31 December 2008

Books!Books!Books! End of 2008

I have quite a reading year ahead of me. I joined the 999 Challenge, which means attempting to read 9 books in 9 characters in 2009. I started already, reasoning that as long as I FINISH the book in 09 it counts. Besides, I've barely cracked 60 this year, so I need all the help I can get. By the way, that doesn't mean I read less. Between Middlemarch, Bleak House and a number of other mammoth-sized books, I've held my own. Joining the challenge, though, is more fun than work for me. It's a great way to keep organized, and to finally tackle all the TBRs piling up at home. I'm rubbing my hands with excitement! I can totally face a cold, bleak NY for the next few months - and it's a relatively cheap undertaking, since I don't have to further pay for these books. I'm stocked.

Without going nuts, here's a summary of a few books that have kept good company with me through this rather tumultuous part of 2008:

Devil's Brood, by Sharon Kay Penman

I waited years for this one. It's been some time since its predecessor Time and Chance came out - was I even blogging yet? I don't know. Anyway, it's the long saga of Henry II of England, his wife the legendary Eleanor of Aquitaine, and all their sons. If Henry VIII had issues due to lack of sons, Henry II had his troubles resulting from a surfeit of strapping young men, all eager to take on their inheritance while resenting the control of their capable but clueless father. It's hard to side with anyone. Penman manages to make nearly everyone sympathetic, in a less sappy way than Jean Plaidy did in her many historical novels (though I still love her). DB went on forever, but I still felt reluctant to leave the early Plantagenets at that point. What happens next? Well, I know what happens, but I want to hear it, or read it, from Penman's mouth, or, well...pen.

John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman

Another massive, massive chunky book. Backache Backache! Also, another subject I'm well versed in but don't mind reading about once again. Thankfully it was well researched and neither gushy nor nasty. There's only two things I wasn't crazy about: the author seemed to enjoy stomping on George Harrison's legacy, claiming all his inspiration was derived from Lennon. Now I wasn't there, but even if it was, it's just not nice. Also, delving into John's Aunt Mimi's love life was a little uncalled for. TMI!!! I did NOT need to know that. I'm sure some people love that kind of in-depth analysis, so they can have it. I'd leave it.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I'd heard that if you liked 84 Charing Cross Road then I had to read this one. Yeah, sort of. This book, of course, is fictional and isn't just about books. Basically a writer develops a correspondence with a group of people on the Channel Islands, who experienced Nazi occupation during World War II. She becomes really intrigued by their story, and the nature of their forming a literary group, and the story goes from there. It was the book I read while in Florida, so I guess this counts as my beach read of the year.

I could go on, but I kinda feel like diving into the 2009 books.

18 December 2008

Tea for T, M & I




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It's rare to stick TMI into a discussion about tea, but corny lady as I am, I found the opportunity. Actually, taking tea with Gata usually includes a bit of TMI (too much information) no matter what, so long as I'm drinking something with the slightest hint of caffeine. Motormouth resumes - though that's preferable to my alcohol-fueled litanies.

Anyway, Chesterfield Hotel in Palm Beach is a cozy place to take Afternoon Tea - especially for a hotel. They had me at "seating in the library". There, Teresa, Melinda and I were ensconced in couches, books, and finger sandwiches. We had an older gentleman pour the tea for us, and share some information about the hotel's sister properties in London. Moments like that make me wish I had a butler.

The sandwiches were typical (not much for a vegetarian, which I'm not really) but quite nice. There were a bunch of tiny sweet pastries on top. The tea selection wasn't vast - no Darjeeling! - but I find most hotel teas don't have scores of teas to choose from, so no surprise there. We all had Earl Grey. What made the tea were the scones. They were what scones should be, warm from the oven and fluffy yet substantial, and a bit of powdered sugar on top. We had strawberry jam, marmalade and clotted cream to choose from. My only (slight) disappointment was the one scone per person offering. Personally I like to be satiated with scones, and to roll out the doors afterwards, but otherwise it was a wonderful tea.

The whole experience reminded me of why I devote a whole room in my apartment to being a library in the first place. There's nothing like a cheery inner sanctum, surrounded by books, to sip a favorite cup of tea in. I enjoy that even more than travel. My thoughts are similar to Anna Quindlen's in "How Reading Changed My Life":

"I travel today in the way I once dreamed of traveling as a child. And the irony is that I don't care for it very much. I am the sort of person who prefers to stay at home, surrounded by family, friends, familiarity, books. This is what I like about traveling: the time on airplanes spent reading, solitary, happy. It turns out that when my younger self thought of taking wing, she wanted only to let her spirit soar. Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."

Of course, in my case you'd have to insert tea in there somewhere. And I do like traveling: I'd like to get out of town more frequently. In the absence of funds, though, I'm happy in my library, and take afternoon tea with good friends whenever possible, whether in NY or South Florida.

11 December 2008

Love Dem Kitties!




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In case you didn't believe I was a crazy cat lady before, I thought I'd present more evidence.

09 December 2008






My favorite duck of Thousand Oaks pond. He doesn't seem to mind the rather tasteless yeast-free rice bread I shared with him/her. I went back and forth calling it Aflac and Jemima, and wasn't about to check and see which was more correct.

Did I mention the weather is gorgeous here? (Florida, in case I hadn't told you personally). It seems slightly cloudier today, but it's still the perfect kind of warm. More pics to come.
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