Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Boys. Yes, boys come next. After the blood come the boys. (Stephen King’s Carrie) - Week 3

I found this book on the New Non-Fiction shelf at Barnes & Noble and I was immediately intrigued. First off, it takes some serious cojones to write an autobiography called “Loose.” A memoir of promiscuity? Wow, my curiosity killed me. I sat down in the bookstore and read the first couple of chapters and decided that I needed to read it. Not just because it seemed really entertaining… but because of the psychological aspect of it – What is someone who sleeps around like that truly looking for? I was curious. We’ve all been there… 20-somethings in college. The drinking, the parties, the casual sex. We’ve all been around it and all seen that one girl who was labeled “loose.” The slut.

Cohen’s book starts out with a childhood experience in which she first became aware of her sexuality and as she describes it – “The power that women have over men.” That awareness and “power” leads her into endless casual sexual encounters. throughout her high school and college years, Cohen’s life centers around getting (and keeping) male attention. Her needs are embarrassing and all encompassing. At the beginning of the book she states that she has lost count of how many partners she’s had – but she’s sure that it’s well over 40. The encounters she describes are both comical and sad. The frankness and honesty she uses to recount them is sometimes funny. How sad and pathetic it is makes your heart ache.

After my initial reaction – How could someone think so little of themselves! – I started to feel true sadness for Cohen. She had a difficult upbringing and grew up without her dad around. I could really relate with that consuming need that she had for male attention. For a long time, I felt like my world centered around the men in my life. I was always looking for that male attention and once I had it, I let other aspects of my life fall to the wayside. Maybe that’s why I was so drawn to her story? Even though I never took it to the level she did, I could empathize with her need for attention.

I read the whole book in less than 24 hours. It's kinda like reading someone's diary. Someone's really scandalous diary. It really gets you thinking about how women view themselves nowadays. What’s important? What do you want to be known for? It made me think of how every woman needs to know who they are before they seek out a partner. It made me realize just how instrumental self-respect is in the upbringing of each and every woman in this world.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the word remains and is immortal. - Week Two.

To live in the world without becoming
aware of the meaning of the world is
like wandering about in a great library
without touching the books.

It’s pretty obvious that Dan Brown’s books follow a set pattern:

Really creepy villian (usually with some weird body modification) +
Incredible conspiracy/mystery that the general public is unaware of +
Preppy Harvard professor/symbologist Robert Langdon = A highly entertaining read.

That’s the key to reading a Dan Brown book. Go into it knowing that it’s going to be entertaining and keep you on the edge of your seat. Know that you are not going to be reading some great, life-altering, literary masterpiece. Dan Brown’s books keep you hooked and entertained all the way from start to finish. If you’ve read The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons you will enjoy The Lost Symbol.

The Lost Symbol brings the charming Robert Langdon back into our life. This time he’s not wandering around Europe solving mysteries… he’s come home to the good ol’ US of A and finds himself dead center in a mystery centered in our nation’s capitol. The premise centers around an ancient secret guarded by the mysterious fraternal organization – The Freemasons. Yeah, you know those lodges that you see all around town? The ones that kinda blend in with the Moose and Elk's lodges? Well apparently, behind the dull exterior the Masons have a pretty interesting past. A large number of our nation's leaders and founding fathers were Freemasons. Didn't know that did you? Well, I didn't. I also didn't know about the rich symbolism and mythology that's hidden within the monuments of Washington DC.
As in all of Dan' Brown's books, the technologies and history that he refers to are all fact. That's what I think makes his books so compelling to me. He gives us a glimpse into a world that's right beneath our noses, that we never knew existed. Think of The Lost Symbol not only as an exciting read, but as a learning experience. Dan Brown's books are the type that make me pull out my laptop as I'm reading so that I can look up some of the interesting facts. I also feel like I need to know more after reading one of his books. That feeling in itself is enough to keep me coming back for more!

Monday, September 14, 2009

A book a week?

I told my husband about my book-a-week goal for 2009/2010 and he kinda looked at me in disbelief. I am determined! Not just to prove him wrong of course…

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. - Week One

Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

First impressions of Sea Change: I was completely sucked in by the cover of this book. You can’t deny that it’s absolutely gorgeous. And sexy. The book itself is a fun, light read… definitely a summer book.

The story centers around Miranda, a 16 year old New-Yorker who is headed down to the mysterious Selkie Island, Georgia to stay at her recently-deceased grandmother’s house. Miranda’s grandmother, Ms. Isadora Hawkins, was one of the most prestigious and well-known residents of Selkie Island. Miranda’s mother, Amelia, had some type of a falling out with her late mother but despite this, she inherited her sprawling seaside mansion – aptly named The Mariner.

Miranda isn’t your typical 16-year old. She favors science museums to movie theaters. She’d rather spend the evening watching the Discovery Channel than going on a date. She’s tremendously smart and is on her way to becoming a doctor (following in her mother’s footsteps). She’d actually planned to spend the summer at an internship with the Museum of Natural History in NY, when her grandmother passed away. She decided to delay the intership for a month and spend the time down at Selkie helping her mother tend to her grandmother’s affairs. Thus begins Sea Change...

Miranda immediately feels like an outside on Selkie Island. It’s full of these over-the-top southern belles who “summer” on Selkie on their husband’s dimes. The girls she meets and befriends are ostentatious and flighty. They immediately try to play matchmaker and set her up with a son of one of the most prestigious families on Selkie, the preppy and polite T.J. Illingsworth. Miranda makes an effort to enjoy her time with her new friends, but she soon discovers that no matter what she wears or how much makeup she puts on… she’ll never be one of the “debutantes” of Selkie Island.

One night, while Miranda’s trying to escape the Selkie crew, she wanders onto the beach for a walk and runs into a mysterious (and really good looking) local boy. She befriends Leo and is immediately attracted to him. They share a love of animals and science and hit it off from the get go. At first things are smooth sailing, but then Miranda starts to notice some strange happenings on Selkie Island. The place is steeped in lore which Miranda initially brushes off as a joke – mermen, krakens, and sea serpents? Let’s be serious here. But after a few sketchy meetings with Leo that leave a lot of questions unanswered… Miranda starts to wonder if the stories have some truth to them.

Sea Change is interwoven with all the things that make a great story – romance, drama, and mystery. I found myself drawn in and devoured the book in a couple of days. I’d definitely recommend it to someone looking for a light-hearted and fun read.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


So, I abandoned The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Yes, I realize that this probably makes me look like a flake for giving up the first book I was supposedly going to review… but let me explain.

I read about 100 pages of the book. By halfway through this, I found my mind wandering while I was reading. I felt like the author was trying her damndest to throw in as many elaborate vocabulary words as she could possibly fit. You know when you read something that’s been overdone with SAT-worthy vocabulary words… just for the sake of throwing them in there? They didn’t add to the story… if anything they made it nearly impossible for me to wade through the flowery mess to find out what the heck was happening in the story.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the use of interesting and colorful language. I teach writing to 8 and 9 year olds… I’m always at the front of my class with my arms up proclaiming – “GIMME WOW WORDS! No boring writing in here!”

But seriously Ms. Barbery, sometimes you gotta know when enough is enough.

I’m a big proponent of finding the right book for you. Another thing I tell my students – “Find a book that you like! There are millions of books out there. There is no reason for you to force your way through something that you don’t enjoy.”

So change of plans. I’ll be delving into a book a teacher friend of mine gave me, Sea Change by Aimee Friedman.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

And so it begins...

Ever go into a bookstore just to wander? I do it all the time. I start at the front with the new releases and peruse until something catches my eyes. I pick up the book and run my fingers along the spine before opening it. I quickly glance at the back but I rarely read the summary. If a few words catch my attention, I open it up and flip through the pages. Sometimes if no one is looking, I’ll hold the book up to my face and take in that glorious scent. New pages just waiting to be discovered. I can usually tell if it’s something I want to read after reading two sentences or so. If I’m hooked in by that quick glimpse, it’s mine. If I lose interest that quickly… back to the shelf it goes.

I work my way around the store… literature, travel writing, young adult, and biographies. My husband wanders back to the Sci-Fi and we lose each other for a bit. I’ll stop to grab a tea which I’ll rest on the shelves while I pick up random books that catch my eye.

Finally, there it is… one that’s intrigued me enough to come home with me tonight.

I’ve had a love affair with books ever since I was a child. I started reading at three and never stopped. I remember getting in trouble for bringing a book to the dinner table. I had a spot on the couch at my mother’s… right at the end, under a lamp, conveniently located next to the end table. I’d take my stack of library books and disappear into my fantasy world while my family watched TV. I vividly remember my grandmother saying with exasperation, “You read too much!”

Read too much? I’ve never heard something ludicrous in my life!

Nowadays, it’s hard for me to find the time to dedicate to reading like I used to. Work has me swamped and there’s just not enough time to read something for pleasure anymore.

Tonight I decided that this just wouldn’t do.

Why push aside something that gives me such happiness? Stress is a major issue in my life right now and part of it has to do with me not taking time for me. Well reading is just for me. Some people use television to unwind, well I’m going to use books.

So in the next year I plan on reading a book a week. Not mind-numbingly boring work books… but things that I’ve had sitting on my shelves just calling to me for months. Things I’ve put aside because there “just wasn’t time.”

Lord of the Flies, Rebecca, the Great Gatsby… I’ll definitely be hitting up the classics that I’ve forgotten since High School.

Twilight, The Lovely Bones, The Lost Symbol… pop-culture favorites and new releases.

Anything’s fair game! And so it begins!

First up, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.