Monthly Archives: December 2011

Little Christmas Facts


In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, here are three of my favorite Christmas traditions from my childhood:

1: The Christmas Eve candlelight service, begun by reading the Christmas story as found in Luke, and ended each year with the sanctuary lit solely by little white candles, one held by each congregant, as we sing, “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright…”

2: That night, after we get home and eat our traditional smorgasbord buffet of a dinner, my brother and I open our gifts to each other, usually an exchange of books and movies, and some great hugs.

3: Christmas afternoon, after all the gifts are opened and thoroughly inspected, we munch on leftovers from the night before and play board games: Scrabble, The Game of Life, Monsters Inc. version, and always Disney Monopoly. It’s the best family time any girl could wish for.

What Christmas traditions do you love most? As you’ve grown older, how have they changed?

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Happiness Is…

Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang is, by far, my favorite cartoon ever. I especially love the Christmas holiday special, and the “Happiness is…” calendars that I used to hang on my wall each year.

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As much as I love Charles Schultz’s happiness meme, I’ve never thought much about happiness. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally a pretty happy person. I’m not given to melancholy or depression, I’m usually pretty content, and my glass is almost always half full. I do have a temper, but it tends to die down just as quickly as it starts up, and I’m no good at grudges because I always forget what I was mad about. A warm puppy (or a warm Cambria!) really is enough to make me happy most days.

With that in mind, I started Gretchen Rubin’s memoir-cum-self help book, The Happiness Project, yesterday, expecting a light, enjoyable read, and not expecting to be challenged. But, of course, I was.

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While this cheerful little paperback is unlikely to become a classic, I both truly enjoyed it and was truly challenged. (Though I read the words happy and happiness so much that they ceased to seem like real words anymore, becoming more like the nonsense syllables of a baby just discovering his voice.) Focusing on happiness may seem vapid or selfish, but the true questions here are deeper than that. It’s about quality of life: am I doing the best with what I have? Am I maximizing life, finding the joy in where I am, or am I letting my temper, the circumstances I wouldn’t have picked for myself, etc, get in the way? Not only are these worthy questions, but they aren’t as selfish as they first appear. The truth is that I cannot change my loved ones, but I can do my best to improve myself since who I am directly affects their lives. It’s in my husbands best interest for me to be healthy and happy, just as it’s in my best interest for him to be the same. Plus, it seems silly to waste the life God gave me wallowing in mediocrity, wasting the gifts and opportunities for joy He’s handed me.

Some of Gretchen’s approach I will leave on the table. I’m not going to make a resolutions spread sheet for each month of the year, or research happiness from the angle of every discipline I can think of. In fact, this will probably be my only happiness book. Additionally, I’m not going to keep a food diary, study Buddhist meditation, or read multiple memoirs of catastrophe. Some of the things she needed to focus on don’t apply to me: I’m already a committed Christian, so I don’t feel the need to try to imitate a new spiritual leader. I already make plenty of time for books, and I don’t have children yet, so while that chapter was very insightful, I didn’t highlight quite as much.

But some of this really challenged me. I need to discipline my house keeping, cut my husband some slack for his faults, and stop being afraid of failure and aim for what I want instead of hoping it falls magically into my lap. And while I’m still not going to make any spread sheets, I did take a few cues from Gretchen. I wrote down Ten Commandments for 2012:

20111206-165615.jpg These commandments to myself crystalize my core values: I love Jesus, I prize authenticity, I desire to live a life characterized by kindness to others and unconditional love. I’m going to post my notecard by my mirror so I will always be reminded: this is how I want to live.

I also identified some goals:

1:Schedule dedicated writing time each day. I want to be a writer. It’s what I’ve always wanted, but, for a variety of reasons, I’ve never given myself the leverage to go after it. I may not get published this year, or the next, or for another decade, but I’ve got to start somewhere. So I’m starting here.

2: Visit the zoo; go to the theatre; see a symphony; try a new museum. Do something adventurous at least once a month.Part of Being Amanda Always is knowing what I do and do not enjoy. I’ve spent too much time in my life trying to like things because I feel that I should. But the truth is, I prefer art museums to going out dancing. I’d rather go to a Jazz club than a rock concert, and I love sushi, but Indian food just isn’t my thing. I want to have adventures, but I’m tired of doing it on everyone else’s terms and never my own.

3: Make some concessions. Always choosing love means making concessions. Tyler loves house music with a fiery passion, so sometimes I go out with him even when I’d rather read a book, and I’ve eaten a lot of Pad Thai so he can indulge in his favorite curry because I’m learning that love trumps preferences. And when my love is happy, I’m happy.

4: Blog every day. I love my blog. It makes me happy, stretches my creativity muscles, and helps me connect with others, so I need to stop neglecting it every time I get the sniffles.

5:Do fifteen minute tidy-ups of the closet, bathroom, and kitchen each day. I am not a natural house keeper. I’m often times so distracted I don’t notice a mess until it has grown legs and teeth and is trying to eat the cat for breakfast. But both Tyler and I are happier, more relaxed, and more productive when the house is clean. These are my three problem areas, so I’m going to focus on them.

6: Give both time and money. One of the biggest things God has taught me is that if I really want to be on His team, I can’t sit on the bench. I need to be giving my time, energy, talents, and money to help the hurting and spread love. Happiness won’t do me a bit of good if it’s at the expense of my own soul. Plus, helping others makes me happy! It feels good to pass it on.

There are also some little things I want to do, like get a library card, find a reading group, keep fresh flowers in the house, buy an audio book to listen to while I clean the house, keep one dollar bills in my purse to give to the plethora of homeless folks that populate my neighborhood, try to read a new magazine each week, make time each week for at least one of the artsy projects I have lined up, go for more walks, visit the dueling piano bar that looks so interesting, talk to both of my parents and my brother at least every other week, write more letters. And Marissa and I are going to try to double our reading goals, shooting for two books a week this year.

I used to be more spontaneous. My list of stuff I wanted to do never got very long because when stuff popped in my head I want ahead and did it. Maybe I’ll never be that same carefree girl again, but, like Gretchen, I’m going to try.

What are your goals for the coming year? Do you make resolutions? Or better yet, do you keep them? What little things (or big things) are you going to implement to improve your happiness in 2012?

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Aaaaaaaaand We’re Off!

My week of reading a book each day is officially under way. Yesterday I read Suzanne Collin’s bestseller, The Hunger Games.

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I had heard so much about this book and the trilogy it begins, and almost all of it was good. In fact, everyone I know personally who read it said the same thing: make sure you can get your hands on the next two books asap, because you will not want to put them down.

They were right.

The Hunger Games tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old girl living in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, which is situated where the United States of America once resided. Her home district, District 12, is the coal mining district found in what we know as The Appalachian Mountains. Life is rough in this outlier district, and it has made Katniss a survivor of enviable savvy and fortitude.

Every year, the ruling Capitol picks two tributes at random from each district to compete in The Hunger Games, a cruel fight to the death in a wilderness arena designed to remind the citizens who’s boss. And this year, despite the odds, the Everdeen family is up.

I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I tell you that I was completely riveted from the first page. Stories of wilderness survival and bloodshed are not usually my cup of tea- case in point, Hatchet by Gary Pulsen was, without question, my least favorite book I ever had to read for school- and I was afraid this offering would be too graphic or, honestly, just about stuff that doesn’t interest me. But for just $8 at Target, I figured it was worth a shot. My fears were instantly assuaged. Collins uses clean cut prose to communicate Katniss’s every emotion with clarity and depth, and she is never unnecessarily graphic. In fact, this book is incredibly clean, and I wouldn’t hesitate to hand it to my teenager or pre-teen.

The first-person limited perspective allows the reader to live through the experience first hand as Katniss struggles with questions of duty, loyalty, and love, the answer to which could literally mean life or death for her and her loved ones. And unlike many other popular franchises, such as The Twilight Saga or Harry Potter, I haven’t heard much criticism about the quality of writing found in The Hunger Games trilogy, and if the next two are as well written as the first one, I understand why. Written with Hemingwayen sparsity, there is not an unnecessary word in this rich story, which in another author’s hands could easily have doubled in length. This gives each standing word an extra punch of meaning, and lends the book the extra measure of potency that made it not just a good story, but a truly excellent read. The Hunger Games is definitely one of my favorite books of the year.

Today, Day Two of my Book-A-Day challenge, I am reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.

20111205-152109.jpgThis memoir is a lighthearted tale of the author’s quest to live life to the fullest. I’m 143 pages in, and so far I’m enjoying it, although I keep getting sidetracked by wondering if the little bookstore down the street has the next Hunger Games book, Catching Fire, and if so, do I have enough cash to cover it. Sigh. The problems of a book blogging house wife never end.

Have you read The Hunger Games? What do you think of them? Am I going to love Catching Fire as much as I think I am?!

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Firsts

Today is a good day, and a day of many firsts.

The first first: It’s my first time writing a blog post from my phone! I’ve pushed a post live from my phone before, but I’ve never composed one. It makes me feel all edgy and savvy and hip. And it makes me realize what a s-l-o-w typist I am, since I only use one finger, my index finger, to type on the touch screen. Is that how normal people do it? I don’t know. I’ve only been hip for an hour now, so you cool kids will have to help me catch up.

The second first: It was the first day of my Book-A-Day week! I’ve been reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins today, which I’ve wanted to read for awhile now. I have about 100 pages left to go, and two hours left in the day, so I should make it without an issue.

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I do have a confession to make, though. I cheated just a teeny tiny bit: I read the first ten pages of the book a few days ago. Oooops. I felt bad about it for about three minutes, and then realized that this is my game, and if I want to bend the rules a little every now and then, I can do that. I think. I still feel a little guilty, though, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be making this confession right now. Darn my hardcore Baptist love of rules! I can’t even break my own rules. I’m sure this serves me well in the long run, but sheesh, today it’s just pathetic!

And the third first:I’m considering getting a reader, maybe a Nook color. I’ve held out for a very long time. I would consider myself a book purist; I like a real book, one I can write in and put on my shelf. There’s something more tangible about the legacy of a real book, one that I can share with any friend, not just the ones who also happen to have the same reader I do. But traditional books cost more money.

There are some books, say for instance the new Sherlock Holmes book, The House of Silk, that I know I’ll want a hard copy of. But then there are books that I only have a passing interest on, such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, that I’m certain I will enjoy, but won’t be broke up about not having it on my book shelf. Getting my library card will help with this, but I’m still considering a reader. Plus I could put things like bulky, expensive cookbooks on it, which would be really nice.

What do you think? Do you have a reader? Would you even consider getting one? Am I selling out? The convenience would be great, but I’m afraid that the book, like the snail mail letter, is going the way of the buffalo, existent: but quaint and rare.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to finish, a peppermint mocha to guzzle, and a kitty cat to snuggle.

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Three Not-Quite-Mini But Still-Fairly-Short Reviews:The Map of Time, And Both Were Young, and Sideways on a Scooter

The good thing about being sick for a long time with out either internet access (besides my phone) or a television is that it gives you plenty of time to read. And my favorite thing to read when I’m sick is a book that takes me someplace I’ve never been before. This time I adventured to India, Switzerland, and the Future respectively.

The Future: The Map of Time by Felix J Palma: This three-part tome (at 609 pages, I feel I can call it that without exaggerating) was a fantastic story, blending the real personas of H.G. Wells, Bram Stoker, and Jack the Ripper with the fictional stylings of a carefully planned time-travel ruse that saves a suicidal youth’s life, a scam time-traveling company that fools everyone- even the Queen, a dock worker-cum-actor who pretends to be a general from the future and accidentally falls in love with a socialite who believes his ruse, and the accidental discovery of a real time traveler wreaking havoc in Victorian London.

I tried to play it cool and pretend I wasn’t obsessed with this story, but it didn’t work. I loved it! I talked about theories of time travel with my husband over dinner, and I carried it around with me in purse in spite of its considerable weight and size, which left room for little else even in my usually roomy handbag. It was, however, long. And though Palma does an excellent job of weaving the three seemingly unrelated sections together into a surprisingly unified whole, and also of turning the time-traveling genre on its ear, there were times when I felt bogged down. It was engaging, and it kept me guessing, but I wouldn’t call it fast paced. Filled with romance, intrigue, mystery, and a plethora of colorful, well-developed characters, The Map of Time is not an undertaking for the faint of heart, impatient, or short on time, but for those who do brave its pages there is much to be gained. I want to say more, but i don’t want to give anything away! I will say, however, that Palma is an expert story-teller, and I hope more of his works are translated into English soon.

India: Sideways on a Scooter by Miranda Kennedy: Kennedy wanted to leave behind her New York City radio job and be a foreign correspondent. Even more than that, she wanted to live in India, to experience the adventure of completely submerging herself in the totally foreign life of a totally foreign culture. So instead of waiting for life to hand her her dreams, Miranda boarded a plane for New Delhi and decided to take fate into her own hands. This memoir follows Miranda’s journey to discover herself in a new world and her struggles to mesh her western life and identity with the still very traditional Indian culture. It also follows the stories of seven women she meets on her five-year journey, and their struggles to adapt as their traditional, caste bound system begins to clash with a quickly globalizing city life.  I was quickly drawn in by Kennedy’s vivid descriptions and journalistic prose. She managed to cover most of the large issues confronting today’s Indian woman, from arranges marriage vs. “love matches,” to birth control and gender-picking abortions, and she does so all through the lens of these seven friends. From her Brahmin widow maid, Radha, who thinks that cats are vermin and touching a toilet is a fate worse than death, to Geeta, her spunky Punjabi friend who struggles to find a balance between her life as a “modern girl” living alone and working in the city and her desire for a traditional, arranged marriage, to Azmat, her Muslim friend who works at a women-only gym and always finds the joy in life despite her dwindling prospects of ever having a family, I fell in love with the cast of colorful and quirky, but earnest and honest characters. And though I was disappointed at the hardened edge she developed as the story went one, I also appreciated Miranda’s honesty about her own struggles, from being able to find an apartment in a country where a woman living alone often signified her profession as a prostitute, to the deeper issues of how to be truly intimate and build lasting relationships with anyone, family, friends, men, while struggling to find your identity and worth as a woman. Every woman, be they American, European, Indian, has been faced with the same dilemma: we want to be mothers and wives, but we want our passions too, be they a career or experiences or just the freedom to wear whatever clothes we choose. The world has started to tell us we can have it all, but they don’t tell us how. Sideways on a Scooter is an honest, messy, beautiful portrait of struggling to discover the how.

Switzerland: And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle: Madeleine L’Engle is quite possibly my favorite writer. Her prose is masterful, and she has a way of connecting with the reader in a way that, no matter the circumstance she is relaying, one feels instantly connected to and a part of the experience. I have never traveled via time wrinkles, but every time I read  A Wrinkle in Time, I feel akin to Meg Murray in a moving, intimate way. Certain Women is one of my favorite books, and despite the fact that my father never had eight wives and a selfish steak ten miles wide, it still resonated deep within my chest. I’ve hoping to read all the L’Engle books I haven’t experienced yet in the next few years anyway, and then I saw this article about the Madeleine L’Engle re-read (though for me this one is a first-read), and the deal was sealed. 

“I saw two beings in the hues of youth/Standing upon a hill, a gentle hill…/And both were young- and one was beautiful.” Lord Byron, The Dream, Canto II

I was hooked from the beautiful epigraph on, reading this little beauty in just over three hours. This isn’t her best work, but L’Engle does present a solidly entertaining and touching story. It has been a year since Phillipa “Flip” Hunter’s mother died in a tragic accident, and her artist father, who has to travel a lot for his work, has decided to send her to a boarding school in Switzerland so they can at least spend the Holiday’s together. Though she feels awkward and unsure around the usual cast of boarding school girls, Flip forms a friendship with Paul, a handsome local boy with no memory of his past. Through their connection, Phillipa learns to be happy where she is despite her insecurities and deep homesickness for her father, and Paul begins to heal from the trauma of his past. Though the ending is tied up a little too neatly, and the subplot of Paul’s lost-and-found memory is a little shaky, I really enjoyed this book, my favorite moment being L’Engle’s observation that it is the tragedies and sorrows of life that make us stronger, that give us depth and give joy its greatest meaning.  I certainly could have used that message when I was a teenager, and it resonates deeply with me today, only now it is from experience and not need. I also like the insight into the lives of European young adults so soon after WWII, as well as the glimpse of an awkward, bookish, artsy type we are afforded here, because that’s exactly what I was in my youth, and that is exactly what I still feel like in the quiet, still moments. Overall, a fun and worthy read.

You know what else being home-bound gives you lots of time for? Cat pictures! I bet you though I’d forgotten all about Caturday, huh? Well, for those of you who endured ’til the end, here is a super-secret, mini-Caturday:

Top left: This is what I call Cambria’s “Children of The Corn” pose, because she sits perfectly erect and totally quiet behind you, and when you turn around it’s almost creepy, or it would be if she wasn’t such a cutie-face.

Top right: Cambria’s newest obsession: the bath tub. She’s started sniffing around it when she thinks no one is looking, and she even jumped in it this week when she thought it was empty, but in fact has about an inch of water in the bottom. I’ve never seen a cat poof into a  total fuzzball so fast before, and she cleaned herself for a solid hour, mewing angrily if anyone dared speak to or touch her.

Bottom left: Cambria sleeps on the book I’m trying to read, per usual.

Bottom right: This is the position that I call “The Cat-sserole,” and when she’s in it you could set off the fire alarm in our apartment while elephants stampeded down the hallway, and she still wouldn’t wake up.

And that’s that. Happy Caturday, friends!

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I’m a Reading Machine! Reviews of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair and Sarah’s Key

I apologize for my absence! I was overcome these last few weeks by a variety of New City Germs that like to follow me around for a year and make me sick every time I move. The good news about all of this ickyness is I got a boat load of reading finished! The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, and Roald Dahl’s The BFG in the first week, Sideways on a Scooter by Miranda Kennedy, Madeleine L’Engle’s And Both Were Young, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, during the second, all knocked out of the park. That’s eight, count ’em, eight books. Take that, New City Germs! Also, it means I’m officially finished with my 52 books for the year! I will certainly hit the 60 book mark, probably more. I win, Marissa!

Other things that happened: Thanksgiving. It’s really hard to blog when your stretchy pants have failed you and you can’t get out of your chair. I suppose I could have had Tyler roll me to the computer, but he was similarly incapacitated, so we just wallowed in our over-stuffed bliss with our Bakersfield friends all around us and a smile on our gravy stained faces. Also, our internet is being lame, so I have limited use right now. I tried to blog on my phone, but typing more than twelve words on a touch screen at one time is probably the most annoying thing I’ve ever done. Ever. But here I am at last! And hopefully here I’ll stay. I hate to admit it, but I’ve missed you knuckle heads. 🙂

I picked up Tolstoy and the Purple Chair late this past summer. I read the Prologue and first chapter siting in the aisle of Barnes and Noble, and purchased it thinking I would devour it that weekend. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I’ve tried to read it several times, and each time I’d inch a little further through it, loving what I was reading but never getting very far. The timing was never right. Non-readers might think this sounds crazy, but reading a book is a lot like a relationship: you might be a perfect fit, but you’ve got to get the timing right. The right thing at the wrong time is still the wrong thing. So I put it back on the shelf, and I waited. And then, last week, the time came.

“The purpose of great literature is to reveal what is hidden and to illuminate what is in darkness.” Nina Sankovitch

Nina is a former lawyer, the mother of four boys, a life-long reader, and the creator of ReadAllDay.org. After the death of her eldest sister, Nina spent a few years trying to help her sons, parents, and younger sister navigate the waters of grief before finally tending to her own wounded soul. Her balm of choice? Books. She decided to read one book each day for a full year, and along the way she learned life-changing truths, and discovered that literature is not only great therapy, it is a medium that draws all people together.

I really enjoyed going on this journey with Nina. I did have to stop a few times because she does deal heavily with the passing of her sister, Anne-Marie, and there were moments where I just needed to give my mind (and my heart) a break. But overall I loved getting to know her family, to learn about her four young men, so full of life, and her father, who has endured well despite the death and destruction he witnessed in Belarus during WWII, and the admirable Anne-Marie, who even when she was staring her own mortality in the face was able to ask, “For who could end in despair when there is such beauty in the world?”

I love that Sankovitch places so much importance on reading. In a world that seems to increasingly think it’s just disposable entertainment, it’s sometimes hard to articulate why reading is just as vital to my inner life as love and family and friends and faith and prayer. But Nina articulates so well the way literature makes life clearer, how the experiences and feelings of other make your own feelings and experiences fall into place, and how looking back at history allows us to move forward. As Nina puts it,

“Books are experience, the words of authors proving the solace of love, the fulfillment of family, the torment of war, and the wisdom of memory. Joy and tears, pleasure and pain: everything came to me when I read in my purple chair. I have never sat so still, and yet experienced so much.”

Through her year of reading she learns how to keep her sister’s memory alive, the true function of love as a sustaining force in our lives, how to begin letting go of her boys as they grow, the way memories-our own and those of others- gird up our spirits for the things to come, how to process her grief, and how to understand the different griefs of her family members. And as I read along with her, I learned too.

I too have lost loved ones. Thankfully not my dearly beloved only sibling, but I have lost three of my four grandparents as an adult. You expect to lose grandparents, but you never think of what kind of hole it will leave gaping in your heart. Grandparents are constantly on the periphery of your life from the first day, and then suddenly you look out of the side of your eye, and there is emptiness. You also never stop to consider the pain you will experience as you watch your parents, two of the people you love most in the world, struggle with the pain of their irrevocable loss. For the first time I considered that I too would someday feel the same searing pain, that someday my parents would die as well. Though I believe I will see them all, my parents and my grandparents, again, it is a sobering thought none the less.

Besides the comradery I felt over our shared griefs, this was the biggest thing I took away from this book: no matter what genre you’re reading, no matter the deference in gender, circumstances, nationality, profession, religion, or age between yourself and the author, the protagonist, or the friend who loaned you the book, all humans draw from the same well of emotions. There, at our community well, we can find commonality and discover that we are never truly alone. And you don’t have to be grieving or sad to find the truth here. Nina said it best when she said,

“I am connected to the rest of humanity, not through a giant shared karma, but through our diverse experiences and yet common emotions. By the size of our hearts.”

I have a heart swimming with pain and joy and desire and annoyance, a zest for experience and a longing for love and approval, and I alternately revel in those things and struggle against them. But it makes them all the sweeter, or more bearable, depending on the day, knowing that I can travel anywhere in the world and find those same things growing in the hearts of others.

It was with all this in mind that I read Tatiana de Rosnay’s best seller, Sarah’s Key. In a moving portrayal of the city of Paris and its costly connections to the Holocaust, de Rosnay parallels the lives of Sara Starzynsky, a Jewish girl whose family was rounded up by the French Police in the Rafle du Vélodrome d’Hiver, aka the Vel d’Hiv Roundup, and sent to a concentration camp, and Julia Jarmond, a modern-day journalist assigned to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv, who ends up uncovering more of Paris’ torrid past than she bargained for.

Aside from my total fascination with WWII, this book hit home as a proof of what Nina Sankovitch had been insisting all throughout Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: we are not merely products of a hazy, distant past, we interact with history, it affects who we are on a deep level whether we care to recognize it or not. There is so much for to learn from the past, so much we can take away from the stories of others that will help us lead better lives if we dare to absorb it. I realized while reading this book that I had read so many accounts of heinous acts committed during the Holocaust or the apartheid in South Africa and other similar times of terror that I am no longer deeply affected by them. I’ve become so used to the evil present in the world that I have put up a shield so the grief of others can’t get to me as easily, and that is wrong. The past is an excellent teacher, and, like Julia, I want to be the kind of person who stands face to the wind, even if it hurts, and learns all I can from it.

Aside from that, Sarah’s Key was a good, but not great, read. I loved the historical aspect of the story, and the way the two women’s lives interacted and wove together to form two end of the same thread. But there were parts of the story that didn’t deal with the main plot, such as Julia’s troubled marriage and moral dilemmas, that I was not such a fan of. I understand that love is not always Disney perfect, that sometimes Prince Charming rescues you in a sweepingly romantic gesture only for you to discover later on that he’s somewhat of a cad, you’re not the only princess in his castle, and he’s a mama’s boy who doesn’t pick up after him self. But this imperfect ending felt unnecessary, jarring, and  surprisingly cynical for an author who claims that the marriage in the book is not even remotely autobiographical. Maybe I just don’t understand the humanistic Parisian attitude on display here. Maybe I’m just tired of authors forgetting to mention that sometimes (at least half the time, if we’re getting statistical) marriage works out, and love, though not easy, does get to win, but I didn’t like the unsettling nature of this subplot at all. That being said, the story as a whole is good enough that it’s outweighs the bad. It is well written, fast paced, and is inexplicably captivating. In fact, I sat down to begin and read 238 pages before I realized that I was hopelessly cramped because I hadn’t moved in over three hours, so I give it four out of five stars despite my displeasures.

I still have six books to catch you up on, so I will most certainly be back tomorrow to with all that jazz. Also, I’ve decided to do a little experiment. My job hunt is currently on hold because of the holiday season, and I was intrigued by Nina’s challenge to read a book (and then review it on her blog) every day. She claimed to be able to read 70 pages per hour, which allows her to read an average length novel (250-300 pages) in approximately four hours.  This seemed fast to me, so I decided to time myself for a few hours and see how I fared. In the first hour I read 66 pages, the second 72, and the third 59 (there would have been more, but I ended up crying, so that took up some time). So maybe 70 pages isn’t such a speed-read after all. The point being that I decided to try it out, just for a week, to see what this life of reading is like. I don’t think it’s feasible for me to do it for a whole year, but if a mother of four teenage boys can do it for a year, surely I can do it for a week, right? So starting Monday, I will be reading a book a day for seven days, and I’ll also be reporting back on that alongside my catch-up reviews. Is anyone else out there jobless, or just bored, or just a crazy book lover who wants to join me? I’ll bake you cookies!…Maybe….If I know you and you live in the continental United States. I don’t want to be the creepy internt cookie lady.

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