diverse folks.  These are the kind of homes you want to sneak into and peer into every nook and cranny admiring the chipped vases, distressed picture frames, frayed quilts and stacks of books.  (Take a look at the picture on page 114-115 and you’ll see what I mean!) Truthfully, when I look at the homes featured in many decorating magazines, I say to myself, “No way!  Where’s all of there STUFF?”

Take Away’s:

1.  There really are other people out there who have a compulsion to bring something home from the side of the road or from a junk shop.  They don’t NEED this item, they just love it for some unexplainable reason, and it makes them happy to look at it.

2.  For many beauty lies in the imperfect and the informal.

3.  It’s okay to embrace your home less with the “housekeeper’s broom and more with the homemaker’s heart.”

5.  On page 131, Carter shares her practice of keeping a personal welcome book… a place for friends to jot down their memories of visiting your home.  This idea stuck with me and it is my intention to purchase a simple blank book and some colored pens to encourage my guests to chronicle their time at our cabin in the mountains.  Isn’t that a fun, simple idea?

6.  There’s a fine-line between living with our treasures and being on the next episode of Hoarders.  Be mindful that you don’t cross the line!

7.  It’s okay to have a “purposeless room!”

Favorite Quotes:

“At times you may think you’re crazy to own all these things or else brilliant for finding these treasures so many other eyes missed!”— Liza Carter Norton (p. 27)

“Clutter is the poetry of our homes.  It is a fingerprint of an experience, a souvenir of our childhoods, an expression of our humor, a collection of things that we just can’t live without… Embrace it, make peace with it, take control of it, share it, reorganize it, and when the time seems right, bid it farewell.” (p. 51)

“Never stop to think, “Do I have a place for this?” (p. 259)

Happy Reading! I hope you will pick up a copy of Carter’s book soon.  I found mine at my local library, of course!  Sit down in a comfortable chair with a glass of ice-tea  (Be sure to bring the sticky-notes so you can mark all of the pictures and quotes you will want to re-visit!)  and spend a few quiet hours honoring your creative, imperfect home.  After all, you can dust later!  (You might also like my review of Dottie Angel: the Peachy Crafty World of Tif Fussellhttps://kerriemore.com/2011/10/06/dottie/)

Aside:  On more than one occasion, I have mentioned my favorite magazine Where Women Create created by Jo Packham –  which is a quarterly gallery showcasing the creative spaces of a diverse group of artists.  If you are a fan of this publication, you will know what I mean when I say you want to slow down and savor each picture, admiring each lovely item in these creative spaces.  I felt the same way about Carter’s book. On more than one occasion,  I would put the book right up close to my nose to try to figure out what lovely item was tucked on the corner of a shelf or under a table.  That’s how I enjoy each lovely issue of “Where Women Create”!

(Photo CreditsA Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life by Mary Randolph Carter published by Rizzoli New York.)

Summer Reading List, Oh How I Love Thee!

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“I was born with a reading list I will never finish.”  –Maud Casey

Okay, I’ll admit it…. I’m spoiled.  I have an amazing job in public education, and while teachers don’t go into education for the money, we do get some other enormous perks = SUMMER!  The two months that I have off are filled with many activities which include a lot of “catching-up” with home tasks, chores and the little things that I neglect during the school year.  However, it is a huge priority for me to sit down and read as often as possible during my time off.  As an avid list-maker, I have made several summer lists, but the most important one is my reading list.  Here it is!  I would love to hear your feedback on my choices!

First of all, I LOVE magazines!  I will be reading many!  My favorites:

Of course, I have more books to read than I can count, but these have risen to the top of my stack!

Wicked by Gregory Maguire has been highly recommended on a couple different posts from “The Art of Reading” series that  I publish on this blog (Katie and Jennifer), and it’s time to see what the buzz is all about!  I have not seen the play version, so I am going in completely “blind.”

I can’t believe how long I have been meaning to read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski!  It has literally been “on the stack” for years.  A few of my good friend really loved it, and I hear it is a dog story, so I’m anxious to finally enjoy it!  The time has come!

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley was a thrift-store find, and the title is so enticing! I don’t always read mysteries, but every once in awhile I really crave a good one! This is apparently the first in a series of mysteries featuring a young sleuth named Flavia de Luce.  I’m hoping that I love it, so I can get lost in the rest of the series.

It’s won several accolades and has turned up on recommended lists for both adults and teenagers, so I want to read Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward for its potential for my high-school library.

A fellow co-worker told me that The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff was one of her best reads last year, and I love Meg Rosoff.  I see on her blog that there may be movie-rights in the future…  I love to read books and “cast” them in my mind with the actors I would see in the roles!

I have a new puppy!  In my mind, this should probably be the first book I read!  I have never read a Cesar Millan book, but I figure, he must know what he’s doing!  I have high hopes that after reading this book, my little Arlo will be sitting-up, rolling over, and sleeping through the night!

I am going to be taking a stitching class via Big Picture Classes from the talented Amy Powers, and I spotted these two books at my local library the other day.  The class is called “Happy-Go-Lucky Stitchalong.”  Doesn’t that sound fun?  These books are full of inspiration and published by my favorite craft book publisher Lark Books!  I have already found some great inspiration for my project with Amy!

Have you made your summer reading list, yet?   What was the best “summer book” you can remember reading?  I would love to hear from you! Thanks for stopping by… happy summer, and happy reading!

My Adorable Distraction

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“My little dog, a heartbeat at my feet.”  – Edith Wharton

Meet Arlo.  So, I’ve been a little distracted from my creative pursuits, and this is the reason.  It’s all his fault!

As a result, reading books, writing book reviews, dreaming up creative book club ideas (and waiting for publishers to contact me about writing articles and book reviews for their publications) have been at the back of my mind.  Right now I’m a tad sleep-deprived, but covered with wet puppy kisses.  Bliss!

“The Art of Reading” with Joan Tapper

The Art of Reading

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.  ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

Photo credit: Gale Zucker

Recently I had the pleasure of reviewing an incredibly beautiful and absolutely inspiring book…. Craft Activism by Joan Tapper and Gale Zucker. This amazing book was selected in Amazon’s Best Books of 2011! (You can check out my more complete review here.)   After posting my review, I was delighted to hear from Joan, herself, and was not surprised to learn that as a writer, she is also an avid reader.  I thoroughly enjoyed her book, but I especially enjoy stopping by her blog from time to time to see some of the amazing projects that have been inspired by her book. (Seriously, it looks like she has the most interesting life!)  I know you will enjoy some of these fantastic creations as much as I do!  Among other topics, Joan has written about creativity, travel, and interesting places,  and is a sought-after editor who lends her skills to a wide variety of genres.  Check out her website to learn more about this talented writer.

Website:  Joan Tapper        Blog:  Craft Activism

What creativity do you share with the world?  I believe in the written word, and as a writer and editor have tried to promote excellence.

  • Book OR e-reader? book
  • Buy OR lend from the library? Often the library, but I’ll buy books I can’t find there or those I want to keep, especially books written by friends of mine
  • Hardcover OR paperback? both
  • One book at a time OR several? Usually one
  • Skip ahead and read the last page OR be patient and wait? Patience is a virtue
  • Bookmark or fold over the page corner? bookmark
  • Abandon a bad book OR stick with it no matter what? To the bitter end
  • Laugh OR cry? Why choose
  • Cover Love:  I love the cover of …….. sorry too many choices

What is the next book on your stack of books to read?  I’ve got Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters (both passed along by a friend), Janna Malamud Smith’s My Father is a Book and Cynthia Ozick’s Dictation (courtesy of a book giveaway at the community college where my husband teaches) and Katherine Stewart’s The Good News Club, written by a friend and bought at a book-signing event.

How do you acquire the books you read?  I’ll reserve a book at the library when I read a promising review; that extends to popular mysteries and thrillers and literary novels. I’ll pick up a book at Chaucer’s, my local indy bookstore, for an upcoming book group meeting. Occasionally a friend will pass along a book. Online? On rare occasions.

How do you choose the books you read?  I follow certain authors, but I’m interested in many subjects, both fiction and non. When I read a review that sounds interesting, I’ll make a point to find and read it. But I also am delighted when members of my book group choose something I would never have thought of…a classic, science fiction, a science topic. I like being introduced to new writers and ideas.

Do you have a book that you love so much that you re-read it periodically?  You can put me in the Jane Austen club. I could read and reread Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion every year. Austen is sharp-eyed and precise in her use of language. And of course, you always know things will turn out well for the heroine. What a comfort!

What are the characteristics of your favorite books? I think I tend to like books whose authors exhibit a wry sense of humor and a generosity toward their characters, as well as an acute sense of place. That could mean Ann Taylor’s works, those by Alexander McCall Smith, Larry Shames’s Key West mysteries; it could mean Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Anna Karenina. Even a nonfiction work like Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks shares those qualities.

How do you fit reading into your busy life?  It’s not an issue. If reading is important – and it is – you find time to sit down for a few minutes and do it. I’ll start with newspapers at the breakfast table, a magazine story over lunch, and a book for at least a few minutes (and often more) at bedtime.

I am proud to say that I have actually read… Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time – both brilliant multivolume sagas. I took them on lengthy vacations many years ago and they filled the hours wonderfully.

I am in a book club and it goes something like this….  There are about 13 of us and we meet each month (first Wednesday) at a different house, which goes in alphabetical order. Hostess provides dinner (often memorably keyed to the book.) We eat and discuss. Everyone gets to have a say uninterrupted, then it’s a lively free for all. It’s a fairly literary group, with several writers and a publisher included, so opinions are strong. Then the hostess gets to choose the book for two months down the road, which gives us time to get it from the library and actually read it.

One of my favorite craft books is…. My own two, of course, with photographer Gale Zucker: Shear Spirit and Craft Activism.

Thank you, Joan, for sharing your love of reading with us!  Here’s to good books, good writing, and new friends!