Thursday, July 30, 2009

Who's on My Team?

Reading a couple of books over vacation has gotten me thinking about who's on my team. Who is it in my life that supports me, cheers me on, and picks me up when I'm down. Who is it that may not always see things the same way I do but is willing to help me focus - find my passion, set some goals and help me achieve them.

Everyone needs a good team and yet many people I've talked to lately feel that they don't have that "team" support, that they are not really a "team" player, or that they don't k
now how to help the "team." I have more than a few thoughts on that after reading 5 more books on vacation and I never thought that they had a common thread until I remembered the "team" premise.

The Loser's Guide to Life and Love by A.E. Cannon is about four ordinary teenagers who each think that they're not enough, who doubt their idiosyncrasies which give them their personalities and make them who they are. Narrated by each of the 4 different characters; Ed, Scout, Quark and Ellie, the story takes place during an ordinary summer in Salt Lake City.( I timed this to read while I was there and loved eating in the same places as the characters!! Yep, it's so often about the timing when you read a book! :) )

Ed and Scout work at a video store, wear s
tupid uniforms and quote great movie lines and plots. Ed even has to wear a name badge that says "Sergio." When not at the store Ed hangs out with his other best friend, Quark. One night Ellie, the girl of his dreams, walks into the video store and Ed thinks he will be a cooler person if he really IS Sergio!!

Have you ever wanted to be someone different? Talk with a different accent? Change your name? I have an actress frie
nd who makes up whole new characters and practices them when she goes out on the town. It's part of keeping her "acting muscles" alive. But when Ed tries this he is caught up in a whole web of trouble! It's his "team" that helps him understand that what's most important is being yourself. They, along with Ed, discover what happens when we let go and drop the disguises that so many of us wear. They really do like the realness of themselves and each other and they realize that it takes courage to be yourself and love it - ordinary and all! 3.5/5.0

A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick was an easy read, a touch of chick lit of an older nature. It was a book about women and friendship. Friendship is the "single thread" that binds these people together through hard times.

Evelyn is newly single and turns her car towards the north; she never stops until she gets to New Bern, Connecticut. There, on a whim she opens a quilt shop and tries to spread her wings. But life has a way of knocking us down again and Evelyn discovers she has breast cancer. She is alone, thousands of miles from her family a
nd "team" - - interestingly enough 3 total strangers help her through it all. They become the "team" and do for Evelyn and each other what one could not do alone. That's the way teams work. When one person loses the ball, the others pick it up. Strangers and people we don't even know come into our lives (when we let them) and help us in ways unimaginable. This was very readable and an easy way to spend a Sunday afternoon. 4.0/5.0

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George is based on the Nordic fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" and shades of Beauty and the Beast. I loved the Norse language, their folktales and beliefs along with a mix of trolls and magic. Reading this was like a Jan Brett book for YA.

Jessica Day George is quickly becoming a favorite author. She delivers a great story line; one that is easy to immerse
myself in and one that keeps me reading. Her writing is smooth, clear, and clean. The story however is hard to paraphrase and really hard to review so I'll resort to the jacket flap:

"Blessed—or cursed—with an ability to understand animals, the Lass (as she’s known to her family) has always been an oddball. And when an isbjorn (polar bear) seeks her out, and promises that her family will become rich if only the Lass will accompany him to his castle, she doesn’t hesitate. But the bear is not what he seems, nor is his castle, which is made of ice and inhabited by a silent staff of servents. Only a grueling journey on the backs of the four winds will reveal the truth: the bear is really a prince who’s been enchanted by a troll queen, and the Lass must come up with a way to free him before he’s forced to marry a troll princess."

Who were those on the lass's "team"? A wolf, strangers (there really are people who want us to succeed and will help just to help!) her family - they were mainly unseen and behind the scenes but she depended on their love and uplift! "teams" are like that - you might not know they support you until you really need it! You just have to look for it!

I truly enjoyed this book! 4.5/5.0

Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0 by Rick Pitino. Now I bet you see the "team" in this book! For those of you who may not know, I have some closet dreams and loves. One of them is college basketball. This fiery coach has caught the eye of many and reading his book was an insight into some of his passion. He is the only coach to have coached 3 different college teams to the NCAA Final Four (the Super Bowl of college basketball!) Interestingly he has been hit down many times by personal tragedy and has had to dig down deep inside himself to find his PHD (his passion, hunger and drive!)

More than anything Rick Pitino speak
s to the power of "teams." Those we should surround ourselves with and those we need to support as well. Pitino has found that his "team" includes his faith, his famiy, his friends, laughter, and letting go. This book is about remaking ourselves into someone better, seeing failures and tragedies as ways of deepening our character. The writing was spotty but I felt I could actively apply something from every page to my life. I loved his PHD and aim to make that my motto at school this year for myself! I enjoyed his version of "teamwork!!" 3.5/5.0

Need by Carrie Jones is a supernatural tale I instantly likened to Twilight. Now that's not all bad, it was just something I immediately noted. No vampires but there was a girl who went to live with a relative in a cold and cloudy place. She wasn't klutzy but she did collect phobias.

Zara White suspects that someone is stalking her. She sees him everywhere - paranoia is the name of that phobia!! But when Zara is shipped off to Maine to live with her grandma, she sees the stalker again. It turns out he is not Zara's imagination but a real mystery. He's someone who leaves trails of gold dust where he walks.

Yep, Zara was a pretty interesting character. I liked her spunk and determination and sympathized with her hollowness as she tried to heal after the death of her father. I did not feel the same about her boyfriend, Nick however. I just wanted his character to have a little more backbone and development! The story was predictable but I admit that I wanted to know the story and enjoy the ride.

Zara had a "team" to help her too. A really likeable friend named Issie and another named Devyn. Zara's grandmother, Betty, was a stitch - irrascable and endearing. No cookie baking grandma here. All of these characters pulled together in the story. It took all of them to sometimes physically if not emotionally lift the others, it took the "team" to unite and defeat the unknown. Another enjoyable book for a hot and sizzling summer day! (It really was great to read about a Maine blizzard when it was 116 outside here!).4.0/5.0

Everyone needs a "team" - be they family, coworkers, Facebook friends, church family, neighbors, whatever or wherever...

George Shinn said, "There is no such thing as a self-made man. (or woman) You will reach your goals only with the help of others."

That's what I need a "team" for - to help me reach my goals, if only just to make it through a day. I want people on my side. My list of "teammates" has YOU on it to. Unseen and many times unspoken I realize that we are also a part of a supportive team and I am better for it!! Go TEAM!!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Perfect Days

I admit that tastes change, but my recipe for a perfect day seems almost the same as when I was little/younger!! Back in the "old days" the perfect day was full of activities, maybe getting something new and/or being with a best friend. Kind of like yesterday!

The day was full of activities!! We drove through 3 states;

and back to Utah again!! We left Bear Lake Valley in Idaho and traveled to Ft. Bridger, Wyoming, stopped by a friend's ranch,

and drove through Emmigration Canyon, Utah just like those hardy pioneers. We arrived at a great hotel and then adventured off to find the coolest bookstore almost anywhere - -The King's English!

That's the "getting something new" part. The King's English is an enchanting little store right smack in the middle of a neighborhood. Upstairs, downstairs, a patio and even a small cafe. There was a kid's room that was bright and cheery and stuffed with only the best of books.
We hunted through the "rabbit-warren" rooms where books literally jumped into our arms. A great bookseller that could hand-sell like no one's business talked with us forever and both of us came away with books we were excited to jump into.
I could hardly stand to leave this charming new place. I told Rich I was ready to move into the neighborhood just so I could shop there.

No lie.

Dinner called and we high tailed it over to our favorite hamburger joint in the SLC valley - Hires Big H!! Frosty mugs of rootbeer, homemade cheeseburgers and fresh cut fries and onion rings. Even fry sauce. Yummers! I bet you're jealous.

To complete the perfect day my best friend and I wandered the streets of old SLC,
walked hand in hand through the gorgeous capital building (practically by ourselves),

and made our way "home" for the night. It may sound corny but it was just a "perfect" day! I am not ready for this vacation to end. I refuse to let Rich even turn the car to face south..... can you get back to Arizona without ever turning left?!?!?!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Bookish Vacation...

Book #1
And we were off.... to prep school. From Arizona to Idaho in one day I read about Frankie's love life, her desire to join the "boy's secret club" - ala Dead Poet's Society- and how she infiltrates the club via the internet! I liked parts of this book a lot but found more of it distracting - the social messages that Frankie felt passionately about just didn't ring any chimes for me. It helped the time go fast though.

Book #2
A Curse Dark as Gold was my companion through Glacier National Park, Banff National Park in Canada and back to the USA. I really enjoyed this re-telling of Rumpelstiltskin; the author's careful attention to detail and her beautiful use of language. The author's first book was a true labor of love for her, she researched her fairy tales, milling in the 1700 and 1800's and life in England. Two sisters, an inherited mill, a curse, and a man named Jack Spinner -- there you have the beginnings of a twisted tale! I think the book took me so long both because I was distracted by the incredible vistas around me but also because I didn't want the book to end!

Book #3
Return to Red Castle is an older book published in 1981. It is now out of print but I scored an inter-library loan right before I left on vacation. I timed reading this book perfectly as it was about a high mountain adventure in the Uinta mountains of Utah. Although my vacation is a bit different we are experiencing high mountain adventures of our own - I did get chased by buffalo today in South Dakota - scary!! I really enjoyed this book. I knew where the story was going pretty much from beginning to end but the adventure was fun to read. Since this was a recommendation from a fellow blogger I was glad that I enjoyed it as much as I did. This is one example of NOT judging a book by the cover. The cover is dopey!!

I have a suitcase with more books just waiting....we found a fun bookstore in Montana where 3 books just jumped into my arms, I traded some more with friends and family, and found a great book about one of my heroes, George Washington, at Mt. Rushmore. What a great souvenier! Incredible views, experiences and books. this is vacation!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Laundromat Memories

I sat in a laundromat this morning and watched as our clothes swirled by. As I watched our shirts and jeans toss and tumble I had a notion that they were more than clothes on this chilly Montana morning .... they were our vacation memories!! Common clothes but uncommon memories!

Funny how what one thinks of as a drudge; laundry, today I saw it for a gift. Those clothes twisted and churned about and as they spun I saw in my mind the days that have passed on our vacation so far!

The red shirt was easy to pick out as it tumbled. That was the shirt Rich wore on the 4th of July as we "partied in Paris" - Idaho, that is! We experienced the passion present in a small town as they celebrated our country's birthday!! There was a concert in the Paris tabernacle, a small town parade where they all threw candy, we sipped raspberry shakes and everybody wore red, white and blue!!

Then there was the orange shirt Rich wore at Lake Louise in Banff National Park in Canada. That was the day we walked on icefields, visited the Valley of the Ten Peaks and whispered in reverent voices...the view was incredible.

Tumbling right alongside were the cargo pants Rich wore the night that Drew proposed to Beth here in Butte, Montana. We had attended the National Folk Festival in the Historic District, stomped our feet to Acadian music, tapped our toes and clapped our hands to bluegrass. We huddled under umbrellas, munched on Fry Bread and walked the mining town hills straight up! Later that night seated at a round table of family Drew popped the question and instantly we were hugging and laughing. A great memory!

There went my favorite jeans -the ones I wore when we saw 3 waterfalls in Glacier National Park; the hiking socks which cradled toes that hiked 6 miles straight down Big Mountain in Whitefish; the pants with a new hole Rich swears he earned while bike riding -sure dear!!

What a way to see and remember our vacation; there in a laundromat in Butte. The skies are leaden today and full of cold and rain. I'll look at my blue sweatshirt with new eyes next time I wash it. We're off to create some new memories. I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Livin' Easy in the summertime!

Dishes done - X
Floors cleaned - X
Laundry done - X
Glass of Soda - X
Lots of books - X

Yep, I'm ready for the day. Nuthin' else needs attention (well, that may be exaggerating a bit but I'll shut out the clamoring noises) so I'll just READ!!

My library is a favorite haunt and this week I found just the right books there. I've read only 2 so far but vacation is ahead and I've got miles to read!!!

The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh blended modern New York City and it's underground with a modern retelling of a Greek myth involving Orpheus and Eurydice. An original twist for me. My knowledge of Greek myths can fit upon the tip of my pinkie so I'll just take their word on it!

The main character, Jack, is a 14 year old nerd. He is a classics prodigy. One day while trying to avoid an encounter with a girl he is hit by a car. Fortunately he escapes with what appears to be only a few cuts and bruises; or at least he thinks that's all. Something is not quite right now. It seems that Jack can both see and hear strange things - the dead! This ability enables Jack to search for his dead mother with the help of a girl named Euri. He wants to find his mom and bring bring her back from the dead!! Just like Orpheus and Eurydice!! Jack's journey takes him through the Underworld of New York; a place where the dead wait to enter Elysium or Paradise.

I found lots of NYC history and landmarks fun to read about since our visit there 2 years ago and I got caught up in the story quickly. By page 10 the stage was all set and action got me deep into the story. But the story fell a little flat.

Both Jack and Euri were likeable enough characters and the author caught some of the lonely feelings of the nerdy and dorky side of a 14 year old. There were LOTS of classical literature references and allusions to old poets and authors. I felt more than a little low-brow and ill-read. I'd be very impressed if most teens caught on to the Latin as well as the poems quoted. But then maybe I'm just too ordinary - idk!

I understand that movie rights have been bought and it would make a good movie - think Ghost with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore for teens!! This would probably be a better movie than a book. It just didn't scream great to me, good, not great.

The next book was a keeper though. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett was a recommendation from Book Nut. Her review is what sold me and I can say she was right on the money! I tried it and laughed outloud at the tongue in cheek humor and well crafted characters. My favorites were the Nac Mac Feegle, or Wee Free Men!

Tiffany Aching is nine years old and believes that she is a witch. Odd things are happening all around her but being a practical minded girl she hopes to take care of things on her own. That is when she meets the Nac Mac Feegle - 6 inches tall and blue they have a Scottish brogue which Pratchett commands skillfully. I could swear that I was "listening" to Scotty in Star Trek!!

When Tiffany's little brother is kidnapped only Tiffany can stop the evil - -Tiffany, her "magic" and the Nac Mac Feegle.

This was a fun book that got a bit long in places; dream wandering and such but it was different, had a message to it and I liked the author's humor! I'm game to try more and I definitely want more books with the Nac Mac Feegle!!

I loved this quote:
Miss Tick sniffed, "You could say this advice is priceless," she said. "Are you listening?"
"Yes," said Tiffany.
"Good. Now ... if you put your trust in yourself..."
"...and believe in your dreams..."
"...and follow your star..." Miss Tick went on.
"'ll get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy. Goodbye." p. 36
I love it!!

My library stack will get smaller - I'm determined!!

We're off on a road trip - 4,400 miles so not only will I see the "world" but I'll see different worlds between the covers of books!! Now this is my kind of summer!!