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Archive for June, 2012

Free Book Friday on Saturday!

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

 

Today’s free book is Snowbound by Blake Crouch

 

ISBN 9780312425739

We will choose one winner at random from comments we receive here on the Blog from PBS members.

You have until Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12 noon EDT,  to leave a comment.

Good Luck to everyone!

Note: All the books given away on Free Book Friday are available in the PBS Market. We have thousands of new and new overstock titles available right now, with more added hourly. Some of the prices are amazing – and you can use a PBS credit to make the deal even better!

Each sale helps support the operating costs of the PaperBackSwap club.

Camera Day

Friday, June 29th, 2012

By Mirah W. (mwelday)

 

The camera is an amazing invention that allows us to do the impossible: freeze time.  It is hard to believe it all began around the 5th century BC when Mozi, a Chinese philosopher, realized light passing through a pin hole could invert an image.  With a photograph we can freeze a moment and revisit it for years.  I like to use my camera to capture memories from places I visit.  Aside from reading, traveling is one of my other real passions.  I love to experience new cultures and see new places.  I have the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz and it has become my great bucket list.   In honor of the Chinese philosopher who started it all, I decided to highlight some of my favorite locations in China (that are featured in Schultz’s book) and share a few of my photographs with you.

My husband and I call our trip to Beijing our ‘trip of a lifetime’.   We both wanted to go there but didn’t know when we’d get the opportunity.  As luck would have it, we moved to Japan with my husband’s job and being able to visit China was more feasible. I was really excited about one thing from the start: eating authentic Chinese food.   But, in addition to some incredible Peking duck and all the dim sum I could handle, we got to see some amazing places.  I’m not even sure pictures do these locations the justice they deserve, but at least I have them to help me remember our trip.

Inside the Forbidden City

I’ll start with the Forbidden City. Words can’t express how overwhelmed we both were in this vast place. The scale of it was not what I expected and it felt like a living, breathing entity.   My husband and I took hundreds (literally, there’s no exaggeration here) of photographs during our walk through the Forbidden City.  I was entranced by the history that seemed to reflect off of every surface.  It was almost as if I could hear the scurrying footsteps of concubines and servants and picture the Emperor walking through his special garden.  My husband was drawn to the architectural details of the buildings, bridges, and walkways.    We just kept pointing at things and taking more and more pictures.  It was fabulous.

 

Inside the Emperor' Garden in the Forbidden City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our other stops was the Great Wall of China.  The sheer magnitude of building such an amazing structure is mind-blowing.  Constructing what would eventually become the Great Wall began in the 7th or 8th century BC.  Many of the older walls were destroyed, rebuilt, or incorporated into other sections of wall. During the Ming Dynasty the structure we now consider the Great Wall was constructed.  Over a million workers toiled on creating the Wall and thousands perished and were buried under the construction.  Sadly, only about 1/3 of the Wall remains today.  It was unreal to be able to walk on the Wall and imagine what it was like to monitor the area from the various watchtowers.

Mirah, waving in center, climbing the Great Wall

 

And, finally, we visited the hutongs of Beijing.  The hutongs are traditional courtyard homes in pre-Communist Era neighborhoods.  They are known for narrow streets and alleys and most traffic consists of pedicabs.  After the founding of the People’s Republic of China many of these neighborhoods were destroyed to make room for high rise buildings, apartments, and larger streets.  These neighborhoods are shrinking and expected to disappear if more is not done to preserve them. We were able to take a pedicab tour through one of these neighborhoods and visit with a family who still lives in their ancestral home.  While in the area we were surrounded by the sounds of heavy traffic and tall buildings and it felt surreal; it was almost as if we were inside a time capsule.

Kurt and Mirah in a pedicab to tour the hutongs

 

 

When we got back from our trip to Beijing I made my husband a photo book of our adventure.  Without my pictures I would still be able to close my eyes and remember the awe I felt during my trip but having pictures allows me to relive my experience and be reminded of things I might have forgotten.  Pictures also allow me the chance to share my experiences with others and that makes me happy.  So the next time you’re capturing that birthday party, wedding, or quiet moment with the family with your camera, give a nod of thanks to Mozi, the Chinese philosopher who made it all possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Two watchtowers on the Great Wall of China

 

 

 

 

Click by Nick Hornby

 


Lights, Camera, Amalee by Dar Williams

 


The Camera (Life library of photography)

 


The Man in the Photograph by Linda Style

 


1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Scultz

 

 

 


Children’s Book Review – Duck Skates

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Duck Skates by  Lynne Berry, Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

Review by Issa S. (Issa-345)

 

Five little ducks wake up to snow and pull on their snow clothes to play in the snow.  This is a very bland description of this wonderful book.  Officially tagged as for ages 4-8, younger readers will enjoy it as well.

The book takes these five little ducks on an adventure from their home into the snow, on the ice, then home again.   I have always been partial to books written in rhyme and Ms. Berry writes this one beautifully.  You must be careful as you read it aloud, however, take this phrase for example:

“The first two lead with a duck-skate dash.  The last three chase–and the ducks all crash.”

I found several phrases like this were easy to fumble as I read aloud until I became more used to the flow.  But once you do get accustomed to the flow, it is a lot of fun to read aloud.  Ms. Berry also uses numbers throughout the story, two ducks here, three ducks there, five ducks tromping, ten feet stomping, etc. which allows for some easy counting and identification.

The flyleaf states that Ms. Nakata was raised in Japan.  I am not an expert on Japanese illustration but her work in this story is incredible.  The drawing lacks the strong black outlines often seen so the edges of the characters blend, but the drawings are quirky and follow the story precisely.  You can see expressions in the duck faces and though the pictures are still you can feel the ducks moving.

This is a book my little one and I both enjoy reading.  Very impressive for what I understand is Ms. Berry’s first children’s book.

 

Romance Review – A Week to Be Wicked

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

 

A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare

 

Review by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty)

 

We are back to Spindle Cove, and Payne and Miranda are up.  This is pure Tessa Dare a funny, very sexy, road trip caper.

He’s had enough of this place called Spindle Cove, the war is over.   The militia can go home now right?   Not so fast.

She’s convinced this rake this unconscionable rogue is going to marry her sister.  He doesn’t love her and her sister deserves to be loved.   He needs money, and she has a plan to keep him funded, until he comes into his inheritance, and she can get her work before the Royal Geological Society in Edinburgh. It is a good plan, a false elopement, whom will it hurt?   Minerva knows this will ruin her socially, but no one really expects bookish unattractive Minerva to marry, do they?  It is a good plan.

Payne reluctantly agrees but he has conditions, and is frankly surprised when Minerva agrees to his conditions.  But at the last minute he balks.  Minerva however is going to Scotland to present her paper with or without him.  What is a gentleman to do?  So Payne goes along, to keep Minerva safe.

What I expect from a Tessa Dare novel is here. Pure fun, laugh out loud dialogue and romantic settings. The thing I noticed in the first Spindle Cove book rings true here for me as well. They remind me of those lovely old movies that I love to watch on TV.   4 stars

Member Memories – Our Love of Books

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

By Cyn C. (Cyn-Sama)

My mother is at the heart of most of my book memories.  She never censored what I read, believing that I would either gloss over the portions I didn’t understand, or give up and go find a book that was suited to me.

The memory that stands out the most is of my mother loaning me her copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn the summer before I went into sixth grade, just to shut me up for a little while, because I was constantly bugging her because I was bored.

I adored the book.  I felt like I was transported to turn of the century Brooklyn, a place miles away from my quiet suburban neighborhood in Coventry, Rhode Island.

Much like my experience in reading the Little House on the Prairie books, I wanted to experience everything that the characters experienced.  When Francie stated she would rather buy a potato over an apple, because the flesh of the potato had a similar texture, and was cheaper than an apple (so she could buy more candy), I just had to grab a raw potato, and carve out a hunk of it to see if the texture was really that similar (and, yes.  It is).

Even now, years later, when I’m peeling potatoes, I’ll steal a piece to remind myself of how similar it is in texture to an apple, and think back on the book.

I was so enamored with this book, that I read it numerous times over the summer, and even brought it with me to school when I started sixth grade.  My teacher was slightly horrified that my parents were letting me read the book.

Looking back, I guess I can understand his shock.  I mean, a father dying of alcoholism, hanging condoms out a window, unrelenting poverty…  It’s pretty heavy stuff even as an adult, but when I was a child, I experienced the same confusion that the children in the story did.

I was thinking about it last night, especially the chapter when Francie and her brother end up amusing themselves by hanging the condoms out the window.  In the book, they were confused by the horror and the shock at the adults, and when I was reading it as a 10 year old, I was confused as to why the adults were so horrified.

Re-reading it again, when I was older clued me into as to what exactly they were dangling out the window.

It’s the perfect example of a book that grows up with you.  Reading it as a youth, the age of the characters is a completely different experience as reading it as an adult.

 

When I hit Jr. High, my mother lent me her torn and tattered copies of Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonngut,
and The World According to Garp by John Irving.  Both of which were books that I had to grow into.

 

 

 

Then, in High School, she hit me with the big whammy, The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood.  These three books completely changed how I viewed the world, and how I viewed sexuality and feminism.
Before The Handmaids Tale, I had never given much thought to feminism; I just thought that equality was something that would come naturally in society.
After reading these books, I got angry.  Very angry.
I’m sure it’s the same anger my mom felt as she was fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment.

 

This was supposed to be a short bit of babbling about books I loved to read growing up, but it’s kind of morphed into a love note to my mother, for making me the free thinking, angry, woman I am today.

Mom.  Thanks.  I still love sharing books with you.  Discussing books is one of the things that have kept us close.  Never stop sharing them with me.

 

 

 

Mystery Monday – The Hammersmith Maggot

Monday, June 25th, 2012

 

The Hammersmith Maggot by William Mole

 

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

The sleuth in this outstanding literary mystery is Casson, rich wine-merchant and amateur detective. Motivated by an itch to explore the margins of crime, he closely observes his fellow dwellers of London in the middle 1950s. Onto Casson’s radar appears the Hammersmith Maggot. As a consummate blackmailer, the Maggot stalks his victims, armed with information that he’s wormed out of a bank. He then levels false allegations that are impossible to refute without gross damage to one’s reputation. Collecting his cash, he disappears and never taps the same victim twice.

Casson extracts a detail from a victim that is reluctant to be interviewed. The detail enables Casson to identify the Maggot, whom he puts under surveillance. Casson also enlists the official assistance in the form of the gruff Inspector Strutt.

Mystery writer Frank Gruber said that an outstanding mystery must have a theme and invention. The theme in this mystery is the sheer villainy of the blackmailer. Casson, Strutt, and the reader feel sorry for the vics and feel so disgusted at the Maggot’s motivation and actions that we want to pound the Maggot down through the ground all the way to hell. Mole’s invention is copious. Though we know the identity of the Maggot by the half-way point, Mole builds suspense as to how Casson is going to nail him.

William Mole Younger (1917 – 1961) was a long-serving  officer in the British anti-terrorism and counter-espionage agency. Educated at Christ College Oxford, he began his writing career with three volumes of poetry and a travel narrative Blue Moon in Portugal. He wrote three mysteries. Released in 1955. The Hammersmith Maggot was a best-seller, won the approval of Queen Elizabeth, and was listed as “a best mystery” in Barzun and Taylor’s “Classic Crime Novels 1908 – 1975.”

Pink Flamingo Day ‏

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Happy Pink Flamingo Day

By Gail P. (TinkerPirate)

 

What are pink, plastic, and iconic pieces of lawn art?

PINK FLAMINGOS!  And, today is the day we honor and celebrate them.

 

 

 

 

 

No one is more excited than Myrtle.  She is all a flutter.  For those of you who don’t know, Myrtle is my traveling companion.  I adopted her on the PBS Cruise and now she travels with me where ever I go.  Myrtle has loads of cousins all over the country…there’s Mabel and Maribelle and Mildred and Matilda and lots of other M names…oh, and the latest is Mopsy who I rescued from a family of rabbits (Flopsy and Cottontail were so mean to her) and now lives in Oregon.  Oh, did I happen to mention the Myrtle along with her cousins are inflatable pink flamingos?  Oh, sorry….should have done that straight away.  No wonder you all are so confused about why I’m going on and on about Myrtle when today is Pink Flamingo Day.

 

Did you ever wonder how those pink flamingos came about?  Wonder no more…

We owe it all to Don Featherstone, who was hired by Union Products of Leominster, MA, to produce a better piece of lawn art.  Lawn art was the rage in the 1950.  It was the one thing that could help personalize all those cookie-cutter houses built to contain the Baby Boomer generation without breaking the bank.  Unfortunately, most lawn art was flat, two-dimensional, and without much character.  Featherstone, a graduate from the Worcester Art Museum’s art school, crafted 3-dimensional pieces…a girl with a watering can…a boy with a dog…a duck…and, finally, in 1957, the flamingo.

“Big deal” you may say.  But, what would you say if you learned he won a Nobel Prize for it?

Changed your tune did you or did you say “Really”?  It’s true.  He won a Nobel Prize…well, not THE Nobel Prize…it was the IG Nobel Prize for Art…but, still, it WAS a Nobel Prize.

 

On November 1, 2006, Union Products stopped producing the iconic pink flamingos.  Luckily, HMC International LLC purchased the copyright and molds for the flamingos in 2007.  Also in that year, Dean Mazzaralla, the mayor of Leominster, MA, declared June 23rd Pink Flamingo Day in honor of Mr. Featherstone and his pink creation.

Featherstone’s creation eventually spawned a new industry.  Much of this industry – the lawn greeting industry – is based on installing flocks of pink flamingos on the lawns of poor unsuspecting people in the middle of the night.  The act is known as “flocking”.  I had to scratch my head and say “why?”  Well, they get paid to do it, go figure.

 

There have been several famous “flockings”.  Probably the most famous – or infamous – occurred over series of weeks in Celebration, Florida and had nothing to do with the lawn greeting industry.  For those who don’t know, Celebration is a planned community…a Disney planned community.  It has strict rules about what color you can paint your house, what color drapes you can have in your front windows, and…you guessed it…what kind of decorations you can place in your front yard.  I am sure it will come as no surprise that plastic pink flamingos are NOT on the approved list. Be that as it may, a flock of flamingos would appear on a yard overnight… only to reappear the next night on another lawn…and, yet, another lawn the next night.  This went on and on and on.  Legend has it, the perpetrators were never actually caught, but everyone “knew” who the ring leader was.  And, I’ve actually met the man.  He’s currently the pastor of my daughter’s church in University Place, WA.

True!  A couple of days ago, my DD mentioned that her pastor was going to go back to Florida.  Back to Florida?  That’s when it hit me that he had once been the pastor of the church in Celebration.  Given that he is the Harley-riding kind of pastor, I thought, his personality would definitely fit the profile of the flamingo planting Celebration pastor.  So, I did some googling and found confirmation in the way of an excerpt for Bill Geist’s book – Way Off the Road

“Is there a flamingo underground? ‘I can’t talk about that,’ Reverend Wrisley replied.  We’ll see about that.  Might change his mind when we get him down to Disney headquarters?

The birds seem to migrate from yard to yard, staying one step ahead of the law.  Can plastic flamingos fly? I asked.

‘If I told you, I’d have to kill you,’ he replies.  ‘I…I just…I can’t tell you.’

Tough talk from this man of the cloth who does bear an uncanny resemblance to the perpetrator, caught on camera by our tireless night surveillance news team.  Whoever’s responsible, it only goes to show that the best laid planned communities of mouse and men often go awry.

Reverend Wrisley predicts the flamingos will go forth and multiply ‘It’s ironic I think,’ he concludes, ‘that a plastic, gaudy pink flamingo in the land of the mouse represents reality.’”

 

And, with that, I conclude the PBS Blog celebrating Pink Flamingo Day!

 

 


Way off the Road by Bill Geist

 

Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America by Jennifer Price

 


Flamingo Diner by Sherryl Woods

 


Cat in a Flamingo Fedora by Carole Nelson Douglas

 


Ink Flamingos by Karen E. Olson
(Which was reviewed here on the PBS by reacherfan1909 in June 2011. To read the review, click this LINK)