Friday, June 29, 2007

Book Review: the Kommandant's Girl

the Kommandant's Girl

Written by Pam Jenoff

ISBN: 978-0-7783-2342-6


This is the story of Emma Bau, a 19-year old Polish Jew living in Poland during WWII and Nazi occupation. She marries a young resistances member, Jacob. Shortly, after the Jews are forced into the Ghetto, Jacob leaves Emma to go underground and Emma makes her way to the Ghetto in search of her parents. While in the Ghetto she is befriended by a group of other young Jews, who happen to be connected to the resistances.

Emma later gets out of the Ghetto and is living with Jacob's Catholic Aunt, also allied with the resistance. They are entrusted with the care of a young Jewish toddler.

At a dinner party, Emma nka as Anna meets the Kommandant. Emma from that point forward must make some very tough choices, risking her life for those she loves.

What I liked

Well the entire book actually. I thought this was a wonderfully rich tale of love, choices, desires, and about every other emotion under the sun. The story was faced paced at times, but always remained attentive to detail. The descriptions of historical events and locations in the story were well done.

I also think that Jenoff spent enough time developing each character, so that they felt real and she did not depend on stock characters as so many historical fiction works sometimes depend on.

My favorite passage in the book is :

Anna: I think I do not have a choice," I say, sinking to the sofa beside her.

"There's always a choice, Emma." Krysia replies. "We have to take responsibility for our actions. It is the only way we can avoid becoming victims and keep our dignity."

page 217

This is in my opinion a major theme in the book and one very applicable to our lives today.

What I did not like

Well nothing. I have questions, which Jenoff left unresolved, there were a number of characters, who played a minor role in the book. Also, I wonder what ultimately happens to Jacob and Emma. The ending is really a beginning in some ways. But then I always wonder what happens next.


Overall this is a great book and one well worth reading. It is not beach reading, but the prose is easy to read and Jenoff style is very appealing, very clear and the story is well developed. It was a pleasure to read.

To learn more about Pam Jenoff and this book, check out Pam's website.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Something to ponder!

I believe this to be true:

The road of life takes us many places - learning to love the journey is key!

At least from my experience. Any thoughts???

Getting to know Leslie Kelly

I read Alison Kent's blog regularly. I was lucky enough to win some books from this contest she held a few weeks ago. I have never read anything from Leslie Kelly - how that happened I am not sure, but it is in fact the case. Well, now I have and I have to say I enjoyed it very much. Leslie's style is very readable - the right blend of storytelling, humor and romance.

The first book I read was:

I think this was a great read the premise is very believable. It is a July release from HQN, you can order it from Amazon or from eHarlequin coming in July (I looked you cannot get it yet. Although other Leslie Kelly titles are on the back list there, which could tide you over....) or at Barnes and Noble.

I also read:

This novella is connected to She's No Angel. I really liked this story. It was very sweet, took on a few tough issues and was fun. The thing I think I liked the most was the hero. I know --don't we always love the hero - but here I liked him as a person. He was a good guy, who had seen some terrible stuff and just was not sure what to do with himself going forward. That vulnerability was very nice to see. The crazy carnival stuff was funny too. I have to say - Leslie packed alot into one short story. (This book is also available from the Amazon, eHarlequin, and Barnes and Noble.)

While both of these books are part of a series - they stood alone very well.

Want to get to know Leslie Kelly a little bit more - go visit her here. Want to know what Leslie is thinking? She blogs over here! Want to see which other books go with this series, check out the back list here!

Thanks again Leslie for the chance to get to know you and your books and thanks Alison, for selecting me to do this! It was great fun.

8 facts about me!

I got this off Angelle Trieste's blog. It looked fun, so I decided to play along.

So here are the rules:

A. Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves.

B. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed.

C. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

So here are the eight facts about me.

  1. The first time I ever flew anywhere, I flew to Germany.
  2. I got my first job, at 15 years of age. I worked at an independent Pharmacy. I got the job then told my parents.
  3. I sat on what was left of the Berlin Wall during the summer of 1990. I have chucks of the Wall, which I chipped myself. They are stored away in a safe place.
  4. I have been hot air ballooning.
  5. I really love NYC. I love it for all the reasons most people hate it. It has a special energy. That said - I doubt I could live there long term.
  6. I would like to live on an island. The solitude appeals to me.
  7. I was 14, the first time I drove a car. It was with my grandfather. I later had trouble passing my drivers test and mastering a stick - but now I do just fine thank you!
  8. I believe that if we all tried to love just a little bit more - the world would be a better place:)

Wanna play too? Go ahead, just post a comment with your 8 or put it up on your blog!

Sweet Silence

I think I have shared that my little voice can be loud and demanding. Sometimes more so than others. As many of us, I to tend to have a pretty busy life. Running here, running there. I am often juggling a number of activities, schedules and the like. Sometimes it works and sometimes not.

I have for many years sought a means to quiet the noise - both in the world around me and in my head, so that I can focus on myself and have some time to just be. Just being is a skill. It requires dedication to finding a quiet and focused center inside. It demands that you be willing to give up some time and focus on you. For some people this can be very helpful and rejuvenating. For others is can be really hard.

H can tell you, I used to be a horrible figit! I could not sit still, I had to be constantly moving about or doing something. I was never one to just sit on the sofa or be able to snuggle together - without moving about. Alas, I am also a mental figit. In part due to my voice raising a ruckus and in part to always having ideas bouncing around. Ideas I am thinking about, things I am kicking around. I think sometimes the mental figiting caused some of the physical.

Until recently, I have tried many things to quiet down my mind - with varying degrees of success. Yoga tends to work really well - sometimes - but never have I felt that I have truly cleared my head of thoughts. Yes I can focus on the poses and the breathing - I can feel really grounded in my body, but all the while - in some little corner of my mind, that little voice is whispering away at me or worse yet some heavy thoughts pop into my mind to play.

However, all of that said, I am happy to say that last night during Yoga, I did it. I got my mind to be very still and quiet. I was breathing and focused on each inhalation and exhalation. I had a good rhythm going and I felt very present in my body and all of sudden I felt it, very clearly. My mind was at peace and my body was there active in the poses. It was as if something deep inside me found its center. I was balancing physically, but it was if my mind and body were also in perfect balance.

It was wonderful.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Check it out... I am famous!

Check me out.... I am the featured interview on Nalini Singh's blog.... Too cool. Although, I should learn to proof read better..... oh well, I am famous anyway :)

Don't judge a book by its cover

Ok - warning this post is not about books or writing! There had to provide the disclaimer. This post is about me. (Shocking right? My blog. A post about me... mmmm!)

So in the last two weeks, I think I have heard some really interesting stuff. Furthermore I have done some really interesting stuff. I have thought alot of really deep and interesting thoughts.

But let's back up shall we. We live in a very visual world. We use our eyes to take in all sorts of information. Is it a sunny day? Are my socks matching or not? We read with our eyes. When driving our eyes are very busy watching the road. It only make sense that we use visual clues or memory to fill in the blanks quickly. Our brains are really big, fast information processors. Our very own super computer - right between our ears.

Sadly we also use appearances to judge others. We have decided that certain people belong to certain groups based on their dress, color of their skin, hair styles, ect. On a certain level that is ok. I mean we have to establish some sort of system or systems to order the world around us. Otherwise our brains would be in complete chaos all day long.

Likewise, people often dress a certain way, wear their hair a certain way, conduct their daily lives a certain way in order to show their inclusion in a certain group, culture, subculture, etc. For example, Buddhist monks shave their heads and wear the orange robes. Catholic priests tend to dress a certain way. Women in Islamic countries or even those in Western countries wear some sort of head covering as a sign of their faith.

That said, it is dangerous fun to make assumptions about people based solely on visual cues. I had a teacher in high school who routinely wrote on the board the following:

Assume = Ass + U + ME

Meaning that assuming things made an ass out of you and me

So with that said, I would like to say that I have been in a few situations of late, were I have let's say shocked some people. Now, I perversely love the fact that I can shock people. I like it alot actually. Perhaps a bit too much for my own good. However that is a post for another day, what I am actually trying to say is - I think we all need to be careful. Everything is not always as it appears. People are individuals and while out visual cues may be helpful, they are not absolutes. It is important to pause and ask ones self, is this all that it appears to be.

I intend to be very careful, going forward, to look, listen, observe and reflect, before I draw too many conclusions. Because I want to be sure I am forming solid judgments and not working from erroneous clues.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ebb and Flow

Today would be Flow....I just wrote 1500. In about an hour. I told you, I was in a creative mood....

More Fun on Friday.....

Check this one out too!

Something fun on Friday

Today I am in a creative mood. I woke up with a story on my mind. (Which I frantically made notes about - so that I would not lose it.) The seed of this story came from a conversation I had the other day with a friend. The power of words, of images is amazing to me. A seemingly normal conversation about nothing special - in my imagination - can morph into something very powerful and compelling.

But as I said - Friday is for fun, so I am posting this little Visual. It is my Visual DNA. By picking some pictures, this site "reads" your personality. It is rather accurate on some things and a bit off on others.

Enjoy. If you do it, make sure you comment so that we can compare notes.

Monday, June 18, 2007

On cloud nine!

Well actually my feet are still firmly on the ground - how else could I be doing the happy dance. I am so close to my fitness goal that I am feeling oh so motivated and just beaming from ear to ear. It is making the brown rice so worth it. It is making giving up dairy products, wheat, corn and rye so worth it.

It is making every run really count. It is making hitting the gym regularly worth it. It is making every bike ride - not just for fun but part of the overall fitness plan....

It is making me smile ear from ear!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sometimes you do just really need a cookie...

L used to say when she was a bit younger that she "needed" a cookie. I used to patiently correct her - "No, honey you want a cookie. There is a difference."

Well, after a bit over 6 months being wheat-free - I have to say that she was in fact right. Sometime you do just need a cookie. I mean I miss crunchy. (Ok, wheat free cookies are not crunchy, but that is a different story.....) I miss the round shape. I mean cookies are really great.

Well I have to say, after trying many and being disappointed, that I have found something, that is very good. Not going to replace TollHouse any time soon, but they are good and they do fulfill that need for a cookie.

So go check out the Alternative Baking Company. They sell VEGAN cookies and 2 varieties of WHEAT-FREE cookies. The vegan cookies are naturally dairy and egg free. Which is good for all of us with food issues!

Harmony verses Balance

I have to say that my conversation last night with JK got me thinking about this. I have not reached any solid conclusions, but this is what has been on my mind most of last night and this morning.

I think many of us say we are seeking balance in our life. I know I have thought alot about this. Particularly when L was little and I was working. How was I going to manage to balance: work, home, baby, and time for me.

JK and I were discussing this last night. There is no way I would still be sane had I stayed at my old job and H took up being a professional pilot. I think it could be done, but for how long? At what cost? He can be gone for days at a time. JK is currently working way more hours that she thought she would be, and while it is temporary, there is a cost. Your body pays it - lack of sleep, lack of time to recharge, lack of time to exercise, lack of time to eat right. Your mind pays it - lack of sleep, lack of time to refill the creative well, lack of time to gather your thoughts, lack of time to feed the mind. Your family pays it - not getting the whole of you, getting attitude, which comes from being tired and overwhelmed, not connecting, because your are tired and overwhelmed. You pay it, by feeling like you are mastering the tasks before you, you are letting relationships slide, you are giving up me time, you are always in a rush or feeling like you are barely treading water.

I remember those days. I turned down a very good part-time job last spring. It would have been a great move for my career, but after weighing the pros and cons, I decided that I could not make it work. The cost would have been too high, for everyone. I am sure in my day planner I could have somehow created "balance" on paper. I could have managed the schedule. On paper it could have worked, but in my heart I knew L & E would have paid a very high price and I knew H & I would have as well. At the end of the day the money did not make up for everyone's sacrifice. Ultimately there were have been no harmony.

I have decided that harmony is a better description verses balance. Balance seems to me, to mean there is a certain level of evenness or fairness to a situation. I see the scales of justice. I see me during YOGA, trying to perfect the tree pose, very focused on my physical balance. That does not always fit. Making life work may mean that at certain times, the scale will not be exactly even, but on a whole - when life is in harmony, it has a flow, a give and take, that in the end feel good, feels right, brings with it a sense of balance.

I know I am supposed to be able to "have it all" but as I have come to discover - having it all comes at a very big cost. Sacrificing harmony is one of them, I am not sure I am willing to pay that price. It helps that I can make this choice - knowing that L & E are not starving based on my choosing to step off the career track. Many people do not have this luxury. Which brings me to another matter on my mind. Why have we set up out society in this way? Why is it that as a country, a culture we do not value harmony more? Why is the greater good not considered when decisions are made. Why is it parents must choose between reading to their children and paying the mortgage? Balance and harmony are really important: for health, for life, for sanity.

It reminds me of what Bob Jackson, my high school social studies teacher, told me one day:

Susan, you have to decide: do you want to make a living or do you want to make a life?

At 17, I had no idea what he was talking about, now I think I really do.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Constant Flow of Words

I check out Angelle Trieste's Blog on a regular basis. A few days ago, this post really caught my attention. She noted that for her to be writing well she needs to be reading. In response to her post I left the following comment:

Wow and I thought I was the only who felt that way. I have noticed that too, if I am not reading - then writing seems really hard. It is a balance I think.

It is almost as if there has to be an equal number of words going in as are coming out.

Let us know how it works for you!

To which she replied:

Hi Susan,

You, too, huh? I think it’s word in, word out. Maybe I should call it WIWO. ;)

I’m really making more effort this month to read more. It feels like my creativity’s gone dry or something sometimes.

I could read until the cows come home. Really I could. There have been times that I have read well into the night. I will even forget to eat sometimes, if the book is really good. Before we had kids, I could read and read all day on a Saturday or Sunday. I can knock out a short novella or novel in a day and for a longer work, a matter of days. I tend to read pretty fast - but then I go back and reread alot too. Sometimes, I mark the passages I really like and from time to time I fold down the pages.

What I have noticed though, is that I write better when I am reading. So Angelle, is right - it has to be a balance, which is hard. Sometimes I really want to be writing, but it will not come, the words simply will not flow out of me. Then there are times, that I just cannot settle down to read - it is as if my brain will not soak up another word - not a one.

But sometimes, life gets in the way too! I get busy and there is not time to read. I also hate to be carrying a book around all the time. So I have been experimenting with alternative formats - like downloading e*reader for my PALM and sometimes I have a magazine with me.

I am not in love with the e*book thing. I can be hard to read on my PALM long term. I am also not sure if it is the quality of the words in or not. I think that has to be a balance too.

Furthermore, I do read on so many different levels everyday. L loves books. We read at least two picture books every night before bed. (Unless she is on a game jog, which happens from time to time. Maybe she is full of words - too!) E like board books. So we read 2 to 3 a night. I want to believe that they like books as much as they do, since they see me reading alot.

Clearly I also read other people's blogs too, so in total, I am sure I read a ton of words a day. But that reading is not the same as reading for pleasure. When I read a novel or short story or poetry, that is strictly for my pleasure. It is because I want to. That is the key I think. Reading someone else's creative work - their imagination on the page - a drawing thru language - that is the inspiration - that is what fills up my creative well. I am not sure if it the magic they create with language, a meeting of the collective imagination. But it works for me.

There is no forcing a story out of me. It just does not happen. I will end up staring at the screen and not type a word. Better to just stop and and go do something else.... like read!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Blue Skies

Today was a near perfect day. Today is the kind of day that makes me love living in Ohio. The sky is a color of blue, that I have never seen anywhere else. It has a depth, a richness to it. The green grass and trees really contrast so nicely. The sun was bright and warm.

L, E, and I went to the library via the bike trail. It was just such a nice day to be outside.

I have to say that we are blessed with a precious few days like this. Normally it is too humid or there is a bit of a chill in the air or something. But sometimes, it is amazing to me, the day can be picture perfect, as if it were painted on a canvas or taken out of a story book.

It is something to be savored.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Blog Housekeeping

Well, I have been blogging for 6 months. Wow. So tonight I did a bit of housekeeping. I have not been so good about labels, so I fixed that. Now every post will get a label or labels. It will help as I continue to sort and track my posts. (I hope all my edits did not flood your mailboxes if you have my blog on your blogroll or RSS feed. Sorry!)

Also, I have added a blog pet. He is at the bottom of the page. He is just to remind me that the reason I am writing - is fun.

I really do welcome comments! It is a great way to add more to the story, feedback is helpful....

So thanks for reading and keep coming back, there is bound to be something new.

That little voice in your head...

My favorite TV program of all time, I think, was Magnum PI. I mean, what was not to like - Hawaii, hot guy in shorts, fast car, ect. I mean - Hello!

But most of all I identified with his "little voice" - you know the one he used to solve the case.

I too have a little voice. Now, I have never been able to convince my little voice to help me do anything nearly as useful as solving crime. Oh, no. My little voice tells stories. My little voice likes to examine ideas - from every angle. My little voice yells at me when I am not paying it enough attention. My little voice is sneaky. It will leave me be, stay silent for days at a time and then it jumps out from behind closed doors at the damnedest times. Like when I am running on the treadmill. I will be running along - in comparative silence and poof! out of nowhere - it is right there in my head. My voice will be trying out ideas, describing something in vivid detail, or asking me really tough questions. It will literally demand my attention.

All of this aside, I rather like my little voice. It supplies me some great ideas from time to time. In someways it does help me unravel the great mysteries of my life. It can be very entertaining.

So where am I going with all of this? Well, I will tell you and honestly, for those of you who know me well, you already know. I have also hinted at it on the blog a bit of late.

I have decided to try and make it as a writer. It is what I have wanted to do for a very long time. I like to write (obviously, I keep this online journal.) I also think that what I have to say, seems to have some merit.

In the past, I have always talked myself out of pursuing this course of action. I have always convinced myself that I will not be good enough or that no one cares about my stories. My little voice has always taken great offense to this. In fact, it can be rather resentful that I think so lowly of our creations.

So - hear me now little voice - I have just announced that we are writing. I have taken on some freelance work, I have a short story almost done for an e*book submission contest and in about a month, I will hear if my short story submission to the Washington Post Magazine was accepted or not. Wow. So I have put it out there. (I have ideas and outlines for a full length novel or two. Oh, ok little voice - 4!)

This process has been a long time in coming. I have to say thanks to JS, for giving me the much needed push in the right direction. Also, thanks to all who have been reading my little efforts and practices. Always great to get feedback.

Now, if only my little voice will settle down and let me focus... I might actually get some serious work done!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

So I am taking the plunge

Right, I did it. I bought a PC laptop. (Actually a DELL) I have solicited a ton of feedback from friends who would know. I looked around and then just did it. I have effectively blown the first two months payment for my new gig, but it is an investment in my future.....

So here goes nothing......

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Really, should it be that hard?

I have taken on some freelance work. I am very excited about my new projects. I have taken a leap of faith and decided to pursue a dream. I am so very excited about this.


I am struggling with technology. I have a MAC. H loves MAC. He has been a die hard MAC guy since he was old enough to know what a computer was. He turned me onto MACs. I get them. They are easy to use. I am by no means a technocrat, but I am competent.

Well two of the projects I have taken on, use software that only works on a PC. MMMMM. In this day and age that seems short sighted. It also does not work well with the PC emulator software that we have. The problem with Virtual PC on the MAC is that it sucks up the memory and the overall performance fails. So that is a closed avenue.

But I really want to keep these projects, so I am thinking about getting a PC laptop..... only that seems to be a daunting task as well. What to get. How much to spend, is it worthwhile?

Questions, oh questions........

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Out of the mouth of babe's

This is what L said to me yesterday:

"Mom, I really do not like riding in the car."

Me: "Well why not?"

L: "Because I cannot see your beautiful face."

Wow. What a gift to treasure......

Styrafoam cups blowing in the wind

As I drove with L today, to do some errands, I saw a styrofoam cup blowing in the wind and rolling along the street.

That is how I have been feeling for the last week or so. Exactly that. Sort of like I am blowing along in the wind, rather lost and not sure of what direction to head.

In reality, I do know what direction I am going, but a part of me has been lost in thought and sort of wrapped up in sorting out some feelings, that I have been ignoring my sense of direction and just blowing along in the wind.

On one hand it feels good to just go where the wind takes you, rather freeing. But on the other hand, the inherent danger is that you could be floating along and get run over by a car.