Tag Archives: reading

Straightjacket, Meredith Towbin @mtprose (2013)

10 Mar

Straightjacket_ByMeredithTowbin_453x680A book is shaped as much by its reader as its author.  There are books that I read while younger and loved, but picked up later and could not stand.  There are also books that I struggled with and put down, only to revisit years later and completely fall in love.  I wish Straightjacket had been released when I was in high school, because I know I would have obsessed over it.

Meredith Towbin is a prolific blogger who I’ve been reading for a while (can’t remember how I came across her blog, but probably through Rainbowmaker Emily Levenson).  A few months back she announced on her blog that her book was picked up and would be published.  Then publication day finally arrived.  I didn’t have much in the way of expectations, because it seems like everyone with a blog has a book nowadays.  The price was low and I was looking for an easy read, though, so I decided to give her YA novel a try.

Straightjacket follows the tortured romance of star-crossed lovers Anna and Caleb.  Caleb is, or claims to be, an angel.  Anna is plagued by crippling panic attacks.  They meet in an inpatient mental health facility and tumble into love, and decide to check themselves out and run away together.  Each Anna and Caleb have parent issues and demons and all kinds of struggles, but they are determined to be together.

The characters are fairly one-dimensional, and the book is driven by the plotline of Anna and Caleb’s love and struggle. As a grown up old lady, I’m more interested in character, but I know that as a teenager, the lack of complicated characters wouldn’t have bothered me a tick.  I would have connected deeply with the struggle, and passion and parent conflicts of each of the characters.

Towbin is spot on with the YA genre. This is a perfect book for brooding teenagers.  I’m too old to fully connect with it now, but can appreciate how much it would have impacted me, had I read it when I was younger and moodier.  Nice work, nice work.

Beyond Belief, Jenna Miscavage Hill (2013)

23 Feb

I love secrets. Boy oh boy do I love secrets.  That is one of my favorite parts of my job, that I get to learn all kinds of secrets.  I have to keep them all locked up in my head, but the fun part is knowing them in the first place.  In Beyond Belief: Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, Jenna Miscavage Hill (niece of David Miscavage, the leader of the Church of Scientology) shares all the secrets.  She has escaped, she is mad, and she is not holding back.


I went into this book with my sole source of education on Scientology being that South Park episode.  I expected there to be tons of strange religious ritual and extraterrestrial worship, but it turns out that life in the core of Scientology is more about manipulation, punishment and power.  What I found to be the most shocking is how families in the Sea Org (the core of the church, so to speak) were so often split up, with wives, husbands, and children each in separate states or countries, and how by that point Scientology was so embedded within them, that they did not question it.  I know if someone told me that I was being ordered to move away from my family for some undefined period of time, it would not go over too well.

I read a fair number of these terrible ordeal kinds of autobiographies, and it’s unfortunate that in terms of writing quality, they frequently have the same flat, conversational tone.  There are plenty of writers who pen autobiographies who are magnificently skilled and produce amazing work– Jeannette Walls, Cheryl Strayed, David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs to name a few.  But when I see an autobiography on the shelf that is written “with the assistance of” some journalist or another, I know that the story itself better be full of gripping twists and turns, because the writing itself isn’t going to do much for me.  While this book likely will not win any literary awards, it was interesting to get a glimpse inside the strange and secretive world of Scientology.  I can’t imagine this book interesting everyone, but if you’ve got a nebby, gossipy, curious side to you, it wouldn’t hurt to pick it up.

Unexpected Day of Rest (and movies and books)

2 Feb

My January got hijacked by a million different things.  I’m dreading getting my hours report for January, because the meager billables number is going to make me cry big tears.  I wasn’t sitting around and being lazy, there was just a lot going on.  Trial college and the HFF happy hour both took up a LOT of time.  Plus, there were fewer work emergencies because a lot of the things I was working on big time in December either settled or went into dormant mode.  These events were not unanticipated, I knew they were coming.  What I did not expect was that I would get sick and KEEP getting sick in January. Argh.

I don’t know if I came down with two separate cold/flu things, or if it was one sickness that waxed and waned, but I spent most of January sniffling, hacking, destroying box after box of Sudafed, and feeling miserable.  I eventually knew that January was a lost cause in terms of productivity, so I set my sight on February for a new, diligent beginning.

And then on February 1, I came down with pink eye.  ENOUGH with the getting sick already.  I look a total mess. Not a hot mess, but a scary gross terrible mess.  I went to the doctor on Friday afternoon, and she said that I could go back to work for the rest of the day as long as I washed my hands a lot, but I don’t think my coworkers would appreciate me risking them to catching this gross sickness.  I worked at home the rest of the day Friday (and yes, I actually did work).  Now that it’s the weekend, I’ve had to set aside most of the things I planned, and instead I’m sitting around, trying to hide my hideous, swollen, gross face from the world.

Baby Beez and I rented Hotel Transylvania on OnDemand, and we’re both loving it.  It’s a kid’s movie with a predictable storyline, but it’s funny, clever and a lot of fun for both adults and kids.  We got it for a 36 hour rental, we’ve already watched it three times, and I don’t mind at all.  I think we might need to buy this one to add to the DVD collection.


I’ve also spent my time on the couch reading. Well, not a lot of reading, since I keep having to do eye compresses, and it’s very difficult and disorienting to read out of just one eye.  I’ve been slowly making my way through The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon.  It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001, and it keeps coming up in lists of favorite books, so I decided it was worth a read.


The major themes of WWII/Nazi Germany and comics/the comic book industry are not themes that are high on my list of interests, but the storyline of the characters’ personal lives was interesting and kept me engaged.  It is a long book (639 pages), so reading it felt like it took forever, but the writing is smooth and (despite my impatience) was not a struggle to get through.  I can easily see how this book could reach certain readers to be their absolute favorite book ever, but it just didn’t have that fit with me.  It’s a great novel, exhaustively researched and beautifully written, but is not the sort that I feel the need to run out and tell everyone to read right now.

So to the extent I can actually see out of my disgusting eyes, I plan to spend today watching Machine Gun Preacher, reading The Antagonist and The Red Tent, doing a bunch of laundry, and washing washing washing washing my hands.

What’s up with yinz this weekend?

The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

23 Nov

I discovered the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge thanks to Pinterest. Even though I was not a Gilmore Girls fan, I love the diversity in this reading list. Completing this list is going to be one of the things on my 40 before 40 list. What are you reading over this long holiday weekend?


Somebody was hungry for Thanksgiving Dinner!

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  3. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  5. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  6. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  8. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  9. Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
  10. The Art of Fiction by Henry James
  11. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  12. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  13. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  14. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
  15. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  16. Babe by Dick King-Smith
  17. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
  18. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
  19. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  20. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  21. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  22. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
  23. The Bhagava Gita
  24. The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
  25. Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
  26. A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
  27. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  28. Brick Lane by Monica Ali
  29. Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner
  30. Candide by Voltaire – read – June 2010
  31. The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
  32. Carrie by Stephen King
  33. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  34. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  35. Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
  36. The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
  37. Christine by Stephen King
  38. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  39. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  40. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
  41. The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty
  42. A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
  43. Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
  44. The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
  45. Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
  46. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  47. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père
  48. Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac
  49. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  50. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
  51. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  52. Cujo by Stephen King
  53. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  54. Daisy Miller by Henry James
  55. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
  56. David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
  57. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  58. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  59. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
  60. Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  61. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  62. Deenie by Judy Blume
  63. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  64. The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx
  65. The Divine Comedy by Dante
  66. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
  67. Don Quijote by Cervantes
  68. Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv
  69. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  70. Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
  71. Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
  72. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
  73. Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
  74. Eloise by Kay Thompson
  75. Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
  76. Emma by Jane Austen
  77. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  78. Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
  79. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  80. Ethics by Spinoza
  81. Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves
  82. Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
  83. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  84. Extravagance by Gary Krist
  85. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  86. The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan
  87. Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
  88. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
  89. The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
  90. Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein
  91. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom – read
  92. Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
  93. Fletch by Gregory McDonald
  94. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  95. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  96. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  97. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  98. Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
  99. Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers
  100. Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
  101. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
  102. George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
  103. Gidget by Fredrick Kohner
  104. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
  105. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
  106. The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo
  107. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  108. Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky
  109. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  110. The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
  111. The Gospel According to Judy Bloom
  112. The Graduate by Charles Webb
  113. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  114. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  115. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  116. The Group by Mary McCarthy
  117. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  118. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling
  119. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
  120. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  121. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  122. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
  123. Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
  124. Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
  125. Henry V by William Shakespeare
  126. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  127. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
  128. Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris
  129. The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
  130. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
  131. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  132. How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
  133. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  134. How the Light Gets in by M. J. Hyland
  135. Howl by Allen Gingsburg
  136. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  137. The Iliad by Homer
  138. I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
  139. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  140. Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
  141. Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
  142. It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
  143. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  144. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  145. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
  146. The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
  147. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  148. Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
  149. The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
  150. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  151. Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
  152. The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
  153. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  154. The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield
  155. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
  156. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
  157. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
  158. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  159. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  160. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  161. The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
  162. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
  163. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  164. Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  165. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  166. The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
  167. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  168. The Love Story by Erich Segal
  169. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  170. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  171. The Manticore by Robertson Davies
  172. Marathon Man by William Goldman
  173. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  174. Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
  175. Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
  176. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  177. The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
  178. Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken
  179. The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
  180. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  181. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  182. The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
  183. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  184. The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin
  185. Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
  186. A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
  187. Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
  188. A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
  189. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  190. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  191. Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
  192. My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
  193. My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken
  194. My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
  195. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  196. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
  197. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  198. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  199. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
  200. Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
  201. New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
  202. The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
  203. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  204. Night by Elie Wiesel
  205. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  206. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan
  207. Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
  208. Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
  209. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  210. Old School by Tobias Wolff
  211. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  212. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  213. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  214. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  215. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  216. The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
  217. Oracle Night by Paul Auster
  218. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  219. Othello by Shakespeare – read
  220. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
  221. The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
  222. Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
  223. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  224. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  225. The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
  226. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  227. Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
  228. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  229. Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
  230. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
  231. Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
  232. The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
  233. The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
  234. The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
  235. The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
  236. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  237. Property by Valerie Martin
  238. Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon
  239. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  240. Quattrocento by James Mckean
  241. A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
  242. Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers
  243. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
  244. The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  245. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
  246. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  247. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  248. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  249. Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman
  250. The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings Book 3 by J. R. R. Tolkien
  251. R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
  252. Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
  253. Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert
  254. Roman Fever by Edith Wharton
  255. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  256. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  257. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
  258. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
  259. Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
  260. Sanctuary by William Faulkner
  261. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
  262. The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  263. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  264. Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
  265. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
  266. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  267. Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
  268. Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
  269. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  270. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  271. Sexus by Henry Miller
  272. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  273. Shane by Jack Shaefer
  274. The Shining by Stephen King
  275. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  276. S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
  277. Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  278. Small Island by Andrea Levy
  279. Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
  280. Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers
  281. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore
  282. The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
  283. Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
  284. The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
  285. Songbook by Nick Hornby
  286. The Sonnets by William Shakespeare
  287. Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  288. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
  289. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  290. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  291. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
  292. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
  293. A Streetcar Named Desiree by Tennessee Williams
  294. Stuart Little by E. B. White
  295. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  296. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  297. Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett
  298. Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
  299. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  300. Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  301. Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
  302. Time and Again by Jack Finney
  303. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  304. To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
  305. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  306. The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
  307. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  308. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  309. The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
  310. Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
  311. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – read
  312. Ulysses by James Joyce
  313. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath
  314. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  315. Unless by Carol Shields
  316. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  317. The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
  318. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  319. Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard
  320. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  321. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  322. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  323. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  324. We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker
  325. What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
  326. What Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell
  327. When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  328. Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson
  329. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
  330. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
  331. The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  332. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  333. The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
  334. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

What Happens on Sunday, Laurie Koozer (2012)

14 Oct

Today I’m featuring a guest post from my pal, Sandy.  Enjoy!

When Elizabeth asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing What Happens on Sunday by Laurie Koozer for her blog, I, of course, said yes.  Since this book involves women, Pittsburgh, and football, and I am a woman who lives in Pittsburgh and likes football and reading, Elizabeth thought that I might enjoy this book. 
Pittsburghers are full of Pittsburgh-centric stories.  We also like to see our city featured on the national stage.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are the nadir of both Pittsburgh trivia and national exposure of Pittsburgh.  The Steelers have consistently been one of the top football teams in the NFL, frequently making playoffs, with six team Super Bowl wins.  Fans are rabid.  People move away, but the Steelers are always their favorite team, spreading Steelers Nation across the nation and globe. And the Steelers have the strongest female fan bases in the NFL.
This book follows six women through the 2005-2006 Steelers football season.  This was an excellent season to choose from a plot perspective.  The Steelers barely squeaked into the playoffs as the sixth seed and won three road games to make it to the Super Bowl, a huge (and dramatic) feat.  (I personally was “required” to drive to a small bar in Irwin for every playoff game because “they won last time we were all here.”)  Similarly, the characters in this book overcome obstacles while they ride the Steelers roller coaster.
  • Jen is 21 and has recently found out she’s pregnant.  She and her boyfriend Dave plan a wedding and prepare for the unexpected child.
  • Patty is recently divorced and struggles to make connections with her troubled, closeted teenage son, Robbie.  She lost her season tickets in the divorce, but she is a huge fan and supports the team with special fan mail.
  • Desiree (Jen’s cousin) is married to Patty’s ex-husband, who is spending an increasing amount of time at work.  She’s become more successful than her background would predict but feels unsettled.
  • Shannon spends her evenings tending bar part-time and putting up with her self-centered sister while secretly crushing on her sister’s boyfriend.
  • Angela (whose best friend is Patty’s son, Robbie) hates the Steelers and can’t wait to leave Pittsburgh when she graduates from high school.  Due to her father’s assertion that she’s a “curse,” she’s “forbidden” from watching the games.
  • Megan is a hot mess.  She drinks too much, spends all her money, dresses provocatively, and sleeps around.  She gets a new position at work and must cope with new responsibilities.
Because we would only spend a few pages at a time with each character, it was difficult to keep track of who was who for the first part of the book.  The characters are interrelated (moreso than what I’ve noted above), which helped to a certain extent, but this book would have done well with fewer people.  For example, although they ended up being very different characters, it took me a while to differentiate between Shannon and Megan.  Megan ended up being deliciously unlikeable, but sympathetic.  I found myself rooting for her to get her shit together already.  However, Shannon’s story, while somewhat interesting, could have been eliminated entirely from the book.  Jen also felt underdeveloped, and I didn’t really care whether she sorted things out with Dave.
There were a number of characters who were extremely interesting and I would have liked to read more about them.  In particular, the arc involving the overlapping stories of Patty, Angela, and Desiree was well-developed and engaging.  Patty is probably the most interesting character because she’s someone you know, but not very well – she’s your neighbor down the street, she’s your aunt’s best friend – and the peek behind her curtain reveals the most surprising and compassionate results.  I’m so glad Angela was included because it’s absolutely true that not everyone in Pittsburgh is a huge “bleed black and gold” Steelers fan, and it’s annoying when all your family and friends can’t make plans because there’s football on.  The description of her desire to see the bigger picture outside the city, and her sometimes misguided attempts to protect Robbie from what she sees as his biggest problems, ring true.  And Desiree is one of those people who seems like you would hate her but it turns out she’s really awesome.  We all know people like that.
Overall I would certainly recommend this book to people.  It’s something that would be interesting to any reader, even if you don’t like football, and even if you’re not from Pittsburgh.  In which case you should obviously read it because Pittsburgh is awesome.
If you’re interested in contributing to BeezusKiddo.com as a guest poster, feel free to drop me a line!

Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy (1891)

4 Sep

Although written a mere 30 years after Dickens’ Great Expectations, I was surprised to find the language in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles to be significantly more accessible to a modern reader.  I selected Tess because my friend Katy described it as “COMPLETELY MISEARABLE.”  I cannot resist such a review.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles follows young Tess of a working class (nearly starving) family named “Durbeyfield” in rural England.  Her father is informed that his family actually descends from a line of the D’Urbervilles, a once-thought-extinct noble family.  Tess’ father sends her out to “make kin” with a local family also named D’Urberville, but it turns out that they actually paid for the name.  The introduction pushes Tess into the hands of Alec D’Urberville who, well to summarize all the ups and downs of this rather long novel, RUINS HER LIFE FOREVER.  Tess is a sweet and industrious woman, but she internalizes every brush with bad fortune (and there are certainly many) and blames every one of these unfortunate turns on herself.

This is completely projecting, but I saw Tess as a symbolic of modern American womanhood, and all of the challenges women are facing with health access issues and even larger cultural perceptions toward women.
This is not entirely out of place– apparently in its own time Tess brought issues of womens’ morality and sexuality to the forefront of the cultural conversation.  These issues cross time and country.

High school is that time where you are supposed to really get into the “Classics.”  (I suppose that’s for college, too, but I did most of my literature classes in German, and the classes I took in English literature were usually obscure ones like Pop Culture, Chaucer, or Children’s Literature).  My time in high school wasted entirely too much time on Shakespeare.  Yes, Shakespeare’s good to read, but we didn’t have to read his works every single year of high school. That’s a lot of time wasted that could have been used on other authors.  Tess would be perfect for an 11th or 12th grade lit class.  Its language is easy and flowing, and there’s enough drama and heartache to get young minds engaged.  Lets give Hamlet a rest for a bit, and put Tess on those reading lists.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns), Mindy Kaling (2011)

2 Sep

Dude, this book is funny.

Mindy Kaling is a producer for The Office, did some writing for SNL, and wrote a hit off-off-Broadway play.  You know she’s funny.  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me isn’t a book of jokes.  Instead its funny in that OMG I TOTALLY DO THAT, TOO kind of way.  I found myself comparing it to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (probably because Bossypants was the only other comedy book I’ve read in a while), but loved Kaling’s book a whole lot more.  Bossypants is tinged with stress and anxiety, while Kaling is totally laid back and fun.

Kaling’s book is assembled from a number of essays on whatever topic happened to pop in her head.  She jokes about her chubby childhood, and her ascent to a hit TV show– which was filled with plenty of ill chosen sweaters and goofing off.  You don’t want to just read about Kaling, you want to jump right in and BE HER BEST FRIEND.

This book was exactly the medicine I needed after just finishing the excellent but long Tess of the D’Urbervilles.  This book is fast, fun, and short.  I read it in 2 days, and didn’t even have to stay up super late for it.

Bachelor Number One, Mishka Shubaly (2012)

29 Aug

I stumbled upon this book browsing through the Kindle Owners Lending Library (a feature of Amazon Prime that lets you borrow one book for free per month, and advertises itself as offering thousands of titles, but unfortunately most of them suck).

This is Shubaly’s third Kindle Single, and he has a hand for writing fun and light novellas.  Apparently he has had a kind of insane life, full of drinking, drugs, and getting shipwrecked.  He writes these shorts about the (mis)adventures he has found himself in.  They’re a little pessimistic and self-depricating, but completely entertaining.  I love the accomplishment of plowing through a book in one or two evenings.  Shubaly’s writing is fun, and makes me feel like some genius speed reader (the whole thing is maybe like 100 pages).

Bachelor Number One recounts Shubaly’s turn at eligibility for a television dating show.  The book is focused on the absurdity of the whole audition process, and is rather funny (although not entirely surprising).  Unfortunately, right when the book is really starting to pick up steam is where the whole thing ends.  And not “ends” like in “leaves a cliffhanger for a sequel” but “ends” as in “the bottom falls out of the story and its done.” I would have liked it to go a bit longer, but it is a book about his life after all, and sometimes life doesn’t give you the plotline you’re looking for.

Although summer reading lists are quickly coming to a close, Shubaly’s a shoo-in if you need something light to read on the beach (you lucky dog, you), or on an airplane.

The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)

1 Aug

Tomorrow I leave for BlogHer, and I’ve got the “I’m going to be in a big place full of people I don’t know” jitters.  I’ve been in this situation a million times, and it’s always the same.  When I was a kid and I went to camp, I spent the first 2 days writing my mom 17 letters about how I HATED it and I WANTED TO GO HOME.  Then (despite my best efforts) I actually made some friends, had some fun, and loved it.  So here’s to hoping I make some friends quickly, and don’t feel like an out of place dork!

ON to the substance of this post: The Giver.

The Giver is Lois Lowry’s Newberry Award winning classic-dystopian future YA novel.  (Was dystopian a “classic” YA subgenre at the time she wrote it? I don’t know. That’s not today’s question.)  It’s thought provoking, and paced well so that the strange, frighteningly calm future society does not overwhelm the reader all at once.  It gradually dips in to questions of autonomy, and risk, and social good.  And then as soon as the pace of the novel really gets going, IT ENDS.

I got to the last page, and was exasperated! HOW could this be the end! About 2/3 of the entire story is still left out there! I’ve got so many questions about the world! The characters! Everything!  Apparently there are 2 more books that come afterward, but the summaries suggest that they don’t entirely wrap up the plotline of the first book.


Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens!

7 Feb

Today is Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday! Admittedly, I read A Tale of Two Cities in high school and hated it.  My mom made me listen to Oliver Twist on a 6 hour car trip when I was a kid, and although I didn’t hate that one, it wasn’t a favorite either.  I do have a warm fondness for A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, does that count?

For years I didn’t give Dickens a second thought, until I saw preview pictures of Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham in the upcoming Great Expectations film adaptation. The idea of a batty spinster in a rotting wedding dress intrigued me.  Although Bonham Carter tends to play the same character over and over, at least it’s an interesting character.

I’ve got no shortage of books on my “to read” list, but Great Expectations and Bleak House are getting tacked on there as well.  Age and experience changes the way you read books.  I’ve re-read books I’ve adored when younger, and on second reading hated them.  I’m hoping the opposite is true when I become reacquainted with Mr. Dickens.

Happy Birthday, old man!

(coincidentally, this is also my 200th blog post. Hooray!)