Thursday, January 25, 2007

Thursday thoughts

Why is it that every time I request multiple books through my library's ILL system, they all come in at once? I can't possibly read everything before they are due back. Oh well - I will try my hardest. Feel like I am in a fog today, so this will be a short post, but wanted to share some of my recent acquisitions and "borrows."

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in GirlsDuring a trip to Barnes and Noble on my lunch yesterday I picked up Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons (see description from below).

There is little sugar but lots of spice in journalist Rachel Simmons's brave and brilliant book that skewers the stereotype of girls as the kinder, gentler gender. Odd Girl Out begins with the premise that girls are socialized to be sweet with a double bind: they must value friendships; but they must not express the anger that might destroy them. Lacking cultural permission to acknowledge conflict, girls develop what Simmons calls "a hidden culture of silent and indirect aggression."

The author, who visited 30 schools and talked to 300 girls, catalogues chilling and heartbreaking acts of aggression, including the silent treatment, note-passing, glaring, gossiping, ganging up, fashion police, and being nice in private/mean in public. She decodes the vocabulary of these sneak attacks, explaining, for example, three ways to parse the meaning of "I'm fat."

Simmons is a gifted writer who is skilled at describing destructive patterns and prescribing clear-cut strategies for parents, teachers, and girls to resist them. "The heart of resistance is truth telling," advises Simmons. She guides readers to nurture emotional honesty in girls and to discover a language for public discussions of bullying. She offers innovative ideas for changing the dynamics of the classroom, sample dialogues for talking to daughters, and exercises for girls and their friends to explore and resolve messy feelings and conflicts head-on.

One intriguing chapter contrasts truth telling in white middle class, African-American, Latino, and working-class communities. Odd Girl Out is that rare book with the power to touch individual lives and transform the culture that constrains girls--and boys--from speaking the truth.

The Bastard of IstanbulI also picked up The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak (really looking forward to this one). From Booklist:

The new Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has faced charges for making anti-Turkish remarks regarding the long denied mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Acclaimed Turkish writer Shafak has also been hauled into court for "insulting Turkishness." The case was dropped, and her bold and penetrating tale of the tragic repercussions of the Armenian genocide will live on. In her second novel in English following The Saint of Incipient Insanities (2004), Shafak tells a many-faceted, mischievously witty, and daringly dramatic story that is at once a study in compassion, a shrewd novel of ideas, a love song to Istanbul, and a sensuous and whirling satire. The novel's ruling force is gorgeous Zeliha, the unapologetically sexy proprietor of an Istanbul tattoo parlor. An unwed mother at 19, she has raised her daughter, Asya (now 19 herself and obsessed with Johnny Cash), in a chaotic, food-centric household that includes her mother, grandmother, and three sisters: Banu, the pious clairvoyant; Cevriye, the high-strung history teacher; and Feride, the neurotic. The sisters haven't seen their Americanized brother, Mustafa, for almost 20 years, and are stunned when his 19-year-old stepdaughter, Armanoush, whose mother is from Kentucky and whose father is Armenian, arrives in Istanbul to search for her Armenian roots. As Asya and Armanoush forge a tentative friendship unaware of all that they actually share, others panic over the looming revelation of shocking secrets. Shafak weaves an intricate and vibrant saga of repression and freedom, cultural clashes and convergences, pragmatism and mysticism, and crimes and retribution, subtly revealing just how inextricably entwined we all are, whatever our heritage or beliefs.

My library stack includes Alan Brennert's Moloka'i, A Venetian Affair by Andrea Di Robilant, The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro, and Under the Duvet by Marian Keyes, among others.

And last but not least Vienna Prelude by Bodie Thoene. This was one of those books I read when I was maybe 13 or 14 and loved the story and cover art. Of course as an adult, I couldn't remember the title or the author and have always sort of been searching for it wherever I go. Well, after reading another blogger's post where Vienna Prelude was recommended, I reserved it at the library not realizing this was the book I had been searching for all of these years! Imagine my surprise when it was waiting for me!

I've decided to resign from the From the Stacks Challenge. With time running out and my library pile growing, it's just not going to happen. I don't know why I insist on signing up for these challenges (ok, maybe I do - they always sound like fun) - I never finish them. I admire all those of you that do!

Maybe this wasn't such a short post after all :) I leave you with this:

Tom Cruise hailed as 'Christ' of Scientology

What the ???? All I can do is laugh. He he he HA HA HA HA!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Gift certificates galore

Aren't gift certificates wonderful? I spent Friday evening raiding the clearance racks at Ann Taylor Loft and what finds I found! Dresses, skirts, and sweaters, oh my! Found the perfect dress for a wedding in Vegas I am attending this weekend, a fabulous tweed coat, 2 cozy sweaters, and a very stylish tweed skirt (one can never have enough tweed is what I say - as long as you don't wear it all at once!).

Through a Glass DarklyYesterday, I was at Barnes and Noble with another gift certificate browsing the shelves and came across Karleen Koen's Through a Glass Darkly. After reading the first 2 pages, I was already sucked in and therefore decided it was purchase worthy.

The Best American Essays 2006 (Best American Essays)I was tempted to pick up a copy of The Best American Essays 2006, but I was good at remembering my New Year's resolution not to buy too much so this title was added to my "library list." I also came across Rachel Cusk's Arlington Park, but have heard mixed reviews and decided this one belonged on the "library list" also.

Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething WritersCurrently, I have been reading Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers and have been loving it. No matter that my 20s are (gasp!) behind me - these essays are fabulous. Some are entertaining, some sad, some bizarre, but all are good reads. A group of editorial assistants at Random House came up with the concept and a contest was formed - the essays that made the book were best picks. I'm wondering if they'll expand the contest and include a Thirtysomething Essays by Thirtysomething Writers next time. Hmmm...maybe I should write in and suggest that.

High Heels are Murder: Josie Marcus, Mystery ShopperAnd for those of you that like Stephanie Plum, you might also like Josie Marcus, Elaine Viets amateur sleuth in her latest mystery High Heels are Murder. Not major brain food, but definitely good for a laugh - change Stephanie's hometown of Trenton, NJ to St. Louis, MO, give her a kid, a nosy next-door neighbor and swap her sidekick Lulu for Alyce, a suburban mom looking for excitement, and there you'll have Josie Marcus.

Others in the TBR pile this week are Paint it Black by Janet Fitch, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, A Tale of Two Sisters by Anna Maxted, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, and realizing that I am running out of time to read my From the Stacks challenge books, March by Geraldine Brooks. I know that sounds like a lot of reading for one week, but it is a long flight to Vegas which translates to hours of reading pleasure!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy 2007

Happy 2007 to everyone - hope you all enjoyed the holidays :) I was sick for Christmas and didn't really move from the couch. My husband and I were forced to forage our cabinets for food since all of the stores were closed (we of course didn't think to food shop ahead of time because we thought we'd be traveling). Some interesting meals were had. Thankfully my husband is an excellent cook and can pretty much make a gourmet meal out of water so we survived. I was able to take advantage of the downtime too and get through the stack of library books I had waiting for me.

From Baghdad, With Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named LavaFirst on the list was From Baghdad, with Love by Jay Kopelman and Melinda Roth. For those of you that are animal lovers, you'll want to read this book. It's a personal account of what one Marine went through to rescue and transport a puppy found among wreckage in Fallujah back to the United States. Photos included.

Welcome To The Real World (Red Dress Ink Novels)Next I needed something a little lighter so I turned to Carole Matthews' Welcome to the Real World. For chick lit, Matthews is probably my favorite. Bartender and aspiring singer Fern Kendal finds herself subbing for handsome opera singer Evan David's personal assistant. Romance ensues and the story is complete with comical parents and a trusty sidekick who always seems to come to Fern's rescue.

The Boy in the Striped PajamasAfter that it was John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. This is definitely on my top 10 list of books for 2006. Cleverly done, it's a must read. Nine year old Bruno and his family move from Berlin to a place Bruno thinks is called "Out-With" (aka Auschwitz) where the "Fury" (aka Furer) has big plans for his father's career. While at "Out-With" Bruno befriends a young boy who lives in the nearby concentration camp and their friendship develops as they talk to each other from opposite sides of the fence. I read this book in one sitting - it's that good.

The Interpretation of Murder: A NovelThen it was onto Jed Rubenfeld's The Interpretation of Murder. This one seemed to have gotten a lot of hype, but it lived up to the hype. A psychological thriller set in early 1900's NYC complete with prominent roles played by Freud, Jung, and other historical figures. A great read especially if you have an interest in the field of psychology.

After reading all of these, I started to feel better, but then my husband got sick with what I had so it was a quiet New Year's too. More reading :)

And since this is my first post of the New Year, thought I'd list some New Year's resolutions. At least some that I actually have a chance of keeping.

1. Refrain from buying so many books everytime I walk into a bookstore. The ILL at my library works pretty quickly - I just need to learn to be more patient when it comes to new releases.

2. Read more of the books I already own instead of always buying more, checking more out of the library, etc. Hopefully the From the Stacks Challenge will help me with this.

3. Make more time for my writing. I have so many things started, but none finished. This year I am determined to finish a couple of those pieces and submit them to literary magazines.

That's it for me. I could of course make the resolution to eat less junk food but given my history, that will never happen so why bother? :)

The Rest Falls Away: The Gardella Vampire Chronicles (Signet Eclipse)Reminder to everyone to go out and get their copy of Colleen Gleason's The Rest Falls Away - I ordered my copy today!

Happy Reading in the New Year!