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I had some great finds last week that I didn’t post so am doing double duty on this post.  Here is the list:

Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George

I love Elizabeth George’s books.  At this point it has been so long since I started reading her books that I don’t know which ones I have read and which I haven’t.  So I have decided to just re-read them as I find them.  I know I will enjoy them just as much the second time around!  The Umberto Eco book is one I have been wanting to read for a long time.  I am so excited to have found a nice beat up paperback that will be great for a book that I think may take me a while to read.  The other two are part of a long list of travel related books that I am always on the look out  for.

I am going on vacation on Friday.  I can’t wait and am so excited.  We are going to my parent’s lake house in southern Virginia.  My fiance will spend his time fishing and, you guessed it, yours truly will be reading.  I have so many books to choose from, I am really not sure where to start.  I generally wind up taking way more books than I could feasibly read.  Any recommendations on good reads before I should pick up before I leave town?

Corelli’s Mandolin

I finished it!  Yeah!  Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres is one of those great books that you can really sink your teeth into, so to speak.  It took me a little bit of time to get into it in the beginning.  Then around page 100 it all started to come together.  At this point the author brings the characters, who are spread around Europe, together – to the island of Cephallonia in Greece.  From that point on, the story is centered solely in Cephallonia.  The story is essentially the story of one couple and the effect the Second World War had on that couple both during the war and after.  Pelagia is a local woman who falls in love with an Italian musician Captain, Captain Corelli.  Corelli is part of the Italian forces that are occupying the island during the first years of the war.  He has been “given” a bed in the home of Pelagia and her father, Dr. Iannis.  It is a story of what it means to be a family, of love between men and women and of love between friends, of romance, culture, tragedy, heart break and absolute horror. 

My favorite quote from the book is part of chapter 47, “Dr Iannis Counsels his Daughter”.  In this chapter Dr Iannis is counseling his daughter, Pelagia about falling in love and what that means.  He talks briefly about his love for his wife, who passed away when Pelagia was young.  Here is the quote:

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts volcanoes and then subsides.  And when it subsides you have to make a decision.  You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.  Because that is what love is.  Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion…  That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do.  Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.  Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew toward each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree not two.

Isn’t that wonderful?  Now this book was made into a movie called, “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” in 2001.  The movie stared Penelope Cruz and Nicolas Cage.  I have not actually seen the movie BUT I did watch the trailer earlier today after I finished the book.  Ironically, the trailer I saw included some of the above line…I guess I am not the only one who it touched! 

I can definitely see why this book was/is one of the UK’s best loved novels.

This post is about an article I found online, rather than a book.  What caught my attention was the title.  My family went through some rough times a few years back.  The realization that everyone has a story to tell is what helped me move on.  It is such a true statement and one I have made to many people over the past few years.  This article happens to be about writing a memoir.  How many times have I wished my grandmother had written her memoir!  She had so many stories in her head, not to mention the entire history and genealogy of her side of the family.  While a lot of those stories we do know, there is also a lot we don’t.  I wish we did know everything she knew. 

Reading this article has me thinking maybe I should write my memoir.  Or do it in today’s style and create a blog based on my life – I could do that now and use it as material down the road!  This would fit perfectly into the author’s recommendation that individuals start by writing exercises.  These exercises could be on just about any topic but she gives some suggestions.  Here are my favorites from her list of suggestions:  write 2 pages in which you do something wrong you do not regret, write two pages on being too cold, write 2 pages about an unwelcome surprise, and write 2 pages of apologies.

To read the full article, go here:  http://www.aarpmagazine.org/people/everyone_has_a_story_to_tell.html

Hmm…ideas, ideas.

Recently a post went around facebook asking how many books individuals have read from a specific list.  The original post caught your attention with the line:  “Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.”.  Of course, this is excellent fodder for a post.  The original list appears to have been pulled from the BBC’s Big Read which published a list of the UK’s best loved novels.  What appears to me to be the original list is published here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100.shtml

I have read 47 and am in the process of reading one of them right now.  Of the 47 I have read, you may be wondering which were my favorites? (Let’s pretend you are wondering).  Here is my short list:

  1. Life of Pi by Yann Martel – mostly because of the ending…but I won’t go further because I don’t want to spoil it for everyone else out there!
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – I reread this one about a year or so ago.  Rereading it definitely gave me a new appreciation for it and moved it onto my short list.
  3. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – The book has more too it than the movie (although I loved the movie too!).  This has always been one of my favorites.
  4. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – I would say I loved the musical of this one even more than the book – the music is just wonderful.  I have seen it twice but not in years.  This was brought to light for me recently when hearing Susan Boyle’s rendition of the song as part of the British Idol show.  What a voice!
  5. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman – I love these types of books, Harry Potter, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Pullman’s series – take your pick.  These are definitely worth a quick read!

Which ones are on my “to be read” list?  That will be the subject of another post!

I am in the midst of reading 2 books that are taking me longer than I expected – hence the gap in posts.  The first is Corelli’s Mandolin…more on that one in another post.  The second, and the subject of this post is The President’s House by Margaret Truman.  I stumbled across this book when looking for new audiobooks to download (for free) from my local library.  It was published in 2005 by Margaret Truman, daughter of the late Harry S. Truman.  Harry Truman was the 34th President of the United States.  He followed immediately in the footsteps of Franklin Roosevelt and was president after Roosevelt’s death until 1953.  Margaret was in her early twenties when her dad was president and she was able to experience the White House first hand.  Much of this first hand experience is mentioned here and there throughout this book.  It is this experience that really gives the book a feeling of reality and intense interest.

The book is broken into chapters that talk about different aspects of the White House and life inside the White House.   There are chapters about the building itself, the gardens, White House brides, White House children, and much more.  One of my favorites would have to be the chapter on White House pets.  Did you know that Herbert Hoover had 8 dogs?  and Franklin Roosevelt’s monument  is one of the only (if not the only – not sure) with not just him, but his dog, “Fala”, shown for eternity?

This book definitely has increased my curiousity and made me want to go for a visit.  If you are fascinated by the history of the White House and some of the first family’s this is definitely worth checking out.  There are also some online tours that are worth a look.  Here are two that I found:

  1. The White House Historical Associations “A Tour of the White House”
  2. The White House Museum’s Overview of the White House

 What do you think? 

I read this book a couple weeks ago but still wanted to dedicate a post to it.  I love mysteries…fact, fiction, or anything in between.  This one happens to be a true mystery.  This book is about the 1990 robbery of The Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.  This museum is the brain child of heiress Isabella Stewart Gardner.  It contains works by many of the great artists of the past.  In March 1990, thieves broke into the museum and stole some of its most precious works, including works by Rembrandt, Degas, Vermeer and Manet.  19 years after the fact any visitors to the museum are still keenly aware of the event due to the empty frames that dot the walls.  In her will, Mrs. Gardner prevented any changes to the museum, for eternity.  She did not account for the possibility of art going missing from her beloved museum.  The result – empty frames that hang in the halls of the museum. 

The characters involved in the story around the aftermath of the robbery is what this book is primarily about. These characters take us to Europe and back.  They give us a peak into the world of underground art theft.  A world that thrives to this day.

If you are a lover of history’s mysteries, this book is worth checking out.  Just be aware…this mystery has yet to be solved.  While the potential suspects over the years have been many, no party has yet proven to be the guilty party.  If you like mysteries that come to a nice clean end, this one isn’t for you!  Overall, I definitely recommend this as an interesting slice of history.

For more information on the Gardner Heist, definitely check out Ulrich Boser’s book.  For a shorter read on the robbery, check out the following article from the Boston Globe’s Stephen Kurkjian:

http://www.boston.com/news/specials/gardner_heist/heist/