As many of you may know, I am no longer a New Yorker, so please check out my new blog A Library of My Own. If you are just reading Life and Times, you are missing out. Thanks!

Friday, August 28, 2009

To Camp or Not To Camp

That is the question today. We are supposed to head out and go camping after work today and come back on Sunday. But a little thing called Hurricane Danny is standing in our way. Will we make it? Hmmm...

While we try to make up our minds, enjoy some past posts from previous camping trips.


Camping in the Catskills

Thanksgiving Camping Tradition

Camping in Canada

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

R.I.P. IV Challenge

Woohoo! It's time for Carl's R.I.P. IV Challenge. For all you who haven't heard of Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings, go check him out. You can also check out what I read last year for the R.I.P. III Challenge. It was a blast.

Here's what Carl says:

Readers Imbibing Peril, that is what it is all about. I hope you’ll consider joining us on this more eerie road less traveled.

Walk this way.

Dark Fantasy.

The desire for the thrill that comes with this kind of reading drifts in on the autumn winds. You breathe it in and it takes hold of you, tempting you to late nights, book-in-hand, turning pages and starting at every unknown noise. Something wicked this way comes…

I'm choosing Peril the First: Read Four books from any sub-genre of scary stories that you choose.

Since I'm on a self-imposed no buying no borrowing kick (to make some room on my shelves), I'm only reading books that I own but haven't read. Here's my list:

The Meaning of Night: A Confession - Michael Cox
Drood - Dan Simmons
The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Charles Dickens (Finished October 20, 2009)
The Monsters of Florence - Douglas Preston, Mario Spezi
The Black Tower - Louis Bayard
The Last Dickens - Matthew Pearl (Finished October 04, 2009)
Dark Star - Alan Furst (Finished September 05, 2009)
Bridge of Sighs - Olen Steinhauer
Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
Voyage of the Narwhal - Andrea Barrett
Smilla's Sense of Snow - Peter Hoeg
The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff
**Found two more:
The Harrowing - Alexandra Sokoloff (Finished September 01, 2009)
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
**Borrowed from Library
The Strain - Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan (Finished October 21, 2009)
Real Murders - Charlaine Harris (Finished October 26, 2009)

You can see what everyone else is reading over at The Review Site.


I'm pleased to announce the winner of Anne Rivers Siddons book Off Season is:

She is a huge Anne Rivers Siddons fan and hasn't read this book. Congratulations!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pet Sitting

Starting tomorrow, we are pet sitting a friend's pup for the weekend. Too cute right? It should be interesting with her and our pups. They've been camping together but she really doesn't like Charlie Dog. Charlie tries to play and shake hands with her. Which means she just gets bopped on the head. I told Charlie that's not how to make friends.

I'll try and take pictures.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Giveaway!

I'm trying to weed out my shelves because, well, I seriously have no more room for books. Ok ok. That's a lie. I'll always find more room for books. But our apartment is seriously small and to make a little more room, I have a stack of books to give away this summer. So keep checking back because you'll never know what I'll be giving away.

This week is Anne Rivers Siddons' book Off Season. You can read my review here.

Contest is open all week through August 23rd and open world-wide.

Leonardo's Swans - Karen Essex

A little while back I found a copy of Karen Essex's Leonardo's Swans at a Library book sale. I've always wanted to read one of her books and I have a slight fascination with Leonardo da Vinci. And it's a perfect read for the Art History Reading Challenge.

In brief:

Thought I was going to hate it but ended up loving it. A story of two sisters. A story of Leonardo da Vinci. Check it out.


The story revolves around two sisters, Isabella and Beatrice d'Este. Isabella is the typical blond gorgeous beauty:

And Beatrice is the younger, more wild and less traditionally beautiful sister:
At first Isabella is ecstatic that she is engaged to handsome young Marquess of Mantua. And they are actually in love with each other. Here's the handsome Francesco:

And poor Beatrice. She is engaged to the OLD Duke of Milan. I mean, hey, he's a Duke, but he's so old! Here's the Duke, Ludovico Sforza, a.k.a. Il Moro "The Moor".

The Duke is known for being wealthy, having mistresses, and being a patron to Leonardo da Vinci. He's also known for having Leonardo paint portraits of his mistresses. Here's the famous da Vinci portrait, Lady with an Ermine, which was The Duke's favorite mistress Cecilia Gallerani:

And another mistress by da Vinci of Lucrezia Crivelli:
But against all odds, when Beatrice marries The Duke, this wild, dark-haired, lover of horses gets her husband to fall in love with her. And she become a great Duchess.

And Isabella is at odds. Now she is slightly jealous. She's not a Duchess and she's never going to be immortalized by Leonardo da Beatrice will be. Not that Beatrice cares.

So I thought I wasn't going to like this book because I thought Isabella was going to be a scheming evil sister and poor Beatrice was going to get trampled over by The Duke. But that's not what happened.

Even though the sisters are separated, through their letters and life circumstances, they actually become fairly close and bond. I loved watching that unfold.

And Beatrice became my favorite. She became such a strong capable Duchess able to woo and win her husband while becoming a fairly apt ruler herself.

While this would have been an interesting story on it's own, folded in is the story of Leonardo's time under the patronage of The Duke. So we get to see tidbits of his life and art during this period and how and why he made them. For instance, this little piece of art for The Duke:

Also Reviewed By:
Hist-Fic Chick

The Raucous Royals on Cecilia Gallerani

And the Winner Is...

A big thanks to everyone who entered my contest for Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict.

I love hearing about people's love of all things Jane.

I used Random.Org and after much ado:

The winner is:


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vote for Charlie

Happy Sunday Everyone!

So I entered my Charlie Dog into a photo contest over at WeTv. If you want to, please head over there to vote for him. You can use this link. Thank you!

Friday, August 7, 2009


I feel old today. I just heard that John Hughes passed away (I Heart Ferris Bueller) and Reading Rainbow has been cancelled. If I hear that Big Bird had a heart attack I may just go home early today.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Some of you may know of the Jane Austen Challenge which is being hosted by Stephanie's Written Word. I have way too many books to read to join in the challenge, but I thought I'd do a little giveaway for those of you who are joining in.

I have a paperback copy of Laurie Viera Rigler's book Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. You can read my review of the book and see if it's something you'd like to win.

The contest runs through August 14th and is open world-wide. The only rule: in your comment, tell me when you first started becoming a Jane Austen fan.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Another Quiz

I'm a sucker for online quizzes. I found this one on A Reader's Journal. I thought it was pretty funny that I'm a self-improving traveling tree hugger. I like that.

I took the 43 Things Personality Quiz and found out I'm a
Self-Improving Traveling Tree Hugger

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Girl on the Via Flaminia - Alfred Hayes

I am in a bit of a Europa Editions kick. Along with Margherita Dolce Vita, I checked out The Girl on the Via Flaminia by Alfred Hayes from the public library. It's a reprint of the novel which was originally published in 1949. I have to say I am really liking these books.

I didn't know anything about Alfred Hayes when I checked it out. Apparently he was a British writer, poet, and screenwriter. He even won an Academy Award in 1951. Wow. And apparently he adapted The Girl on the Via Flaminia into a play and then a film staring Kirk Douglas called Un Acte D'amour.

A little bit about the story:

It's set in Rome, Italy during World War II. Robert is an American stationed in Rome during the period following the liberation of Italy from the Germans. Italy was very grateful to the first...but now they just want them gone. They want their country back.

Robert has made a deal with a local Italian girl, Lisa. She rents a room in a house, they pretend they are married. She gets some food, gifts, etc....he gets company at night. But in war, nothing is that simple.

This was a fairly short novel but very powerful. The book jacket sort of gave me the impression that this was a love story. But I wouldn't call it that. It really portrayed a segment of society that may get overlooked in other war stories. What happens to people when their country is occupied whether it be by friends or foe? What happens to the women? How do they survive?

I found it fascinating that Robert is an American while Alfred Hayes was a British writer. It really didn't portray Americans in a positive light...not negatively but definitely not positive either. Maybe spoiled and naive. And the title of the book, I think, references the type of girls who walk the streets who get picked up for money. And of course the ending was perfect for this type of novel. It really leaves you hanging...which is the point.

I found a great cover of an older edition of this novel: