Book Review: The Glass Castle

Walls presents a haunting memoir, a story that is both sad and hopeful. As a young child Jeannette Walls lives in a strange transitory state, with two utterly unreliable parents, one running from the law (and taxes) and the other blindly following. The life that her nonconformist parents create for their family may be full of “adventure” but it is clear that meeting their children’s basic needs is a constant struggle as they bounce from one no name town to another. The Walls children are often left to fend for themselves, and the realizing that this is a true story makes it even more disturbing. Although as an adult, Jeannette Walls may have a clear view of her parents shortcomings, she is also aware of the biases she held as a girl. We view the world through these eyes, the eyes of a girl who idolizes her alcoholic father, unable to see his flaws even as he stumbles drunkenly in to beat her mother. For this young girl her family is the only constant, and losing this would be more than she could bear. In this way the book is a captivating study of the power of loyalty, family bonds, and the inevitable loss of innocence when a child is forced to reevaluate everything they thought was true.

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Summer in the City

Every year I spend months waiting for summer to arrive, and then before I know it the days aren’t quite as long and the evenings are a little colder than they were the week before. Summer is allusive that way, never long enough, and always ending before you did half of the activities you were planning to do. Maybe summer can’t last forever, but this year I want to make the most of it while it’s here. So here is my 2013 NYC Summer Bucket List (click on the images for links to the event sites).

Brooklyn Flea

Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic

Governor’s Ball

4. The Manhattan Cocktail Classic

5. Frieze Art Fair

6. Coney Island Mermaid Parade

7. Museum Mile Festival

7. Museum Mile Festival

8. Shakespeare in the Park

9. Celebrate Brooklyn

9. Celebrate Brooklyn

9. Fun. Concert @ Pier 23

10. Summer Streets

10. Summer Streets

Check out Time Out NY’s Summer Events Calendar for even more ideas. It gets overwhelming though so be prepared, as always there are never enough weekends.

Book Review: The Shoemaker’s Wife

13127599A rare, beautiful read. This book presents a complicated, nonlinear love story that leaves you just as confused as the protagonists. It proves that life and love are never clear cut. However, Trigiani holds onto the belief that in the end love, though complex and often illogical, is somehow still right. The main character Ciro proclaims early on that, “Love is the only dream worth pursuing.” However, this dream will prove much harder to attain than he had once thought.

The story tackles issues ranging from the merits of beauty versus character in a woman, to the seemingly hypocritical actions of the Catholic Church. Ciro, a young man who believes woman are his religion, and his brother Eduardo, a serious young man who chooses the pious life of a priest, provide the perfect contrast. Neither is presented as better than the other, but they both provide an interesting study of the priorities we hold, and how they shape the choices we make. In a wise conversation a sister at the convent where the boys grow up explains, “A cassock does not make a man a priest, any more than a fine dress makes a woman truly beautiful- or good or generous or intelligent. Don’t confuse the way someone looks with the way they are. Grace is a rare thing. I wear a habit not because I am pious but because I’m trying to be.”

Along with a compelling storyline Trigiani provides an exquisite backdrop. The story begins in the Italian Alps, and her images of northern Italy rival even the best descriptions of the iconic southern cities, “Primavera in the Italian Apls was like a jewelry box opened in sunlight. Clusters of red peonies like ruffles of taffeta framed pale green fields, while wild white orchids climbed up the glittering graphite mountain walls. The first buds of white allium lined the trail as clusters of pink rhododendron blossoms burst through the dark green foliage.”  Trigiani captures the beauty of the countryside in a way that would make anyone eager to board a plane and experience if for themselves (yes, myself included).

Jetsetter: San Diego

As any vacationer will tell you the relaxation can only really begin after all the bags are packed and the security checkpoints crossed (good luck with that carry on). My own summer plans include a few short trips, clumsily squeezed in among summer weekends that are already busier than I would like. As far as dream destinations go, I have a lot. Most of them in Europe, but those don’t really lend themselves to last minute getaways. So this summer I am staying stateside. Paris will have to wait. I will get there. Eventually. Right now I am thinking more along the lines of a long weekend in California. I have never been to the West Coast, and San Diego, CA tops my destination wishlist. I’m just worried once I visit I will decide not to return. Just a risk I will have to take I guess.

Take a look at San Diego Magazine, decide where to eat, what to pack, and where to party.

Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

Everyone seems to love this book. I know, I know. The main character, a dog named Enzo, is hard not to fall in love with. I really wanted to love the book just as much as my friends. Even the ones who don’t read all that often were suggesting it. But, the truth is I couldn’t get past the morbid storyline that unfolds as the book progresses. Without giving to much away I will say that a terminal illness is involved. I know that the relationship between Enzo and his owner is the focal point of the book, and that relationship is beautiful, but for me it was overshadowed by the depressing situations that continued to envelop them. Perhaps it is because I have gone through my own medical close call, and spent more than my fair share of time in the hospital. Whatever the reason, while I appreciated the unique voice of Enzo, reading this book was not enjoyable. Instead it left me feeling as if life is unfair, and made personal tragedy seem commonplace, an unavoidable reality that we will all face. Maybe this really is the case and that is the wisdom of Enzo, the dog who sees it all coming, but it still left me feeling disheartened.

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

At the suggestion of the librarian (I asked for something fun) I picked up Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. It turned out to be a quick read, a quirky story filled with oddball characters that were strangely believable. The hero, Clay, is a young many whose eccentric tendencies make him incredibly likable. He reads teenage science fiction, has a penchant for programming, but is above all else a typical twenty something trying to figure out what to do with his life. After being laid off from his tech heavy job at a startup bagel chain, he takes the only job he can find, the night shift at a 24 hour bookstore (naturally). As the nights pass it becomes clear that the “customers”, each stranger than the one before, make up some kind of organization of lenders and borrowers. They come in at all hours of the night to borrow the encrypted books that Penumbra stocks. Clay begins to ask questions and the story gets interesting. Add some equally eccentric friends, a love interest who is also a Googler, and a cross country journey that rival those in his favorite books, and you have a solid (and admittedly fun) read. A book I would describe as a combination of Lord of the Rings and the Davinci Code.

The New York Times has also reviewed the book. I didn’t want to give too much away, so I kept mine short and sweet, but check out “Google Aces Can’t Defeat Bibliophiles”  or  “Bookworms and Apples” for more in depth synapsis.

The Green Movement: Green Smoothie How To

My quest for smoothies that are healthy, delicious, and simple has been a little disappointing.

SmoothiesSo I decided to compile some of my favorite recipes, all of which are quick and easy and can do double duty as a quick breakfast alternative and refreshing post workout snack. The best of both worlds, all without too many extra ingredients or unnecessary trips to the supermarket (who keeps guava on hand anyway?). Brit + Co has a complete list, but to get even more information on the power of the green smoothie check out Simple Green Smoothies.

1 Cup Spinach, 1 Cup Water, 1 Cup Greek Yogurt, 2 Bananas (Adapted a bit)

Cinco De Mayo

One by one the restaurant patios are opening, ready for long family dinners that take a cue from the Mexican culture that brings us Cinco De Mayo. I know I could also stand to take a few pointers from the Spaniards, who introduced us to the “siesta”, a concept that most Americans (myself included) can only dream about.

Instead of hurrying through the day just to make it to a microwavable dinner that I will eat in front of the television, this year I plan on embracing the slowness of other cultures.

This means enjoying their signature dinners that start late and last long. Here is the margarita that I will be sipping leisurely, preferably while talking with friends and family over a huge spread that I took my time preparing.

Click the image for the recipe from Glitter Guide.