Monday, May 30, 2011

Treasures from the Attic by Mirjam Pressler Giveaway

Let me start off by start off by saying thank you to Doubleday for providing me with a review copy and allowing me to offer two copies for a giveaway.

I cannot remember how old I was the first time I had heard about Anne Frank's Story. I know I was a child, maybe 10 years old. And since the first time I read her diary I have read it many times over. Her story while quite tragic is one of many stories about that awful time in history. I have started reading the book and have quite enjoyed what I have read so far. I hope you too will have the chance to read the book and enjoy it.

From The Publisher: The story is one that is envisioned by many: a relative, an old woman who has lived in the same home for a lifetime, passes away, her death prompting the inevitable task of sorting through her effects by her surviving family. But in the attic in this particular house, a treasure trove of historic importance is found. Rarely does this become an actuality, but when Helene Elias died, no one could put a price on what she left behind.

Helene Elias was born Helene Frank, sister to Otto Frank, and therefore aunt to Anne Frank. Ensconced upstairs in the house she inherited from her mother, and eventually passed on to her son, Buddy Elias, Anne’s cousin and childhood playmate, was the documented legacy of the Frank family: a vast collection of photos, letters, drawings, poems, and postcards preserved throughout decades—a cache of over 6,000 documents in all.
Chronicled by Buddy’s wife, Gertrude, and renowned German author Mirjam Pressler, these findings weave an indelible, engaging, and endearing portrait of the family that shaped Anne Frank. They wrote to one another voluminously; recounted summer holidays, and wrote about love and hardships. They reassured one another during the terrible years and waited anxiously for news after the war had ended. Through these letters, they rejoiced in new life, and honored the memories of those they lost.

Anne’s family believed themselves to ordinary members of Germany’s bourgeoisie. That they were wrong is part of history, and we celebrate them here with this extraordinary account.

Sorry the book giveaway is open only to the US and Canada. No P.O. Boxes please. Contest ends June 15.

How to enter: Separate Entries for each comment and please leave your email

1. Tell me what interests you about the book.
2. Feed the kitties in the upper right hand corner-may be done daily.
3. Blog about the giveaway.
4. Tweet about the giveaway-may be done daily.
5. List another book set in World War 11 about the Holocaust.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vietnam's Food Vendors

No matter where I am in the world I am fascinated by the food. Every country has its own delicacies to offer and Vietnam was no exception. What fascinated me the most about Vietnam is how life was lived on the street.

Interestingly enough most of the food sellers were women. They would set up their stands on the street and wait for customers to come and be served. This women is selling pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup. The soup is usually served with meat and noodles. You add your own garnishments; mint, basil, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce and slurp it up.

Of course the dishes need to be done. The food sellers just fill up a few pails with soap and water and get the job done.

What amazes me is how these women transport their food from one location to another. On a lark one women let me attempt to pick up her contraption. While I could lift it up, I would be lying if I said I could spend the day walking around with it balanced on my shoulders.

Do you think you would be able to balance the food?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Lost In Shangri La by Mitchell Zuckoff Book Review

There is not one was that I would use to describe Lost in Shangri-La. The book was part, Amelia Earhart, Margret Mead, Indiana Jones turnpager.

From The Publisher: On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over “Shangri-La,” a beautiful and mysterious valley deep within the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s bestselling novel Lost Horizon, this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesmen, warriors rumored to be cannibals.

But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed. Miraculously, three passengers pulled through. Margaret Hastings, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend’s shoes. John McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the plane, masked his grief with stoicism. Kenneth Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a gaping head wound.

Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to the hidden dangers of the jungle, the trio faced certain death unless they left the crash site. Caught between man-eating headhunters and enemy Japanese, the wounded passengers endured a harrowing hike down the mountainside—a journey into the unknown that would lead them straight into a primitive tribe of superstitious natives who had never before seen a white man—or woman.

My Thoughts: The book has no one real hero or heroine. All the characters in this adventure contribute to what makes this story both a riveting tale of survival and adapting to a desperate situation and unbelievable; in that they survived a plane crash in the dense forests of Dutch New Guinea and discovered a civilization that had never been introduced to Westerners or the creations of the 20th Century. What can be said is that this one incident of a military plane crashing and taking the lives of all but three persons aboard had implications that impacted many lives.

Author Zuckoff not only brings history to life, but has the reader experiencing the daily events of both the military personnel and the natives. Before living adjacent to the indigenous people of Dutch New Guinea, the Westerners believed them to be cannibals. While language was an obvious obstacle to building a relationship; communication was established between the two groups and a relationship started to develop. I found it amazing that Zuckoff went back and was able to interview people who in Dutch New Guinea who remembered the incident and the people. To hear their tales of initial misconceptions and how their life was altered by an event 60 years ago was quite fascinating. I must say that I had some sorrow to hear that Western Civilization crept into their untouched society.

Lost in Shangri-La has something for everyone. For World War 11 history buffs it tells a little know story; for fans of adventure their is no shortage of harrowing tales and for those who enjoy the personal touch, Zuckoff has told the story of everyone who was involved in this unbelievable rescue.

Thank you to TLC for providing me with a copy of the book to review.

Warm up a chocolate croissant and enjoy the adventure.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

ArmChair BEA Favorite Books This Year

Day Two of BEA-as I am sitting under the clouds on the West Coast. Today's post is about listing your favorite books you have read this year.

This is an easy one-I have read some great books-The DressMaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tezmach Lemmon, 2. The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer 3, The Oracle of Stamboul, David Lukus 4, Prayers for Sale, S. Dallas 5. The Distant Hours Kate Morton.

All of these books are so different from one another. The only common theme, except for Prayers for Sale is that they are all set overseas. I enjoyed the DressMaker of Khair Khana for both the writing and what it represented-women uniting together to help each other and succeed in the the shadows of oppression. The Invisible Bridge is set in France and Hungary during World War 11. While this period of time was a very sad and hateful period of human history I enjoy books set during this period. There are so many human stories to have emerged. 3. The Oracle of Stamboul was a magical book that came to life for me, taking me through the streets of old Istanbul. Prayers for Sale is a beautiful story of a woman who relocated to Colorado and made a life for herself after the Civil War despite the adversities and pain she had suffered. Set in England, Kate Morton, author of The Distant Hours writing takes me back to my childhood, reminding me of The Secret Garden.

What are some of your favourite books this year?

Monday, May 23, 2011

ArmChair Bea Introduction

Penelope and Magellan

Hello I am Esme and I am passionate about Paris, my kitties, reading and cooking. Above is Magellan-he loves to go anywhere I go-and if he can fit into something he is there. Magellan is an arm chair traveler-I would never take him out of the house-I am too worried that he could get hit by a car.

I sometimes think I am a schizophrenic reader. I have what I call my reading moods. I always enjoy a good novel, love memoirs, historical fiction, chick lit is always great to take to the beach and if a book has something to do with food I am salivating. I will NEVER read science fiction, horror or dystopia. When I was younger I tried to take books with me to church. What can I say, I was raised Catholic and the homily was a good time to catch up on some reading. My mum did not share my sentiment.

I can attribute my love of reading to my parents. My mum would read to us nightly when my sister and I were younger. We had every book to every Disney movie we saw. I grew up with the bookmobile coming to my school and would love the day when we could go check out books. My father chose my middle name from The Hunch Back of Notre Dame, no is is not Quasimodo. And I am ashamed to say I have never read the book, although I go there on every trip to Paris.

As a general rule I never read a book twice; however like the English language every rule has an exception. I have read, The Witch the Lion and The Wardrobe, Charlotte's Web, The Secret Garden and Anne Frank's Diary multiple times. I think it is interesting that the books I have re-read are from my young adult years. As a child I was a huge fan of Madeline and Caroline-of course both books were set in France. I also loved Curious George. Edith Blythe's books were my favorite as a young teenager and now, I am a huge fan of Daniel Silva and have read everything he wrote. Amy Tan is another favorite along with Lisa See.

I always have a book with me. But I do not own an e-reader.

Chocolate eclairs, croissants and lemon tarts are some of my favorite pastries. I only wish that there was a pastry shop in my neighborhood with pastries like these.

So if I could go to lunch with an author who would I choose and what would I eat? There are so many great artists that it is hard to choose-I know that we would go for lunch in Paris. I would choose a restaurant where Hemingway would have sit and wrote. What would we eat-escargots, foie gras, and duck. Of course we would have a baguette and enjoy some wine. Afterwards we would enjoy a fluffy pastry and a cup of tea.

It's Monday What are You Reading?

Here we are; another week; another It's Monday What are You Reading? hosted by Book Journey. This past week was rather chaotic. The family relative I mentioned was in the hospital all week. There were many drives to the hospital. The birthday cake never got made. While I think there is a natural inclination to eat sugar when life is stressful, I try to eat greens. Greens will at least be healthy. The sugar is just going to add to the stress and make me feel worse.

On Saturday my husband and I went to San Diego to do a ride. He was going to do the 103 mile ride and I signed up for the 66 mile ride. Except my 66 mile ride turned into a 84 mile ride. I missed the turnoff for the 66 mile ride and then started climbing, and climbing and climbing. I then turned left after that climb and climbed some more. At some point I realized that this did not seem correct. There are always more men than women on the bike, but these men looked to be a different caliber. I pulled out the map and there was not one street I recognized. Oops. While I strongly do not recommend doing what I did-I went from having my longest ride be 40 miles two weeks ago-to riding 60 miles last weekend and doubling to 84 miles this weekend. Not advised. I finished fairly strong and did not fall apart on the ride, which is an accomplishment. I was in the saddle for 6:06 hrs. Yes 6 hours of sitting on my bum, okay sitting on my bum and pedalling.

Later that night we went out to a Greek festival. We have been going to this festival for years. The ladies get together and bake and cook up a storm. I had moussaka, gyro, spanakopita, falafel and greek fries-fries with feta cheese. I shared the dishes with my husband. The baklava and other desserts were delicious. I must say I devoured my food. We brought home left overs and then went back last night for more.

So what did I read this week? Lunch in Paris, you can read my review here, along with The Cat who went to Paris. Are you seeing a theme here? If I cannot go to Paris, I will read about those who did.

I am also reading The Shadow Princess. I am a huge fan of Sundaresan's books and love her attention to detail and the historical background she provides.

In my mailbox I found Vegan Family Meals. I cannot wait to make a few of these dishes. I also found The Most Beautiful Walk in the World; A Pedestrian in Paris. I am not making this up. I just started laughing when I saw this. Now I really must return to Paris and complete the walks. Of course just taking a stroll through Paris is not sufficient one must also have French Lessons. I cannot wait to read French Lessons. The only thing missing is a croissant.

I also received Russian Winter, which I have been wanting to read for awhile and Quarantine.

I also have Treasures from the Attic: The Extraordinary Story of Anne Frank's Family.
I do not remember when I first heard of Anne Frank; as a young adult I read and re-read her book many times. As a twenty year old I went to her house, and was struck by the fact that I was older than Anne was when she died. Hachette has been kind enough to provide me with a copy of the book to review and a two copies to giveaway. I will host this giveaway in the next few days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lunch in Paris Review by Elizabeth Bard

A couple of months ago I won Lunch in Paris from Goodreads. I was as excited as I would be if you told me I had really won a lunch in Paris; and that is Paris with an "a" and one "r". In California we have a town called Perris. Anyone who knows me knows my affinity for Paris. With my attorney colleagues whenever I do them a favor, I always tell them that a trip to Paris is fair compensation. However I always make sure they know which Paris I am speaking off.

So what did I think of Lunch in Paris? For me this book was a warm chocolate croissant, a few macaroons and a lemon tart. Loved, Loved Loved it. Bard is living the life I always dreamed I want. The book is her memoir about marrying a "frog" and adapting to life in France. Of course there are many wonderful recipes thrown in along the way and tales about shopping for food and the creations that have resulted.

The book was so much more than that for me. My plan is to retire to France and I appreciated her honesty about adapting to the French lifestyle. France is not North America. Vacationing and living in a foreign country are two different experiences. The United States is the third country I have lived in. While I have always lived in English speaking countries, I found moving to the US to be an adaption. Bard's book made me stop and think. Would moving to France crack my snowglobe, full of the dreams and expectations I have for a life in the land of chocolate and croissants.

In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman – and never went home again.

Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak’spink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? “Lunch in Paris” is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs – one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine.

From Bard's description she seems to have married into a wonderful family, with strong, cultured independent women. I enjoyed her descriptions of her extended family. Bard delighted me in her tales of family gatherings at the beach, around the table and the lessons she took from the older women in her life.

I found her book to be a sweet dose of charming and reality. I must say that every single one of her recipes were calling my name, begging to be tried.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's Monday What are You Reading?

The interesting part to life is one never knows what it will hold for you. You can do everything according to your life plan-however one can only control so many aspects. This past week was a prime example of that. The whole week just kept on not working out to my plan. On Wednesday eve-my husband and I were supposed to go mountain bike riding together. Around 4 p.m. a client emergency erupted-I told my husband I was not sure what time I would have things under control and to just go without me. He ending up torquing his ankle and came home black blue and swollen-convinced he had broken a bone-no thankfully no fractures. A close family member received some bad health news and ended up in the hospital. That situation has dominated our weekend. Little P. got mad at her brother and the kitties had to be separated. I cannot explain to you the anxiety that has caused me. I want my kitties to get along-it concerns me that she gets upset and I worry that they may hurt each other. The kitties are back together again-so things are slowly working out.

On a happy note, Saturday I rode my longest ride ever-60 miles. My odometer rolled past the 1,000 mile mark-that is 1,000 miles since January 1st. This is a huge accomplishment for me-considering I just started riding on the road about a year ago.

Next week is BEA-I have been indecisive about going. Last year I had a fun time. Actually I had a great time-but rooms in NYC run in excess of $200 a night. If I am going to spend that kind of money I would sooner return to Paris. I have given this decision a lot of thought and I am probably not going to do either-there is something else going on in my life and I am not sure this is the time to go. Both my father and my husband have told me I should go. My passport is current who knows.

On a booknote, I received two great books in the mail this week. I tell you nothing makes me more excited than coming home from work-and 1. seeing the kitties in the window-I love seeing them watching for us to come home, 2. finding a great book on my doorstep okay and 3. finding chocolate in my post box always helps.

About a month ago I wrote a review for Mrs. Hildreth Wore Brown. Author Ms. Olivia debelle Byrd and I exchanged a few e-mails and then as a thank you she sent me a box of chocolate. Sweet and very Southern. I am quite biased towards her book now, but this was truly a fun book that I think I finished in two sittings. Let me tell you, a box of chocolate in the post will always bring a smile to someone's face.

So what was in my mailbox this week, Elizabeth Bard's Lunch in Paris. I am loving this book-not sure why I am torturing myself reading about Paris when I am yearning to return.

I also received Tessa Kiros' Food From Many Greek Kitchens. I am a huge fan of Kiros' books and this one will be no exception. The book is gorgeous with mouthwatering recipes. It's timing is perfect given next weekend I will be attending a Greek festival where the women bake for a week in advance. I cannot wait to share the book with you.

In my strange addicted obsession with Paris, I checked out The Cat Who Went to Paris.

I also checked out Avec Eric. This is another wonderful culinary adventure. Apparently Chef Eric has a PBS series and in this books takes his readers on a culinary tour from Italy to California.

I have also been reading The Soldier's Wife by Margret Leroy. A novel full of grand passion and intensity, The Soldier's Wife asks "What would you do for your family?" "What should you do for a stranger?" and "What would you do for love". I am loving this book and the only reason I have not finished it is because I just had to read Lunch in Paris. The Soldier's Wife is set in Guernsey during WW11. I never knew the story of Guernsey until I read, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and I am now only to eager to get my hands on any book set on this British Isle.

In my car I am listening to The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. I find myself sitting in the car not wanting to turn off the audio.

This week is my husband's birthday. On my last trip to Paris I discovered this dessert, Strawberry Frasier. I have two French Pastry books, one from Gerald Mulot the other Laduree. I will be studying my French this week as I decide whose recipe to use. I can hardly wait.

What have you been reading?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

I was quite excited when Harper Collins sent me a copy of Jodi Picoult's newest book Sing You Home. I have read her books before and have quite enjoyed them. I had never realized it before this book that Picoult chooses controversial topics as her subject matter and how the plot always ends up in court.

I thought this book addressed some very current and controversial topics. The topics were infertility, same sex marriage, same sex individual being parents and a religious institution boycotting same sex partnerships and parenting. While these subjects can be provocative they were a backdrop to the story and did not dominate the book.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, finding myself drawn to the two main female characters. I liked that the main character was a music therapist. Picoult obviously did her research regarding music therapy and for me this was an occupation that I was not aware existed. I found it interesting how she used the therapy to help students.

I think I read this book in about 3 nights. My only criticism of the book were the court room scenes-slightly unrealistic-however you are talking to a litigator and I realize that what we do is not that exciting so drama needs to be added in. All in all this was a good read that I think that anyone who is a fan of Picoult will enjoy.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Little Kitty

Honestly does it get much cuter than this-this is my darling Penelope the first month when I brought her home. She was about 8 months old at the time and as you can tell she has not grown much since. This feather toy did not last very long-she and her brother tore it to shreds. One time I left a new feather toy on the coffee table-I came home a few hours later and there were orange feathers throughout the house. The morale of the story is not to leave toys in bags where little kitties can find them.

Dancing with Billysweetfeets Gingersnap is hosting Weekend Pet Hopping.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Street Food in Hanoi (Vietnam)

A few years back I spent three weeks in Vietnam. I was fortunate to have travelled from the Mekong Delta in the south to Hanoi in Northern Vietnam. The country is unbelievable lush green and humid. What amazes me the most about Asian county is how life is truly lived on the streets. Vendors set up their stall and business is conducted on the sidewalk.

While Saigon caters to the tourists, Hanoi seems to have remained loyal to it's past. The women here were more fashionable however there was little in Hanoi that seemed to have embraced or welcomed the West's influence.

I am just fascinated watching all the business being conducted. Here the women were making noodles in a store front.

The people of Vietnam are tough. I would always feel bad watching the women carrying the wares delicately balanced on their shoulders. I could not imagine the stress or burden from carrying this apparatus around all day.

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