Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia (Book Review)

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Title: Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia

Author: Jean Sasson

Purchase: Amazon.com

Cover Excerpt: “Sultana is a Saudi Arabian princess, a woman born to fabulous, uncountable wealth. She has four mansions on three continents, her own private jet, glittering jewels, designer dresses galore. But in reality she lives in a gilded cage. She has no freedom, no control over her own life, no value but as a bearer of sons. Hidden behind her black floor-length veil, she is a prisoner, jailed by her father, her husband, her sons, and her country.Sultana is a member of the Saudi royal family, closely related to the king. For the sake of her daughters, she has decided to take the risk of speaking out about the life of women in her country, regardless of their rank. She must hide her identity for fear that the religous leaders in her country would call for her death to punish her honesty.” (from Amazon.com)

My Thoughts

I have very conflicting thoughts about this book but would like to point out before anything that this is the first book (in several years) that I have read front to back. Lately, I’ve found it really difficult to finish a book merely because the book just isn’t interesting enough to finish or the ending is too predictable that I don’t feel like putting forth the effort. However, this book had me engaged throughout that for the first time every I was actually surprised when it ended. Apparently the last 20 pages are an index and excerpt of the Koran.

Now for the conflicted part. The book was that Princess Sultana is actually a pseudonym of an actual Saudi Arabian princess. So, truly the reader on has on good faith the author, Sasson, didn’t combine stories from multiple women she encountered or merely made the stories up herself. I find that the narrative of the story was more memoir than a typical biography and the details were so precise that I would never recommend it as a biography for the sake of fact. However, as far as the book being a memoir, I would say it is outstanding. The book has a wonderful flow and really knows how to capture the readers attention through different stories. I also appreciate that the princess’s story doesn’t just focus on her own story but of her sisters and women she met throughout her life.

It also bothers me that Princess Sultana talks about how restricted her life is and the people she was acquainted with, yet she trusts some of her most intimate secrets with a foreigner. I’m curious about how Sultana would have met Sasson to start with and how Sasson would have been able to be around Sultana enough to write four books about Saltana’s life. Surely, Sultana’s husband would have eventually grown suspension about this relationship.

This is one of the first books I’ve read about the Saudi Arabian culture. While I am familiar with current issues and women rights of Saudi women in the 21st century, I was still surprised by many of the facts presented in the book. Being a “woman of the west” (as they referred to US women), I was slightly offended by the way US women are portrayed by Saudi Arabian men and that even Princess Sultana believed that US women have lower standards for values. Some of the things she referenced her brother saying about US women made me think about what other men (and women) in other cultures think of us.

The Bee-Friendly Garden (Book Review)

Title: The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yar That Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity.

Authors: Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn

Purchase: Penguin House or Amazon

Cover Summary: “In The Bee-Friendly Garden, award-winning garden designer Kate Frey and bee expert Gretchen LeBuhn provide everything you need to know to create a stunningly colorful, vibrant, safe, healthy garden that helps both the threatened honeybee and native bees.” 

For the last few years, my husband has really been interested in starting a bee colony and even went as far as building his own, custom made bee box to see if he could attract a queen. However, after tons of research and many frustrating attempts to clear the growing number of ants out of the box, it seemed that he had given up. The minute I saw this book I knew that I had to get it to see if there was something we were missing in our bee planning adventure. The authors appear to be very knowledgeable about the topic; check out this article about Kate Frey (here).

Immediately we realized that part of our error was we were relying on the wrong plants to attract the bees. While we had originally refused to mow over the clover patches in our 1-acre lawn, we realized that the bees would need more to attract their interest. So, a few hours after finishing this book, we headed off to the local plant nursery and came back with some new additions.

Flowers
Firewheel (Image Taken by Husband)

One of the more challenging parts of this book was Chapter 6, which covers finding flowers that work in your region. There is a handy chart the authors use to describe the zones but they place Kansas with a Hardiness Zone Number 8 when the USDA (United States National Arboretum) has us in 6a.  The USDA map (here) is from 2012 so the region could have changed. However, this isn’t an area that I have any advanced knowledge in so they might be completely the same thing. All I know is that the numbers aren’t the same making it a little confusing when looking into recommended flowers.

The cover of the book is very attractive, especially the spine. I also appreciate that there is a large variety of pictures throughout the book. I would recommend this book to any gardener and anyone interested in attracting bees to their area.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.

Who’s Haunting the White House? (Book Review)

Title: Who’s Haunting the White House? The President’s Mansion and the Ghosts Who Live There

Author: Jeff Belander

True Story. A patron came up to me and was asking for research help on the ghost of Abigail Adams. Little did she know that I have the potential of being a ghost story “expert” and after some absolutely thrilling research, I stumbled upon a children’s book called Who’s Haunting the White House? The President’s Mansion and the Ghosts Who Live There by Jeff Belanger.

Published in 2008, this is Jeff Belanger‘s first children’s book.He is the Emmy-nominated producer (and host) of the New England Legends series which debuted on PBS, in 2013. He is known for his knowledge of the supernatural and has been quoted by Reader’s DigestUSA Today, and many more.

Image from the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection. Taken from USA Today

While the topic of this children’s book is ghosts residing in the “most haunted home” in the United States, the story provides an excellent historical background of the many former Presidents, background about their family, and information about the history of the White House. One valuable trait that this book includes is “original” notes and images of artifacts to help promote the credibility of this book. One specific artifact that I found interesting is an image of Mary Todd Lincoln with the “ghost” of Abraham Lincoln. The additional information about the photographer of this image was well researched and interesting.

 

As far as criticisms are concerned, the author could do with using a few periods every now and then. I was reading this book aloud and the amount of commas were a bit distracting. I’m not saying I don’t like commas, I use them more than I should. However, for a children’s book, shorter sentences would have been nice for younger readers. I would recommend this book to any ghost hunter (regardless of age), to anyone interested in the history of the White House, and any child interested in US history.

Whew….Finally Made It!

I can’t believe it’s May! It feels like it was yesterday that I was enrolling in my final semester as a Library Science graduate student and now…here we are…2 weeks from graduation!!

Which means, in two weeks I will have one of my Master’s degrees finished, an entire Summer Vacation of work and play, and one final semester before completing my second Master’s. Oh, and did I mention that I will have an entire Summer Vacation of just work and play?!?!

No 40 hours of work + 4 graduate classes + 12 credits worth of homework time but a whole summer of 40 hours of work and at 12+ hours of free time added to my week to do whatever I want.

Which also means, I can go back to chatting with all of you!

Now on to the list…

My summer plans are going to be very relaxed. Of the 168 hours each week, I will be:

  1. Sleeping (duh!) for at least 50 hours. I’m going to make sleep a priority this summer to catch up on all those restless nights of trying to remember what was due the next day.
  2. My typical work schedule (if my contract is renewed in June *fingers crossed*) is approximately 45 hours.
  3. I’ll dedicate a generous 14 hours to eating (preparing dinner)
  4. We could throw in at least 8 hours of “outside time” which could be used for playing in the garden or hiking.

Which leaves me with about 51 hours worth of time that I can dedicate toward catching up on Bones and A Game of Thrones, Reading, Planning the storyboard for my final project, Reading, Working Out, Visiting Family….oh, and Reading!!!!!!

So, with all that being said…Here’s to the next few weeks going by “faster than the speed of light” so that we can get this awesome Summer started!

 

 

 

Source: Disney UK. (2013). Frozen “In Summer” Song. Youtube. 

2016 New Year’s Resolutions

One of my favorite bloggers, Frank Viola, had a wonderful post a few weeks ago about how to create an amazing 2016. One of his tips was to “select a word for the year to focus on and build your year around it”. I really liked this idea of creating a theme for my year, so along with my usually yearly goals I’m going to add a “word for the year list”.

The word that I’ve decided to focus on is…..LISTEN

Image Source: godlivesandloves.tumblr.com

I’ve thought for a while about this word and since there are going to be tons of changes happening in 2016 I want to be sure I take the time to listen. 2016 will be a big year for school since I will be graduating from two different graduate programs in Spring and Fall semester. With the rush of finishing school I want to still find time to focus on the other important things.

I also want to do a better job of listening to people. I’ve always considered myself a listener more than a talker but I want to work on developing this skill more.

Now onto my New Year’s Goals:

  1. Read to the parakeets: I want to work on talking more to my parakeets and so my goal is to read to them for 30 minutes a day. I’m sure 30 minutes a day (527,040 minutes / leap year) will result in many books. I know this goal seems a little odd for my theme (Listen) but I want to work on building a better relationship with them.
  2. Finish constructing two websites: I already have two clients that I’ve been communicating with and ironically both clients have decided to move forward with the design at the same time. My goal is by next year both websites will be hosted and fully functional.
  3. Workout!: Haha, this one is on everyone’s list. My goal is to try some new things (yoga, shadow boxing, cycling, backpacking, etc.) I’ve created a list of what activity to try each month and my goal is to try each at least once.
  4. Complete at least 50 goals from my 101 in 1001 List: I did a pretty poor job last year of only completing 9.
  5. Write More: I found a really cool app called Penzu, which is a free online journal. If I learned anything this year it is that documenting is extremely important. I can’t tell you how many times this year things happened and I was left voiceless because I couldn’t provide a proper date or time. So, you might not think that writing down what you had for breakfast is important but trust me, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  6.  Read the Bible: I’ve been working on this for the last few months and I want to make it my goal to finish reading by the end of next year.
  7. “Throw” Things Away: I’m not sure if anyone else has seen Embracing Homemaking’s post “200 Things to Throw Away” but my goal is to take each day and go through at least one thing on the list.
    Things to Throw Away
    Check out Ashley’s blog for more details about the challenge.

    And I realized that there are 261 weekdays in a year which means I have plenty of time if I designate each weekday for each task. So, I guess no excuses, right?

  8. Level up to 100: World of Warcraft is my favorite video game and I hope that I’ll have plenty of time to play in 2016. My goal is to get at least 3 of my characters to 100 before the expansion comes out in September. It might sound like a lot but it’s not as big of a challenge at it sounds. Currently: Hermionie (Priest) is at level 89, KittyKatty (Mage) is at 51, and Bephni (Warrior) is 38. These are my three favorite out of my dozen or so characters. So, hopefully with them leveled and with Ruubin (Paladin) I’ll have a great team to play with when Legion comes out.

Another Year Gone…..Part 3

New Year’s Resolution 2015 Reflection: (Here)

2015 Book Challenges Reflection: (Here)

This final post was going to be a reflection on my 101 in 1001 days. When I was going through my list last night I was disappointed to see that I had only achieved 9 of the 101……(well 10 technically, but I can’t find the date when we beat Boarderlands the PreSequel).

So, I’m blaming this on poor planning. I’ve gotten out my 2016 Calendar and am going to make it my goal to at least achieve 50 of these goals.

As for the rest of the year, here are some of my favorites along with my favorite photos:

Favorite Books of 2015: 

Young Adult Book: Heidel by Anita Valle (review)

Book Published in 2015: The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne (review)

Book of the Year: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (review coming soon)

An Organized Book Shelf (Image Courtesy: Me)
Two dogs in a blanket (Image Courtsey: Me)

Favorite Movies of 2015: 

Favorite Comedy: Pitch Perfect 2

Surprised Favorite: Jurassic World (became my favorite movie)

Favorite Action: The Man from UNCLE

Favorite Sci Fi: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Favorite Romance: – (Can’t believe I didn’t see a single one this year)

Favorite Animated: Inside Out

Favorite Horror: – (Yeah, right….)

 

Favorite Moments of 2015:

The Husband and I bought our first “big purchase item” in our 4 years of marriage.

Yay!

The Husband and I watched the Blood Moon.

A surprising image taken my an iPhone…..what?! 

I was accepted into Phi Kappa Phi

Babysat some really cute goat.

See, she’s really cute. (Image Courtesy: Me)

My dad had successful eye surgery.

I attended my first work conference.

My hotel view of Oklahoma City. 

And as always…..

Just keep believin’ 

Hope you all had a terrific year!

-B

Another Year Gone….Part 2

2015, where did you go?! I don’t know about everyone else but it feels like this year went by really fast. Like roller coaster fast. Whew! So, like usually, this post is going to be a reflective post to see how well I did on my 2015 New Year’s Resolutions, my Book Challenges, and the yearly update on my 101 in 1001 Challenge.

And. Here. We. Go.

New Year’s Resolution Post (HERE)

Update on Book Challenges:

2015 Book Challenge:

I read 33 out of the 47. While most of the books I ended up reading were different than the books I had anticipated reading when I made the list in January. However, that’s 70% of my list so I’ll call it a WIN!

The 2015 Witches Witchcraft Reading Challenge:

I made it to the Maiden level. While I obviously read the Harry Potter series (an automatic 7 books), the other fantasy books I read didn’t really include witches.

2015 A-Z Author Challenge:

Yay! 20 out of 26 letters.

I figured Q, U, X, Y, and Z would be hard to fulfill anyway. I should have planned better. Somehow most of the authors I read had last names starting with M……..

 

Now to find what book challenge to do next year!