Sunday, January 31, 2010

I'm such a slacker

I finished this book a week ago, but with school/work/trying to maintain a healthy relationship with my spouse, my blogging is a little delayed.

This book was amazing. I've been meaning to read it for a while, and when my parents got it for me for christmas, I knew it was fate. 

Greg Mortenson is an alpinist-turned-activist and educator. After a failed attempt at summiting K2 he was inspired by the people of Pakistan, and incredibly upset by the educational system in the rural areas he had traveled. So...he raised money and built a school....and then another.....and then another. The book Three Cups of Tea was written by Mortenson and David Oliver Relin and is the story of his trials and tribulations, and of his greater successes as he struggled to bring education to the most neglected regions of central Asia.

This story is inspiring and heartwrenching all at the same time. It's the story of how one man can truly make a difference.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I don't feel good.

The ninth book I read this year was the saddest thing I've ever experienced. The book was My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I know this book has been out forever, and I've been meaning to read it, I have. My darling friend Tori loves Picoult with a passion, and I've been missing her terribly since I moved back to Oregon in September, so I read it in her honor. 

Firstly, I'd like to say this is a remarkably well written book. I love it. If you aren't familiar with it, it is the story of a young girl who was genetically modified as an embryo so that she could be a donor for her older sister, who was diagnosed with leukemia as a toddler.

At the age of thirteen, she gets tired of all the surgeries, all the needles, all the donations that she was forced to make, so she hires a lawyer to sue her parents for medical emancipation. 

Each chapter of the story has a different narrator, which I think adds a lot of depth. Her parents, lawyer, older brother, etc, all narrate chapters...and I feel like it keeps those characters from becoming shallow. It would be easy to villanize her parents, but it's hard to...especially her father who is so loveable.

The story is sweet and shows the inevitable strength of young women, but something about the ending made me so upset.

I don't ever want to read it again.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

seven and eight

So, I've been slacking.

Over the last few days I finished two fantastic books. They are by Authors that I have long held amorous feelings towards, and these books did not disappoint.

The first was Augusten Burrough's Dry. Many of you know of Burroughs from his hit novel-turned-movie Running With Scissors. But in all honesty, that's my least favorite of his memoirs. He is honest, witty, and his humor comes from a dark, dank, hole. I love it. Dry is the memoir of his process of becoming sober. The book opens with descriptions of his gratuitous drinking, and his colleagues at the advertising firm where he works forcing him to check into a rehab facility. They suggested the Betty Ford Clinic, but Augusten chooses to go to what he thinks is a far more glamorous facility for gays. 

The story is rich with sensibility, a diverse cast of individuals, and full of life lessons for all of us. Whether you have a drinking problem or not, this book will change your life.

The second book I read was another one of Alice Sebold's fantastic novels, The Almost Moon. As she does in many of her pieces, she gives away the ending on the first page. The Almost Moon is the story of a slightly bitter and horribly confused adult woman who murders her elderly sociopath of a mother by smothering her with a towel. The novel is terrifying, and it's amazing to watch the Antagonist, Helen, as she spirals downward in the 24 hours that come after her mother's death.

It's a fantastically well written novel, that will make your stomach churn.

Almost done with book nine. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010


In my life, there have always been 3 kinds of books. The first is the kind that are simple and delightful and that I read through in and afternoon of pure enjoyment. Not that these books are always pleasant in subject, but I love drinking them in. They are like the iced tea in my world of books. The second kind are the difficult books. These are the Faulkners and Hemingways and Prousts of my world. Like my favorite book, As I Lay Dying, these books are the kind that I will read a few chapters and then need to take a 20 minute break so that I can digest everything I've read. These are like thick smoothies. They're delicious and refreshing, but they don't go through the straw as easily as the iced tea did. And finally, there is the crap books. Books such as Twilight, they are the sour milk of my universe. 99% of the time, I will take the first sip (20 or so pages) and realize that they are crap and I hate them, and I will promptly return them to the library, or give them away to someone with far lower expectations than I have for my books.

The sixth book I read this year, Janice Keefer's The Ladies Lending Library refused to fit decisively in any of these categories. The book was charming, and well written. Keefer is a very talented author, and she created a very rich environment within the novel, with a huge cast of well developed characters and a fully complex social network. She clearly knows what she's doing. The book wasn't too difficult, it's pretty much the iced tea kinda book....except for the fact that it never really pulled me in. I set it down a lot, and it wasn't because I needed to digest it, it's just because I was getting distracted way easily than I usually am. Near the end, I was actually coaxing myself through by looking at my nightstand at the next book I'm reading..."if you finish this one, look what you get to read next!".

Nevertheless, the book was good. It tells the story of a small community of Ukrainian women living in Canada, who spend their summers in lakeside cottages rearing their children and gossiping in ways that only women in small communities do. Their husbands commute in from Toronto on the weekends, but otherwise their days consist of sunbathing, separating fighting children, making sandwiches, and talking about scandals.

I liked this book because it broadened to all the women in this world, from the women of the "Lending Library" to their daughters, to the random teenager/family friend who's at the lake for the summer to keep her out of trouble(you can guess how well that works), to the old woman who runs the local convenience store.

I think it was a true portrayal of some female relationships, and probably of women in that culture. I guess the reason I didn't relate to it is that I come from a very different social atmosphere. The women in my life love our husbands and boyfriends and partners and children, but we don't put up with their crap. (I love my Tanner dearly, but that doesn't mean I'm going to cook and clean and whatnot all the time. I have a life.) In addition, we aren't as hush-hush about our personal lives. If I have a problem, you can bet the first person I'm going to tell is Tanner, and the second is either my best friend Caroline or My mother. I just have trouble relating to characters that hide everything from each other.

and I guess that's it. relate-ability. I need to be able to relate to a character to make them real to me, and I wasn't able to do that this time. c'est la vie.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

flies on the butter

yesterday, i made a little trek down to the library.

man, I forgot how much I love that place. :)

I picked up a fantastic book called Flies On The Butter by Denise Hildreth. The book chronicals the journey of Rose Fletcher from her adult home of Washington, D.C.(where she works as a lobbyist for education) to her childhood home of Mullins, S.C.. As Rose drives the dusty highway, she reflects on her youth, coming of age, and revelations on some of the not-so-wonderful choices she's made as an adult.

Rose is definitely a flawed young woman. Amidst a floundering marriage, she heads to a home she hasn't visited in 10 years...a family feud has caused Rose to have no desire to see her mother...and a mysterious emergency (that you don't find out until the last page of the book) has brought her back. A combination of family, friends, and random acts of kindness from complete strangers lead Rose to change her self, her life, and her faith.

over all, a very sweet book.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Number 4

in the last 24 hours I have read TWO books. I already posted about the first...which was LAME, now to the second. 

Lucky by Alice Sebold is one of the most mesmerizing book I've ever read. I have a 45 minute commute via mass transit every day. I read over HALF of this book on my way to work, and didn't even realize it. I pulled it out at lunch, and my bookmark was almost 3/4 of the way through. Awesome. I finished it on the way home.

I am predisposed to LOVE Alice Sebold, since her book The Lovely Bones  became my favorite book instantly upon reading it (seriously, it's tied with Faulkner's As I Lay Dying as #1 book in my library. I've read it probably 20 times). Lucky is Sebold's memoir of her college years, or, moreso the effects that being raped during her freshman year effected her, her family, and her peers. It's beautifully, honestly written. And that's what I've always loved about Alice Sebold.

The story is cyclical, passionate, and honest. I don't admit this often, but I had to deal with an unhealthy sexual relationship at the beginning of my romantic experiences (not rape, but it was everything but), and the way she puts those feelings of utter disgust into words made me feel as though finally someone can understand. finally. 

I spent last summer reading memoirs (not intentionally, it just happened) and I fell in love with them, and this memoir was just plain addictive. I'd recommend it to anyone.

not all parodies are funny

So, I am possibly the world's BIGGEST Twilight hater. I could literally rant for hours about how horrible the Twilight series is for young women, and how Edward Cullen is obsessive and creepy and is NOT a good boyfriend.

So, when I heard that The Harvard Lampoon wrote a Twilight parody called Nightlight, I had to have it. I read it in a few hours (at 154 pages, it wasn't that strenuous of a read)....and honestly, I was not impressed.

One of the biggest flaws in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books is that they are horribly written, with some crappy character development. In Nightlight, Belle Goose (obviously Bella Swan) is a laughable character because it's all in her head. The vampirism, every single guy in school being madly in love with her....yeah, she's crazy. Which is funny. The problem is that the writing of Nightlight is actually WORSE than Twilight itself...which is almost unbelievable. It's just plain not funny. It's like they're trying so hard to be funny, that it's just stupid.

About half way into this book I looked over at my boyfriend and he said I looked like I was in physical pain. I am trying to read 100 books this year, so I didn't want to give up, and I didn't....

but if the circumstances were any different, I would have been so done with this book about 10 pages in.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

most men can barely handle one...

I just finished my second book! The book is called The 19th Wife and it was written by David Ebershoff. It tales the tales of two women in plural/polygamous marriages. The first is Ann Eliza Young the "19th" (but in actuality the 52nd) wife of Brigham Young. She was famous for leaving Brigham and taking such a prominent stance against polygamous marriages. I don't know how the LDS church sees her historically, but I do know that shortly after her getting U.S. President Grant to take a stance against polygamy, LDS President Wilford Woodruff issued a manifest against the practice in 1890. 

The second is the 19th wife of a modern day polygamist man, part of a "Mormon" cult that calls themselves "The Firsts". Her story is narrated by her gay son who was kicked out of the community and abandoned as a child because he was caught holding hands with his sister. His mother is being tried for the murder of her husband, who is...well, a pretty shady guy. Jordan (the son) falls in love with a gay Mormon who lives in the town his mother is being held in, and takes care of a smart aleck-y kid who was kicked out of "Mesadale" (a fictional Utah town that is the compond for the "Firsts").

I liked this book because it wasn't bashing the LDS church. It was mainly just discussing the intricate problems that exist in a polygamous communities: spousal abuse/neglect, jealousy, betrayal, etc. It also basically states that plural marriages are an excuse for people to have sex with whoever they want (Ann Eliza's father wanted to sleep with one of his housekeepers, so he made her into one of his wives).

The fact of the matter is that polygamy is definitely a part of the PAST of the LDS faith, and it's interesting to learn about, but I really appreciated how this book didn't attack the FAITH, just this one aspect of the church's practices. Brigham Young was presented as a true man, an honest man, and a prophet of their church, even though he was not the best husband to Ann Eliza. Similarly, the author makes it very clear that there is a HUGE difference between the "Firsts" and the LDS church of today. 

I have a lot of respect for the Mormon faith. I also like historical fiction. And this is a darn good book. It compiles excerpts from Ann Eliza's book, newspaper clippings, letters, and some fiction.

I vote yes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

First Book Done!

Two days in, and I've finished my first book of the year.


The book is called American Wife, and was written by Curtis Sittenfeld. 

it opens with the following statement:

"American Wife is a work of fiction loosely inspired by the life of an American first lady. Her husband, his parents, and certain prominent members of his administration are recognizable. All other characters in the novel are products of the author's imagination, as are the incidents concerning them."

I'll give you one guess who the first lady is.....Laura Bush. 

Honestly, when I bought the book, I had no idea it was about her. I glanced over the back cover, and it was on sale at Powell's books (THE Powell's books). I was enamoured with the concept of a book about a first lady....and if Laura Bush is anything like the character that portrays her in this book, I seriously underestimated her as a human being.

In the book the character Alice Lindgren is a clever, kind, liberal, and well-rounded woman who falls in love with a man from a well-connected Republican family. She falls in love with him despite their political differences, and the book shows how their relationship develops over 30 some odd years, between his political aspirations, alcoholism, and her running from a brutal past.

As a staunchly liberal young lady, I can honestly say that this book helped me to better understand the inner workings of the Bush family, and helped me to sympathize with the difficulties that the eight catastrophic years of his presidency had on their family.

I'd recommend this novel to anyone. It was sweet, insightful, and very well written. I wouldn't be too surprised if this author turned up again somewhere in my line-up.

off to start book #2,


Friday, January 1, 2010

Changing my mind already

Okay, It's 46 minutes into 2010, and I've already changed my mind. I'm starting with American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.