Monday, October 28, 2013

Time out for Books: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (5+ out of 5!)

The Signature of All ThingsThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite book of 2013 -- a 5+! Thankfully, it arrived before the year ended. It's interesting that the last 5 I gave was to Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior which I read last year at about this time. Even weirder is that Barbara Kingsolver reviewed The Signature of All Things (Signature) for the New York Times and you might enjoy what she had to say:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/boo...

I absolutely adored this book. I fell in love with the characters, with their minds, their successes and their tragedies. The book opens with the birth of protagonist Alma Whittaker on January 5, 1800 and uses her life events to track the scientific milestones of the 19th century. The story began 40 years earlier with the birth of Alma's father, Henry Whittaker, whose circumstances of birth couldn't have been more different from those of his daughter. But it is these circumstances that formed Henry, prompted his choice of wife (Beatrix) and ultimately became the critical nurture component that fostered Alma Whittaker. One of my favorite passages that helps us understand Alma's mother and offers a preview of what Alma is to become is, "She (Beatrix) prayed that her daughter would grow up to be healthy and sensible and intelligent, and would never form associations with overly powdered girls, or laugh at vulgar stories, or sit at gaming tables with careless men, or read French novels, or behave in a manner suited only to a savage Indian, or in any way whatsoever become the worst sort of discredit to a good family; namely, that she not grow up to be een onnozelaar, a simpleton." From this beginning, how could Alma grow into anything other than a scientist, even though the word did not yet exist at the time of her birth?

Gilbert creates characters who jump off the pages, grab you and don't let go. Other reviewers have noted their Dickensian qualities, citing names like Ambrose Pike, George Hawkes and Professor Peck. Gilbert uses their names, personalities and turns of speech to develop these entertaining, enthralling guides through this period before the Internet existed, when learning had to occur the painstaking way - by reading, discourse and travel. Imagine the advances Alma Whittaker could have achieved with the world wide web at her fingertips!

Alma's epiphany comes about 1/3 into the book when she decides to dedicate herself to the study of mosses. Gilbert uses this wonderful device to help frame the scientific advances of the century as well as to define Alma herself who has much in common with the substance, as told in these sentences: "In every way mosses could seem plain, dull, modest, even primitive..... But here is what few people understood, and what Alma came to learn: Moss is inconceivably strong. Moss eats stone; scarcely anything, in return, eats moss. Moss dines upon boulders, slowly but devastatingly, in a meal that lasts for centuries..... Moss grows where nothing else can grow." Simply substitute the name "Alma" for moss and you have a perfect description of our main character.

Is Signature without flaws? Of course not. Gilbert was chastised in one review for omitting large chunks of time when her character aged twenty-six years. As it stands, the book is just over 500 pages and covering each and every moment of Alma's life would have been entertaining but unnecessary. Yet, I would have welcomed another 500 pages!


View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Focus on Life Week 43: In the Shadows

This is a great theme for the week-end before Halloween. It brings to mind goblins and scary creatures lurking in the dark waiting to pounce! I saw some goblins and scary creatures last Sunday when we hosted a group birthday celebration for five of our nephews who all have birthdays clustered together in the fall. We called it the Birthday Boys Bowling Bash and the bowling venue features cosmic bowling every Sunday. What might you ask is Cosmic Bowling? They turn out the main lights in the bowling alley and rely on neon lights, loud music and affects that make certain colors glow in the dark. This is where the shadows come in.

This past Sunday, Cosmic Bowling had the added feature of a Halloween theme. Here you see the boys clustered at the entrance, where a scary blow-up creature hovers over them.
Here are the shadows.... in the foreground of the photo, you can see my sister bending over Tyler, age four, who needs a little extra assistance guiding the bowling ball.


It was tough to capture the cosmic lighting on my iphone but here's a try.





















And to cap off bowling, we have some very scary faces.





















.....Followed by some happier faces at the restaurant where we completed the birthday event!




















Now, carefully step on over to Sally's blog to see more shadowy tales.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Focus on Life Week 42: All In A Day

I am jam-packed with work this week so I took a short cut on Sally's prompt. Here's a lovely pic of my Outlook calendar for the week, with lots of messy scribbles of last-minute tasks and notes.


Just click on over to see how our other contributors did with their daily descriptions.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Focus on Life Week 41: Connections

There are a lot of possible angles to take with this week's subject. But what came to mind for me is the connections that we "un-connected" humans make. Like when we work together to help people we don't even know. Last night I participated in a Light the Night Walk to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was a gorgeous fall night as we convened at Heinz Field.

My niece Josie won Wells Fargo Advisor's MVP award for her fund raising efforts making rainbow bracelets.


Each walker receives a paper lantern to signify our collective efforts at contributing toward a cure. Certain people carries gold lanterns in memory of a survivor and others carry white lanterns in memory of a loved one lost to the disease. This is how we looked as we navigated the streets.


And the quote that Sally found to inspire us really resonated with this event: "We can not live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men." To see how others are connecting, please visit The Studio Sublime.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Focus on Life Week 40: Give Us A Smile!

Before I tell you about my smiles, I have to admit to some frustration since I could not get to my Blogger edit window through any of the computers in our house except my ipad. Unfortunately, the Blogger app is somewhat more limited than the web version and I couldn't make my usual adjustments. I was able to finally paste the Inlinkz code into the HTML window so hopefully that is working ok.

Whew - therapy session concluded. Now onto this week's topic. Two things brought a huge smile to my face and I am hoping they bring one to yours.

I visited my sister and was delighted to see that one of her kitties had a litter of five kittens. Here I am with one of those sweet kitty-babies.


Then, my pre-order of Jamie Cloud Eakin's new book arrived in the mail. Yippee! Not only does this book include some scrumptious-looking projects, but Jamie goes into detail on design principles and construction.


And here are some project pages:


And for more of what is making our other blogger beauties smile, just click on over to http://thestudiosublime.com.


 
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