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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Let me just preface this book review by saying that, for the past few weeks now, I’ve been reading Stephen King’s It. I’ve never read Stephen King, or anything out of the horror genre, for that matter. That said, I have become deeply engrossed in the story. When I was around page 700 out of 1,090, I received a call from my library saying that my copy of Fifty Shades of Grey was in. I had put it on hold months and months ago and forgotten about it. I didn’t want to put It down, but I also didn’t want to subject myself to another 3-month hold list. So, reluctantly, I took a short break and delved into the sordid world of the romance novel.

Another preface: I had never read a romance novel. The only reason I was remotely interested in this book was because it’s been the talk of the town. I had to see what all the fuss is about. Here’s my 7-sentence synopsis for those who haven’t read it. ***WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!***

Boy meets girl. Boy introduces girl to the world of BDSM. Girl likes it, a lot. Boy and girl have lots of sex. Boy hits girl with belt. Girl doesn’t like it. Girl dumps boy.

I had two major issues with this book.

Number One. The girl in the book is 21 years old (I think), but the narration reads like that of a 16 year-old, which makes it a little bit weird. Yes, I understand that she’s supposed to be young and innocent, but there’s a fine line between conveying those characteristics and having it sound like sloppy writing. The first quarter of the book is basically her repeating the phrase, “He is so freaking hot.” Come on.

Number Two. Beyond the story itself, I find it amusing that all women want to read and discuss this book. Romance novels have been around for a long time, but they’ve always been taboo because those cheesy little paperbacks always have some shirtless guy riding a horse on the cover. People were embarrassed to be caught with them. But now, just because this is a contemporary story with sleeker cover art, it’s socially acceptable. Is there really that much of a difference between Fifty Shades and My Fair Viking? Really?

That said, I will most likely read the sequel. As a librarian, I feel it is my duty. Plus, I just HAVE to know if Christian and Anastasia get back together. I’m thinking they might.

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Today was my second annual trip to Book Expo in NYC. Last year, I got a free admission with VIP status from Unshelved. This year, I figured I was going to have to pay the typical $65 admission fee, but then one day—out of the blue—I received a mailer from BEA with instructions on how to register as a VIP…again, for free!! Once a VIP, always a VIP, maybe? Who knows.

My employment situation changed after I registered a couple of months ago, so I had briefly considered skipping it. But, even though I am not steadily employed at a library, I decided it would still be worth the trip into the city. Because really, if you let me in for free AND say I’m a VIP, there’s no way I’m NOT going.

I got to the Javits Center at around 9:30 and made my way to the VIP Lounge, an ultra-exclusive seating area with free food and complimentary gift upon check-in. I could have just had the free bagel and coffee, called it a day, and still left a happy camper. But, the freebies only kept coming!

I walked around the exhibition area for about three hours, collecting free books and goodies, and scoping out the best tote bags. My tote bag count was way higher than last year, and there was only one bag that eluded me. It had a really cool design on it, so I’m thinking the supply ran out. I happened upon a table where Geoffrey Hayes was signing books, so I stood on a relatively short line and got an autographed copy of Benny and Penny in: Lights Out, a new title from a graphic novel series for kids. Once my feet started to ache and my shoulder got sore from the weight of all of the tote bags, I took off. Here’s all the stuff I got:

6 tote bags // 5 books // 3 posters // 2 sheets of gift labels // 2 packs of coasters // 2 notebooks // 1 1GB flash drive // 1 mini stapler // 1 bookmark // 1 pack playing cards

Some book samples.

A nice haul this year, I’d say. See you next year, Book Expo!

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Last week I started reading Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates by Tom Robbins. It got off to a pretty slow start, and after 75 pages I was starting to lose interest. But, since I’ve read six of his other books and enjoyed all of them (some more than others), I figured I would give it the benefit of the doubt…and at least stay with it through the 100 page mark. Luckily, the story picked up right around that point, and I think it will be smooth sailing from here on out. While it is too difficult to describe the plots of any of his novels, including this one, here are a couple of quotes that have stood out so far and kind of give you an idea of what you get when you’re reading Robbins.

“What is it,” Maestra had asked quite rhetorically, “that separates human beings from the so-called lower animals? Well, as I see it, it’s exactly one half-dozen significant things: Humor, Imagination, Eroticism—as opposed to the mindless, instinctive mating of glow worms or raccoons—Spirituality, Rebelliousness, and Aesthetics, an appreciation for beauty for its own sake.”

With that, Switters turned and strode into the rain forest, vanishing almost immediately in a sea of titanic trees, a jumpy mosaic of light and shadow [. . .] And as if layering on yet another dimension, this whole scene seemed scented by syrupy petal pies and bubbling ponds of decaying plant muck, a nose-puzzling mixture of contradictory aromas (floral to fecal) perfectly befitting an environment where the gorgeous and the marvelous repeatedly alternated with the hideous and the dire, where brimming Life and pertinacious Death held hands at the chlorophyll cinema; where Heaven and Hell intermingled as they did at no other place on earth, except, perhaps, in the daily emotions of poor fools in love.

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I just finished reading The Help and thoroughly enjoyed it. Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s, it is told from the point of view of three women: two black maids and one white woman. The white woman, an aspiring writer who is desperate to get out of Jackson, decides to interview black women about their experiences serving white families. Overall, it was a great story, and what I liked most about it was the fact that it was narrated by three strong female characters.

I don’t think about it much, but the fact remains that most of my entertainment interests are male-dominated. The majority of my favorite authors are men, it’s the same with music (although there are notable exceptions for both categories), and I’ll always pick a Tarantino flick over something more…womanly. I guess it’s because I grew up in a more post-feminist era, where we’ve already been “liberated” and all that jazz. It’s probably also the reason why I’ve never had many giant female role models, except for various actresses who I’ve grown up wanting to look like (or characters on tv, like Agent Scully).

These days, I basically look up to any woman who isn’t afraid to speak up for herself. A characteristic I have not fully embraced yet myself, I especially like to see it in others. And that’s really what The Help was all about, which is why I found it inspiring.

And now, a list of women who I want to “be just like” in one way or another. Unfortunately, the desire to look like other women still occupies my thoughts (thanks, “the media”!), but other cool women are making it on to the list for a variety of reasons.

1. Tina Fey – for her general personality and comedic talent (side note: read Bossypants!)
2. Zoe Bell – for her athletic prowess and being a badass stuntwoman (see her playing herself in Death Proof)
3. Lisbeth Salander – fictional character, but another badass (read Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series)
4. Stacy London – Technically, I don’t want to be like her as much as I want her to live in my closet and tell me how to dress (watch What Not To Wear). However, I do revere her for keeping that gray streak in her hair. I like a woman who isn’t afraid of grays (note: I am afraid of grays).
5. Mila Kunis – she’s hot!
6. Eva Mendes – she’s hot too!
7. Zooey Deschanel – talented actor and singer. And she’s hot as well.

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I’ve been weeding the picture books at my branch and came across this gem the other day. I forget what it was called, but it doesn’t matter because it’s so terrible. This is the first picture in the book.

Pretty shocking if you’re not prepared for it, which I was not. The worst part is that it’s in Children’s Catalog (a big collection of books that libraries are supposed to have in their core collections), so I can’t get rid of it!

In other news, I stumbled on this book at the library as well, which I was very excited about:

I christened the new house with some baked goods over the weekend – 1 Boston Cream Pie and a batch of Johnnycakes (pancakes made with corn meal). This picture is from Google, but mine basically looked just like it, except I had the ganache on the sides as well. Havne’t unpacked the camera yet. The cake was okay but could have been better (whenever I make cake from scratch, there’s always an issue. This time, the cake came out too dense.) Same for the Johnnycakes. They tasted okay but the recipe made about a million of them, so while I was making them, I let the finished ones sit in the oven. When we finally ate them, they were a little rubbery. Sort of disappointing.

Although I don’t always have the best sticktoitiveness, I will never give up on baking, no matter how mediocre my creations end up!

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In the last few months, I have listened to the following books:

1. Precious / Sapphire
2. The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins
3. Catching Fire / Suzanne Collins
4. Mockingjay / Suzanne Collins
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn / Mark Twain

I am currently reading:
1. The Sun Also Rises / Ernest Hemingway

Next, I would like to read/listen to:

1. The Help / Kathryn Stockett
2. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place / Maryrose Wood
3. Blood Meridian / Cormac McCarthy

Notes on List One: Books 1-4 were complete downers, yet enjoyable all the same. As far as Precious (or Push) goes, I’m glad I listened to the audiobook because it is written from the point of view of a girl who starts off functionally illiterate and spells everything phonetically. The story is gut-wrenching and the film actually does the book justice with some fabulous performances.

I knew what I was getting into when I started The Hunger Games trilogy (my first foray into YA lit), but I was still surprised by how grim it was. My stress levels were really high when I was listening to these books, which may have heightened the depression I was feeling as a result of the story. I sometimes wonder if my reaction would be slightly different should I revisit the books with more of a sound mind. I enjoyed the first book the most, and while I thought a few contrived elements cropped up here and there, the story sustained my interest throughout the entire trilogy.

Huck Finn: Listened to the old school “racist version.” Great book, except I have to admit that Tom Sawyer kind of annoys me.

Note on List Two (Can one item be considered a list?): Love Hemingway’s writing style.

Note on List Three: I want to read The Incorrigible Children because the cover reminds me of the cover from The Mysterious Benedict Society, another kids’ book that I enjoyed. Pretty much the only reason.

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I’ve been listening to the audiobook version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Great book. Similar to Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the N word is pretty prevalent in the text. So, my question is: what’s stopping guys like Alan Gribben (English professor at Auburn University in Alabama, rewriter of American literature, champion of political correctness?) from whitewashing Harper Lee’s classic too? I think a very dangerous precedent has been set here.

It’s a slippery slope, people.

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