May 8, 2015

Global Good Idea: Do Other Countries Have a Mother's Day?

Mother's Day is this Sunday, May 10, 2015. At least, in America it is celebrated this Sunday. Which got me to thinking...

Is Mother's Day celebrated in other countries?

Now, without a doubt, mothers all over the world should be treated with the love and respect they so richly deserve. However, I'm talking about a Hallmark-fest/reservations at Olive Garden/breakfast-in-bed American-style Mother's Day celebration.

The answer is no. America corners the world market when it comes to an over-the-top "Spoil Her With Diamonds" Mother's Day. Not really a surprise, is it?

I was able to find a few other countries that celebrate Mother's Day in total American-style opulence. Namely, the UK, Mexico, France, Argentina, India and a handful of other countries all have a specific day devoted to the love of all things mom. (source: here and here)

Which led to the inevitable questions such as:

  • Why do Americans spoil each other so much?
  • Why do we treat mom special on one day, then maybe treat her not so specially on other days?
  • What on earth can we do about this to stop the silliness and make a global good change?

Maybe this year, it's time for a new approach. What if we all considered just one less gift, and then donated the money in mom's honor?

Many wonderful organizations are out there and the need is great. From Africa to Asia and all points in between, moms EVERYWHERE desire help and guidance so they can be the best mom for their kids. 

Personally, my family is involved with Samaritan's Purse. We have packed shoeboxes for several years through the Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child project. Samaritan's Purse is also involved in helping wounded veterans through Operation Heal Our Patriots, as well as bringing children to America for life-saving heart surgery through the Children's Heart Project.

The Samaritan's Purse Mother's Day initiative is working to provide birthing centers in developing countries. The focus is on breastfeeding education, nutrition and clean water projects. As a Christian organization, Samaritan's Purse is sharing the message of the Gospel with many families around the world. (Information)

This Mother's Day, consider helping moms around the world. You can choose to help however you feel comfortable. Just remember all the moms. The moms of the world that just want what's best for their children and might need a little assistance from you and your mom today.

Samaritan's Purse - Helping In Jesus' Name

May 5, 2015

Book Review: Accidental Pilgrim by Stephen Kitsakos

Great quote:  "It was here against the shore of these waters that Jesus recruited his provincial fishers of men, walked atop the lake's crystal waves and calmed a nasty storm. The miracles that had occurred within a twenty-mile radius of the hotel had been chronicled, edited, argued about, interpreted and sneered at for two thousand years. But one fact was undeniable. The waters were narcotic and the lake's position from the coastal city of Tiberias afforded panoramic vistas of the small towns that dotted the shoreline oddly juxtaposed with resorts, kibbutzes, anachronistic factories and the enigmatic Mount Tabgha lurking afar." (Page 2)

Book summary:  "In the summer of 1974, Dr. Rose Strongin, a marine biologist, inexplicably disappears for three hours on the last day of an archaeological dig at the Sea of Galilee. She has no memory of the disappearance, but it causes her to miss her flight home from Israel. That plane, TWA 841, explodes over the Mediterranean killing all aboard. Twelve years later she learns that a 2,000 year-old perfectly preserved vessel, dubbed the “Jesus Boat,” is uncovered at the site of her disappearance and she begins to understand what happened and why. The novel crosses several decades exploring the intersection of science, religion and the unexplainable as a family gathers to say goodbye to the matriarch who held a family secret."  (back cover)

My thoughts:  The Accidental Pilgrim by Stephen Kitsakos is a well-written, engaging and ambitious novel that spans 40 years of time and two continents. An excellent of example of the magical realism genre, The Accidental Pilgrim mixes up a little bit of everything and arrives at some very intriguing conclusions.

I was not surprised to learn in the author's bio that Stephen Kitsakos is a theater writer. His talent as a writer definitely shines through in the book. Kitsakos set each scene perfectly, including minute details that help to bring each location to life. Of particular note is Kitsakos' proclivity to include details about each character's speech patterns. For example, one person speaks with "K" that sounded like a "small ball of phlegm" in the speakers throat. Another person spoke with the "Indian-inflected" accent that is familiar to American English speakers. These small touches aided the story has the scenes jumped through time and to different continents.

Likewise, Kitsakos is a journalist. The attention to historical detail in the book is quite good. Kitsakos includes numerous real-life events that occurred exactly as the fictional characters would have seen them, such as plane crashes that would have been front-page headlines. Kitsakos also adds touches of nostalgia such as referring to floppy disks and other items that would be appropriate for the 1970s and 80s.

The dialogue between the characters is often sad, sometimes funny and always top-notch. The relationships are complicated, even more so due to the complex story-arc that travels between the past and the present. Like all families, a death has brought them all together, but the past may still force them all apart. It is clear that secrets abound in this family, but it is not clear until the very end how they will all respond to the hidden stories and situations. 

Personally, the genre of magical realism is not one of my favorite genres to read. Despite my personal beliefs and favorite genres, I enjoyed this book and admire Kitsakos writing talent immensely.

This book pushes the borders of all religions, heavily mixing each set of beliefs until everything seems to overlap in a heavy ending. No spoilers here, but this book definitely does not end in a way that was expected. Readers who enjoyed The Life of Pi do not want to miss this debut novel. 

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Facts:
  • Pages:   298
  • Year originally published:   2014
  • Author:  You can find out more about Stephen Kitsakos at website and Twitter.
  • You might want to know:  This book is more PG-13 in nature due to occasional swearing.
  • Book Tour:  My review is part of a larger collection of reviews of this title. For more information and reviews, please visit TLC Book Tours.
Purchase on Amazon: The Accidental Pilgrim by Stephen Kitsakos   

FTC Disclosure: Lavish Bookshelf received this product complimentary in exchange for an honest review. The opinions in this review are solely the opinion of the author. Lavish Bookshelf was not required to provide a positive review and did not receive any further compensation. Links in this post may be an affiliate link to another website. When you purchase item through an affiliate link, Lavish Bookshelf may receive monetary compensation for the referral of the sale.

May 4, 2015

Book Review: The Residence by Kate Andersen Brower

Great quote:  "They may not influence policy, but their jobs are arguably as important as those of many political appointees. Without them, the White House would be uninhabitable. From preparing quiet meals for the first family to serving members of Congress and other world leaders, they represent the best in American service, while practicing their own unique brand of diplomacy. And, implicity of explicitly, their efforts are rewarded with the gratitude of the most powerful men and women on earth."  (Page 271)

Book summary:  "A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.

"America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.

"These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.

"Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members—many speaking for the first time—with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy’s private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband’s assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon’s resignation and President Clinton’s impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.

My thoughts:  The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower is truly a fascinating book behind the gates of America's White House. The information in this book has been gathered from countless interviews of White House staffers, including maids, butlers and pastry chefs. Many of the staffers have been employed at the White House for decades, watching several Presidents come and go over the years. These workers are professional, discreet and fiercely loyal to the Presidential families that have filled the halls of the White House.

I enjoyed the modern historical "behind the scenes" aspect of this book. While the staff remains loyal to their positions, it's clear that some Presidents, such as Johnson, were more difficult to please than others. Interestingly, the staff all seemed to genuinely enjoy their time with elder Bush in command.

I felt the best section of the book was the chapter covering 9/11. We have all heard countless stories covering the terrible events of that day, but it is chilling to read about 9/11 through the eyes of those who were in the White House that day. The lack of evacuation plan was frightening and seems a bit naive given the post-9/11 security world we live in today. 

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, then you really must read this book. The Residence is a uniquely American twist on the same "Upstairs/Downstairs" idea. Genuine stories of respect and friendships shine through the stories that Brower has collected in this book. The staff is always respectful of their background roles in the White House, however time and time again the stories tell of intimate conversations with the President. Brower presents a unique look at America's "royalty" and the White House, but it seems that the roles are very unlike the rigid "us-and-them" roles portrayed in Downton Abbey.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Facts:
  • Pages:   320
  • Year originally published:   2015
  • Author:  Kate Andersen Brower spent four years covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg News and is a former CBS News staffer and Fox News producer. She lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband and their two young children.
    Follow Kate on Twitter, @katebrower.
  • Book Tour:  My review is part of a larger collection of reviews of this book. For more information, please visit TLC Book Tours
Purchase on Amazon:   The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House

FTC Disclosure: Lavish Bookshelf received this product complimentary in exchange for an honest review. The opinions in this review are solely the opinion of the author. Lavish Bookshelf was not required to provide a positive review and did not receive any further compensation. Links in this post may be an affiliate link to another website. When you purchase item through an affiliate link, Lavish Bookshelf may receive monetary compensation for the referral of the sale.

May 1, 2015

Book Chat: My 2015 Reading Plan (April Update)

***  April 2015 Reading Update  ***

April was a tough month for me. 

A beloved aunt passed away a few days ago from pancreatic cancer. 
I was blessed to have the opportunity to spend several days with her towards the end. 
Needless to say, reading books was not the highest priority for me in April. 

I did manage to read a few books earlier in the month, though. 
My Goodreads total was climbing faster than expected, 
so my new book reading goal for 2015 has now been raised to 75 books!

Here's how the whole 
2015 reading challenge 
thing is going:

Grand Total of books read in 2015:  34

Lavish Bookshelf Challenge 2015: 
Tackling the To-Be-Read (TBR) Pile - One book per week (7/52)
  1. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff  (Finished January 2015)
  2. Africa Trek by Alexandre Poissin
  3. Alice Princess by Alice Princess Siwundhla
  4. Amazon Journal by Geoffrey O'Connor
  5. Annapurna by Maurice Herzog
  6. Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
  7. Arcadia by Lauren Groff
  8. Beauty Tips From Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson
  9. Berserk by David Mercy
  10. Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad
  11. Catfish and Mandala by Andrew Pham
  12. Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron
  13. Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn
  14. Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux
  15. Desert Queen by Janet Wallach
  16. East Along the Equator by Helen Winternitz   (Finished January 2015)
  17. Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach (Finished February 2015)
  18. Emotions by Charles Stanley
  19. Endurance by Alfred Lansing (Finished February 2015)
  20. Four Corners by Kira Salak
  21. Frenchman's Creek by Daphne Du Maurier
  22. Great Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough 
  23. Halfway to Each Other by Susan Pohlman
  24. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  25. In Silence by Ruth Sidransky
  26. In Trouble Again by Redmond O'Hanlon
  27. Little House in the Arctic by Kathy Slamp
  28. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  29. Measure of All Things by Ken Alder
  30. Memoirs of an English Governess in a Siamese Court by Anna Leonowens
  31. Motoring with Mohammed by Eric Hansen
  32. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier
  33. No Horizon is So Far by Ann Bancroft
  34. Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli
  35. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  36. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  37. Road Fever by Tim Cahill
  38. Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje (Finished January 2015)
  39. Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama  (Finished February 2015)
  40. Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
  41. Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich
  42. Sycamore Row by John Grisham
  43. The Summons by John Grisham
  44. The Associate by John Grisham  (Finished March 2015)
  45. The Client by John Grisham
  46. Through a Window by Jane Goodall
  47. Too Close to the Sun by Sara Wheeler
  48. Turkish Reflections by Mary Settle
  49. Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma
  50. Unheard by Josh Swiller
  51. Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan
  52. Winter in Arabia by Freya Stark

Other books To Be Read this year (if I have a LOT of extra time):
  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  2. Harry Potter Series (the entire series!) by J. K. Rowling

Book Riot's Read Harder in 2015 Challenge   
(10/24 completed)
  1. A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 -- Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton
  2. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 -- Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham
  3. collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people)
  4. A book published by an indie press -- Bridges of Paris by Michael Saint James
  5. A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
  6. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
  7. A book that takes place in Asia -- No Shortcuts to the Top by Ed Viesturs
  8. A book by an author from Africa
  9. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture 
  10. microhistory -- Our Auntie Rosa by Sheila McCauley Keys 
  11. YA novel
  12. sci-fi novel
  13. romance novel -- A Heart's Disguise by Colleen Coble 
  14. National Book AwardMan Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
  15. A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)
  16. An audiobook
  17. A collection of poetry
  18. A book that someone else has recommended to you -- Endurance by Alfred Lansing
  19. A book that was originally published in another language
  20. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind 
  21. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure - The Associate by John Grisham
  22. A book published before 1850
  23. A book published this year -- Miracle on Voodoo Mountain by Megan Boudreaux
  24. self-improvement book -- Clutter Free by Kathi Lipp 

Aussie Author Challenge 2015   
(0/3 completed)
  • WALLABY - Reading Challenge Level
    • Read and review 3 titles written by Australian authors, of which at least 1 of those authors are female, at least 1 of those authors are male, and at least 1 of those authors are new to you;
    • Fiction or non-fiction, any genre

2015 Reading Challenge from PopSugar    
(15/50 completed)

  1. Book w/ 500-ish pages -- Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham
  2. Classic romance
  3. Book that became a movie
  4. Book published this year (2015) -- Do You Have the Courage to Be You? by Jenny Williamson
  5. Book w/ a number in the title
  6. Book written by someone under 30 -- Miracle on VooDoo Mountain by Megan Boudreaux
  7. Book w/ nonhuman characters
  8. Funny book
  9. Book by female author -- What is Found, What is Lost by Anne Leigh Parrish 
  10. Mystery or thriller  --  A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear 
  11. Book w/ one-word title -- Endurance by Alfred Lansing
  12. Book of short stories
  13. Book set in a different country -- No Shortcuts to the Top by Ed Viesturs
  14. Nonfiction
  15. Popular author's first book -- A Heart's Disguise by Colleen Coble 
  16. Book from an author you love that you haven't read yet --  The Associate by John Grisham
  17. Book a friend recommended -- Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
  18. Pulitzer Prize-winning book
  19. Book based on true story -- Our Auntie Rosa by Sheila McCauley Keys 
  20. Book at bottom of your to-read list -- East Along the Equator by Helen Winternitz
  21. Book your mom loves
  22. Book that scares you
  23. Book more than 100 years old
  24. Book based on its cover  --  Nourished by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph
  25. Book you were supposed to read in school but didn't
  26. A memoir -- Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
  27. Book you can finish in a day
  28. Book w/ antonyms in the title
  29. Book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit
  30. Book that came out the year you were born
  31. Book w/ bad reviews
  32. A trilogy
  33. Book from your childhood
  34. Book w/ a love triangle
  35. Book set in the future
  36. Book set in high school
  37. Book w/ color in the title -- Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley 
  38. Book that made you cry
  39. Book w/ magic
  40. Graphic novel
  41. Book by an author you've never read before
  42. Book you own but have never read
  43. Book that takes place in your hometown  
  44. Book that was originally written in different language
  45. Book set during Christmas
  46. Book written by an author with your same initials
  47. A play
  48. A banned book
  49. Book based on or turned into a TV show
  50. Book you started but never finished

FTC Disclosure: Lavish Bookshelf may have received products complimentary in exchange for an honest review. The opinions in the review are solely the opinion of the author. Lavish Bookshelf was not required to provide a positive review and did not receive any further compensation. Links in this post may be an affiliate link to another website. When you purchase item through an affiliate link, Lavish Bookshelf may receive monetary compensation for the referral of the sale.