1. My vacuum went to dust bunny heaven, so I spent a ridiculous amount of time deciding what replacement to buy. Overboard was putting it mildly. I searched for customer reviews and product performance reports online with the level of research one might undertake in choosing a nanny for their child. Why I got slightly obsessed with it, I’m not sure. It’s just a vacuum. I don’t even have carpet, just a few large area rugs. Reggie scoops up most of the major crumbs anyway. After considering the many important operating features available on modern vacuums and weighing all the pros and cons, I made sure to get one with the automatic cord rewind cause it’s so darn cool.
2. Every now and then I come across a book that is not just well written, not just engaging, but important. A lot of people throw that word around so often that it’s lost its meaning a bit. But I just finished reading a book like that. It’s the young adult novel Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys. From page one, I was moved by the significance of the novel because at its center is a terrible event that has been kept hidden for more than 50 years. In 1939, Hitler and Stalin signed a pact which gave the Baltic region to the Soviets. Much as Hitler operated the concentration camps, Stalin rounded up the people of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, put them on cattle cars and sent them to work in Siberia. But at the heart of this story is a girl.
Fifteen-year-old Lina fancies herself an artist and uses her drawings to try to get word to her father who is at another work camp. Lina, her mother and her brother rely on each other for comfort and solace in abhorrent conditions. It’s Doctor Zhivago meets Anne Frank meets Night. Even though some events were tempered for young adults, I was surprised by how straightforward and honest the author was about some of the atrocities that took place. They are not glossed over. The story is so well crafted, I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading and couldn’t wait to return to the book. If you’re like me and don’t normally pick up young adult novels, give this one a chance. It’s full of heart and hope with an engaging protagonist.
3. Erika Marks was kind enough to write a guest post over at The Writers’ Salon about the need for authors to embrace the business side of writing, including social media and publicity. An author who published his or her last book just five years ago is facing a much different marketplace. Erika offers ideas to keep current and suggestions on how not to be overwhelmed by it all. Even if you don’t have aspirations to be an author, the general wisdom behind her words applies to many different professions. And you should read it for no other reason than to find out how she was able to squeeze in a mention of Sting in a post about writing. Brill-iant!
4. If you like indie shorts, check out the Character Project. Eight short films explore the theme of character. Some characters are real and some are fictional. They examine lost loves and loyal friends, private heroes to public personas. I haven’t seen all eight, but my favorite so far is Wyckoff Place which films a group of culturally diverse kids who live in a Brooklyn apartment building not too far from my own. Those of you who consider The Big Lebowski your bible (and I know many men who do) should check out The Dude which follows the colorful real-life inspiration.
5. Has anyone tried their local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)? I’ve been interested in giving it a go this summer, but I’m wondering if it will be too much produce and I won’t be able to eat it all. I think the way it works around here is that you agree to pay a set amount for the summer. Then each week the farmers bring their produce to town and you get a variety of whatever is in season at that time. What’s been your experience?