Books


I recently read a great book called “The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal” by Lily Koppel. It is a true story about the author’s discovery of a 5 year journal written by a teenager in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The diary was found in a steamer trunk in the dumpster on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and belonged to a girl of privilege, Florence Wolfson. The diary was given to Florence on her 14th birthday. Florence wrote of her relationship with her parents, her friends, her first loves, going shopping, enjoying theatre and the arts. She was a very strong willed girl who knew what she wanted.

The young writer who found this treasure decided to track down Florence, who would have been in her nineties. Thankfully, Florence was still alive and shared the rest of her story with Ms. Koppel. Because the journal only left a few lines available for each day, the entries were brief and sometimes confusing. Florence helped to bring all the pieces together and shared pictures of those people named in the journal. It was a very interesting story.

You can purchase this book "used" at Amazon for under $2.00

It was so interesting that I bought a 5 year journal for myself. I love the idea of journaling, but at the end of my day, I just want to crash. It gives me the chance to record moments of my life. Usually it is nothing exciting. However, it is a whole bunch of nothing-exciting that make up everyone’s life. When I look back at pictures of my grandparents or great-grandparents at my age, they have only captured the big events – holidays and birthdays. I often wonder what their everyday life was like. Did they have unfulfilled dreams? Were they always as happy as they were in pictures?

After I started my journal, I thought about what a nice gift a journal would make for a newlywed or new mom or even a graduate.

My own daughter is 14 and will graduate from 8th grade this year. Why not buy her a journal like the one in the book? The next five years of her life will go fast and further shape her into the adult she will become. She can record her dreams, her struggles and the people that were so important to her during high school and her first year of college. Those years were a big turning point in my life. I wonder if they will be the same for her?

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I just finished reading “A Secret Gift” by Ted Gup. It is the true story of the author’s discovery of an envelope among his grandfather’s papers. The envelope was marked “PERTANING XMAS GIFT DISTRIBUTION” and included an ad taken out in December 1933 in a Canton, Ohio newspaper. The ad was offering anonymous financial aid to 50 to 75 families if they would write and explain their true circumstances. The donation amount was $5.00 – a week’s pay in 1933. The envelope was also filled with hundreds of letters and cancelled checks in the amount of $5.00 signed by B.Virdot.

The discovery of this envelope is the beginning of the author’s journey to uncover the life of his grandfather, Sam Stone, and to find out what became of those families that benefited from B. Virdot’s gift. I loved this book! It was a real view of the Depression through the eyes of the people of Canton, Ohio. It showed incredible strength and perseverance of these people – some who were born into money and others that struggled for generations. Their letters were emotional, heartbreaking and inspirational. Most of them spoke of hating to ask for charity and many asked for a job instead. They shared their plans to spend the generous gift – to pay back the milkman or landlord, to buy new shoes for their children or have a decent meal for Christmas. The money would in no way get them back on their feet financially, but gave them renewed belief in human kindness and the strength to go on.

B. Virdot knew what it was like to struggle, to be hungry and to go without. He gave back to a community of people that accepted him years before when he made Canton, Ohio his home. “The Secret Gift” is a story about the Christmas spirit touching the lives of both the giver and the receivers.

My favorite quote in the book was sent to B.Virdot in a letter asking for his help. It is a stanza of verse from poet Edgar A. Guest. I think it says it all.
He has not lived who gathers gold,
Nor has he lived whose life is told
In selfish Battles he has won,
Or deed of skill he may have done,
But he has lived who now and then,
Has helped along his fellowman.


I just finished a great book called The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy. I saw it at the bookstore a few months ago but I didn’t buy it. I wasn’t sure if it sounded as good as the two books I already had in my hand so I planned to pick it up at the library instead. Unfortunately, it was on a really long hold list so I forgot all about it for a few months. Last week I got an email telling me it was ready for me.

It is an historical fiction book set in the early 1940’s. Vivienne lives on the small island of Guernsey, between England and France. Her husband, Eugene, has already left to fight in Europe. Vivienne lives with her two daughters, Blanche and Millie and her mother-in-law, Evelyn. Evelyn has dementia and is very confused by the changes in their life. As the war goes on, Vivienne must face the German Occupation, food rations and curfews in addition to the struggles of everyday life. Her moral beliefs are tested and her choices change the course of her life.

What goes better with a good book than a glass of wine? My husband and I were supposed to go to our wine tasting group a few weeks ago, but because I wasn’t feeling well, we stayed home. The tasting was for Zinfandels; normally not my cup of tea. However, the wine we chose was from my favorite California region, the Russian River Valley – Pellegrini Zinfandel Eight Cousins Russian River 2008. It was a very floral wine with scents of blackberry and spice. I was expecting heavy tannins on the finish, but it was a really smooth texture. I sipped my wine with cheese and crackers while I read my book, but it would have gone better with a hardy meal.

I recommend picking them both up and taking some “me time” during the busy holiday season!

I love to read. I love to be in the middle of a good story – one where it is impossible to put down and you still find yourself reading it long after you should be asleep. I can read a book like that in less than a week.

I get most of my books from the library these days. If I am going to be done with it in a week, why buy the book? If I read a book review or a friend recommends a book, I go to my library’s website and put it on hold. I have a least a half dozen books on hold right now.

The other day, after just finishing another book, I got an email from the library. One of the books I put on hold was available. The next day, I ran over there to pick it up. It was “One Day”, by David Nicholls. I had seen the book at Barnes and Noble and made a mental note to put it on hold at the library. It got a lot of good reviews. The movie had just come out and I wasn’t sure if I would see the movie before I got a chance to read the book.

I almost never read the book AND see the movie. If I do, I usually read the book first. The book is always better. The movie characters almost never look like I had pictured them and the movies usually leave out a lot of details.

I’m not big on books on CD either. I love the idea of them. I can’t tell you how many times I would love someone to read out loud from the book I can’t put down so I can get some work done. I have the kind of job where I can listen to the radio or a talk show. Why not a book? I tried it a few times and HATED it. Maybe I had the wrong book. Maybe I would have hated the story even if I was reading it.

I hate books where the author fills it with too many fluffy details. Tell me that they are up watching a beautiful sunrise. That is usually enough for me. I have seen a beautiful sunrise and I can picture it. You don’t have to fill paragraphs describing the sunrise. That bores me. Unless the sunrise is a main part of the book, you do not need to spend more than a sentence or two telling me about it. Two is probably too much. When I am reading a book, I can skip over that fluff. If I am listening to someone else read it, I am stuck listening to the reader going on and on about the damn sunrise to the point where I don’t remember what we were talking about before the sun came up.

Back to “One Day”. I was thrilled to get one of the books I put on hold. If there is a long waiting list for a book, I take that as a sign that it is good. The book is about a couple that hook up on the night of their college graduation. For whatever reason, they decide to remain friends, despite the fact that they have nothing in common. I thought this was going to be like the play, “Same Time Next Year”, where the characters are having a long affair. They meet at a resort the same weekend each year and tell each other how their life has changed over the past year. In “One Day”, Nicholls shows a glimpse of his characters’ lives every year on that same day, although they are not together. The chapter includes a letter from one of them (they are penpals – at least as far as I got) and a brief introduction of additional characters. Dex and Em, the main characters, are annoying and not very deep. It was way too busy and honestly, not interesting enough for me to read. I was only 50 pages into the book when I returned it to the library – my library receipt still holding the place where I left off.

I usually trudge through uninteresting books, waiting for them to get better. I assume that if it got published, it must be a good story. Sadly, I have finished several poorly written books, with weak characters and no plot. I hope that the ending will somehow help the book redeem itself, but it never does. I simply close the book and mumble about what a waste of my time that was and how the tree they used to make the book would have been better off as a an issue of The Enquirer.

My friend, Nancy, has told me a few times in recent months how life is too short to do things that you don’t enjoy. I have offered her books that I have read and after hearing what the story line is, she will politely pass. I have watched her say no to parties, dinners, and outings that don’t interest her or that will not work with her schedule. She is not offended if everyone else goes. She doesn’t have some hidden agenda about not participating with her friends or family. It just doesn’t interest her, so she doesn’t want to do it. I have taken that to heart in many parts of my life, but only recently started closing books that were not worthy of my time.

Many women still need permission to say no. These same women can be, if you can excuse the term, ball busters for a lot of things, but saying no to the simple stuff is still their weakness. So here it is. You have permission to say no today – Close a worthless book, decline an invitation, and return a gift that you will never use. Find something that is worthy of your time and you will be a lot happier.

I live in a city filled with over 180 years of history. First settled in 1831, the city has grown from the first 100 settlers to close to 150,000 people. The city is rich in the stories of the families who have lived here before us.

Over the weekend, my husband and I went with friends to a historical ghost tour in the downtown and historic district of the city. We thought it was a great way to start off the Halloween season and learn a little bit about the place we call home.

A few years ago, on our anniversary, my husband and I went out to dinner in one of the downtown restaurants. After dinner, we walked around and later stopped in the family owned bookstore in town. It is a great old store that smells musty, has slanting floors and still has a small town feel. I found a book in the store that night about the ghosts in our town. I was intrigued and bought the book.

Now, let me start off by saying that I do not like horror movies or Stephen King books. I prefer Casper to Freddy, Carrie or Jason. However, I love history and genealogy and this book was written about the people who lived here before me. The stories claim that many of the ordinary residents have chosen to stay on even after their death. Their reasons are usually due to a tragedy in their life.

I read the book cover to cover and told my husband many of the stories of the alleged haunted spots in town. We have been to many of them over the years – restaurants, museums, public buildings, etc. He listened with interest because of the history, but was not convinced of the ghosts. I felt that some of these stories had no other explanation.

A few months after I finished the book, I was having lunch with my dog grooming friends. I was telling them about this book because they both worked in town in a former house turned into a business along one of the downtown streets. After I told a couple stories, they told me that they had a ghost in the house they used to occupy next door to their current place. This ghost liked to bowl and they often heard a bowling ball dropped and rolling along the floor. A man in a fedora and trench coat would often show up at the front counter. They assumed that it was a customer, but when they looked directly at him, he disappeared.

It is one thing to read about ghosts in a book, but it is totally another thing to hear your friends tell you something that they saw themselves.

The tour was interesting. Many of the stories were in the book I read, but they were told that night from the firsthand experience of the ghost hunters. We were encouraged to take photos on this tour. The idea was to catch a glimpse of one of the former residents in action. We walked along the streets of the city and stopped a few times to hear a story that took us back to another time. For a genealogy buff, it was much like standing in cemeteries of my long deceased relatives. I kept thinking about how these people stood in this same place years and years ago.

My husband snapped several pictures during the tour. I just brought the small Canon camera that I carry in my purse. It is not the best quality camera and in the dark, he was using the flash. I’m sure he was looking for proof of a ghost.

The next day, I went through the photos looking for the orbs and mists that the ghost hunter told us about. One picture had an unexplained white circle in the tree next to the house. An orb?

We were standing on a parking lot next to a historic home. The parking lot was a former cemetery and the resting place of early settlers to our area. When they received a donation for a larger lot, they decided to move the bodies to the new cemetery. The only problem was that the bodies had been in the ground for 20 years in the mid 1800’s. The decay was so bad that the project was stopped before it was completed. Their resting place was disturbed and many of the bodies were only partially moved. Half of grandma remained in the old cemetery and half of her went to the new one. Not a very restful way to spend eternity.

Did we pick up the unrested spirit of one of these tortured souls or was there another explanation? I compared it online to other pictures. Many non-believers called those white circles dust. They said it was unnatural to take flash pictures in total darkness and therefore the dust in the air was caught in the light of the flash. The non-believers suggested trying to re-create it in a dark room in your house. They suggested stamping on the carpet or furniture to create dust before taking the pictures.

So I tried it. I must have a very clean house – even with three pets. I didn’t get one streak or ball of light like on the other picture. Interesting.

Did we catch a ghost with our camera? For the sake of our ghost hunt, I would like to believe we did. It is a lot more fun than a speck of dust.

I just finished a book in four days. The best books for me are the ones that move fast. They pull you in right away. You read page after page until you look at the clock and realize your alarm is going off in four hours and you should probably take a break. Of course reading at that rate means that you will finish the book quickly – thus my definition of a quick summer read. If it is so good, why don’t I read it slowly to enjoy the book for a few weeks instead of a few days? If you had a piece of chocolate cake, would you gobble it all in one sitting or just take little bites of it all day? You are still going to finish it either way, so why not do it quickly so you will be ready for the next chocolate cake that comes your way? In my opinion, you can never have too much chocolate cake or too many page turning books.

The book is Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult. When I have mentioned this book to friends and neighbors, I got mixed reactions. It had nothing to do with the story since none of them had read it, but instead it had to do with the author. Some are big fans and others don’t like her at all. I have read most of Jodi’s books and enjoyed the majority of them. I guess I like her writing style – the way she changes point of view of the story. I like the fact that she chooses many different and often controversial subjects for her books.

I have been a Jodi Picoult fan for a long time without knowing it. Last year, when we cemented the floor of the crawlspace, I had to pull out all the stuff that has been in there since we moved here. I also replaced all the cardboard boxes with Rubbermaid bins. I came across a scrapbook that I made in high school that included comic strips, poems, articles and short stories. I flipped through it and found a short story that was published in Seventeen Magazine in 1987. It was a story about a high school girl who broke up with her boyfriend and how she coped with it by counting the tiles at the mall. As she counted, she recalled where they went wrong. I read it again as I was cleaning the crawlspace and when I finished, I glanced at the author’s name. It was Jodi Picoult.

Sing You Home is about a woman who struggles with infertility, loss and other personal struggles. She finds herself in an unexpected relationship and fights for the basic needs that many of us take for granted – personal identity, love, family, and motherhood.

The book comes with a CD of songs that Jodi suggests to play while you read. I did not even open the CD envelope. My husband hates when I read in bed as it is. Could you imagine me bringing in the Bose stereo and playing music while he tried to sleep? The CD thing was not my cup of tea, but you have to give her creativity points. The main character is a music therapist so the CD is a nice tie-in.

The book is a perfect summer read at the pool, on vacation or to read while waiting to pick up kids from their activities. There are so many ups and downs in the book that you will find yourself flipping to the next chapter to see if the problem worked out. The book keeps you wondering if the good guys are going to win until the very last page. If you read it and try the CD, let me know how you liked it.

I just finished a great book! While sitting at my son’s basketball game, a friend told me she had just finished Who’s Alice and told me that the author, Lisa Genova, just finished another book. Although I have a Nook, I decided to buy the book. Based on how much I liked the first book, I thought it would be one of those books that gets passed around from friend to friend.

I read it in 5 days and I loved it! It is one of those easy reads that keeps you up reading until way past your bedtime. It is not one of those books that spends pages and pages describing the scenery or uses the vocabulary of a English professor. The book has a lesson, but it doesn’t beat you up about it. You can take away whatever you like from it.

The book is called Left Neglected. Sarah Nickerson is a married, mother of three who has a Harvard MBA and works 70 to 80 hour weeks at her job as a vice president of human relations. As you can imagine, she spends little time with her family and although she regrets it, cannot change things. They have grown into her salary and their lifestyle relies on it. She is constantly multi tasking to balance her precarious life. Her texting-while-driving causes a car accident that will change her whole life. The accident reunites her with her estranged mother and gives her a chance to look at what is really important. It is a wake up call to all of us that think we can’t live without our routines and material things.

Read more reviews and get the book here: Left Neglected

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