Archive from May, 2016
May 30, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Memories of President Monson

Memories of President Monson

Last night I finished Consider the Blessings:  True Accounts of God’s Hand in Our Lives, by President Thomas S. Monson, and I found myself unexpectedly nostalgic.  I’ve been listening to Thomas S. Monson speak for–quite literally–my whole life, and he was my favorite speaker for a long time; I remember him sharing some of those same accounts in General Conference over the years.  (It’s possible that they move me more now than they did then, age and experience being what they are.)  It’s a pleasure to have so many of his stories in one collection.  Consider the Blessings is a gift book–the experiences generally run no more than 2-3 illustrated pages–but it’s the very best kind of gift book.

Consider reading it.

May 28, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Done!


It look me a looonnngg time to read The Seasoning of a Chef:  My Journey from Diner to Ducasse and Beyond.  Food and cooking memoirs are totally my thing–I COULD NOT put Garlic and Sapphires down–but…

It’s a great premise (the subtitle sums it up pretty well) and it pulled me in at the beginning.  Psaltis’ diner-owning grandfather, the people who worked for him, and Psaltis’ own beginning mistakes make for an interesting start.  And the end, where he’s a well known chef looking for the right opportunity–that was interesting, too.  As for the middle?  Psaltis spends it working in this, that, and the other restaurant, learning this, that, and the other from those restaurant’s chefs.  On his days off, he works for free at this, that, and the other restaurant, learning this, that, and the other from, well, you get the idea.  He doesn’t write much about the actual food, which I would have enjoyed, and his workaholic, extremely confident personality makes him seem sort of one dimensional.  I like to cook, and I waitressed for a year, but that wasn’t enough for me to feel like the book’s intended audience.  If you are in the industry, it would probably grab you more.  For me, well–I read the middle 140 pages 1-2 at a time (which is as much time as I can sometimes steal for myself in the bathroom), and that worked well.

You’ll have to decide what that means for you.

May 26, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on One of The Righteous

One of The Righteous

I’ve mentioned my fascination with Holocaust narratives; I have to say, though, that it’s really a fascination with WWII in general.  It seems to have brought out either the best in people or the worst, and it thrills me to read about the extraordinary deeds of ordinary people.  When I spotted His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg in the library system, then, I didn’t hesitate to put it on hold.  I finished it yesterday, and I have to say–it tells an amazing story.

Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who was assigned to Budapest in 1944; his mission was to save as many lives as possible, and his methods were impressively varied.  He stockpiled food against the coming invasion by the Russians; he harbored hundreds of Jews in the basements of buildings.  He also created an official document called a “schutzpasse,” designed to impress the Germans and extend the protection of his neutral nation to all carriers.  Diplomats from other neutral nations worked alongside him to do what they could, even as Russian guns could be heard from the east.  Raoul’s story was inspiring, captivating, and totally unfamiliar to me.

I will admit that the book has flaws.  It’s a very prose-like verse novel with an overly dramatic flair, designed to showcase Wallenberg’s heroism.  (A worthy goal, but understatement would have complemented his obviously heroic actions a bit better, in my opinion.)  It also spends longer than it needs to describing Raoul’s early life, although the photographs included made the entire story more vivid.  On the other hand, it’s hard to hurt good material, and the book grew more and more readable and fascinating as it went on.

Ultimately?  It amazed me that there are monuments to Wallenberg in London, New York, Stockholm, and Budapest, and  yet I hadn’t known anything about him.  His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg isn’t a perfect book, but it’s an incredibly worthwhile one; its hero’s story deserves to be both known and retold.

His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg

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May 25, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I Had Guests…

I Had Guests…

…and apparently completely forgot to post yesterday.  Whoops!  I went to post tonight, looked at the date, and couldn’t even remember for a minute how I had lost a day.  (Then again, I was up with kids–different kids–at 1:30 and 4 this morning, so the fact that I finally DID remember is the more impressive one.)  I deeply apologize to my (mostly imaginary) loyal fan base, and I promise you a regularly scheduled post tomorrow!

May 22, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Deja Vu

Deja Vu

Ever since I finished Honey I’ve been trying to figure out what it reminds me of, but so far–no dice.  It’s a fun, touching story of a girl who hears her father call someone “Honey” on the phone and is trying to figure out who it is; her quest ultimately involves food poisoning, nail polish, cassette tapes, Dum Dums, and a wig.  The ending is satisfying, and although the book itself is a simple one, Sarah Weeks does a good job of tying all of the threads–big and small–together at the end.   Her writing style was possibly on the simple end of the scale for me, but it’s just the sort of style to make her books especially accessible for otherwise unenthusiastic readers.

Bottom line?  This one is is short, sweet, and worth your time.


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May 20, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Late Nights

Late Nights

Last night was my oldest daughter’s show choir performance, which meant that my son got to bed 45 minutes past his bedtime, and my girls, well…number 2 wasn’t up more than 10 minutes later than usual, but my oldest does the post-performance-adrenaline-crash like no other.  There are always tears about something after she performs, and last night was no exception; by the time I got her calmed down enough to fall asleep, she was certainly up a half hour past her bedtime.  And tonight?  Tonight was my son’s preschool celebration, which means that he was up more than an hour past his bedtime, and the girls about an hour past theirs.  (The little one was up late, but she naps.  It’s different.)  Now, I know everyone’s kids have different sleep issues, but let me sum up for you:

1)There will be no sleeping in.

2)There will be weeping, wailing, whining, and (probably) gnashing of teeth.

3)There will be early bedtimes tomorrow, to which Mommy and Daddy will look forward more than anyone else.

4)And then–there will be much rejoicing.

May 18, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on For the Jazz Lovers in My Life

For the Jazz Lovers in My Life

The one year I was in jazz band taught me, first and foremost, that jazz is not my forte.  I truly respect it as an art form, but I’m not terribly good at playing it, and I don’t generally choose to listen to it.  I watched my more talented (and dedicated!) classmates with the greatest respect–you know who you are!–but I had no passion for jazz.  (See below for my best memories of that year!)

That being said, I checked Jazz Day:  The Making of a Famous Photograph out of the library because I’m a complete sucker for historical picture books–and I was not disappointed.  In 1958 an inexperienced photographer gathered together as many jazz musicians as he could for one photo shoot; he had pitched the idea to Esquire magazine, which was doing a story on “The Golden Age of Jazz,” and gotten the assignment.  The most famous of the day’s shots was entitled Harlem, 1958, and it is the story of that shot that Roxane Orgill tells so beautifully.  Made up of poems from the points of view of both musicians and bystanders, Jazz Day is immeasurably enhanced by Francis Vallejo’s illustrations.  The historic photo featured jazz musicians even I’ve heard of–Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk–alongside musicians that were relatively unknown at the time, and Orgill makes the moment of its capture vividly real.  (She also slyly includes in the book a poem about Duke Ellington, explaining his absence.)  I may not be passionate about jazz, but I am passionate about books, and this one fascinated me.  If you are passionate about jazz, it’s an absolute must read; if you’re not, well–it’s still too good to miss.

My Best Memories of Jazz Band:

1)Learning how to play in 5/4 (thank you, Decoupage).

2)Experiencing the Berklee Jazz Festival and a different side of Boston than I’d seen before.

3)Listening to one judge poke fun at Mr. Neves’ pronunciation of Party Time (Have you gone to the potty today?!) during his audio evaluation of the piece.  (I’m pretty sure there’s a better name for that, but it was lost to me a couple of kids ago.)

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

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May 16, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on A Different Kind of Holocaust Story

A Different Kind of Holocaust Story

I came across The Secret of Priest’s Grotto:  A Holocaust Survival Story accidentally; I’m fairly certain it was alphabetically near something else I was looking up in our library system.  I’ve always been fascinated by Holocaust narratives, however, and so I put it on hold without hesitation.  I finally started it last night, and it was short enough that I finished it today.

Priest’s Grotto isn’t quite like any Holocaust narrative I’ve ever read, I have to say.  It covers a Jewish community of interconnected families who spent almost a year hiding in Ukrainian caves; a few of the men ventured out periodically to purchase or steal supplies, but most of the group stayed hidden.  (At least one child had forgotten what the sun was by the time they were liberated.)  Their diet was meager, their clothes almost perpetually damp from condensation, and they lived in fear of discovery by either the Nazis OR the local police–and yet, they survived.  Some of them emigrated to Canada and the US, where they eventually met with a team of “cavers” who had heard rumors of the survivors’ existence and were searching for them.  Those cavers traveled to the Ukraine to explore and document the families’ underground refuge.
This book was the result–and it was fascinating.  Full of pictures, quotes, and the details of the group’s story, it tells a different kind of Holocaust experience.  (I had no idea there were such large caves in the world, much less that anyone could live in them for over 300 consecutive days.)  I’d recommend this one to anyone interested in the Holocaust or WWII (although I should note that while it’s not graphic, it’s probably meant for late elementary or junior high schoolers at least).
I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
May 14, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Judith Viorst

Judith Viorst

I honestly can’t remember how I came across Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days:  An Almost Completely Honest Account of What Happened to Our Family When Our Youngest Son, His Wife, Their Baby, Their Toddler, and Their Five-Year-Old Came to Live with Us for Three Months.  What I can tell you is that as my children have been enjoying Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very  Bad Day–and as they eagerly await the picking up from the library of Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday–I have been enjoying Alexander and the Wonderful, etc., even more.  Judith Viorst is a gifted comic writer and a woman somewhat after my own heart when it comes to worrying, inflexibility, routine–and love of family.  When her youngest son, his wife, and their three children come to live with their parents during some home renovations, she mostly revels in their temporary togetherness; she also, however, worries after her velvet chairs.  How she balances the two sides of her personality is a comic lesson for us all.  Now, in addition to checking out her children’s books for my children, I’m going to have to further explore her adult books as well!

May 12, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Wrong Daughter

The Wrong Daughter

I actually checked Andrea Cheng’s The Year of the Book out of the library because I thought my second girlie might be able to read it herself; it’s under 150 pages, there are illustrations, and the topic seemed accessible.  After reading it, however, I think the emotional context might make my emotionally intuitive 6-year-old a bit upset.  I AM, however, going to stick it on my nine-year-old’s shelf for her to try, because I ended up really liking it.

The Year of the Book introduces Anna Wang, a Chinese-American fourth grader who is having friend difficulties.  Luckily for her, she loves to read just as much as she likes to do anything with friends (the book is sprinkled with references to well-known titles and characters); all the same, she does want things to be different.  How she is ultimately able to resolve some of her friend difficulties makes for a delightful book, although one of her friends’ family problems ups the emotional reading level of it a noticeable amount.   I highly recommend this one–for ages 8-ish and up.

The Year of the Book (An Anna Wang novel)

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