Sunday, May 22, 2011

Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

Lisa Tawn Bergren is an award winning author with over 30 books to her credit.  This is book one in a new series called "River of Time".

I must say that before reading this, I was only familiar with her 'God Gave Us' series of children's books, which are beautiful, and check out well here at our library.  The artwork is wonderful and they are so colorful and sweet.  So I was anxious to read this new YA series and see what her teen books were like.

She does not disappoint.

The Bentarrini sisters, Gabi and Lia, are spending the summer in Italy with their mother, a famed Etruscan scholar.  One day they wonder into an ancient tomb and happen to place their hands atop a handprint there and find themselves transported to fourteenth century Italy.  To complicate matters, the sisters are separated in the time jump, Gabi falls for a knight on one side of the conflict, and in the search for her sister gets caught up in a battle between two opposing forces.  Gabi is frantic to find her sister and find a way to return home, but what about her knight in shining armor who is literally from a different world? Can she truly leave behind a love she has only just found and yearned for her whole life?

This book is a nice blend of history, romance, and time travel.  Gabi is a spunky heroine whose dialogue and thoughts ring true as typically those of a teen and add humor to the unusual predicament she finds herself in.  The writing is good, the story flows well, there is good characterization, and the story is laced with adventure so you are compelled to keep turning those pages.  This book would definitely appeal to teens, but also to adults as well.

Cascade, the next volume in the series, is due out shortly.  I will definitely be adding this to my "to read" list, as I am interested in seeing how the rest of the story unfolds.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Tattooed Lady: A History by Amelia Klem Osterud

This is a fascinating book.  Combining thorough research with lots of wonderful historical photos, it delves into the history of tattooing, telling us that tattooing was a tradition that survived from early tribal and pagan times and was adapted by European peasants to their new Christian reality.

Modern European tattooing doesn't reappear until the fifteenth century, when Christian crusaders began arriving home from Jerusalem with symbolic tattoos, and then again in the seventeenth century, in the form of mystical alchemist marks and Christian symbols worn as souvenirs of a pilgrim's visit to Jerusalem.

The Greeks learned how to tattoo from their neighbors, the Tracians, who lived in what is now Turkey.  Tracians used tattoos to indicate higher cultural status, and tattooed Thracian women were depicted on Greek vases.  The Greeks used it to permanently mark Greek slaves.

The Romans picked it up from the Greeks and used it until Emperor Constantine banned penal tattooing in 316.  The Picts, an ancient matrilineal pre-Celtic tribe of the British Isles, were notorious for tattooing, especially among women.

The custom spread as sailors learned to tattoo each other and tattoo shops began to spring up in large cities and ports on both sides of the Atlantic during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, attracting men and women interested in putting an indelible mark on their bodies.  Perhaps the poorer residents of cities and ports yearning to tap into some tribal yearning wanted to decorate their skin.

In any case, as with other fads taken from the working class, by the end of the nineteenth century the stylish upper classes of the U.S. and England had started to get tattoos.  In addition to the sailors, gentlemen officers and princes of European nations had begun visiting places in the Far East.  When these officers returned to their upper crust lives, the permanent marks were seen as racy and daring, and they inspired other stylish individuals to acquire tattoos.  Even upper-class women participated.  Lady Randolph Churchill, Windston Churchill's mother, became the most famous of these well-bred tattooed ladies.  According to popular lore, she had a snake tattooed around her wrist, which she could hide by wearing a bracelet. 

But the heart of the book concentrates on a gutsy group of women (including Irene Woodward, Nora Hildebrandt, and Artoria Gibbons) who covered their bodies in tattoos and traveled the country performing nearly nude for all to see (at a time when it was scandalous to show even a bit of ankle!).  Though they were the precursors of a cultural movement (almost a quarter of Americans now have tattoos), little has been known of their real lives, until now.

Nora Hildebrandt

Tattooed women were accused by many of being exhibitionists, desperate, oversexed women who needed men to look at their bare tatooed limbs as some kind of kink.  However, placed in the historical context of tattooing, they were simply taking the next step.  They saw a need, and they filled it.

Tattoos became more mainstream throughout the 1980s, and with the explosion of the early 1990s grunge/alternative music style, tattoos were dubbed by some as "the nose job of the '90s".  Thirty-six percent of Americans age 25-29 and 28% of those age 30-39 sport tattoos.  So, tattooed women have gone from being unique and exotic spectacles to being fairly common in just over a hundred years.  These women helped bring tattooing out of the realm of the sideshow and put it into everyday life.  Whether you already have a tattoo or whether you would never even consider getting one, this is a most informative and enthralling book. 

Date a girl who reads

"Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes."

— Rosemarie Urquico

Friday, May 6, 2011

In Honor of Mother's Day

Rae Meadows, author of Mothers and Daughters, has recommended three books about mothers who will make your mothering seem perfect.
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