A quick-read that I picked up in order to stack my kindle. This story is about a girl who has one last night to make her high school crush think of he...moreA quick-read that I picked up in order to stack my kindle. This story is about a girl who has one last night to make her high school crush think of her romantically before he heads off for the Navy. Nothing terribly memorable, but good stuff anyway. A different reviewer here indicated that the watchword for this book was "anticipation" and I agree. If one is in to this sort of thing, it is worth your time. (less)
I was always a really big fan of Molly Ringwald when I was growing up. Not so much the silly 80s movies, but the stuff like "For Keeps," "Fresh Horses...moreI was always a really big fan of Molly Ringwald when I was growing up. Not so much the silly 80s movies, but the stuff like "For Keeps," "Fresh Horses," and "Betsy's Wedding." She just always seemed smarter than the average vapid Hollywood actress, like somebody who spent some time pondering about things in life. So, no real surprise that she has reinvented herself as an actress. I applaud her too, she is pretty good at it. (I also hear from one of my favorite podcasters Adam Carolla that her and her sister were always really cool and as sweet as they come.)
Here is the thing though, this book is really good. It is a collection of interrelated stories that combine to make a novel. Mainly about infidelity and overcoming it, but also about being a parent, and overcoming grief.
The criticism of this book that I read in the NY Times is that her characters "feel, rather than do." That might be true, but the book is still a page turner. There is a line from a John Irving book that encapsulates to me why we read, to find out what happens next, this book satisfies that criteria in spades. Heck, she even has the bona fides and cites a Joan Didion quote at the end. Keep doing good stuff Molly Ringwald, you have skills here.
Just a couple of more notes, the entire chapter entitled "When It Happens to You" when the main character talks about her thoughts about overcoming the betrayal is some of the best writing I have read in a long time. A quote from a different chapter I will include here also struck me:
"As he gazed at her head drawn back, eyes squeezed tight in either terror or delight, the vein in her neck pulsing wildly, he thought of trying to exact a promise from her while he held her there, suspended. But he couldn't think of what. Promise you will love me? Promise you won't ever stop? And then the thought occurred to him that the moment you make someone promise anything is the same moment you ask them to lie to you. SO he drew her up and set her back down on her feet. She looked at him with a question, and though every cell of him wanted to tell her that he loved her, another part of him, the part of him that used to play poker in college, told him that it was too early. And for the first time in years, he listened to that voice."
Very light chic-lit read about finding the right person. Eli is forced to take care of his sister's tiny dog, Tiger, when everything in life is going...moreVery light chic-lit read about finding the right person. Eli is forced to take care of his sister's tiny dog, Tiger, when everything in life is going poorly. His model girlfriend has essentially left him. But the Papillon dog is so cute and awesome that he brings everybody together and they all find love. (less)
So, everybody knows exactly the type this kindle single refers to - Zooey Deschanel, Katy Perry, and Nicki Minaj. Probably not terribly age appropriat...moreSo, everybody knows exactly the type this kindle single refers to - Zooey Deschanel, Katy Perry, and Nicki Minaj. Probably not terribly age appropriate, really into cupcakes, princess things as an adult, and the color pink. Much of the essay explores the phenomenon citing various examples in the culture. Don't really know how to think about this essay other than a provocative conversation starter as to what the heck we think about these quirky pixie girls. Personally, I am pretty ambivalent about these folks. As a man, I don't know that I fully understand the sexual attraction. (I continue to be surprised that when I play the would you rather game with friends and the subjects are ScarJo and Zooey that many of them still pick Zooey - yuck.) But, alternatively I can only read so many think-pieces in erudite magazines like the Atlantic or something about women climbing the corporate ladder and balancing motherhood and career, etc. - I understand the instinct in some women to want to go to the comfort of Katy Perry tunes about how awesome California girls are. I am both amused and kinda unnerved by all the Hello Kitty paraphernalia I see at the 30 something bars I like to frequent and I think that's okay.
Either way, the essay makes you think and makes you want to talk to your friends, that's kinda why we read non-fiction, so kudos to Deborah Schoeneman I say.(less)
People told me I was stupid for spending my money on drugs but chasing love is the equivalent of spending most of your waking hours and much of your d...morePeople told me I was stupid for spending my money on drugs but chasing love is the equivalent of spending most of your waking hours and much of your disposable income trying to find someone to sell you fake ecstasy. Nine times out of ten, nothing happens—it’s not even ecstasy, it’s a fucking multivitamin or an antacid. You loathe yourself for being so hopeful as to deceive yourself and your friends ridicule your stupidity and desperation. On the rare occasions that anything happens, nine times out of ten, it’s a bad trip, and it takes forever to come down. When it is finally, finally over, you swear to yourself that you are done for good, you are never trying that shit again. Yet somehow, regardless of how hard it is to find a batch that does anything, let alone anything good, people are frantic to invest in it. In fact, it seems like the worse their experience has been with this bunk, the more eager they are to sign up for more bad times. If love were a drug, I would have only ever tried it once. Even then, I probably would have threatened physical violence until I got my money back.
Truths like this dot this kindle single in which Mishka Shubaly recounts his online love story that turns out not to be a love story at all. (less)
Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. - Samuel Beckett. This quote is so emblematic of this memoir from recovering a...moreEver tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. - Samuel Beckett. This quote is so emblematic of this memoir from recovering alcoholic Mary Karr.
I have never read any of her previous work, which was apparently quite acclaimed. From college to marriage (and divorce) to being a mother and finding religion, this book is about recovery and the path one goes to get there.
Quote at the end of the book - Good days I see myself in others, and I know - in my bone marrow - nothing we truly love is ever lost, no matter what form it assumes. (I love this quote.)(less)
**spoiler alert** I initially picked this book up because of its frequent mention in Irving’s “Cider House Rules” and its prominent placement on so ma...more**spoiler alert** I initially picked this book up because of its frequent mention in Irving’s “Cider House Rules” and its prominent placement on so many “best of” lists. As such, I had thought this book to be little more than a picaresque tale of a plucky female orphan who overcomes it all and finds success. Much to my surprise, the orphan section of the book occupied only about 1/4 of its plot and the book delved much deeper into gothic and romance genre tones than I had imagined.
The novel begins with Jane Eyre as a young orphan treated cruelly by her domineering family, especially her cruel aunt Ms. Reed. She is sent off for schooling at Lowood (far from the ideal English boarding school) and escapes death at the hands of a massive typhus epidemic. Jane eventually becomes a governess to a young French girl at Thornfield Manor. Her boss is the passionate Mr. Rochester, who is a bit cocky in that female English novelist male love interest sort of way, and he and Jane both fall in love and make plans to marry. Only problem is that Mr. Rochester is already married and he keeps his wife locked up in the attic, but that is okay because she is crazy. We know she is crazy because she likes to set fires to things and destroy wedding dresses.
Once Jane realizes she can’t marry Rochester she flees Thornfield and lives homeless and hungry until she is taken in by the Rivers family. She later learns these people are her cousins and she has inherited a large sum of money which she splits with these fine folks. Things are not all well though as her cousin St. John Rivers (good name for a clergyman) keeps pressuring her to marry him. Sadly for St. John Rivers, she still loves Rochester and she eventually goes to find him. He is now blind and is missing an arm because his wife burned down Thornfield Manor, but they still love one another.
The novel ends on an immensely hopeful tone, with its terrific first sentence of the last chapter, “Reader, I married him.” We learn that Jane and Rochester have been married for ten blissful years and they always have plenty to talk about. Rochester has even regained sight in one eye and is able to see the birth of their first born son. Just beautiful and terrific aww moments. One of the few books from the 1001 list that I have read thus far that makes you smile when you finish the last page.
I will readily admit that I am a big fan of the wonkette blog. Wonkette is one of those sites that I visit at least two to three times a week – someti...moreI will readily admit that I am a big fan of the wonkette blog. Wonkette is one of those sites that I visit at least two to three times a week – sometimes more. So, when I saw this book on sale at the dollar store while I was looking for sudoku puzzles for my grandmother, I had to pick it up.
I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. When I finished undergrad with my degree in political science, I think I always dreamed of something like the life that is described here, but alas life for me and most of the fellow poli sci majors I know has turned out quite different. The District during the throes of a presidential campaign is just a great setting for a book. This one was a little chick litty with the same themes that you might find from one of those pink or light blue covered books on sale at target, but I don’t hate the whole chick lit thing, so that was not at all bad for me. I will, however, conquer with the criticism I read elsewhere that the final ¼ of the book falls apart just a little bit after a much more impressive start.
All hail Ana Marie Cox and the most entertaining political gossip blog out there – wonkette. (less)
This is the second Sinclair Lewis piece for me, and just like “Babbitt,” the theme is again civic pride. The city here is not the bustling on-the-move...moreThis is the second Sinclair Lewis piece for me, and just like “Babbitt,” the theme is again civic pride. The city here is not the bustling on-the-move Zenith, though, it is the small town Gopher Prairie, Minnesota with its small town charms. Of course, the flip side of that small town charm is the small town sensibilities of its residents.
The story follows Carol Milford, a fetching young woman who dreams big and marries Dr. Will Kennicott. Dr. Kennicott brings Carol to Gopher Prairie and quite frankly, she is a bit of a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. She tries to reform the town and the people in it, but they are not big fans of a lot of her ideas. In a lot of ways, the book really isn’t about small towns and their sometimes backwards nature, but is instead about settling. Carol kinda settled because she really didn’t think there was much better out there for her. In a lot of ways, the book is heartbreakingly sad. Carol, although not at all the most sympathetic protagonist, really just wants to be liked and tolerated, and she rarely is by the rest of the town. Even though the book ends on a hopeful tone, this is by no means a fairy tale.
As for my thoughts on the book itself, much like Babbitt, it is certainly more than a little dated, but that said, I thought it was excellent. A know a lot of people criticize the book and say that nothing much happens, but I think there are a lot of things going on just underneath the surface that are riveting. Very much a classic and well worth my time.
**spoiler alert** I was able to read this, my third Jane Austen novel, in advance of the PBS Masterpiece presentation during the past two Sunday eveni...more**spoiler alert** I was able to read this, my third Jane Austen novel, in advance of the PBS Masterpiece presentation during the past two Sunday evenings. While I enjoyed the novel (I had bigger problems with the BBC adaptation), it is, in my view, a bit more difficult than Pride and Prejudice or Emma. It is still quite enjoyable, though, and there are many moments (like in all good Austen) that make you laugh and make you go awww in their romantic sentimentality. Despite all that, the plot is a bit busy.
The Dashwood women (Mrs. Dashwood is the mom; Elinor is the sensible older one; Marianne is the romantic, yet sorta flighty one; Margaret is the little girl who really isn’t at all important to the story) live at beautiful Norland. Unfortunately, Mr. Dashwood dies and the estate passes to his son, John. John is convinced by his wife Fanny, whom Austen is clearly not a big fan, that the Dashwood girls should not be provided for quite as generously as might have been intended. Just as an aside, Austen doesn’t really create a lot of moral ambiguity in her characters - there are really not a lot of layers in characters like Fanny Dashwood and Austen lets you know what she thinks of these people in no uncertain terms.
Anyway, while at Norland, Fanny’s brother Edward Ferrars comes to visit and he and Elinor seem a bit smitten with one another. We as readers know almost immediately that we will see more of Edward Ferrars because he is good and decent and he has humble dreams about being a pastor in a little church. Plus, he is nice to little sister, Margaret. Unfortunately, he is supposed to marry a woman of wealth or position, preferably both, and Elinor is neither of those.
The Dashwood ladies then move from Norland to a small cottage in Devonshire that is owned by a distant cousin. Living in the same vicinity with the Dashwoods is Colonel Brandon who sees Marianne and is immediately smitten. Marianne, 17, thinks Colonel Brandon, 35, is way too old. We readers, though, know he will play a more important role because he is very mysterious and his mystery no doubt stems from the fact that he is very honorable. Marianne is out for a stroll and falls and is rescued by the charming and handsome Willoughby. She falls madly in love and it seems like Willoughby does too. We know their will be problems, however, because Willoughby is too showy and tries to buy Marianne a horse - a definite no no for Austen men.
Willoughby must go to London and Marianne is very sad. Soon, we meet the Steele’s who arrive to visit the Devonshire area. Lucy Steele admits to Elinor that she has been secretly engaged to Edward Ferrars for a long time. Elinor is hurt, but she is the sensible one and as such hides her disappointment.
The Dashwood sisters travel to London and during a dance, which is required of every Austen novel, I guess, Marianne discovers that Willoughby is engaged to someone else who is very wealthy. She is heartbroken and spends the vast majority of the remaining half of the novel being very heartbroken and very dramatic about it. Poor girl, will she ever attract a husband? Colonel Brandon tells Elinor that Willoughby really is quite the jerk and Marianne should just forget about that playa.
Edwards keeps his engagement with Lucy Steele and his mother disinherits him for it, but he is very honorable and he intends to keep his promise. His little brother Robert will get all the money. Colonel Brandon offers Edward the ability to live off the parish of Delaford. On the return trip home, Marianne is still being a drama queen and she gets very sick.
As Marianne is recovering, Willoughby comes back and tells Elinor that he was disinherited and poor him, now he doesn’t have either money or love. Marianne gets better and resolves to stop pining after this guy and to be much more sensible, like her big sister.
We learn that Lucy Stelle married a Mr. Ferrars and Elinor is very upset, but still sensibly so. Edward arrives the next day and says that it was his brother and not him that did the marrying, oh crazy mix-up. Edward asks Elinor to marry him and his mom gives him some money for his troubles, even though she still loves Edward and Lucy more.
Finally, and in my opinion rather suddenly and inexplicably, Marianne realizes she loves Colonel Brandon and truly loves him. As a reader, we are to ignore the hundreds of pages of her being upset about Willoughby and instead focus of the 5 or so pages where she has changed her mind. All live close enough and visit often and things end happily ever after.
I am really not ashamed to say that I read chick lit and that Austen’s influence over that genre is still tremendous and to some extent, underrated. Perhaps some of the flaws of this novel can be forgiven a bit because it was her first, but I found it to be a little bit formulaic. Plus, I really don’t know whether I was happy about the ending. On some level, one reads Austen because we want the romantic and sugary sweet ending. No doubt the obstacles were conquered and Elinor and Edward found a way to be together, but I remain less that convinced that Marianne truly found the person she most wanted to be with. One could argue that it is an essential plot twist in chick lit where the heroine falls in love with the guy that turns out to be more right for her and she realizes she loved him all along, but I don’t know if that was the case here, and if it was, it was a little rushed. For these reasons, the book gets only 4 and not 5 stars.
**spoiler alert** Emma Woodhouse is a spirited young lady in Highbury (think Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless”) who likes to play the role of matchmake...more**spoiler alert** Emma Woodhouse is a spirited young lady in Highbury (think Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless”) who likes to play the role of matchmaker. She did well is putting together her governess and Mr. Weston. She takes a liking to the cute Harriet Smith, and tries to set her up with the village vicar, Mr. Elton, also encouraging Harriet to reject the goodly farmer, Robert Martin. Mr. Elton doesn’t like Harriet, though, he likes Emma. Oh no. Don’t worry about him though, he leaves and quickly returns with a new wife.
Emma’s buddy (and also her brother-in-law, which is just a little creepy) thinks that Emma should mind her own business and stop trying to set people up together. Much like other Jane Austen leading men, we know that Mr. Knightly will be more important later in the story because he is a bit rough around the edges, but has a kind heart, and he also has a really big house.
With all this matchmaking, Emma starts to wonder about ol’ Mr. Weston’s son, the dreamy Frank Churchill, who will soon be visiting Highbury. We know that Frank Churchill is not a good guy because he travels to London to have his hair cut. Of course, Mr. Knightly can see through Mr. Churchill immediately. Also in Highbury is Jane Fairfax who is pretty and plays the piano very well, but Emma is not a huge fan. Emma has a good time with Frank Churchill, but we all know he is not the one because he went to London to get his haircut. Emma is mean to someone and Mr. Knightly criticizes her for it, yet another reason why we know he is the one, and Emma cries. Everything all works out in the end when Knightly and Emma get together (who didn’t see that one coming), Harriet marries the farmer Robert Martin, and Frank Churchill marries Jane Fairfax. The moral of the story - plucky heroines always end up with the right guy.
Can’t say it was my favorite book ever, but it makes you smile and makes you say awww, all that is not a bad thing. Various things that make me laugh in this book, but for whatever reason, my favorite is the discussion about the counties in England known as the "garden of England" and whether Surrey is one among many or the only one. Just thinking about that cracks me up even now.
**spoiler alert** First foray into Toni Morrison for me was this rather short novel which centers on the relationship between Sula Peace and Nel Wrigh...more**spoiler alert** First foray into Toni Morrison for me was this rather short novel which centers on the relationship between Sula Peace and Nel Wright. One of the more brilliant things about the novel, though, is that it really does take you until the end to understand that the essential theme of the novel is friendship. Sula is not very nice or good or decent. She does all sorts of bad things, including being involved in the drowning death of a little boy, placing her grandmother in a home, and having an affair with the husband of her best friend. She is tough to like, but I think the essential point of the novel is that even though friends sometimes do things that we might not agree with, they are still our friends.
One of my favorite aspects of the novel is the drama and family intrigue of the Peace family. Eva, Sula’s grandmother, with her missing leg and the complicated relationship she has with her daughter and granddaughter; the promiscuous Hannah, who suffers such a violent end in a fire and has her own complicated relationship with her daughter; and Sula.
If you are looking for a light little novel that ends happily and is sweet and where nothing bad happens, this novel is definitely not for you. (less)
Interesting biography of the colorful criminal known as Chicago May. The author does a great job pointing out that the purpose of this biography is to...moreInteresting biography of the colorful criminal known as Chicago May. The author does a great job pointing out that the purpose of this biography is to give a voice to women of that period that had no voice.
Chicago May was born in Ireland and stole her parents life savings to get to America. She had no desire to get back. She, like so many immigrants of the day, looked to America as a place of transformation. Much of the book is about the immigrant experience and the lengths May would go to acheive some measure of success (mainly through prostitution and crime).
One aspect I certainly enjoyed in the book was the focus on the lives of prostitutes in turn of the century America. Your heart breaks when you learn that some women serviced an average of 25 customers a day!
An aspect I did not like about the book included the degree of speculation from the author, something referenced in other reviews of the biography.
All in all, a colorful biography and well worth the time.(less)
**spoiler alert** I was initially exposed to this book from goodreads 1001 books to read forum highlighting quick reads on that list. I read this book...more**spoiler alert** I was initially exposed to this book from goodreads 1001 books to read forum highlighting quick reads on that list. I read this book in one quick sitting and I was frankly astounded. The book is told from a first person narrative where a Victorian era woman likely suffering from post-partum depression is prescribed bed rest. She grows slowly insane focusing on the yellow wallpaper in her room where she is convinced she sees in the wallpaper a pattern of a woman stuck behind bars. Great ideas presented of what is sanity and what is not. Reminded me a lot of Ibsen’s “Doll House,” (John uses terms like, “What is it little girl? . . . Don’t go walking about like that - - you’ll get cold.”) but more shocking and disturbing in many ways. Almost haunting language in some spots:
John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.
I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.
At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it [the wallpaper] becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.
Then in the very bright spots she keep still, and in the very shady spots she takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern -- it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.
“I’ve got out at last,” said I, “In spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back.”
Other elements I liked about the novella included the idea of the unreliable narrator; how staring at bad wallpaper and bad design really can make you go crazy, the liberating experience of ripping wallpaper off a wall, and the ever present Victorian era gilded cage for women. (less)
**spoiler alert** It took forever to finally finish this book. Reading one review of this book, someone called the novel laborious, and while I cannot...more**spoiler alert** It took forever to finally finish this book. Reading one review of this book, someone called the novel laborious, and while I cannot disagree, there were other redeeming qualities to this novel that I appreciated.
One of the more interesting aspects was the issue faced by Isabel about whether it was wise for her to continue her marriage with her obviously ill-matched husband, Gilbert Osmond. By every objective measure, Osmond is a jerk and their marriage is an utter failure. Isabel is basically tricked into marrying Osmond by Madame Merle, she discovers that her step-daughter, Pansy, is really the daughter of Madame Merle, and her husband is just sort of a jerk. Throughout the novel, Isabel confesses to basically being miserable. Despite all of this, at the conclusion of the marriage when everybody is rooting for her to end up with the much better for her Caspar Goodwood, and she has the opportunity to do so, she chooses to go back to Osmond.
While in one respect I think her decision is simply James’ commentary on the values about marriage and its sanctity in this era, I think there is more going on than first appears. I took from this plot the debate of whether happiness is the highest value in life. I think most of us are taught that following our happiness truly is the greatest ideal and while most of the time I generally agree, I think there are times when concepts like honor and commitment are maybe the greater value. Is the husband of 30 years watching his wife die of cancer happy? Likely not, but he stays (and we would expect him to stay) because he made a commitment and that commitment to honor his vows are more important than him following his bliss and I think that is kind of a real good thing.
Of course I am excluding the obvious situations of violence or betrayal (in whatever form it might take) but I think I am generally convinced that marriage sometimes changes the rules where happiness is concerned. Happiness is still essential. Nobody wants to be miserable in their marriage and no right-thinking person wants their partner to be unhappy, but I guess I am convinced that sometimes happiness should take an occasional backseat to the sometimes greater values of honor, duty, and commitment. Sadly, it seems like so many married couples I know are just so unhappy together. I will often hear these tales of woe from friends and co-workers (some are pretty benign, some down right sad) and I often think to myself, “why stay in that marriage? Life is too short not to be happy.” I guess becoming older I have learned that happiness is only one of many variables in the equation. Deciding whether to continue a relationship that isn’t all romantic misunderstandings and walks on the beach and all the other things we build love up to be isn’t always as simple as asking the question of whether you are happy at that particular moment. The equation changes even more significantly after entering into matrimony.
People stay for a lot of reasons and I think that is not always necessarily a bad thing. In short, I understand Isabel’s decision, and while I may not have liked it as a reader, I think I understand it, and I think I like what it says about her and her character.
Other thoughts I had about the book: I especially liked the theme of money and having the right kind (or, maybe it is the right amount?) of money. I guess poor Ned Rosier simply didn’t have the right kind when it came to Pansy. The obvious theme of Isabel and her yearning for freedom and how the money bequeathed to her (while given with the intention of helping her find that freedom) turned out to actually be the thing that destroyed her freedom and happiness is yet another element that was interesting.
James is a tough read (and I didn't find the Caspar Goodwood or Lord Warburton characters very redeeming), but all in all I would say it was worth it.(less)
Book read for law school about the author's 21 year-old daughter who was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in college. Great read for any who s...moreBook read for law school about the author's 21 year-old daughter who was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in college. Great read for any who seek to understand stalking, abuse, and the problems for battered women within our legal system.(less)