I'm not sure why this novel isn't given higher stars. It's not exactly a book I loved, but I love the fact that it exists, that it is multigenre, and...moreI'm not sure why this novel isn't given higher stars. It's not exactly a book I loved, but I love the fact that it exists, that it is multigenre, and that it can be used effectively in middle school literacy classes. I've already planned a number of lessons around it, and I don't actually have my teaching credential yet. (less)
I hate that I can't rate this book more highly - it had some excellent moments, and overall I love Elliott's style and use of language. For me, it was...moreI hate that I can't rate this book more highly - it had some excellent moments, and overall I love Elliott's style and use of language. For me, it was too close in plot and development to Octavia Butler's Kindred. Wish After Midnight is like the teenage version of Butler's wrenchingly intense novel. (less)
I didn't find much in this novel to spark critical thinking that I hadn't read in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Still, the initial pages...moreI didn't find much in this novel to spark critical thinking that I hadn't read in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Still, the initial pages - a handwritten compendium of religious sayings (the Gospel According to Richard) - makes the entire book worth owning.(less)
I had never read this book before today. I always passed it over because of the outdated illustrations (yes, it was first published a mere four years...moreI had never read this book before today. I always passed it over because of the outdated illustrations (yes, it was first published a mere four years before I was born. Let's move on.) The contents are wonderful, but you'd expect that from contributors like Judy Blume and Shel Silverstein and Judith Viorst. What made me fall in love were the illustrations - oh, the illustrations! The artists of the new illustrations include Henry Cole (And Tango Makes Three), Peter H. Reynolds (Judy Moody series) and LeUyen Pham (Big Sister, Little Sister). They make this volume a book worth having, worth giving, and worth reading over and over.(less)
Chilling and entirely plausible, The Gardener tells the story of Mason, a high school sophomore who unwittingly uncovers an experiment in turning babi...moreChilling and entirely plausible, The Gardener tells the story of Mason, a high school sophomore who unwittingly uncovers an experiment in turning babies into autotrophs (organisms that can feed themselves). When Mason tries to rescue one of the test subjects - a beautiful girl his own age - he comes up against a powerful corporation as well as a tangle of secrets about his own past. There are some overly sentimental moments, and a couple of loose ends that tie up perhaps a little too neatly, but overall, the book was hugely enjoyable - well written, fast paced, and entertaining.
This book would pair well as a gift with Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi: they're both YA novels that explore the not-so-unthinkable possibilities that result from threats to our natural environment. (less)
A plague that wipes out over 90% of the male population - what's not to like? I'm kidding, obviously. I was worried this would be a thinly veiled atta...moreA plague that wipes out over 90% of the male population - what's not to like? I'm kidding, obviously. I was worried this would be a thinly veiled attack on feminism and the superiority of men, but it's really well crafted with twists that surprised (and pleased) even me. Definitely a good read for boys; but girls will like it, too. May be a little young for college age readers, unless you know they like YA.(less)
Deus ex machina abuse and eco-evangelism; this book is a quick read that could spur conversation among 13-15 year olds but is otherwise lacking in the...moreDeus ex machina abuse and eco-evangelism; this book is a quick read that could spur conversation among 13-15 year olds but is otherwise lacking in the story and scope of, say, Ship Breaker or Exodus.(less)
Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt is taking a year off before college to find her passion. Ambitious in her own wa...moreFrom the publisher:
Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt is taking a year off before college to find her passion. Ambitious in her own way, Katie intends to do more than just smoke weed with her boyfriend, Rory, and work at the bookstore. She plans to seduce Dan, a thirty-two-year-old film professor.
Katie chronicles her adventures in an anonymous blog, telling strangers her innermost desires, shames, and thrills. But when Dan stops taking her calls, when her alcoholic father suffers a terrible fall, and when she finds herself drawn into a dangerous new relationship, Katie’s fearless narrative begins to crack, and dark pieces of her past emerge.
Sexually frank, often heartbreaking, and bursting with devilish humor, Undiscovered Gyrl is an extraordinarily accomplished novel of identity, voyeurism, and deceit.
Vintage itself has mounted a "huge, strange online campaign" fueled by social networking as its marketing strategy, complete with its own little army of grassroots publicists.
The biggest problem I have with this whole hoopla is that, while undiscovered gyrl is being marketed as a YA book, it's really an exercise in postmodern reflection that should only be undertaken with discussion and analysis.
In a book group or an English class or with a friend over coffee.
If you like (and understand) J.D. Salinger, this is the book for you. Allison Burnett definitely seems to be the next Salinger.
I do not at all care for Salinger.
Though it will not be released until August 11, undiscovered gyrl has already caused a buzz in entertainment news because of the alleged reports last summer that Miley Cyrus will play the protagonist - even in the nude (Cyrus denies it as an internet rumor) in the movie version (something I've difficulty conceptualizing. The movie, not Miley.)
Some bloggers (like Melissa) love undiscovered gyrl, some hate it (Holly is one), some find it disturbing (like Kelly does). Some aren't sure. Reviews can be submitted by site users at the original undiscovered gyrl site.
However, I can find few who have really analyzed it. I'm not ready to do so here because so few people have read it yet. But I will say that if you need a topic for a paper, the societal perceptions Burnett invokes by using the word "gyrl" is a good place to start. And that I'm absolutely astonished at the number of people who say they can "relate to Katie."
So much more about the novel makes sense, knowing that. It shouldn't, I understand. An author's genitalia have nothing to do with plot and structure and style. But what I perceived as poor characterization instead is explained by gyrl's publicist, as intentional to a
novel [that:] keeps readers guessing as to the identity of its narrator by “putting traditional point of view on its head and playing around with the major identity issues of our age.”
It's the whole point. Burnett is a precipient interpreter of postmodern life. To stop at the surface story is to miss the entire point of undiscovered gyrl.
Bottom line? I didn't care for this book, and I can't get it out of my head. I can't even say that about Catcher in the Rye, which so failed to elicit response from me that I forgot it pretty quickly. I might decide I like undiscovered gyrl (though I doubt it.) I need someone with whom I can marinate on it.
So here's the contest:
When I post this article on the undiscovered gyrl site, I'll be eligible for two additional ARCs of the book. Help me circulate this post and get chances to receive one of them. I will pass one ARC on to the person who can generate the most traffic to my siteand one to the person who submits the best reason I'd want to discuss this book with him or her. Shameless plugging? Yes, but I also really, truly think this is a book whose true nature needs to be known. Think of it as me keeping Starbucks in business, since you'll be headed there for delicious intellectual chats over the enigma that is undiscovered gyrl.
CONTEST DETAILS You're responsible for letting me know if someone sent you here, if you share this on any social network, or if you beat it out in smoke signals; and/or for convincing me you are the right discussion partner for this novel. Leave comments or email me at aerinblogs AT aol DOT com. (less)
Mara Bell is fifteen years old and the exact image of her grandmother Mary. She lives on Wing, an island in the northern part of an Earth nearly drown...moreMara Bell is fifteen years old and the exact image of her grandmother Mary. She lives on Wing, an island in the northern part of an Earth nearly drowned by the melting of the polar ice caps. The waters are continuing to rise, and Mara must trust the instincts she inherited from the strong women in her family. She convinces her neighbors to flee the island for refuge in one of the sky cities, the tall feats of technology so high as to be safe from the storms and rising waters. When they reach the nearest city, however, they are barred from entering and treated like so much refuse that is expelled from the white city itself. Mara has to risk everything to save her people and the other refugees, and possibly fulfill a prophecy. And the waters continue to rise.
The cover of the copy of Exodus that I got from the library there is a quote from The Guardian: “A miracle of a novel. . .a book you will remember for the rest of your life.” I’m a theologian. Floods and Exodus. I remember another book with these phrases that have shaped my life. I didn’t think another could.
I was wrong. There is so much original, so much beautiful, so much of heartrending genius in this novel. The plot moves quickly and effortlessly, there’s action and science-fiction and myth (Joseph Campbell style) and romance. The best I can tell you is to run, run, run and read it yourself.
Read this book. You’ll not be sorry. Your heart and your head will reconnect with our own world of miracles. (less)
I loved that Williams did not stereotype polygamist communities, but that she gave them an in-depth exploration through the eyes of her main character...moreI loved that Williams did not stereotype polygamist communities, but that she gave them an in-depth exploration through the eyes of her main character Kyra. Shocking, of course, predictable, yes, but tight pace, strong characterization, and nothing that wouldn't be suitable for an actual 13 year old to read. (less)
FIRST LINE: “The morning after my wedding, my husband, Michael, and I, were lying on a vast expense of white linen in the bridal suite of Berkeley’s o...moreFIRST LINE: “The morning after my wedding, my husband, Michael, and I, were lying on a vast expense of white linen in the bridal suite of Berkeley’s oldest hotel; engaging in a romantic tradition of newlyweds the world over: counting our loot.”
(I didn’t realize until halfway through this book that the above-named Michael is Michael Chabon. Don’t tell Moonie. Waldman also went to law school with some guy named Barack Obama.)
Given the humorous quote on the front of the ARC I received, I expected Bad Mother to be equally humorous, possibly irreverent, and even somewhat flippant. That’s not, however, how it begins. Ayelet Waldman comes out swinging every ounce of intellectual muscle she’s got; she’s a formidable contender. Bad Mother starts out less as a book of humor than as a feminist critique, almost scholarly and certainly political, of current expectations of women who are mothers. With humor thrown in. (A similar tactic is used by Jessica Valenti to soften the serious message in Full Frontal Feminism.)
Waldman sets up her book with a chapter about “bad mothers,” mothers like the the woman Waldman reprimanded on the bus who was yanking her daughter’s hair as she braided it. Why do we obsess over “bad mothers”? (Besides the fact that “worrying about egregious freak-show moms like Wendy Cook and Britney Spears distracts us from the fact that, for example, President George W. Bush cheerfully vetoed a law that would have provided health insurance to four million uninsured children.) By defining for us the kind of mothers we’re not, they make it easier for us to stomach what we are.
Waldman informally polled her friends to find definitions of Good Mothers and Good Fathers. A definition of a Good Mother always involved self-abnegation: “she is able to figure out how to carve out time for herself without detriment to her children’s feelings of self-worth.” The same people “had no trouble defining what it meant to be a Good Father. A Good Father is characterized quite simply by his presence.”
She ends the first chapter with a question. “Can’t we just try to give ourselves and each other a break?” My good postmodern deconstructionist self cheered. My brain and my heart were engaged. I settled in for more discussion, re-thinking, and questions to spur us toward a new paradigm of expectations for motherhood.
After such an auspicious beginning, Bad Mother rolls into territory that is more memoir/social commentary, territory that is humorous, irreverent, and, at times, flippant. Waldman spends the remaining seventeen chapters self-consciously bragging about what a fabulous partner and father Chabon is, enumerating what she perceives as her failures as a mother, and offering the mechanisms she used to cope with the fact of these failures.
The underlying message from Waldman is: “Here are the terrible things I’ve done – just be glad you haven’t done anything this bad.” After the conclusion to that first chapter, I’d hoped that Waldman would be proposing a different way of thinking; an entirely different way of analyzing motherhood.
Granted, Waldman’s commentaries and anecdotes are both poignant and hilarious. (“A Good Mother doesn’t resent looking up from her novel to examine a child’s drawing.”) She's a hell of a writer. From opinions about breast feeding and Attachment Parenting and sending snacks to preschool, to her own stories about terminating a pregnancy and about revelations concerning her own mother’s parenting style, Waldman's rich writing moves along smoothly, like a bottle pouring a nice merlot. It’s certainly a book worth reading.
I wouldn’t buy this book for your own mother, but it would make a great gift between (or among) girlfriends, or for someone who considers Michael Chabon her secret boyfriend. And, unless you live in Berkeley (as Waldman does, and reminds her reader…frequently) or Boulder, it would surely spark heated discussion in a book or moms’ club. And even if you’re not in love with Michael Chabon, I dare you to admit that there’s not some part of you that wants to be as wise and funny and erudite as Waldman when you grow up.
There's a disconnect between The Obama Revolution and its author, Alan Kennedy-Shaffer (or AKS, as he was known as an undergrad.) The book is like a l...moreThere's a disconnect between The Obama Revolution and its author, Alan Kennedy-Shaffer (or AKS, as he was known as an undergrad.) The book is like a legal brief - dry, factual. By comparison, Kennedy-Shaffer is the sort of person to challenge loyalty oaths and pose nude for the Yale student newspaper as a campaign tactic (not the Obama campaign, by the way). An Amazon reviewer accused Kennedy-Shaffer of hubris. And though he may be right, it's difficult not to admire Kennedy-Shaffer's success.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The Obama Revolution is the first book to be published by a staffer from the Barack Obama presidential campaign. Kennedy-Shaffer served as a regional field director in Virginia. In this, his second book, he presents an overview of Obama's campaign, its successes, and the platforms on which Obama ran. By "present," I mean he very nearly quotes the entirety of Change We Can Believe In, a book by Obama staffers about "Barackism," which includes most of Obama's speeches prior to the Democratic National Convention. Also included in The Obama Revolution are Obama's Speeches for Change. Throw in hearty doses of The Audacity of Hope, and Kennedy-Shaffer's own writing is reduced to about a quarter of the actual 230 pages of text.
Granted, Kennedy-Shaffer was the one that pulls all the information, coalescing it into something resembling what college graduates will remember as one of those bothersome research papers. Still, I wouldn't want to be the professor grading this one. It's dry and dense. The tragedy is that Kennedy-Shaffer himself has a a number of insider tales to tell, and a delightful voice of his own that he seems afraid to rely on.
For example, he tells the story of talking to a man in rural Virginia who displayed a Confederate flag on his truck, but who agreed to display Obama signs in his yard after acknowledging that eight years of failed Bush economic policay was enough. Kennedy-Shaffer talked to workers who head to the shipyard at 4 o'clock in the morning. These are real people, the "Joe Plumbers" of Obama's campaign, who touched and were touched by the army of mobilized volunteers working on Obama's behalf. Including Alan Kennedy-Shaffer.
His first-person stories are charming, but too often he turns them into self-promotion, such as mentioning the charge Barack Obama gave him personally or recognizing that God calls "mere mortals" to campaign for change (hmm, wonder if he's self-referencing?) Then again, he's not a writer (foremost), he's a lawyer. The conceit will serve him well.
Still, it's difficult to categorize this book. It's only a little bit "memoir." Non-fiction political science, yes. Analysis, not so much - regurgitation is hardly active examination. Theological reflection, a little. There's a chapter devoted to "Obama's Faith," which is so well written from a progressive theological standpoint I have to assume it's a kiss blown to Kennedy-Shaffer's grandfather The Hon. Rev. Dr. William Bean Kennedy, who was minister, scholar and politician. (He and Alan's mother would take young Alan to gay pride parades in New York City.)
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
It's like a handbook for the issues we'll see over the next four (let's hope eight) years.
As many of you know, I stood solidly for Obama throught the 2008 election, including devoting my progressive theology blog to campaign coverage (it's since been revamped, but still.) However, the most pressing issue within the election was the sagging economy, and that's the one issue in which I am least versed. Fortunately, I can turn right to Kennedy-Shaffer's chapter on "The Green Deal." He explains with abundant evidence what has been and what could happen, if the right actions are taken step by step. In other words, Kennedy-Shaffer will make you sound like you know what you're talking about - because you will.
If you're a high school or college student, you should pick up this book as a reference for papers.
Kennedy-Shaffer not only outlines the Obama administration's policies, he provides insight into how our generation mobilized to bring about Obama's election. From a sociological standpoint, the use of the internet, blogs, mobile phones is a fascinating change in the way campaigning is done. There will be many courses for which this will be a helpful resource.
If you're a Republican, you should pick up this book to understand how the rest of us think.
If you're politician, you should read this book to understand who you'll be serving with in about five years (Alan, not Barack.)
If you're a minister, you should read this book for sermon fodder.
Lastly, you should read this book because I think it would have made Kennedy-Shaffer's grandfather, who didn't live to see Obama elected, even more proud of his grandson than I'm sure he already was.
The Obama Revolution is a brilliant career move for Kennedy-Shaffer. At worst, it adds another book to his credits, which give him experience with agents and publishers that many aspiring writers would envy. It also gives him a jumping-off point for a future volume, in which he can compare what was promised to what actually happens. And, at best, it puts him squarely within a certain political, ideological camp which will make it easy to identify him should he run for further office. Or, you know, television.
First Line: “My first memory of something having a powerful, lasting effect on me came when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.”
I sa...moreFirst Line: “My first memory of something having a powerful, lasting effect on me came when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.”
I saw an interview once with Cameron Crowe in which he said that his movie “Almost Famous” was like blowing a kiss his early years as a roadie/music reporter and the people who’d been part of those experiences. I think, in a similar way, How I Got to Be is Charles Grodin’s kiss-blowing to his own past, both his boyhood and his journey from theatre to film to journalism. And it’s a sweet kiss.
Grodin’s newest book includes behind-the-scenes tales that feature actors, directors, writers, producers, journalists and politicians with whom he’s worked. It’s best to think of this book as a collection of essays. Other than Grodin himself, there’s no cohesive thread throughout. There’s a chapter about Dustin Hoffman and the movie The Graduate, a chapter about Grodin’s perspective on doctors and modern medicine, a chapter about Grodin’s work in Washington, D.C.
I had not known that Charles Grodin was such a political activist. In fact, he’s received the William Kuntsler Award for Racial Justice and has been honored by Habitat for Humanity for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of the homeless. One of my favorite anecdotes in How I Got to Be was the one in which Grodin describes his experience making a documentary with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The three created a primetime special with actual footage from Vietnam, to explain how and why Simon & Garfunkel were writing anti-war music.
Your Father’s Day shopping begins and ends here. As I was reading this book, I made a mental note just about every other page that this would be a great gift for my dad or either of my grandfathers. Despite the fact these three men wouldn’t agree with Grodin’s politics, I doubt they could resist the wry humor and honest appraisal of a life well-lived that Grodin offers in How I Got to Be Whoever It Is I Am. (less)
I hated reviews of this book, a collection of essays I think everyone should read.
Elephant came about because Denise Brodey, editor of Fitness mag, w...moreI hated reviews of this book, a collection of essays I think everyone should read.
Elephant came about because Denise Brodey, editor of Fitness mag, wanted to hear the stories of other parents of special needs children when her son was diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder and childhood depression in 2003. Using her professional background, Brodey asked these parents to share their stories – the ups and downs, joys and pains, laughter and tears – in short essays. These are the experience of parents and siblings whose lives are affected by special needs children.
I took immense comfort in these stories even as I seethed at the reviewers. I went through with a pen (not even a pencil), starring and underlining and drawing smiley faces and exclamation points . Everyone spoke the truth of my existence, even if the diagnoses of our children differed. “[T:]he whiplash of being a special-needs mom seemed permanent,” writes Brodey (p 83).
A mother of a son with autism echoes my fatigue: “I could never, ever, let my guard down, and by the end of the day, the strain of always trying to stay one step ahead of his overactive mind exhausted me physically and mentally.” (p 64)
The contributors have experiences that range from simply tiring and/or training, to heartbreaking. There’s one mother who recounts what a teacher friend overheard in the teachers lounge, when another teacher came in and complained she “had that damn autistic kid.” Or the woman who had two boys, both in need of medication for their ADHD, and kept a blog of her personal challenges. A national group singled out her experience as an example of their cause – mandatory sterilization.
An experience universal to the parents of special needs children is the dearth of services – therapy, school, social. Still, one glaring absence in this collection was the experience of low-income families. The families in this book had the resources to push and advocate for their children with government agencies, schools, etc. Families in which there is only one parent, or in which both parents have to work, have no recourse available.
All of the reviewers of this book praised it, recommending it to any parent of a special-needs child. And, well, sure, community is great. But how many people, who are childless, or who have neurotypical and physiotypical kids, are going to crack this book? In the end, that seems to me to be the point. So many of us have endured the comments from strangers about how to raise our “disobedient kids,” or the teachers who ignore our children because “they don’t get it anyway.” We know these people are not cruel, only ignorant. Why isn’t this book recommended to them?
Feed it to the media, shout it to the masses: READ THIS BOOK. It’s quick, it’s well-written, it’s humorous and hopeful. Everyone needs its message, because any time someone in cruelty or thoughtlessness belittles someone with special needs, the fabric of humanity frays, and we are all the shabbier for it. (less)
Lia's 18, a senior in high school, and the skinniest girl in school, just as she vowed, at the age of twelve, that she would be. For nine years, Lia h...moreLia's 18, a senior in high school, and the skinniest girl in school, just as she vowed, at the age of twelve, that she would be. For nine years, Lia had been best friends with Cassie Parrish, the girl across the street - best friends of the sort who live in your skin with you, who share your emotions as you're having them, who complete your soul. Then, after a car accident brought on by Lia's deteriorated condition, the girls are forced by their parents to separate. Six month later, Cassie's found dead, in a hotel room, by herself. The last person she called was Lia - and Lia did not answer her phone. Lia feels she is being haunted by her dead friend's spirit. And the weight of Cassie's ghost both terrifies Lia and beckons her to a place between time where the two girls can be together again.
I read this book in a two-hour bubble bath. While I did not loveWintergirls, I also couldn't put it down. Further, it's a book I think everyone will like and that everyone (even dads!) should read, for the subject matter, if for nothing else.
That's not to say there's nothing to enjoy in this book. There are sweet moments, funny moments. There is yummy food. Most of all there is kick-ass writing. I'd never read Laurie Halse Anderson before, so I had no idea to expect such genius. One of the things I liked about Anderson didn't give in to the temptation of a simple situation or an easy solution, but rather tied mental illness and broken home life and eating disorder into a whole bumpy package.
Anderson is a genius, but I was frustrated, at first, by that genius. The main reason I didn't love Wintergirls is that it's told in a style that's almost prose poetry. The style is meant to capture the disjointed, lyrical quality of Lia's instability. However, for the first 45 pages or so, I just felt that it distanced me from Lia, rather than brought me more inside her head. Finally, a plot is introduced (the "haunting") and I could settle into the narrative without feeling barred by its wording.
Having said that, I sort of liked Lia. It wasn't until the climax of the book that I wanted to shake her and yell, "Snap out of it, idiot!" Otherwise, Anderson did an amazing job developing Lia so that she feels fully realized, a girl who could live across the street. Throw in references to Tamora Pierce and Jane Yolen, and I definitely felt I could be or at least know Lia.
This is also the reason that this is not a book I would read again. I consider myself as someone who's comfortable with feelings and emotions and her body, but it was deceivingly tempting to fall into the trap of comparing myself to Lia - and finding myself lacking. Anyone who has ever looked in the mirror to see if her butt looked fat will identify with some of Lia's feelings. I have high hopes this book will have the sort of change-impact on girls' body image that we all say we need but have no idea how to accomplish.