Thursday, June 26, 2008

First Anniversary!!!

One year ago today my husband and I were married. We were living in Las Vegas at the time and had gathered some of our closest family and friends and had a small wedding ceremony. Seriously small...only fifteen people...I really don't like being center stage :) And no we didn't get married by Elvis. The Artisan Hotel has a beautiful little chapel which made for a gorgeous wedding. And I love art and the whole hotel is decked out in art.

The ceremony was simple, small, beautiful, and perfect. Here's just a couple photos:
One of our first dates was over pints of Guinness so my brother got us two and, of course, we had to ham it up for the photo:
And here is us the night before getting a celebratory Guinness after getting our marriage license. We didn't mean to wait until the last minute :)

We've had a pretty crazy life together up until now. I think things are just starting to calm down a bit. We met in late 2003 and have been dating since 2004. Since then we've lived in Colorado, Alaska, Nevada, and New York. I wouldn't want to make the trip through life with anyone else. Here's to the next 49 (at least!) years together :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

BBQin' in the City

Back at the beginning of this month my husband and I went to the annual Big Apple BBQ. We had a great time, even though the temperature was into triple digits. The BBQ was held in Madison Square Park which kind of made it a bit odd chowing down on barbecued ribs, listening to country bands, and sipping on a beer in the middle of the city. Needless to say we had a great time.

Here's a Madison Square Park fountain...I just like fountains:
And a picture of the beautiful green park:
One of the many talented bands that played:
I loved seeing people wear little pig ears:
The oddity of a BBQ in the city:
They even had a band playing under these arches with a temporary packed bar of people drinking and dancing:
And here's the man cooking up the ribs. We felt sorry for him because it must have been unbearably hot for him next to the grill:
More mmmmm...
And finally the happy (full-bellied) couple:
We'll see you there next year!

P.S. The best BBQ was from Texas and Mississippi. I won't tell you what we thought of the stuff from Connecticut :P

Check it out!

One of the cool book blogs I've been reading is The Book Club Girl. It's a great site for picking books to read, finding out about new books, book club tips, and even has some author interviews. It also has contests and I won one! The Book Club Girl is graciously sending me a copy of The Last Summer (Of You and Me) by Ann Brashares. She's the author of the The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but this is her first adult novel. The prize also comes with a beach towel making this the perfect summer beach read. I'll let you know how I like it and maybe even find a New York beach to read it at...sigh :)

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Here's where I'll post my list while completing the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

1) The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (Finished June 10, 2008)

2) The Madonnas of Leningrad - Debra Dean (Finished June 20, 2008)

3) The Colour - Rose Tremain (Finished June 21, 2008)

4) The Birth of Venus - Sarah Dunant (Finished June 29, 2008)

5) The Blood of Flowers - Anita Amirrezvani (Finished July 11, 2008)

6) Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks (Finished July 09, 2008)

1001 Books Update - The Colour

I decided to join another reading challenge called the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted by blogger Annie at Reading, Writing and Ranting. The idea is to read six historical novels in six months. I figured this would be an easy challenge since my favorite genre is historical fiction. While perusing the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list I came across an interesting historical fiction book called The Colour by Rose Tremain. The brief synopsis sounded interesting enough:

Joseph and Harriet Blackstone, recently married, move from England to New Zealand in the 1800s for new opportunities and gets swept away in the gold rush. They take Joseph's widowed mother with them as well. All three characters are running away from something: Joseph from a secret, Harriet from a life of being a governess, and the mother from her husband's memory. Joseph finds a gleam of gold in a nearby creek and decides to abandon the homestead and head out for the gold fields in search of the colour (gold).

It took me a while to figure out how I would write this review. The writing is very good. The author definitely did her homework on the gold rush period and the New Zealand setting. Actually I love how she depicted New Zealand. However, my problem with the book was with the relationships. At first I was totally upset with how the author depicted this tangled family. I didn't like Joseph, Harriet was too good, and the mother was totally useless. I guess I just wasn't in the mood for a book about a failing marriage being so new at marriage myself. While reading the book I kept saying how I was totally disappointed with the story but somehow I kept reading it.

Well, the good thing is that many of the characters do evolve and I was drawn into their stories. I kept thinking Joseph would change though and he was truly a sickening character...maybe that was on're supposed to love to hate Joseph. I ended up wanting Harriet to find her own dreams and the mother-in-law's transformation was truly remarkable.

In the end, I'm not sure how I'd rate this book. I think you'd just have to read it yourself and figure out if you love or hate it.

Also reviewed by:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Book Update - The Madonnas of Leningrad

I read Debra Dean's book, The Madonnas of Leningrad online through the New York Public Library's Ebook section. I thought it sounded like an amazing story. It was one of those stories that I felt it's 256 pages was just too short.

The story revolves around Marina Buriakov who immigrated to the United States with her husband from Russia. They are in their eighties and Marina is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. When her memories of the present are fading fast, her memories of her life in Leningrad during World War II are rich and vivid. In Leningrad she was employed at the Hermitage Museum as a docent and is helping to pack and transport the collection out of Leningrad to safety as the Germans are starting to bomb the city.

I thought this was a beautiful and touching story of one woman's survival during World War II. The depiction of Leningrad, especially through the winter, is harrowing. I loved her knowledge of the works of art in the Hermitage and since I was reading the book online I kept looking up all the works of art she was describing. If you read this book, make sure you check out the Hermitage Museum's website. The only problem I had with this book was that it was far too short.

Oh...and here's some of the Madonna's mentioned in the book:

Raphaello Santi - Madonna & Child (The Madonna Conestabile)
Leonardo da Vinci - Madonna and the Child (The Benois Madonna)
Leonardo da Vinci - Madonna and the Child (The Litta Madonna)
And here's a painting mentioned in the book as well. It's Rembrandt's Danae:
Also read here on the Hermitage's website about what happened to the painting which is pretty interesting in of itself.

Also Reviewed by:

Age 30 - A Year of Books

Booking Mama

S. Krishna's Books

A Fondness for Reading

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Amazon in NYC

Last week, my pick of something do do in NYC was going to see an Amazonia Brasil exhibit on Pier 17 near Fulton and South Streets. It was an indoor exhibit and since the air conditioning wasn't working correctly, it was discounted. It wasn't too bad since it just made us feel like we really were in the humid tropics. While it was catered more for children it was still a fun thing for us to do. It got us out do an area of town we usually don't get around to going to and it also ended up dumping rain so we had to duck inside for a bit. I love rain storms. And I also got some nice photos:
I loved the different colors and textures of the beans and wood:

I this was cool with the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges in the background:

Right now they are building a waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge which will open sometime this summer. How cool!
Here's a view of the city from Pier 17. There's some pretty cool ships you can tour too.

Here's another view of Pier 17. There's tons of restaurants and bars outside and inside it's a mall.
And finally the rain came and here's where we huddled before making a mad dash to Grand Central Station for the ride home.

Hope you enjoyed the bit of Amazon in NYC :)

14th Street Subway

Almost every subway stop in New York City has its charms. The 14th street stop always cracks me up. There are little statues depicting life underground or something like that. If you are waiting for a train here, wonder around and take a look:

I love their little faces:

This one cracks me up. The myth of alligators living in the subway:

This one is a little weird:

And I think the elephant's shoes are pretty funny:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Classics Challenge

Well since I love a challenge, I signed up for the Classics Reading Challenge which is to read five classics between July and December. For more information, check out the blog here. I'll keep a link on my side bar for my updated list of which classics I've read. Enjoy!

Check out everyone's reviews here.

1. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (Finished July 24th, 2008)

2. Summer - Edith Wharton (Finished July 31st, 2008)

3. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen (Finished September 19, 2008)

4. The Turn of the Screw - Henry James (Finished October 06, 2008)

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde (Finished October 21, 2008)

EXTRA BONUS (New Classic):

6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - Mark Haddon (Finished August 5, 2008)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Book Review - Galileo's Daughter

My sister and one of my friends are in a little book club together. We are trying to get more members to join but it's all online since my sister is in Alaska, my friend is in Tennessee, and I am in New York. But so far it's been pretty fun. I've read books I would have never have thought of reading on my own. So far we've all taken turns picking the book and this time it was my sister's pick. So this month's pick was Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel.

I have to say that this was such an interesting read. Galileo had three children whom the eldest daughter he was very close to. His eldest daughter, Victoria, and her younger sister both became nuns. Many of the letters Victoria wrote to Galileo survive and are included in the book. Also included are snippets of Galileo's publication and letters to others. While Galileo Galilei lived from 1564 to 1642, the time frame of the book is roughly a bit before Victoria's birth in 1600 until Galileo's death.

If you don't know much about Galileo, he was a prominent scientist during his time. He improved upon the telescope and could see plants and phenomenon that no one had ever seen before. He made discoveries in astronomy, physics, and geometry. He was also a devout Catholic and a thoughtful father. What is commonly known is that he was a proponent of the Copernican system of our solar system....that the earth and other planets revolved around the sun. During his time it was believed that the earth, according to what was interpreted in the Bible, stood still and the sun and planets revolved around the earth. Galileo's discoveries led him to believe otherwise. This made him highly unpopular with some Catholics including the Pope.

It is such a great book interspersed with pictures and translated letters from Victoria to Galileo. Unfortunately because of Galileo's unpopularity with the Pope, the letters Victoria (or Sister Maria Celeste....I love that she took on a "celestial" name) kept from Galileo were probably destroyed. And if you read it, make sure you read up to the last chapter because that last chapter is a must-read.

The only drawbacks to the book is that during the beginning I thought it was a little jumpy from paragraph to paragraph sometimes. This could also just be that memoirs are sometimes hard to write when there is a lack of filler information. I'm also not really familiar with the geography of Italy even though I have visited the country before. It would have been handy if a map was included in the book. Also, the plethora of character involved made me wish there was a little dictionary of people in the back of the book so I wouldn't get confused on who is who. Other than that, what a great read.

While the book does a great job describing the accomplishments and discoveries of Galileo, it is also a wonderful tribute to the relationship between a father and daughter.

Oh, and don't you think Galileo's daughter looks a bit like Barbara Streisand? Or is it just me?

Also Reviewed by Heather at Age 30 - A Year of Books

Monday, June 16, 2008

Book Bloggers

Since I've been reading a lot this summer, I've become addicted to reading other people's book blogs. I love reading other people's views on books. Sometimes I have thought I was the only one to dislike Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist or Mitch Albom's books. But I'm not alone! I also get a ton of ideas for books to read by reading reviews. And here's an extra bonus...sometimes bloggers give away free books! How cool is that! So check out these two contests and enter if you want and stick around and read some reviews.

The Written Word - Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Maw Books Blog - Stephanie Meyers Books (Twilight Series and The Host)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time Out - For Things To Do

One of the gifts my husband gave me last Christmas was a subscription to Time Out New York. It's a weekly magazine of things going on in New York City that week. Time Out apparently has a magazine for some other big cities in the US as well. I got my first copy yesterday...he forgot to mail in the subscription :) He also told me that as part of the gift I have to find at least one thing to-do every week. I told him that was fine as long as he doesn't complain when I drag him out to events.

Oh...and I'll be better at posting photos of our New York excursions. The weather is finally cooling of here (it was in the 100s earlier this week) so it'll be more bearable to sit in front of my computer at home :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Book Update - The Yiddish Policeman's Union

A few months ago I got the summons...jury duty. Ahhhh!!! Haha...just kidding. I actually don't mind jury duty so much. I think it's pretty exciting and interesting. They were picking juries for the New York State Supreme Court Civil cases. After sitting around, reading, and waiting, I actually got picked for trial. Thinking that I definitely needed a good book for the days at trial, I stepped into a nearby bookstore called The Mysterious Bookshop (just south of Chambers St on Warren St.). If you are ever in New York City, check out this store and walk nearby to City Hall and see all of the cool architecture in the area.

After perusing the entire store, I finally picked up Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union. What a book!

Here's the synopsis. Suppose after World War II, instead of the creation of Israel, the Jewish people were forced to settle somewhere else. Suppose that place was Sitka, Alaska. But just like the term limits to British-ruled Hong Kong, the Jewish population was only given fifty years in Sitka. The story takes place around that up-coming anniversary when the population of Sitka will soon be forced to move. The story centers around a typical down-and-out, recently divorced detective with a drinking habit. With just a few months left he stumbles upon an interesting homicide case.

The book was by far one of the most original books I've read in a while. I did have a hard time stumbling around the Yiddish language/slang and often had to re-read sections to figure out what was going on (there is a little dictionary in the back). At first the book didn't hook me because I didn't really care for the detective or the homicide victim. I also couldn't grasp the location because I've actually been to Sitka and couldn't imagine millions of people residing there. But as the book unfolded I started to cheer the detective on and hoped he would resolve the case. It's a great read but don't expect it to be an easy one.

Other reviews:
The Jewish Literary Review
Shelf Love
In the Shadow of Mt TBR

1001 Books Update - The Woman in White

I absolutely loved The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. It takes place in England in the mid-1800s. The book was published in 1860 but it is easy to read so don't let
that turn you off. I loved the writing which was sometimes just plain hilarious.

The plot is centered around two half-sisters. One is gorgeous Jane and the other is sensible Marian. Jane is scheduled to be married to Sir Percival Glyde. However, before the marriage is to occur, the guardian of Jane and Marian hires an artist, Walter, to give Jane and Marian art lessons for the season. Obviously the artist is young and handsome and falls in love with Jane. But who is the woman in white Walter meets one night on a lonely road who gives dire warnings? Does she have anything to do with Sir Percival Glyde? Will Jane marry Walter or Sir Percival Glyde?

Wilkie Collins writes the story through various viewpoints of most of the characters in the story. Marian is by far my favorite character with wit, insight, and sense. And wait until Jane's uncle, Count Fosco, shows up. He is such a character. Obviously the story is part love story and part mystery with a little comedy thrown in. It's a tad long but well worth the read.

Good tip...books like The Woman in White, which are past their copyright terms are sometimes available online to read for free. Two places I tend to go are Project Gutenberg and Google Books. I read The Woman in White with Google Books...and make sure you find the version in Full-view. A lot of Google Books are just partial-view which just lets you read a few pages from the book.

Oh...and I didn't know Andrew Lloyd Webber made a Broadway play from The Woman in White. I could see how it would make a fun play.

Also Reviewed By:

A Book Blog. Period.
Library Queue
Books I Done Read

Book Nut
The Book Nest
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
The Book Smugglers

Trish's Reading Nook

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

1001 Book Update - The Light of Day

If you visit New York City, a great place to go is the Strand. It's a chain of used/new bookstores here in the city. Their logo is bright red (you can't miss it) which proudly proclaims "18 Miles of Books". Nice!

For some reason my husband and I were out on 59th Street on the south corner of Central Park. The Strand was doing a sidewalk sale of books so I had to check it out. I found Graham Swift's book, The Light of Day and had to pick it up because 1) it's on the 1001 to-read list and 2) he wrote one of my favorite books. Graham Swift is a British author and he won the Booker Prize for his book The Last Orders. I read The Last Orders for a class and absolutely loved it. I definitely recommend The Last Orders. It's about a group of older men, friends for years and years who always meet up at a Pub in England. When one of them dies, the rest are left to carry out the last orders (last wish) of their friend. A wonderful book.

I guess that's why The Light of Day wasn't my favorite book. It wasn't bad, just not great. And I was expecting greatness. The book's central character is a private investigator who used to be a cop but was disgraced. He now investigates spouses who are cheating. (Hasn't this plot been done just one too many times?) I will give it the Graham Swift that the plot did swerve to the original. The story telling was not linear but took place on the two year anniversary of a fateful day. The P.I. had taken a case and had gotten too emotionally involved. The case obviously takes a tragic turn. I have to admit that while the first half was a struggle to keep reading, I was a bit hooked to read it through to the end. In it's non-linear format I wanted to fill in all the gaps in the story and had to finish the book.

If you are going to read a Graham Swift book I definitely recommend The Last Orders over the Light of Day. If you are wanting a good detective book, The Light of Day isn't too bad. But I was expecting great.

Other people's reviews:
Placemats Galore

Happy Anniversary Mom!

Happy Anniversary Mom!!!

Today is my mom's second wedding anniversary. Two years ago today, the whole family got together to celebrate my mom's wedding. My husband and I flew in from Las Vegas, my sister and her family flew in from Alaska, and my brother drove in from another part of Colorado. My mom and her new husband first met in a park near where they live. They both love to walk around the pretty lake in the park. He is originally from Hawaii so for their wedding they had real Hawaiian Lei's sent from Hawaii for the wedding party. They smelled so wonderful.

Here's a family photo of my new family (and yes...the freakishly tall couple on the right is my husband and I):
Here's the whole extended family with his beautiful daughters and adorable grandkids. My mom loves having a ton of grandchildren nearby:

And here's me and my husband. I have to add this one because we're not in a whole lot of photos together. Two years later I am starting to finally get him in more pictures.

So here's to my mom and her new husband. I am so happy she found a wonderful person to spend this chapter of her life with. Happy Anniversary Mom!

Monday, June 2, 2008

1001 Books Update - The Handmaid's Tale

During Memorial Day Weekend, my husband and I roamed the city for a few essential shopping items. We went to Macy's and Best Buy among others. For some unknown reason, we ended up in Greenwich Village near Washington Square Park. I found this to be the best place on a weekend to find cheap books. There are books stands on every sidewalk and street corner with great used books for sale. I was in heaven. Obviously bring lots of cash. I'm assuming the plethora of books was due to the area's proximity to NYU. Who knows. But I snagged a copy of Margaret Atwood's book The Handmaid's Tale along with a pristine Hardcover edition of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Yay!

My husband bought Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck. I've been wanting to read it since the book is about Steinbeck's travels around the US with his dog Charley. I love traveling and my dog is named Charlie. I know...a bit sentimental.
I then proceeded to abandon all other books I was reading and read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Wow...what a book. It is one of those books that stick with you and make you think. It is justly compared to Orwell's 1984. The premise is that in a future not too far off, cash has become obsolete and everyone has CompuBank accounts. All of the sudden, women are no longer allowed to have bank accounts (the money is transferred to the nearest male relative), are no longer allowed to have jobs, and their basic job is to procreate. This is a back-lash from the decadent and lavish times where pornography is available everywhere and birth rates are on the decline. Women are forced to give up their proper names and some (like the handmaid's) are forced to become walking wombs and that is all. The government has completely taken over, even in the bedroom, and has become the all seeing all knowing "The Eye".

It was an amazing book but if you are looking for a light read, this is not it. However, Margaret Atwood's writing style is amazing and the book hooks you in to see how it all could have happened and what is going to happen next. There is an 1990's movie version out but I'm not sure I could handle some of the scene's on film. A definite must-read though!

Enter June

Well I am happy to say that this weekend I successfully completed TWO books on my Amanda's In-the-middle-of-too-many-books Challenge. I only have five books left in this challenge. What's even better, they are also both on my 1% Well-Read Challenge and I only have six books left in this challenge.

For those interested, my husband did not buy the Jeep we went to Virginia to look at this weekend. However, we did have a great weekend had a surprise trip to a historic site. I'll post photos of our trip soon.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!!