Friday, June 18, 2010

What a gorgeous morning with the sun shining and birds twittering. Won't be long and the birds will be finding cool places to hide out as it will be in the 90s today with a heat index of over 100. I hope it has cooled down before we head out for an Alzheimer's benefit this evening. We haven't missed one of them since we moved to Lexington. Steve stepped down from the Board when we thought we were moving to Florida quickly but we keep attending events and benefits. The auction was dangerous - I "donated" a lot of money that way! We will be driving up in high style in a gorgeous Saab SUV. Steve's little convertible is in the shop again within a week of picking it up. Something wrong with the electronics and it won't accelerate. Last time he didn't get a car to use and we regretted it as it was over two weeks before the part came from Sweden. Same thing this time. I haven't ridden in it yet but Steve says it rides like a car. Guess my Hyundai Santa Fe doesn't compare! Duh!!

I finished up Donald Spoto's biography Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn. I have been a Hepburn fan since I was a little girl but didn't know much about her life. It wasn't an easy one as she was a young teen during the Nazi occupation of Holland and was malnourished and weak when the American soldiers arrived. A soldier gave her 5 chocolate bars and she scarfed them down only to throw them back up again as she had no real food for weeks - just weak broth made from a few potatoes. She noted it was UNICEF that had come in to assist and she spent the last years of her life as an Ambassador for UNICEF, traveling all over the world but mostly in Africa. She was a real draw at fund raisers. She always seemed so calm and serene in her movies and interviews but she was very nervous and scared of talking to groups of people. She also was a chain smoker but what killed her was abdominal cancer that started in her appendix. Raised by a domineering mother who could not show affection and an absent father who showed little warmth toward her even when she tried to resume a relationship with him in his later years. A lonely little girl seeking love and finding it in two very wrong men for her - Mel Ferrer and an Italian aristocrat several years younger than her. But, she had two sons by her two husbands and loved being a mother. She quit acting to raise her boys. A fascinating woman and now that I know a bit more I'd like to read the biography her oldest son, Sean, wrote: Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit: A Son Remembers it was reissued in 2005 and since her son is donating a portion of the royalties to UNICEF is a doubly good buy for me.

I am not a big coffee drinker but found the cover art for The Espressologist by Kristina Springer quite delightful. A closeup of a teenage girl about to take a sip of coffee that has a heart swirled into the foam. Then I flipped to the back flap to check on the author and this is a debut novel. Another reason I wanted to read it. I've been doing some research on the educational backgrounds and web presence of new YA authors and it is no surprise that Springer hold a master's degree in writing. The new talent care great credentials! She also has a very attractive web site: I love when YA authors put the books they are reading now on their web sites or in their blogs as this will encourage teens who read the author's book(s) to explore the other authors and titles listed as well. I also see she has a second book coming out, My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours in September and a third, Pumpkin Princess, in Fall 2011. Clearly she enjoys writing YA novels. Anyway, her first person debut novel shares the life of 17-year-old barista, Jane Turner, who has theorized that you can tell a lot about a person by the coffee they drink. She is so into this she writes the types of coffee and the personality type down in a notebook. Medium Iced Vanilla Latte Smart, sweet, and gentle. Sometimes soft-spoken but not a doormat. Loyal and trustworthy. A good friend. Decent looks and body. And before you know it Jane is hooking up her friends based on the coffees they and the other patrons of the coffee shop drink. When her boss finds out about it he decides to use Jane's "gift" as a marketing campaign. The lines are often around the corner on the night the "Espressologist" is in and Jane is feeling real pressure to match people. It isn't fun anymore, especially since she matches up her best friend with the guy she should really be with. A delightfully funny and sometimes poignant view of the world from the eyes of a very likable older teen who seems to know a lot about everyone else and little about herself. Reminds me a bit of Tucker Shaw's The Girls which is also set in a coffee shop and deals with two best friends not telling each other the truth and dealing with the fallout.

Last book for today is a nonfiction title with incredible color photographs that bring to life a part of the world few of us have ever traveled to - Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan, with photographs by Tony O'Brien. The duo, a photojournalist and a filmmaker, interviewed and photographed youth from varied backgrounds in their often very different daily lives. Interviewees are between 8 and 15 so this is a book for elementary through high school level libraries. When asked what they would wish for if they had a magic lamp like Aladdin, education was most often wished for. The lives these children and teens live is heartbreaking. A 15 year old boy dressed in a filthy Christmas sweatshirt with "ho-ho-ho" on the front tells of how he incenses cars or shops for good luck, but he has no luck. His stepmother would be angry if he went back to school. A 10 year old calmly states that he is a thief, stealing from people's pockets in the market. What he wants - his real father to come back. Many of the teens work as carpet makers in the morning and attend school in the afternoon when they can. In the rural area a 14-year-old girl walks 2 hours to school. She wants to become a midwife. The voices of children who will be the leaders of this country in the future and most of them address the need for education.

Can't procrastinate from grading any longer!