This book is a love song memorializing the beauty and history of libraries. Library lovers will fall deeply and helplessly into the cadence of Orlean's story. Prepare to be in a trance for a little while after finishing this one.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is definitely not for everyone. It's a read for people who take great pleasure in the experience of libraries and books in general. Libraries have adapted in dramatic measures over time always fighting to stay afloat, dipping and bobbing over the span of their existence like colossal free-floating icebergs. The experience of a library is architecture, the smell of pages, eclectic personalities, the presence of knowledge, group experience, individual awakening, and the list goes on and on. Susan Orlean is clearly a lover of all things library, history and consciousness included. In 1986, a fire ravaged the Los Angeles Public Library, and it was suspected as arson. Through her research into the fire, clean-up, and subsequent police investigation, she weaves in a broader tapestry of how libraries have been shaped by history, evolving into the living, breathing hearts of our communities. She profiles many charming people, and it's these assorted characters that make the library programs universal and welcoming. The Los Angeles Public Library has had it's bouts with financial strain and still struggles with the larger systemic issue of the homeless population who freely use the library building as temporary shelter during open hours. Space and money are ever present issues, but the main goal is always to maintain services that are open and equal to everyone. Even after tragedy, libraries persist and adapt. I've always been in awe of libraries, and this book renewed my sense of wonder. Libraries make me feel like I'm in the presence of greatness - the pages, the people, the productivity, the peace. It's all thriving and pulsing, a comforting strength that feels like home. If you can relate to this feeling then this is the book for you!
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These Preston brothers sure can write some quality nonfiction. I discovered after reading this that Douglas is Richard Preston's brother (author of Crisis in the Red Zone). This time, Douglas Preston teams up with Italian journalist, Mario Spezi, for an investigative account of the notorious serial killer, the Monster of Florence.
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Preston relays an interesting true-crime, serial killer history that inspired Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter series and eventually even ties into the Amanda Knox trial. Young couples are murdered in the hillsides of Florence, Italy, and as the crimes go unsolved, the town is paralyzed with fear. The serial killings become the most notorious crimes in Italy, and the killer becomes the Monster of Florence. Douglas Preston moves his family to Italy and finds out that the location of one of the double murders was in an olive grove near the home they started living in. He becomes intrigued by the story and meets up with Mario Spezi, a local journalist who closely followed the Monster of Florence murders from day one. Spezi and Preston investigate the murder trail and come to their own conclusions about who is responsible for the crimes. As they question the police investigations and get closer to what they believe the truth is, the Italian police suddenly turn their sights on the two men and accuse them of being involved. Spezi is thrown in jail, and Preston is forced out of Italy. Preston writes as much about the murders as he does about the culture of Italy, the justice system, and the corruption that lies within. Spezi and Preston are swept up in a web of deception, vengeance, and arrogance. It's important to note that this book is nonfiction and does not read as a thriller or mystery, but is fascinating nevertheless.
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Look at the face on this book cover!! How can you look at it and not read this? That sweet gaze is calling for you.
Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I liked how Larry Levin intertwined Oogy's remarkable story with his own family's to show how perfectly they fit together. Oogy was used as bait in a dog fight and left for dead. Once discovered, he was brought to a vet office that held overnight emergency hours. One of the vets fought for him to be helped, and he miraculously survived surgery with severe facial disfigurement. Larry and family adopted Oogy despite his challenges, and his story and gentle nature won over everyone he came in contact with. First thought to be a pit bull, the Levins later found out he was actually a Dogo Argentino, a breed not common in the US. The Levins adopted twin boys before finding Oogy. The relationship between the Levin family and Oogy confirms that biology is not a necessary component for true love and family bonding. This is a heart-warming story for dog lovers and anyone who appreciates stories about overcoming trauma. Dogs have this unending capacity to love, forgive, and trust in ways humans can only strive to equal.
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The first place I want to go when the stay-at-home orders are lifted is Assateague. This beach holds a special place in my heart and invokes a nostalgia and memory that warms me to the core. My family grew up vacationing many summers in Chincoteague, Assateague's southern district located in Virginia. Both beach districts have wild horses roaming the area and are a big tourist draw. We bought a cozy, little place in West Ocean City a little over a year ago, and Assateague is always our favorite place to enjoy the ocean.
There are two different parks on Assateague Island, and each has different costs and different services.
Assateague Island National Seashore
The national park side is a little more basic in terms of facilities but also costs less if you're planning to visit for multiple days. They charge $25 per vehicle for a 7-day pass. They do not offer a daily rate. You can also purchase a yearly pass for $45. They have basic facilities at the beach including pit toilets and outdoor showers just for a quick rinse-off. You can bring pets on some parts of the beach, and we see lots of people taking advantage of this. They have camping facilities on this side as well, but we have never tried them out. We mainly use the national park beaches.
There are two main parking areas. North Ocean Beach is the first one you come to after paying to enter. South Ocean Beach has a tiny parking lot and fills up pretty early in the morning during the summer months. Beyond that is the Over Sand Vehicle Zone which requires a permit.
Assateague is best known for the wild horses that roam freely all over the island. It's rare that we drive to the beach and don't see them grazing by the sides of the road. They are often clumped in groups in the parking lots and will wander the beaches as well. I've seen them early in the morning before the sands get busy, but we've also seen them traipsing through throngs of beach goers in the middle of the day at the height of the summer season. There are signs everywhere cautioning people to keep a safe distance as they do bite and kick. They also will rummage through your belongings to find food. Coolers are allowed on the beach but they must be hard-sided containers that close tightly. The horses will try to bite through bags if they smell food. We've seen them sniff out a sandwich and banana from a closed beach bag and destroy it in seconds. The posted rules are for your safety and that of the horses as they can get sick from food and non-food items like plastic bags that aren't properly secured. The horses are lovely to watch and part of the charm of this beach sanctuary.
When I think of light, airy beach books, I think of Nicholas Sparks. Even though I'm not a huge fan, the books certainly do possess an air of reverence for the calming effect the ocean and those quaint coastal towns have on our psyche and souls.
Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I don't know why I do this to myself. I read a lot of books with heavy, dark themes, and when I need something different and lighter, my first instinct is to look to Sparks. I rarely like his books, and yet I still read them for some unknown reason. I guess it's the predictability and the beach themes that suck me in. Set on a North Carolina beach, Hope Anderson laments her crappy boyfriend and longs for something different without knowing it yet. The part of the summary that caught my attention and is probably the reason why I decided to try Sparks again is the character, Tru Walls. Tru is a safari guide living in Zimbabwe who comes to Sunset Beach, North Carolina at the request of a man claiming to be his father. Tru's tumultuous childhood and back story is interesting but ultimately blends in with Hope's boring one and becomes a glob of gelatinous mush. The strangers meet, slowly reveal their lives to each other, and the love story bulldozes the rest of the book. The one part I really enjoyed is the Kindred Spirit mailbox. A random mailbox is posted up on a beach with a bench beside it. People write stories, letters, drawings, recipes, and whatever else is on their minds, leaving them signed or anonymous inside the box. It's a sweet idea and plays a big part in Hope and Tru's story.
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Travel All the Pages is inspired by my two loves - travel and reading, a combo I can't resist. Enjoy these little pairings.