Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Little Paris Bookshop [Book Review for Penguin]

Nina George, prize-winning and bestselling author and journalist who published 26 novels, mysteries and science thrillers as well as over a hundred short stories and more than 600 newspaper columns, wrote The Little Paris Bookshop, first published in German as "Das Lavendelzimmer" on May 2, 2013. This newly translated German bestseller is a warmhearted, occasionally sentimental account of letting go of the old loves to make room for new. 

Set in Provence, this sensual novel deals with heartbreak, solace and the love of books. Translated into 335 languages, ranked among the top ten novels on Spiegel Magazine’s bestseller list for fiction since May 2013, and entered as well the New York Times bestseller list. 

Jean Perdu has lived in a time capsule of his own grief. Twenty-one years ago, his lover, Manon, left, leaving behind only a letter to explain herself—which Jean never opened. Ever since, Jean has devoted his life to his floating bookstore, the Literary Apothecary, a barge docked on the Seine. He can diagnose a shopper's ills (ennui, disappointment, a range of fears) and select the correct literary remedy. When heartbroken Catherine moves into his building, Jean brings her an old table and a stack of books to cure her crying. 

In the table, Catherine finds Manon's unopened letter and demands Jean read it, or she will. The two become enamored with one another, and Jean, buoyed by Catherine, finally reads Manon's letter, but the truth is heartbreaking. Manon returned to her home in Provence (and her husband—it was complicated) to succumb to an illness she had been hiding. Her last request was for Jean to visit before she died. Jean, overwhelmed this news, lifts the Literary Apothecary's anchor to finally make the journey to Manon. 

Stowed away is his neighbor Max, a young novelist running away from his fame. The two navigate the canals of France selling books for food, engaging in adventures small, large, all against the backdrop of quaint villages, and bittersweet memories. They take on some passengers: a roguish Italian who has been searching the waterways for his long-lost sweetheart; and a renowned novelist. As Jean makes his way to Manon's home (all the while writing love letters to Catherine), he prepares to ask for forgiveness—from the memory of Manon, from her husband, and from himself.

A charming novel that believes in the healing properties of fiction, romance, and a summer in the south of France. Nina George's lyrical tribute to love, literature, people, living, dying, and all things French was a privilege to read. This novel is a homage to the vanishing independent bookseller, but it is much more than that. It is a reflection on love and death and other deep subjects. It is also a love letter to France.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

20 Things I Have Learned: Winter Solstice

© Susan Marie, Cazenovia Creek, South Buffalo

The winter solstice, the rebirth of the Sun, is an important turning point, as it marks the increase in the hours of daylight. The solstice is the moment the sun is shining farthest to the south, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. This is the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. Although the solstice marks official "midwinter" on my side of the globe, this day is a welcome to the light. 

Every moment I do my best to learn from every experience. Human beings tend to focus only on positive OR negative experiences. Negative experiences eventually become positive if one is paying attention. 
I do not make resolutions. They are unrealistic expectations and expectations lead to disappointment. Instead, at the close of every year, welcoming a new year, I ask myself: 
What have you learned? 
1. That all of us are valuable parts of one race, the human one, with beautiful, diverse parts that make life interesting and exciting. We are a microcosm of an immense grand stage, yet we think we are the epicenter of everything. We all have numerous purposes, some yet to be discovered. Do not discount your own being. None of us are greater than another. 
2. That an immense ever growing desire to learn about everything is a rare and beautiful way to be. 
3. Not everyone will understand your struggle, outlook, opinions, beliefs and especially, your heart and soul. That is okay. Stay by those who do. Learn from those who do not. Believe in yourself first. 
4. Move on when any experience discounts the importance of your own being. Do what you must to progress, grieve, heal, then teach others through your actions. Stand up for yourself. 
5. Love is wondrous. It exists. Do not be afraid to show others that you care for and love them. Your heart is precious. Yes, there is pain in life, this is how the universe operates. Keep your heart open. The world needs more of this. Most importantly, you need yourself.  
6. Love yourself fully. Take care of your mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health. Be proud of and for yourself. You must be your own supporter first and foremost. We are only human. We are supposed to make mistakes. We are not perfect, we were not created to be omniscient. This is what being human is all about. Bliss, pain, progression, repeat. 
7. If you want to create, then do it. What are you waiting for? You have the ability to do whatever you want. There is no time stamp on creation. Support all genres of art wherever you are, however you can. All art heals. 
8. Nature is a natural healer. Get out in it whenever you are able. Place your bare feet in grass, dirt, sand and water. Place your palms on the barks of trees, hug a tree, plant a tree. Start a garden, put plants in your home, teach those around you of the wonder and importance of nature. Pick up rocks, stones, twigs, shells, whatever is of this Earth. Document the beauty. We must be more kind to Mother Nature. Without her, we cease to exist. 

  © Susan Marie

9. Be responsible for your behaviors, words, and actions. Say sorry. It does not matter if one says it back. Be mindful of how you communicate and think. Words. Hurt. Be kind to yourself and to others. Those meant to stay by you, do. Allow other doors to stay shut. You did your part. 
10. Be a child! Run through sprinklers, make snow angels, lay beneath trees, walk in the rain, get out in the sunshine. Be silly, have fun, laugh and smile. Do not ever allow anyone to cause you to lose your wonder. 
11. We have 24 hours every single day to decide to do something lasting while on Earth. Whatever you do, large or small, make it count. 
12. Cease obsessing about how you look, what you did or did not do, thinking about the past, blaming yourself for things you had no control over, you cannot control everything. Do what is healing. There are amazing people and experiences waiting for you. 
13. Hug those you care about. Tell them you care. Show them you care. Recognizing another human soul is crucial for progression on both ends. Bring more happiness into the world and to yourself. Intention is EVERYTHING. 
14. Some people will never move past their own hurt. If you are unable to make a positive impression, move on. You tried. It is up to them now. 
15. You are not a doormat. Say it! --> I am not a doormat.
16. If you are in need of help, get it, ask. If you can help another, do it! Cease being ashamed of being human. We have all screwed up. So what? If you never screw up, you never learn lessons. It is NORMAL to have a wide range of human emotions. 
17. Tell the children around you that you love them. Hug them. Give them confidence. Motivate them. Teach them how to be responsible, active parts of their world. Teach them what you know. Show them through your experience. Allow them to teach and guide you. You were given this role as an adult because you were chosen as a guide to another human soul. Your job is to help them be the best version of themselves possible. 

18. Be grateful for your family. Make sure they are aware of this. Some people have no one. 
19. Learn about different languages, cultures, sexual genders, faiths and beliefs. We have a wondrous world. It is okay to disagree with anything that does not suit you. It is not okay to attack others that live, look, and practice differently than you do. 

20. Open your mind. Keep it open.  
Wherever you are, remember, if you do your best with what you have, that is all that matters. If you can do more, fantastic. 

Keep doing better.

I leave you with this. 
Why do I leave you with this short video?  

See for yourself. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


On Soundcloud HERE 

for this exact moment of existence
i disassociate myself
from humanity

this time
right now
i am unable to fathom
the hoops
human beings
jump through
to cause madness

in anothers life

the Earth is dying
people are starving
beaten, battered
then murdered


Utopia is not so bad, not really
complete absence
of natural sunlight
genetically harvested food
domed cities and Big Brother
reincarnated as a new prophet

(the polar bear is not so damned)

i disassociate myself
from humans
although i am just that
i am unable to identify
with this new breed
of hatred

i simply wish to finish my own existence
in an absinthe fog
or pill induced slumber

maybe a fall down a rabbit hole
is not so insane
and insanity is not as crazy as perceived

maybe Alice was a lesson
maybe I need a new pill
to cause me to speak differently
for it seems my voice
no longer reaches
anyone speaking
any "known" language

maybe the polar bear might understand me
as we roam together
both barefoot
clad in fur
thirsting for a new land
pads of feet drying
beneath a poisoned sun

maybe he has secrets to tell me
and i shall ride bareback
seeking solace in wilderness
upon such majestic beast

where there is no speech

only silence

Words & Photography © Susan Marie

© Susan Marie
I found this in the dirt like this, the irony . . .

Call of the Forest: The Ancient Wisdom of Trees [Film Screening, Burning Books]

Take a walk in the woods with acclaimed Irish-Canadian scientist and author, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, as she reveals our profound human connection to the ancient & sacred northern forests and the essential role that they play in sustaining the health of our planet.

“It will start with a shovel and an acorn, but we might just change the world.”

WHAT: Film Screening, The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees, Call of the Forest hosted by Burning Books, Susan Marie and Linda Abrams

WHEN: Wednesday, January 10th, 2018, 7pm-9pm, Free admission, family friendly, in kind donations accepted and appreciated.

WHERE: Burning Books 420 Connecticut Street Buffalo, NY 14213

WHY: We cut down billions of trees every year. 5% of the world’s old growth forests remain intact. Yet trees are one of this planet’s most significant creators of food, new medicines, and oxygen. Forests hold the answer to many of the world’s problems; from climate change to human health and well-being. Call of the Forest tells the amazing stories behind the history and legacy of these ancient forests while also explaining the science of trees and the irreplaceable roles they play in protecting and feeding the planet. 

- Diana’s call to action - to protect the native forests of the world and for every person to plant one tree a year for the next six years - provides us with a simple and powerful solution for climate change. As she travels across the globe to tell the story of the life and the science of the global forest, she presents us with a revolutionary conception of their value to all life and a message that could, literally, save mankind from itself.


This film represents the effort to make visible the invisible, by bringing the viewer into the healing environment of a pine forest as it releases its medicinal aerosols, to share the complex science of a sacred ecosystem that feeds and protects the planet, and to explore the history of our human community as it has grown in symbiosis with the forests that wreath our planet.
This film is Diana's love letter to nature - it is hope that this film will offer a sense of hope and a path forward for those of us who seek to protect and preserve our forests.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is a world recognized author, medical biochemist and botanist.  She has a unique combination of western scientific knowledge and the traditional concepts of the ancient world. Orphaned in Ireland in her youth, Beresford-Kroeger was educated by elders who instructed her in the Brehon knowledge of plants and nature.

 “It will start with a shovel and an acorn - and we might just change the world.” - DBK


Director Jeff McKay
Executive Producer, Merit Jensen Carr
2017 / 85 minute / 52 minute / In English / Not Rated

Twitter: @DBKTrees
Instagram: @calloftheforestdbk

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Capitalism, Economic Development, Gender Roles and The Story of Stuff

Image © Enjoy Waking Times.Com

In a 1998 PBS interview with sociologist Michael Kimmel, No Safe Place, Violence Against Women, Michael outlines views on masculinity in the United States. Kimmel discusses that traditional models of masculinity have been around for a long time and that men are expected to follow traditional rules of manhood by stating that one, “You can never do anything that even remotely hints of femininity.” (PBS, No Safe Place, Violence Against Women). Michael continues to describe male roles within society in three points to follow. 

One, a male is expected to be a “big wheel” meaning measuring masculinity by a paycheck, wealth and power, that a male is expected to be a “sturdy oak” meaning never showing emotion, and three, a male is to always “Give “Em Hell” meaning being forthright and aggressive, showing power and control. These are examples of how capitalism and economic development have differential effects on women due to outdated gender models within society that affect gender relations within all areas of the workforce and global development.

As a sociologist, Kimmel continues to explain that not everyone can be a “big wheel” and that having to keep one’s emotions in check affects male relationships with women and that the idea that being consistently aggressive is an immense pressure on men. This is where the "Women’s Movement” challenges the traditional male models of society. Although Kimmel outlines difficulties with male gender roles, a rise in men that support feminism and violence against women has risen, simultaneously. However, there is a split within Western society. 

One, there are more men that support equality presently due to recognizing that outdated models do not work, in part due to the Women’s Movement that teaches respect, that men can recognize their emotions, and that violence and aggression must end in order to create equality within society and the workplace. For example, Kimmel states, “We're sitting in a studio right now where there's a woman who's interviewing me, a woman sound person, a woman producer. I mean this was unthinkable 30 years ago in the work place. So it's completely different. And I think that more and more men are supporting that.” (PBS, No Safe Place, Violence Against Women).

In addition, there are men that refuse to let go of traditional models of masculinity and view change as erosion. The male gender then feels compromised and needs to fight back that results in a rise in violence towards women. Kimmel includes the importance of the era. For example, what sexual harassment meant in the 1960’s compared to harassment today is different. In the 1960’s, men were taught to keep trying, to go for it, to succeed and to not stop trying. Today, that is stalking and harassment. 

The importance lies in women that are reporting these instances. In this vein, men are responsible for their behavior and women are protected by laws that did not previously exist. This split in the West, in addition to outdated models, specifically in regards to development, are examples of how women are victimized and empowered as well as the differences in relationship between gender, sexual ideology, economic development, and civil and human rights.

The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute short film released in 2007, outlines production and consumption patterns in the United States. The premise of the short is based upon the question, “Have you ever wondered where all the stuff we buy comes from and where it goes when we throw it out?” (The Story of Stuff, 0:24).  

Annie Leonard, one of the writers, spent 10 years traveling the world and what she found is a system in crisis. In the West, our economic development and capitalist governance affects the entire world.  This nation does business with diverse cultures, economies and environments and the shortsightedness of the government affects the balance of all people, some more so than others.

For example, out of the 100 largest economies on Earth, 51 are corporations. Where is economic equality for all people? The government pays more attention to corporations as they grow larger and more powerful, thus all attention paid to the corporation, not the people. Extraction, or natural resource exploitation, causes the government to look to other nations for natural resources. “We [The U.S.] have 5% of the world’s population but we’re consuming 30% of the world’s resources and creating 30% of the world’s waste.” (The Story of Stuff, 3:38). 

Furthermore, the consumption and production in the U.S not only takes resources from other nations, but the production of synthetic chemicals produces toxins. This affects breast milk, a breastfeeding mother and her newborn infant, the most safe and natural form of nurturing and nutrition.

As this nation attempts to get rid of toxic chemicals it produces, it looks to other nations to aid it. Dirty factories are moved overseas. In addition to polluting this land and people, the United States government, along with corporations, is polluting other nations, their workers and their people via air pollution, land waste and dirty factories. 

Annie Leonard used buying a radio as an example of how consumption in the US connects to the experiences of women in developing countries. “The metal was probably mined in South Africa, the petroleum was probably drilled in Iraq, the plastics were probably produced in China, and maybe the whole thing was assembled by some 15 year old in a maquiladora.” (The Story of Stuff, 8:50).

Typically, women and children hold menial labor jobs in other nations and are most affected by economic development in the West. Furthermore, people in other nations pay for these developments with natural resources. 

These people paid with the loss of their clean air, with increasing asthma and cancer rates. Kids in the Congo paid with their future—30% of the kids in parts of the Congo now have had to drop out of school to mine coltan, a metal we need for our disposable electronics. These people even paid, by having to cover their own health insurance. All along this system, people pitched in so I could get this radio for $4.99.” (The Story of Stuff, 9:34). 

All of these situations are examples of how women and children are victimized in other nations by the economic development and capitalist governance of America.

The Story of Stuff exposes connections between environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable world. This film short explores U.S. capitalist development and global economy and the detrimental effects that has on all people, specifically women and children in other nations. 

The PBS interview focuses on male power and aggression in traditional gender roles in American society that further affects global societies due to economic development in the U.S.  The more consumers buy into a capitalist world economy, the more adverse results occur in regards to women and children in other cultures and nations, as well as our own. The result, if current developments continue, is dependency, westernization and acculturation.


No Safe Place, Violence Against Women. (1998). Michael Kimmel interviewed by PBS.  [Radio series episode]. PBS. Retrieved from:

Leonard, Annie, Fox, Lewis, Sachs, Jonah. (2007). The Story of Stuff Project. Free Range Studios. [Video file]. Retrieved from: