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Thursday, March 28, 2013

An Imaginative Dinner Party

 "Do you never imagine things different from what they really are?" Anne asked wide-eyed?
"Oh!" Anne drew a long breath. "Oh, Miss Marilla, how much you miss!"
                                                                               Anne of Green Gables

From on Pinterest
The setting is an elegantly staged dining room. There are eight seats at the table. You occupy one. If you could fill the remaining seats with your favorite authors, past or present, whom would you invite?

I've put together an eclectic group at my table. Wouldn't this discussion be lively?
From left: John Steinbeck, Pearl S. Buck, Mark Twain, Willa Cather,
Barbara Kingsolver, William Faulkner, Laura Hillenbrand.
Happy Reading and Dining!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top 10 Books I Recommend

Happy Tuesday Everyone!
Today I am participating in Top Ten Tuesday
hosted by The Broke and the Bookish with the top 10 books I recommend. Click on the link above to head over and visit other submissions and to find great books to add to your To Read list.

Below are the Top 10 books I recommend to others to read. Each of these has resonated with me emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. They have changed the way I think and have impacted the way I feel. Regardless of when I read them, they have never left me. These books have left a long-lasting impint on my mind.
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

My Antonia by Willa Cather

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 25, 2013

What I'm Reading- March 25, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Currently Reading: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
The yard was quite dark as they turned into it and the poplar leaves were rustling silkily all around it. "Listen to the trees talking in their sleep," she whispered as he lifted her to the ground. "What nice dreams they must have!" (Chapter Two)

My book club is beginning the Anne series this year and discussing each book.
Montgomery brings Anne to life by giving the character more personality than any other I have read. The dialogue is fantastic.

Recently Finished: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
* You can read my review as well as reading group ideas for this book here.

Up Next: The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver and Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

About The Bean Trees (from Marietta Greer spent her girlhood in rural Kentucky determined to do two things: avoid getting pregnant and escape rural Kentucky. AC the start of the novel, she has headed west in a beat-up '55 Volkswagon, changing her name to "Taylor" when her car runs out of gas in Taylorville, Illinois. By the time two tires give way in Tucson she has with her a stunned, silent three-year-old Cherokee girl who was literally, dropped into her arms one night. She has named the child Turtle, for her strong, snapping-turtle-like grip. In Tucson Taylor finds friendship and support in Lou Ann Ruiz, a fellow Kentuckian and single mother, with whom she and Turtle share a house. Her newfound community also includes Mattie, who runs a safe house for political refugees in the upstairs rooms above her auto repair shop. The novel's themes of fear, flight, homelessness, and finding sanctuary within a community are present in Taylor's struggle to find a place where she belongs, and the more urgent plight of two Central American refugees, Estevan and Esperanza. These fellow travelers help one another create new lives and redefine the meanings of home and family.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Ritter Park, Huntington, West Virginia
"A rose is a rose is a rose." ~ Gertrude Stein, Sacred Emily

Book Description (from The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes that she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market inspires her to question what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

"I'm talking about the language of flowers," Elizabeth said. "It's from the Victorian era, like your name. If a man gave a young lady a bouquet of flowers, she would race home and try to decode it like a secret message. Red roses mean love, yellow roses infidelity. So a man would have to choose his flowers carefully." (Page 29)

     My Thoughts: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Ballantine, Random House, Inc. 2011) opens slowly like the petals of a cut rose bud. We meet Victoria as a young girl struggling in the foster care system. Her story is told in alternating chapters between her past and present day in which she is 18-years-old and struggling to survive in a world that she was not prepared to navigate. The sequences flow so easily that the book becomes a quick page turner, unraveling the meaning of the story with each new flower given.
     The Language of Flowers helps to give a voice to foster children and the emotions they experience when living in unstable conditions. When Victoria is enlisted in the care of a Elizabeth, a single, young woman living on a small vineyard, she starts to believe that she has finally found a permanent home and is introduced to the world of flowers. But Elizabeth is recovering from her own mother-daughter conflicts and an estranged relationship with her sister. Victoria quickly discovers that she will complete her childhood in the system and through her rage changes everyone's future with her actions.
     Once emancipated, a chance encounter with a flower shop owner changes Victoria's future and sets her on the path to finally recovering from years of emotional turmoil and suffering. As she begins to develop a sense of independence, her new life leads her directly back to the past she has tried desperately to forget, forcing her to confront her mistakes. This circle delivers a reconciliation between Victoria and the only mother she has known as she herself discovers motherhood.
     Diffenbaugh weaves the lives of her characters together seamlessly, creating a story that is not only intriguing with its use of Victorian flower rituals but also engaging as it addresses the challenging aspects of foster care and children within the system. Like a full and fragrant bouquet, The Language of Flowers is a novel full of variety and beauty, reminding us of the importance of family and the art of communication.

 Book Club Idea: Have members randomly draw another member's name to design a bouquet specifically for them using the flower dictionary provided in the back of the book. This could be a paper bouquet using floral clip art available on the internet, magazine images, or an illustration if you are more artistic. Each member can then decode the meaning of the bouquet at the meeting. If your reading group is interested in something more elaborate, fresh flower bouquets could be designed and presented for decoding. For a change of meeting space, have your group meet at a local nursery to tour the different floral varieties available in your region.

About the Author:
Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children: Tre’von, eighteen; Chela, four; and Miles, three. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Diffenbaugh and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 18, 2013

What I'm Reading- March 18, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" is a meme hosted by Sheila from Book Journey where readers share what they are currently reading, recently read, or plan to read next.

Patiently awaiting the opening of Spring bulbs.
Spring has me excited about delving into some great reads, soaking up some sunshine with a book in hand.

Currently Reading: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This one came highly recommended from fellow readers and book blogger and I must agree. I can't put this one down. I am now dreaming about a house and garden filled with flowers.

Book Descpiption (from The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Recently Finished: The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
You can read my review about this novel here.

Up Next: Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery
My book club is about to begin the Anne of Green Gables series. Although I watched the much loved television min-series, I have never read the novels so I am excited to read this classic story.

I look forward to seeing what each of you are reading this week and gathering even more titles to add to my endless list of books to read.

Have a great week!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day with Poetry

In June 2010, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in  Ireland. It is a beautiful country with amazing landscapes. To celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year, I am sharing with my fellow readers a poem by Irish writer W. B. Yeats along with some photos from my trip. I hope this adds a welcoming dose of green to your day!

St. Patrick's Cathedral
The Wild Swans at Coole
By W. B. Yeats

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover, They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

River Liffey, Dublin
But now they drift on the still water
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
This post is linked up to Saturday Snapshot, a super fun meme hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Head on over and check out some great photos!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich

"I had expected to feel joy but instead felt a confusion of sorrow, or maybe fear, for it seemed that my life was a hungry story and I its source, and with this kiss I had now begun to deliver myself into the words." (Evalina, page 20)

Book Description (from The unsolved murder of a farm family still haunts the white small town of Pluto, North Dakota, generations after the vengeance exacted and the distortions of fact transformed the lives of Ojibwe living on the nearby reservation. Part Ojibwe, part white, Evelina Harp is an ambitious young girl prone to falling hopelessly in love. Mooshum, Evelina's grandfather, is a repository of family and tribal history with an all-too-intimate knowledge of the violent past. And Judge Antone Bazil Coutts, who bears witness, understands the weight of historical injustice better than anyone. Through the distinct and winning voices of three unforgettable narrators, the collective stories of two interwoven communities ultimately come together to reveal a final wrenching truth.

"When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape." (Evalina, page 268)

     My Thoughts: The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008) reads like a deeply patterned quilt. Each square, just like each character, has their own story to tell, yet each are connected to form the one story that haunted a town for generations.
     Set in and around U.S. reservation territory, the Plague of Doves revolves around the murder of an entire family save a baby, and the American Indians who are wrongly accused and hanged for the crime. The murder has become legend in the town of Plato and Erdrich takes the reader on a journey with many twists and turns. We are introduced to a bevy of interesting and troubled characters, each struggling to find their place in a present defined by the past. We discover the story through the eyes of several different characters as the narrators rotate throughout the book.
     Erdrich's writing is exquisite. There is a romantic quality to the telling of this heavy and powerful tale. In the final chapter, the circle is completed, connecting all points. Each character's relationship and role is fully revealed as we are given the final missing pieces to this intricate puzzle. The Plague of Doves is a book you need to digest slowly, enjoying the evolution of story to legend when left in the hands of a very gifted writer.

Photo by Paul Emmel
About the Author: Louise Erdrich is an American author of novels, poetry, and children's books featuring Native American characters and settings. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, a band of the Anishinaabe (also known as Ojibwa and Chippewa).
Erdrich is widely acclaimed as one of the most significant writers of the second wave of the Native American Renaissance. In 2009, her novel The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In November 2012, she received the National Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Round House.
She is also the owner of Birchbark Books, a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis that focuses on Native American literature and the Native community in the Twin Cities.

Happy Reading!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Roar! March is National Women's History Month

A Young Woman Reading,
Alexandre-Evariste Fragonard
“As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country.
As a woman, my country is the whole world.”
                                                                          ~Virginia Woolf

     In celebration of National Women's History Month, share your love of reading with family and friends by recommending your favorite books with strong female characters or present a gift to a friend of a book that you find inspiring for women.
     Visit online exhibits and read about the impact women have had in our country throughout history at the National Women's History Museum. This virtual museum strives to educate, inspire, empower and shape the future by integrating women's distinctive history into the culture and history of the United States.

Make a difference in a young girl's life by introducing her to the wonderful world of reading!



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