My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – Book Review

That reading slump I mentioned in my last post is still around, but it seems to be fading slowly. I came across My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (known as My Grandmother from here on out) in my sister’s room. She had started the book while on a plane, I know this because she tweeted about it, and then returned to find a copy waiting for her at the library. I picked it off her floor, giving her the same look I give her when she comes home with even more books to read. That one full of judgement but also guilt because I am the exact same way (you raise your eyebrows and fill your eyes with the sound of you saying “really” while trying to hide the tears from your own pile of books growing in the corner of your room). She rattled off the synopsis like she does with any book I ask her about, because she knows every single book in existence for her job as a librarian, and I took it home with me — my room ten feet away.

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Title: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Fantasy/Fiction

Length: 372 pages

Rating: 5 stars

My sister’s description of the book is as follows: This little girl has to go around and deliver letters to her grandmother’s old friends. Yeah, alright it sounds like a good concept, but she was missing the best parts of this book. There are fairy tales, a sarcastic seven, almost eight-year old, monsters, Harry Potter, princesses, and a halfie. Elsa discovers the truth on her own fair tale journey, for more click the link in the title for the Goodreads’ synopsis.

This book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but if it was I don’t know if I would have finished it. It’s as if Backman looked through the back of my mind and wrote that story. He knew what I wanted, even if I didn’t. He captured each character expertly, they each felt real and I still feel that this book needs be made into a movie. But then, there is no way a movie can capture this story in the same way.

Every time I put down the book to go do something else, I was pulled back in the minute I picked it back up. There was no need to settle into it. Some books are jarring, you forget the small details that were happening before you put the book down, not My Grandmother. And, Backman kept the heartbreak to a minimum for me. I won’t give it away, but the reason Elsa has to deliver the letters was not what pulled at my heart.

I don’t have any negatives about it. I’ve sat on it for a few days trying to find something that kept me from loving every second of it, but nothing comes up, except maybe I want to know more of the stories Elsa’s Grandmother told her.

And just look at that cover, it had everyone asking me about the book. I was more than happy to gush about it, it’s like a bedtime story for adults.

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How to Get Past Your Reading Slump

Last summer I was devouring books, my sister would walk in and see me starting a book and right before bed would see me again finishing the book. This summer, something hasn’t clicked. I haven’t spent a lot of time reading. I had a good period of about two weeks where I was in the book eating mood again, but then something happened. Since then, I haven’t read a lot. My reading pace is equal to that of a sloth’s walking(crawling?) pace. So, I thought I would make a list of things to do to get over this slump. They are as follows:

  • Keep reading – maybe you can just read yourself out of your slump?
  • Give up on the books you aren’t interested in – I have a difficult time with this one, but I will never get to the good books if I don’t.
  • Find a reading challenge – This might be found at your public library, or through articles like this PopSugar Reading Challenge.
  • Find a new reading location – Maybe it’s the scenery?

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  • Visit a new bookstore – You can never have too many books.
  • Continue buying books – One has got to solve the problem.
  • Start every book on your TBR – Read four pages of each and decide to try another.
  • Take some time to cut down your TBR, then chose the top book – That list can get daunting! You have got to be selective.
  • Read your best friend’s favorite book – You two have something in common, there must be something good about that book.
  • Keep trying different genres of books – It might be time to switch genres if you have the mystery solved by the second page.
  • Return to an old favorite genre – Maybe you need to revisit those mysteries to hone your skills.
  • Re-read your favorite book – You know it is going to be good, and remember your favorite scene?

But the one thing that usually helps me:

  • Don’t stress about being in a reading slump, you don’t need that pressure.

How do you get past your reading slumps? Any other advice?

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My Favorite Places to Read

3. Outside

Reading outside can be great, but it barely made the list. The sun shining while I tear through a book sounds like a great plan. Ask me on a cold, rainy, Spring day what I am looking forward to, and my answer might be: “I’m going to lay out my blanket and read all summer long.” It’s unlikely, but it is always high on my list.

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That is, it’s on my list until I actually try to go outside and read. After arranging my blanket for ten minutes and finding a comfortable position on top of it, I try to fall into the story. Then the wind starts blowing the pages, my blanket, and my hair until I’m about ready to scream. Finally, after the wind dies down and I really get into my book, the sun starts burning my head. I sit for a little longer, determined to enjoy this, until I have spent enough time and head back in. Total time? maybe 15 minutes. Number of pages read? Maybe five.

2. On a trip

I’m a big fan of road trips. I plan ahead on everything that I am going to catch up on, and reading is high on that list. The good thing is that there isn’t much to distract me. I have music, my 3DS, and usually books (besides the other people in the car/plane). I can’t spend the entire time surfing the internet, so I pull out my book.

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I feel no guilt pulling out my book, and luckily I don’t get car sick, so I usually get a lot of reading done. Down side? The vehicle usually puts me to sleep, so I better love that book.

1. My room

There is nothing better than being home. Everything you could need is there, along with a big supply of books. There are a few places that I like reading, such as the couch, or the ground.

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But nothing beats making a pile of blankets and pillows and spending a good chunk of time traveling through the world of a book. It’s the most efficient reading time I have, the only down side is finding a long-term comfortable position is difficult. The best part? When I finish the book, I have the next three lined up right there.

So, where are your favorite reading spots?

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Excuses as to why I haven’t written for approximately 100 years

1. The end of my trip to Italy was crazy.
2. It was a lot of traveling so I obviously had to catch up on sleep.
3. I started work…ok I had plenty of downtime at work….
4. Buuuuuut, I had to read like crazy to catch up with my goal of 50 books this year.
5. We won’t mention that I am still behind on that.
6. Again, I was reading.
7. I was working on ideas for a book (see, I actually did something like writing…just not here).
8. I almost had to move, and I still might.
9. I started an internship and all my writing energy went into writing emails and re-writing press-releases.
10. …There really is no good reason, I couldn’t even write a book review for the ten books I read in two weeks….

Really guys, I’m sorry. I’m going to try to write more often, the inspiration just hasn’t been there (call that number 11).

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Florence Day 14-16 & Rome Day 1/2

Day 14 (Wednesday)

Today we visited the Uffizi. I hadn’t heard of this art museum before today, but I guess it is one of the best in the world. It is huge, and set up so that it goes chronologically through art. There were a few things that we had to stop and see for class before we were given time on our own.

We saw “Primavera” and “the Birth of Venus” by Boticelli, work by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, and hundreds of other paintings. It was amazing seeing the works in person. I don’t know much about art, or what makes a painting good or bad (and it’s kind of starting to seem like it’s all about who likes the art instead of how good technically it is), but seeing everything in the museum was amazing.

After the museum, we were given a long break before it was time to go to class. I went to the Market Centrale and picked up some spices and tomatoes to make a great lunch. Then, we met up as a group to make some breaded chicken, only to realize that the chicken was no good. Our meal of breaded chicken and pasta quickly turned into scrambled eggs and spaghetti, and the new motto, “spice makes the meal” was started.

Day 15 (Thursday)

Today was another excursion day, and just like when we got up early to catch a train to Pisa, we got up early to catch a bus today. This time, we wound through the hillsides on our way to Siena (and we each had a row to ourselves, that is traveling in luxury). The ride was a little over an hour, but one of the quietest hours I have ever experienced. The exhaustion is getting to everyone and it is pretty much sleep when you can without feeling guilty for missing Florence.

After arriving, we met up with our tour guide for the day, and were equipped with the little devices we have used for every tour. It is basically a radio that hangs around your next with one headphone attached. The guide has the same, only adds a microphone so it feels as if a personal friend is whispering in your ear as you walk around these amazing churches and cities.

Siena has something that I haven’t experienced very often, hills. Each hill is either a steep incline or decline. But, the history and communities in Siena made it one of the most interesting places for me. There are 17 districts that make up Siena, each with their own bar, church, stable, and animal to represent them. Then, each summer they have two horse races around the main piazza of their city. Only ten communities can race, so just a few weeks ago they had to choose those communities that will not be racing.

The real fun begins three days before the race. This is when the order that the communities get to chose their horse is randomly selected. There is no guarantee that a community will get a certain horse, and choosing the right jockey to go along with that horse is also very important. Then, the horse is put in the community’s stable and guarded up until the time of the race.

The piazza is filled with people the day of the race, all screaming for their horse, because as our guide told us it’s the horse that matters. There are jockeys who fall off at a certain corner, but a horse can win without someone riding it (and that has happened).

This all happens twice a year and then the communities who win get ribbons to display in their section.

Day 16 (Friday)

Today was our last day in Florence. We spent it by finishing up class in the morning and then heading out to the Galileo Museum. It was amazing to see all these inventions from so long ago in person. It’s hard to put ourselves back in the time when it wasn’t completely natural to believe that the sun is the middle of our solar system and the fact that the universe is unbelievably large and growing, but back then they believed what they saw. They saw that the sun rose and set, so why would it make sense to even think that the sun didn’t move.

Each day here in Florence is getting hotter, and today was a long hike all around Florence, which our professor has named, “the Galileo Walk.” The majority was uphill in the sun so by the time we got to the house that Galileo spent his house arrest in, we were walking zombies. Seeing Florence from above and the countryside around it was incredible. There are so many small streets that are hiding all their beauty for those willing to work to find them. Even after spending two weeks walking around and taking in as much as possible every minute, I would need another two to even begin to realize how much I am missing. We finished the tour at the Piazzale Michelangelo where I have watched the sunset a few nights.

Then, it was time to go back to the apartments, clean, pack, and get ready for our early ride tomorrow morning. We did manage to get out for our final dinner in Florence (we ate at the same place that we ate the first night, with the Duomo looming over again). Then, grabbed some gelato and filming a time-lapse of our walk back to remember the final time of walking down that street.

 

Rome Day 1 (Saturday)

Today started early with taxis picking us up and bringing us to the train station (mine almost brought us to the airport instead) and jumping on a train. The train went by quickly, and we were soon on our way to the hotel we will be living in for a week. The only problem was the rooms weren’t ready for us, so we had to store our luggage and try to go find something to do.

My first impression of Rome? It’s humid. I forgot how humid it was, but it came right back after ten minutes outside. We spent the morning walking around trying to get they layout here before going on a walking tour.

The walking tour was a lot of fun, and it was nice that we didn’t stop at all the main attractions because those are to come. Instead we learned more about the history, or layers, of the land and everything that has changed. There is a statue by our hotel called Pasquino, he is from ancient times, but was found and put on display on the Papal Road (one of the three we learned about) to show the power and influence the man had. It quickly became a way for the people of Rome to express their outrage and issues with the current events. At one point there was a second “talking” statue and Pasquino and him would have conversations. One morning everyone would go to Pasquino and read about the latest news, posted there by the community, and then the next morning they would go to this other statue to get the response. It was like the two were having an actual conversation. Sadly, the other statue has since been moved to a museum, but Pasquino still stands and is still as vocal as ever.

Then, after the tour it was time to go explore some more and find supper. I went out with a group of friends and we found a small bar where we could watch the Champions League final (Barcelona vs Juventus). We got this small upstairs portion to ourselves and it was fun to see and hear everyone watching the game. After that it was a walk through Piazza Navona, where we saw all sorts of street performers and some gelatto before heading back to the hotel.

Rome Day 2 (Sunday)

Today started out great. I got up, grabbed some breakfast and was ready to go to church at St Peters. We walked over, stood in the hugely long line, and took pictures of the amazing building. I noticed when we were waiting in line that I wasn’t feeling the best, but I wasn’t going to pass up this chance. It really hit me after mass started though I spent the entire mass wishing it was over so that I could go back to the hotel and sleep. Still, the ceremony was beautiful from what I can remember.

It was after we had gotten out of the church that we realized the Pope was going to be addressing the crowd. I wasn’t feeling the best, but like I said, I wasn’t going to miss this. I missed it, or at least the beginning. But hey, at least I now can point out a building where I got sick right before seeing the Pope speak.

The rest of the day was spent in bed, and much of my survival is thanks to my roommate who went out and bought some sprite and crackers.

PS 

I would love to post pictures, but the wifi at the hotel is not good at all, so sadly the upcoming posts will be pictureless. Unless, I find a solution.

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Florence Day 12/13

Day 12

Today was back to class with a trip to San Marco. This church has been turned mostly into a museum now, and is filled with all sorts of paintings. But, the most interesting part is the cells on the upper floor. The church was set up as a square with a courtyard in the middle. There is then a hallway and rooms that go off of this courtyard, meaning that each of the monks that lived in the cells had their own window. We got a chance to look into these rooms and it became clear that the frescos that filled the rest of the church spread to this part. Each room had a window, plain furniture and a fresco with something to do with prayer.

This church was also where Savonarola lived. He was a catholic monk who opposed the Medici family and thought they were bringing Florence down with them because of their appreciation for art and the fact he saw them as straying away from God.

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After the church visit, we went back and had class, setting up the things for the next few days when we put Galileo on trial ourselves.

Day 13

Today we went to the Academia and saw the David. He is huge, 14 feet tall, and built so that everyone could see him from the ground while he sat atop the Cathedral. Seeing him in person is different than I expected, and it doesn’t exactly feel like I saw him. Instead, it feels like I just looked at a picture, but I was standing there. Everything about his room in the Academia was build specifically for him. He has a big dome above him, with simple squares, and is surrounded by white walls. There are also three different hallways that lead to him, putting him in the intersection, but ensuring that you don’t approach him from behind. Then, they have special lighting, both natural and artificial positioned to make him glow in the spot, as if he was being summoned by God.

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The rest of the Academia was also interesting. There was a room filled with the plaster molds of sculptures, and an exhibit about old instruments, and rooms filled with old altar art from churches that couldn’t keep it safe.

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Side note, if you are in a large group, you can control what people look at in a room. We were gathered around a random picture and so many people came and studied the picture as if it was a super well-known piece when really we were just learning about David.

After the Academia, we went to San Lorenzo (close to the Market Centrale where I went on Saturday) to see the Medici chapels. I cannot even fathom how much time and money was spent on a simple (haha) tomb for the family members. One tomb could have fit almost our entire class. Then, hidden in a little side room was a room for all the relics that the Medici family had. The second chapel, where Lorenzo the Magnificent was buried was designed by Michelangelo himself and there are drawings on the walls that are said to be his from when he was in hiding in the chapel.

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Then, it was a break for lunch and then class. But wait, isn’t June 2nd a national holiday in Italy? Why yes it is, so our school was closed. So, instead we had class in the Boboli gardens. We found a walkway with a wall and split up into our different groups to start our Galileo trial. Despite the heat rising each day, we were fine because of the shade.

That night, after visiting a costume house in the gardens, I got together with other people from the class and we made some chicken and a fruit salad. It wasn’t bad considering we only had butter knives to cut pears, apples, and other fruit.

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Florence 10/11

Day 10 – Saturday

Today was the day I took off to catch up with everything that I needed. I slept in, taking of the one chance we have over here in Italy. Then, after a relaxed morning, my roommate and I headed out to the Duomo to meet up with friends and go shopping. We went to the big market in Florence near San Lorenzo. The streets were just like I imagined a market would be. It almost felt like being inside because the tents were stuck so closely together. As I walked through I was greeted by every vendor as they tried to get me to walk over. I missed out on a lot of deals as they continued yelling at my back that they would only charge me half of what it actually cost (I was even offered a free leather jacket, but missed out on that one). I picked up a few things, and the others got their souvenir list checked off before we headed inside the market.

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If I lived in Florence, this would be where I would buy my groceries. It was all food stands of every sort as far as I could see. The mounds of fruit, next to the cheese, next to a butcher reminded me of every market I have ever heard described.

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After that, we headed away from the market to the other areas of Florence to explore some places that we had passed before without really getting a chance to see. We ran into Piazza San Marco, saw the Academia, and finally took pictures over the Ponte Veccio.

The excursion was a nice way to start the day, but then it was time to head back and finish the mounds of homework that we can never seem to catch up on (plus maybe a nap).

To end the day, we met up with my friend’s cousin to get some food. She took us to a place that has the best bread here so far. The thing is, it isn’t that hard to beat because bread in Florence doesn’t have salt. You don’t realize how important that is until it’s not there.

Day 11

Today was the big day of the weekend, our day trip to Cinque Terre (5 lands). We got up early and got to the train station. It took a little while to figure out which train to get on because the trains are listed based on end point instead of the different stops (this was just the beginning of our roller coaster of a day). We managed to get on the correct train before doubts of transferring trains began to fill our heads.

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There was a group near us that was also headed to Cinque Terre, and they were changing trains. But, we couldn’t decide between the eight of us, so I put in my headphones and watched as the mountains that have been watching from the background got closer and closer. When we got to the stop where the other group left to get on another train the real debate started. Some had seen a paper list of the stops and Riomaggiore was on there, while others watched as everyone else got off. We were messaging our friend who was already there visiting another friend and he said he switched trains. Backpacks flew as we ran off the train. The doors shut behind us and we went to go find the train we were supposed to get on. The train? the one we had just been on. The stop? the very next stop.

It was alright, there was a train coming at 11:10 that would take us there, and we were all ready for some food and a bathroom. Yet, our friend told us about another train we could take that left at 10:45, so we grabbed our food and went to go find the platform. Confusion again, because a group of eight people with opinions doesn’t move quickly, and we missed that train. The fallback train was still on it’s way though, so we were fine. 11:10 came and we watched as a train on a different platform arrived. Still, our board said that we were on the right platform so we didn’t move. Wrong choice, that train left and we were stuck there until 11:55, we would get to Cinque Terre right in time for lunch.

The platform filled up with everyone wearing hiking gear and swimsuits as the time approached. Soon, you couldn’t see the platform because there were so many people squished onto it; it seems we weren’t the only people who had been on the wrong platform. It was like sardines when the train arrived, people on laps, in the aisles and filling every inch available. Getting off was even more difficult. Not everyone was stopping at the first of the five cities, but they weren’t letting the others off. The doors screamed that they wanted to close, while everyone yelled “scuzi” to try to get people to move and let us off. By the time we were off the train and found a small corner for our group we were all shaking because of the anxiety. But, we had made it. First on the list was lunch.

The thing about Cinque Terre is that it is five separate towns that you can hike between on the coast. The other thing about Cinque Terre is that a few years back they had a mud slide and all the easy hiking paths are basically closed. We were feeling brave and confident (because we are young students and can do anything) so we decided to hike it all. The first route was a little over a mile. Not bad. That little over a mile though was half straight up a mountain with steps at least a foot tall. It only took about five minutes before my legs were screaming and sweat was dripping down my face. But, we made it to the top, took some sweaty pictures with the amazing view and headed down. I’ve never felt more like a billy goat. It was a small jump of faith every step down. Gravel slid if you stepped wrong, and heights are my favorite things, but by the time we were done, I felt great. Not enough to continue the hike to the third town, but enough to look back fondly. The rest of the day was spent exploring and sitting on the beach enjoying the cool water and the sun.

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The ride back was a little complicated, but we made it. After getting on the train right before our train, and not being able to get off at any of the other four towns in Cinque Terre (scary because you’re literally trapped in a train) we ended in La Spezia and had an idea of how to get back. Still, we wanted to check and saw a small window with a group of girls asking a question. Turns out the window was for the traffic control people and the girls were college students going back to Florence also. We were right (which is good because I’m the one with data and my phone was dying). They seemed a little more flustered, so we all banded together and took on the rest of the ride together.

The high point of the rest of the train ride was that in Pisa we had two options for connecting trains. The first would be a miracle to get on since it left at 9:32 and our train got in at 9:35, and the second left at 10:30. My friend and I were content that we at least knew which train to get on, but the other girls said we had to make the earlier train. There must have been some karma somewhere because the 9:32 train was delayed 25 minutes meaning we would make it easily.

The walk back to our apartment was filled with pride. We had figured it all out, and were only a little sunburnt.

Good thing we don’t have the option to take any other trips.

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