Within This Circle

Sunday, May 31, 2009

From my living room window I look out over my rolling farm, as the good cedar logs are crackling on the fire and my eight-month-old baby sits in his high chair. . . Oh wait, that's not my life, that's Christmas in Connecticut (good movie by the way, you should check it out). In reality, as I write this I am dodging the Nutrageous candy bar that's flying towards my head (long story) while watching Season 3 of Dallas.

Today's book, "After a tumultuous courtship, John and Julia Brighton have a second chance at happiness! With tragedy behind them and their children grown, they're looking forward to a new and promising era in their lives. Only such a promise is never guaranteed. And life can change in a moment. The Brightons' lives are turned upside down when John's daughter Jana abandons her husband, Mark, and three-year-old daughter. John and Julia reach out to young Ellie, to give the young couple time to heal, but how they help this child? And how much sorrow and stress can both fledgling marriages endure?"
Shallow thoughts:
  • I got to page 137 of today's book before I flipped to the back cover and realized that it's Christian fiction. This book was not in the Christian section of the bookstore when I bought it - it was just mixed in with the regular fiction. Normally I avoid Christian fiction because I find the people in those books so perfect that I can't relate to them in any way. But this book seemed to be an exception to that, so perhaps I've been too quick to judge that genre. Which is not to say that this book was exceptionally well-written, because it wasn't. The writing style was one step above Danielle Steel - but I appreciate the fact that the characters weren't so schmaltzy that I want to gag. I've actually never read a Christian fiction book that was so subtle with the religious talk - it's barely even mentioned until about page 170 and at that point the characters occasionally start praying in the middle of conversations, but that's about the extent of it.

  • The basic story was interesting - but I wasn't crazy about the writing style. The biggest problem I had was the way the author would explain the obvious - which always make me feel like the author thinks her readers are stupid. I'll give you an example, at one point in the book one of the characters is worried that she might run out of food due to bad weather while in the cabin she's staying in, and the author feels the need to remind us that ". . . she didn't relish the thought of starving to death." Is that supposed to be some sort of startling revelation to the readers? Am I suppose to read that part and think Amazing, a person who doesn't enjoy the thought of starving to death. I've heard people like that exist but I've never actually met one.

Belle Weather: Mostly Sunny with a Chance of Scattered Hissy Fits

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Today's book was suggested by Danielle, Sara, and Jen who chose today's book based on it's cover (I totally respect that, I pick books for the same reason quite often).

Today's book, "Rivenbark’s observations of modern life can be downright hilarious. Readers will laugh out loud over her commentary on status mothers and all the odd obsessions of modern life. Plus the South truly is a different country than the rest of the U.S., and Rivenbark is the perfect guide to the southern point of view in her descriptions of sweet tea and not-so-sweet bubbas."

Today's book was written by the same author that wrote We're Just Like You Only Prettier, which is a book I read a couple of weeks ago: http://abookaday09.blogspot.com/2009/05/were-just-like-you-only-prettier.html. I wasn't crazy about that book so I didn't have high expectations about this one - although I am always willing to give an author a second chance - everyone can have an off day or an off book. But as it turns out I don't find any of Rivenbark's books funny. There's a quote on the back of the book that compares the author to David Sedaris and so I feel the need to warn you dear readers, the author of that quote is sadly mistaken. The nicest things I can think of to say about her books are that the covers are interesting, and the books weren't the worst ones I've ever read in my life (of course that's not saying much since I've already admitted to having read Danielle Steel novels).

Maybe I'm still in childhood mode from yesterday's entry, or maybe I was just desperately grasping at straws since the book didn't provide me with anything particularly amusing to write about, but reading this book made me feel like I was eight years old. From the several references to Little House on the Prairie and how sad it is that Mary has an attractive husband that she can't even see (I personally never found him to be attractive, but hey whatever floats your boat), to the mention of Lemon Pledge (otherwise known as "the smell of my childhood"), to the chapter about classroom assessment tests (anyone who went to public school in northern Indiana in the 80's knows what that means: watered down juice and peanut butter cookies). But my favorite childhood mention was the slumber party. Ahh that takes me back to my all-time favorite slumber party when my parents took us up to the grocery store they own and let us play Supermarket Sweep, which was a game show that I absolutely loved. Here's a clip for those who want to take a trip down memory lane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86lJ0or8gRk&feature=related Birthday presents, my own personal game of Supermarket Sweep, and a giant chocolate chip cookie the size of a pizza (my Mom's slumber party speciality) - it doesn't get any better than that. Actually I think the reason why today's book made me feel like I was eight is because I always feel that way lately when I'm reading a book I'm not enjoying that much. If I wasn't writing this blog I would have stopped, but I know I can't because that would be cheating so I force myself to finish while thinking stupid teacher, making me finish this stupid assignment. Of course it's hard to work up to a really strong sense of anger when I'm the one who is really forcing myself to read this boring book - but why split hairs.

The rest of the book was filled with "isn't it cute how tacky and lazy I am" stories. Now I enjoy a good "my family is so tacky" story or a "hey everyone, look at my bad qualities" story now and then. I've even been known to tell a few on the blog (okay more than a few), but there's a limit to how often you can tell one of those stories before it starts to grate on people's nerves. I think it's best to confine stories that make everyone involved look bad to no more than once every couple of chapters (or blog entries in my case), and not tell them on EVERY. SINGLE. PAGE. Personally I prefer a book that has a good mix of the good and the bad, or the normal and the embarrassing. The author of today's book doesn't subscribe to that theory, and instead seems to paint her life as one never-ending tacky moment where everyone involved acts as lazy and mean as possible. I personally find that approach a little one-sided because I find it hard to believe that any one's life is so bad that there aren't occasional pleasant moments to write about.

So I definitely wouldn't recommend today's book. But I would recommend you watch Supermarket Sweep if it ever airs on televisions again (Why or why doesn't the Game Show Network air this show?)

Before Green Gables

Thursday, May 28, 2009
Today's book, "Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, the release of this prequel is sure to cause quite a stir among Anne Shirley fans. A heroine beloved by generations of girls and women, Anne Shirley continues to have a devoted following today. Though purists will object, those who have often imagined Anne’s life before Green Gables will devour this back story. Everyone who ever read the original book remembers hints suggesting that Anne’s prior life was no bed of roses, and Canadian author Wilson paints an appropriately bleak portrait of the orphaned Anne’s early years. Still, she manages to remain true to the optimistic tone of the original book while relating the hardscrabble details of Anne’s first 12 years."

I find the cover of today's book incredibly creepy - and I'm not really sure why. I've always found it creepy when there's a picture of someone where you can't see their face, and the cape Anne is wearing really doesn't help. It makes her look like she has enormous shoulders, which makes her head look even smaller in comparison, and it gives off the impression that the two don't match up. I keep imagining that if she turned around we would see a monster wearing a red wig, like this:

Of course it's also entirely possible that I just have too vivid of an imagination. . . and too much time on my hands.

And now, on to talking about the actual book:

I thought today's book was mediocre. If it wasn't attached to the Anne of Green Gables series than I probably would have enjoyed it more, because it wasn't a completely terrible book. But I couldn't help but compare it to the other Anne books, and L.M. Montgomery's writing abilities are far superior to those of Budge Wilson. Wilson just wasn't able to really capture who Anne is. Of course that could have something to do with the fact that Wilson appears to not even have ever read the Anne of Green Gables books - in the acknowledgments section she thanks others for supplying her with information from the Anne books.

The other problem was that today's book was infused with dialogue that sounded more like it belonged in the present day and not in the 1800's where this story is supposed to take place. There were too many references in this book to things that I don't believe would have been discussed over a hundred years ago. That's a problem that seems to occur frequently with period books - or TV shows: Little House on the Prairie, I'm talking about you. Don't get me wrong, I love all things related to Little House but by the end of the series they were trying to introduce tons of Women's Lib story lines and it started to feel a little too much like the 70s out there on the prairie. If you're going to write something that takes place in another time period then I think you owe it to your audience to write about the time period as it was and not the way that you wish it would have been.

Aside from being inappropriate to the time period, the dialogue was also quite cheesy in places, which isn't really a problem for me because I enjoy books and movies and TV shows that are cheesy (well I enjoy mocking them anyway). But if you don't like that sort of thing then this book might grate on your nerves at bit. I'll give you a quick example, there's a point in the book where Jessie is telling Bertha that she notices the way Bertha looks at her new husband, "Watching him, watching him, like he had wings." To which Bertha sits there thinking He does have wings. I mean seriously dear readers, how am I supposed to read that without gagging.

And now to end with a compliment, because I feel like I've done nothing but complain about the books I've read this week: The part about the book that I enjoyed is that it didn't attempt to rewrite Anne's back story. I realize that I'm probably setting the bar a little low on that one, but my expectations are not very high after watching the third Anne of Green Gables movie that was made a few years ago. Did you see that movie dear readers? If you're an Anne of Green Gables fan and you haven't watched the movie then save yourself the trouble because the movie will only serve to irritate you. They changed EVERY detail of the story, with the exception of Anne and Gilbert's names, and I'm kind of surprised that they didn't change that too. In the movie they changed the time period and set the movie during World War 1, burned down Green Gables, killed off Marilla, had Anne and Gilbert move to another country, then Gilbert went off to fight in the war and Anne became a war correspondent, and finally Anne and Gilbert decided to adopt a baby. I was tempted to write an angry letter to the network, but I had already written one angry letter to People magazine that month and I thought that two might be setting a unhealthy pattern.

Truth To Tell

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Today is the end of week 20, so it's time for the end of the week count.

For the week -


PAGES - 1,655

For the year so far -

CHAPTERS - 2,952

PAGES - 38,706

Today's book, "Lady Beauford and Copper Varney come from very different social stations when they arrive at the same hospital in the English countryside and deliver baby girls on the same day. Wealthy in her own right, Frances (Lady Beauford) married into a titled family. Copper is married to the headmaster of the local school. Neither knows about the other until five years later when their daughters become fast friends. Victoria Beauford and Leila Varney soon become the focus of gossip because each girl looks like she should belong to the other’s family. Lady Beauford starts an inquiry to determine the truth against the wishes of her husband and the Varneys. Lorrimer’s very British take on class and family pedigree plays an important role in the novel as two little girls are swept up into what may be a terrible mistake. The innocent girls and the furor that surrounds them will have readers on tenterhooks waiting for the outcome of this painful predicament taking place long before the advent of DNA testing."

I picked today's book because I thought it sounded like a Lifetime TV movie and I love TV movies, the more predictable the better. Sometimes I'll watch the same one five times while half of my brain is entertained and the other half is thinking what's wrong with my life that I'm willing to waste time watching this crap. And the part of my brain that's entertained by it always wins out in the end.

I had a very hard time imagining this story taking place in 1914, because it was reminding me so much of a baby switch TV movie that I've watched 2 or 3 or 7 times starring Melissa Gilbert - I believe it was called Switched at Birth (you know the movie is going to be mind numbingly predictable when they can't even come up with a more interesting name for it than that). So there was a battle going on in my mind between 1914 and the 90's, and it was not a pretty sight.

After reading this book I'm convinced that the author is a fan of TV movies as well, because it had all the elements, the yuppie couple who has everything but love (the 1914 version of a yuppie anyway); the poor family that has all the morals and values; a clear villain that the author not so subtly tries to convince us we should hate; what are supposed to be twists but don't really feel like them because I could see them coming from a mile away (although it did get slightly less predictable mid-way through the book). The only thing that was missing was the really bad music that always accompanies a TV movie and the line, "I just want our old lives back."

Still I did enjoy today's book - although coming from me that probably doesn't mean much, especially now that I admitted to loving predictable (one might even say pathetic) TV movies. But this book didn't have as big of a cheese factor to it as most TV movies so you might still enjoy it even if you hate TV movies. My mind is having a hard time contemplating the last part of that sentence - hating TV movies? How is that possible? I've never understood people who have standards when it comes to TV. . . or books . . . or music.

Monopoly: The Worlds Most Famous Game & How It Got That Way

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Today's book, "Who would have thought that Monopoly, the world's best-known board game, originated from an educational game created by a proponent of the obscure Progressive "single tax" theory? Elizabeth Magie's innovative game, Magie's Mother Earth, which eventually came to be known as the Landlord Game, circulated underground on college campuses for 30 years before a man named Charles Darrow put in place most of the elements which remain to this day."

I picked today's book because it looked like such a fun book to read. Well appearances can be deceiving. I found the book to be very boring. There was too much background information on stuff that wasn't relevant to the actual history of the Monopoly Game. For instance, there was a long and boring explanation on what a Monopoly is. Thank you Mr. Author, but I've been to the fourth grade so I actually already know what a monopoly is. It's so hard to enjoy a book when the author is operating on the assumption that his/her readers are complete morons.

I definitely would not have finished reading the book if I wasn't writing this blog. But I powered through it, including what felt like an endless chapter on Monopoly tournaments, including a play-by-play description that made me look back with nostalgia on the last time I watched golf on TV. I can assure you dear readers that reading about a Monopoly tournament isn't any more exciting than it sounds. I'm considering it a victory that I'm still awake enough to write this blog entry.

The author seems to save all the fun, interesting facts about Monopoly for the back of the book. So if you're ever in a store and you see this book, save yourself the trouble of wading through this book and just flip to the back, it'll tell you almost everything you need to know. And I'll recap the few other interesting facts that were found inside of the book - and I use the term interesting rather loosely here - most of them aren't even that interesting but I have to have something to say in this blog entry, so bear with me dear readers:

  • When Monopoly was first introduced in the 30's it sold for $3.00, which was considered a rather steep price then. (Actually that does sound kind of expensive considering you can buy a Monopoly game now for less than $20.00).

  • Parker Brothers was given the option to buy the rights to a game similar to Monopoly, that went by the name of Landlord's Game, in 1909. Parker Brothers passed on that game and instead bought the rights to a game called Mock Trial. (Sounds fun. I wonder if it's anything like the games of Divorce Court I used to play with my friends at elementary school slumber parties.)

I'm really disappointed by this book. I was hoping it would have that fun retro flair to it, but it just fell flat. I would definitely recommend skipping this one dear readers.

Who Gets The Drumstick?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day dear readers. I woke up in the middle of the night last night and realized that I never picked out a book for Memorial Day. So I had to go with plan B, searching through my to-read stacks for any book that even casually mentioned a person who died while they were in military service. I'm actually surprised that I managed to find one.

Today's book, "How would you like to go to your own wedding and have as observers and witnesses at the ceremony eighteen children who are already yours? Frank and Helen Beardsley did just that, and since then have gone on to have two more children. Their story - the individual tragedies that left them widow and widower, the "stranger than fiction" chain of events that brought them together, their courtship, their marriage, and above all how they and their children live, work, and play together - is here told engagingly, warmly, often movingly by Helen."

Today's book was what one of my favorite movies, Yours, Mine & Ours, was based on (not the mediocre version of that movie from 2005 which was nothing like the original, but the Lucille Ball/Henry Fonda version from 1968). I'm having a hard time deciding if I like the movie or the book better. The book has several advantages over the movie, the main one being the lack of cheesy 60's montage music (I challenge any of you to watch that movie and then try to get the song It's a Sometimes World out of your head). But it also has it's weak points, the book briefly mentions the difficulties that go into preparing breakfast and school lunches for 18 kids but there's nothing like getting to actually watch 30 eggs being fried at once (or maybe I'm the only one who is endlessly amused by crap like that).

Before talking about my favorite parts of the book, let's get my least favorite part out of the way: the emphasis the author put on how much she was like Frank's first wife. Apparently they looked so much alike that his younger children got confused and thought she was their first mother. They also had similar taste in clothes (including a favorite dress that both women apparently owned), dishes (they owned the same set), taste in furniture, favorite colors. I really wish the book had skipped over those little details because it came across as kind of creepy.

Now on to the good parts:

  • My favorite part of the book came towards the end when Helen and Frank add to their already large family by having two more children, bringing their grand total to 20 kids (ha, take that JimBob and Michelle). I had a hard time keeping the Duggar comparisons from running through my head while reading today's book, although I'm happy to report that the Beardsley's do not employ the "buddy system" (which is really just code for the parents sit on their butts all day while the kids run the house). The Beardsley children have household chores that they have to do and they occasionally had to help with younger siblings, but they weren't required to supervise the every movement of their younger siblings - they get to actually go off to school and act like children during the day (how shocking), while the parents stay at home and take care of the babies (it's a world gone mad).

  • The other thing that I really liked about the book was that the author was able to convey amusing stories about her children without it coming across as if she can't stand them. So many memoirs about parenthood seem to take the approach of trying to make their children sound as obnoxious as possible in order to get laughs, and that kind of thing wears thin for me very quickly. I'm totally in favor or telling the whole story and not sugar coating things but I don't understand books that take the approach of "isn't it cute that my kids a total brat" or "isn't it funny how screwed up my family is."

  • I also liked the part where the author was trying to convey how expensive groceries are for a family of 20 - but seeing as how the book was written in 1965 the amount ends up being far from shocking, $127.33. I have no idea what that would mean in today's world, so I found an inflation calculator online, and it said that $127.33 in 1965 would be the equivalent of $861.96 today.

I would definitely recommend this book, and the movie dear readers. Although you should definitely skip over the remake.

We're Just Like You Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Today I spent four hours in a beer cooler (there's a sentence I bet you don't read very often in blog entries . . . or anywhere for that matter). My Mother is sick and so I filled in for her at work (at the grocery store my parents own), and my job for the day was refilling the beer cooler. I haven't done that job since high school when I briefly (very briefly) worked there. It only took me five minutes in the beer cooler to remember why I quit that job in the first place. Oh sure, climbing over the huge stacks of 18 packs to get to the back of the cooler where the correct brand is wedged so far down that I have to shimmy down into a two inch wide space and then try to figure out how to wedge myself back out while also lugging the case of beer is fun for a minute or two, but after the third minute it really starts to wear on a person. And then to add to the fun, I got to do it all in a cooler that was set at 32 degrees. I spent the whole afternoon feeling irritated that I forgot to bring a scarf.

I woke up earlier than usual today so I could read for a little while before going to the store, and then I raced home and got right back to reading. . . after I finished reading the newest copy of US Magazine (hey can you blame me, I wanted to read about how Kate Gosselin fired a nanny for washing her hands in the kitchen sink instead of the bathroom one).

Today's book, "Rivenbark has penned a new-and equally sidesplitting-collection of essays, offering Northern and Southern sisters alike a woman's "take on those irksome little yuks in daily life." Although she warns certain readers (Yankees, namely) that they may need a Southern lexicon to decipher her folksy, down-home prose style, Rivenbark's focus on familiar topics like family, relationships and child rearing should appeal to most females, regardless of geography or age. Marked by a feisty, sarcastic tone."

I was too lazy to copy the description from the back of the book so I just used one I found on a book site, and I'm seriously regretting that because if I only had the above description to go on I never would have read this book. First of all, I never trust any book description that promises the book will be sidesplitting - that's pretty much a guarantee that I won't be amused even once (which turned out to be the case). Secondly, I could just gag that whoever wrote that description expects women everywhere to find a book about family and child rearing appealing. Was that book description written in 1952?

I picked today's book because my sister is visiting a friend in Charleston and they wanted me to read a Southern book. I had several options set aside but I had to go with the one that was the
shortest since I knew I would be pressed for time today (after all, I didn't just have to work and read a book, I had to fit in time to read a tabloid too and that takes strategic planning).

I enjoyed today's book, although I did not find it funny at all despite the author's many attempts at humor. I got the feeling all throughout the book that I'm supposed to find the book endlessly amusing, but it didn't even produce one laugh. The book was sort of like an old sitcom, like Leave it to Beaver or The Brady Bunch, that's meant to be funny and yet never is, but I still like them anyway despite the lack of humor. Having said that, I think I'd be disappointed in this book if I had to spend more than one day reading it, it's good for a one-day-fluffy-I-don't-want-to-have-to-think kind of book and nothing more.

My favorite part of the book was when the author described one of her families oddities, ". . . the conversation almost always starts with a recitation of the near or recently dead and disintegrates into sputtering frustration when it's obvious I have no idea who they're talking about. 'You know Pearlie and don't say you don't! Remember how he used to live down from Cousin Maynard's house and everybody always said he wouldn't amount to much because he had a crazy eye." - I enjoyed that passage, although I didn't find it funny, perhaps because I've taken one too many trips to White Trash Junction with my mother as she tells long and windy stories filled with people I don't remember. The sad part is that the stories don't just begin and end with that one person as the author of today's book describes with her family. My Mother's stories like to jump all over town, from one white trash family to the next, and go a little something like this:

Mom: You know Peggy, she was the one who married my other friend Tricia's brother, you know the one who was that stock car driver who crashed his car into the wall that one time.

Me: Mom, I wasn't alive when any of that happened, and it doesn't help to connect Peggy to two other people I don't know.

Mom: You know who the brother is. Jeff was the one who lived next door to that friend of my Mother's whose daughter had that baby when she was twelve.

Me: I have no idea who the girl is, so that doesn't help either.

Mom: Oh sure you do, she was friends with Sheila the one who came from that family that had two kids in one year, one in January and one in December. I remember they had to have their dinning room table specially built because they had 14 kids.

Me: I have no idea who any of those people are.

Mom: You know who Sheila is, she was the one who married that guy that used to date her ex-boyfriend's mother before they met. Well actually no, I think she met him while he was still dating the mother.

This is the point where I usually put myself out of my misery and pretend like I know who all of those people are. You know Mom, on second thought I remember all of those people with perfect clarity. If I was smart I would pretend to know who they are right from the beginning, but sometimes curiosity gets the better of me and I like to play a little game called "Guess how many white trash memories my Mother can cram into one conversation." There was even a time when I decided to let her go for as long as she could keep the story going just to see how long it would last, but I cracked after 45 minutes because I just couldn't take it anymore.

Please join me tomorrow dear readers, where I'm going to play a fun new game called "See if Angie can get her blog entry up before 11 o'clock."

The Shack

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Today's book was suggested by Melio. Thanks Melio (and I'm going to throw in some bullet points just for you because I know you like them).

Today's book, "Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?"

I have very mixed feelings about today's book. On the one hand I thought the basic story was a good one, but on the other hand I'm kind of irritated by the author's half-hearted attempts to convince the readers that the story really happened. Maybe I'm just cold and cynical but I don't believe the story happened, just like I don't believe the author of Conversations with God really has conversations with God. But I can still appreciate the message the book is attempting to convey, and there were parts of the book that I found kind of moving in a Hallmark movie sort of way. All in all, I think it was a good book.

Even while reading a book like this I still had shallow thoughts (would you expect anything less from me dear readers?):

  • My first shallow thought came rather early in the book when the author was describing an ice storm that brought regular activity to a standstill. Or as the author describes it, "He was becoming inexorably trapped as an ice-prisoner in his own home - much to his delight. There is something joyful about storms that interrupt routine." - I love getting snowed in (or I guess in this case it would be iced in), there's something so cozy about it, it's like being in an old movie. And you get to know the people you're stuck there with so much better than you ever would have, you get to find out who are the people who sit around whining when things get difficult and who are the people who figure out how to make s'mores on the grill. One of the years when I was in high school we got snowed in so many times that my sister and I began to write our own version of the Little House book The Long Winter - our version was called The Long Weekend. It was a harrowing tale of people who were trapped in their house for so many days that they ran out of good snack food and had to break down and start eating the low-fat Ritz crackers (which don't taste anything like the originally no matter what the commercial says).

  • My second shallow thought came not long after that, when the main character of the book was explaining God to his daughter. It provided an unfortunate reminder of how badly I used mangle those same discussions back in my Mary Poppins days. Usually my response to all complicated questions from children involves me rambling like an idiot for ten minutes until the child in question puts us both out of our misery by responding with, "You don't know the answer to my question do you?" In my defense dear readers, I was being asked complicated questions like: Why does God let toys break?

I'm kind of amazed - and dare I say, just a little bit proud - that I was able to pull a few shallow thoughts out of book that was intended to be deep and heartfelt. I think this blog has stopped being about "Can she read a book every day for a year" and become "Can she find something shallow to say about every book, no matter how deep and meaningful it's supposed to be." I'm pretty sure I can manage it every time, but it you'd like to test me on that one then go ahead dear readers, throw me a challenge.

Tune in tomorrow dear readers (I have no idea why I keep talking like this is a TV show) to find out what happened during my challenging blogging day in which I attempt to read the book and help my Dad at his store with the Memorial Day rush. Normally working and reading isn't too difficult, I have the hang of that, but this will be a situation where I can't fit reading into my day so I'm going to have to get all of my reading done before and after (and I'm already feeling nervous about it). So wish me luck dear readers.

Gen X TV: The Brady Bunch to Melrose Place

Friday, May 22, 2009

Today's book, "An entertaining chronicle of television. Owen focuses on certain popular shows such as Schoolhouse Rock and Beverly Hills 90210 to depict not only how Gen Xers influenced network programming, but also how television affected the lives of this generation."

I picked today's book because it had the words Brady Bunch in the title, and I'll read/buy just about anything that relates to The Brady Bunch - and anyone who has seen my copy of Alice's Brady Bunch Cookbook can attest to that.

I thought today's book was really interesting, although the book turned out to be quite different from what I expected. There seemed to be very little in the book about how television has affected the lives of Generation X, and instead the book focused on sharing background information on shows that aired between 1970-1995, with the emphasis leaning heavily towards 90s shows. There are random tidbits about other shows, but most of the book centers around The Brady Bunch, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Friends and The Real World.

The Real World - I didn't find that part of the book very interesting because I've never watched that show before, which is totally shocking because I love bad TV.

Friends - Most of what was in this book was information that I've already read before, with the exception of this piece of information, "... in July 1994 just before Friends premiered, ABC Entertainment president Ted Harbert declared a moratorium on TV show theme songs in an effort to reduce the opportunity for channel surfing. Instead of a 40-second theme with credits, he suggested that the credits should play over the shows first scene." (Does Harbert have no soul? Does he not understand the sweet relief of turning on the TV and having the theme song to Dallas or The Golden Girls wash over you? Thank goodness Harbert changed his mind not long after that.)

Beverly Hills 90210 - Mid-way through the section on 90210 the author mentions how the actors from the show were much older than the characters they portray. That's no surprise, I think everyone already knows about that, but it gave me a flashback to my first day of high School, which came after watching three seasons of 90210 - and all I could think on that day was how everyone around me looked so young and badly dressed. 90210 gave me such a false idea of what high school was really going to be like.

Melrose Place - I was really amused during the Melrose Place discussion when the author argues that, while the show isn't great TV, it's more than just "bad TV," and then he goes on to share an excerpt from a book called Bad TV (which is definitely going on my to-read list) which describes the difference between bad TV and bad TV as, "Bad TV is just boring and amateurish; something you banish with a quick flick of that remote control. Bad TV, however, is something truly amazing, enriching, and compelling - TV so bad, it's in a class all by itself." (Or as I like to call it, TV that's so bad it almost loops back around and becomes good again.)

The Brady Bunch - There was much more background information on this show than any of the other shows in this book (and you won't hear any complaints from me about that). But if Brady Bunch isn't really your scene, then you might not find this book as interesting as I did. I learned all kinds of interesting new information about the show from this book. But, for the sake of not trying my dear readers' patient with endless discussion of Brady Bunch, I will condense the information down to the two most interesting things I learned:

  • There were three other Brady Bunch shows, The Brady Bunch Hour (a variety show airing in 1977 that was so bad that no one involved can even bring themselves to defend it), The Brady Brides (a sitcom airing in 1981 involving Jan, Marcia and their new husbands all living together in the same house), and The Bradys (an hour long drama - drama? what were they thinking? - airing in 1990 that was so bad it only lasted for 6 weeks the featured: Jan and her husband adopting a baby from Korea after suffering fertility problems, womanizing Peter going through his fourth failed engagement, Bobby being crippled in a racing accident, Cindy becoming a DJ despite the lisp that she still had, Mike running for city council, and Marcia who was played by someone else becoming an alcoholic for one episode). It's hard to believe that show didn't take off. How on earth did they come up with those plot ideas? Did they all sit around in a room and say, "Let's see if we can come up with the worst, most depressing story lines imaginable. Let's see if we can make up stuff so bad that it will wipe out every happy memory anyone ever had in regards to the show."
  • The show's creator, Sherwood Schwartz, was an egomaniac. There were excerpts in the book from various interviews he gave, and he spent most of them whining about all the shows that copied The Brady Bunch. I thought he had a point when he was discussing how Step by Step copied the show, but when he starts arguing that The Cosby Show was clearly copying his show that's when I started to mutter under my breath Get over yourself Sherwood. (That was quickly followed by me spending five minutes wondering how anyone could look at a newborn baby and name them Sherwood. It truly boggles my mind.)

Other favorite shows that got a brief mention:

Designing Women - I learned that the show almost got canceled in 1986. I'm trying to imagine my life without the Pearl episode or the New Orleans episode, but it's too dark of an image to even contemplate.

Homefront - I loved that show. It's my all-time favorite show, and I'm still bitter about it getting canceled despite the fact that the cancellation happened back in 1993. I really have had plenty of time to let go, but I just can't. And now I've added to that bitterness the bitterness I feel whenever I think about how it still hasn't been released on DVD despite the fact that shows like Alf and The Jeff Foxworthy Shows have been available for years.

Helping Me Help Myself

Thursday, May 21, 2009
Today's book, "Grappling with her lifelong phobia of anything slick, cheesy, or remotely claiming to provide self-empowerment, Beth Lisick wakes up on New Year's Day 2006 with an unprecedented feeling. She is finally able to admit to herself that she's grown tired of embracing the same old set of nagging problems year after year. She has no savings account. Her house feels unorganized and chaotic. The last time she exercised regularly was as a member of her high school track team almost twenty years ago. Instead of turning to advice from the abundant pool of local life coaches, therapists, and healers readily available on her home turf of northern California, Beth confronts her fears head-on. She consults the multimillion-dollar-earning pros and national experts, not only reading their bestselling books but also attending their seminars and classes. In Chicago, she gets proactive with The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In Atlanta, she tries to get a handle on exactly why "women are from Venus," and in a highly comedic bout on the high seas of the Caribbean, she gamely sweats to the oldies on a week long Cruise to Lose with Richard Simmons. Throughout this yearlong experiment, Beth tries extremely hard to maintain her wry sense of humor and easygoing nature, even as she starts to fall prey to some of the experts' ideas, ideas she thought she'd spent her whole life rejecting. Beth doesn't think of herself as the typical self-help victim. But is she?"

I really enjoyed today's book. I would definitely recommend it - it was not only interesting but also funny. And, per my new rating standards, I would still consider it a good book if it was the only book I was reading this month.

The reason why I picked today's book was because I used to love reading self help books, so I thought it would be fun to sit back and have a good long laugh at the expense of the person I used to be. I have no idea why I used to read those books, because I never followed the advice in them, I was kind of hoping the changes would just happen to my life through osmosis. Then I finally had an honestly moment and realized that I'm too lazy to ever actually take the advice in the books so I should stop wasting my time reading advice books that I'm going to ignore anyway. And now I stick to ignoring advice from people I actually know. The author seems to take the same tack I used to, of reading the books and ignoring them - although she doesn't ignore them nearly as thoroughly as I did. She makes some half-hearted attempts at trying out the advice, but doesn't really stick with any of it long enough to find out if any of it would really work. So I guess that would be my one complaint about the book. I found the book amusing enough to be able to overlook that detail, but if you're a stickler for that kind of thing then this probably isn't the book for you.

I think the most entertaining chapter of the book was the one discussing John Gray's books (for those of you who didn't watch Oprah during her last 90's obsession with John Gray, he's the man who wrote Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus). I'm so glad the author of today's book included excerpts from his books, because I've always wondered what's in the Mars/Venus books (I also have always wondered what's in that book The Rules, but I think I would be too mortified to actually buy or check out those books). It turns out the book was pretty much the way I imagined it, a book filled with descriptions of stereotypical male and female behavior. And according to John Gray's definition of male behavior. . . I am a man. The most startling thing about this is that it doesn't surprise me at all. Let's look at the superficial evidence for a minute, I'm commitment-phobic, I refuse to ever stop and ask for directions when I'm lost, I'd rather carve out one of my organs with a butter knife than have to ever talk about how I feel about something, and when I watch TV I hold the remote in a death grip and I feel really uncomfortable with the idea of anyone else in the room having possession of the remote. The only thing that's saving me from being classified as a Martian (yes, that's really how John Gray refers to it) is that I hate sports and I've never even drank a cup of beer (that last part won't be amusing to anyone who didn't see the Saturday Night Live sketch of John Gray, but it never stops amusing me).

Later in the book the author discusses reading a parenting book called 1, 2, 3 Magic , which is a book I've actually read. I reached a point of desperation while working as a nanny, a point that came one day when the child I was taking care of (who had an unpleasant little habit of sneaking steak knives to his room) locked me out of the house. I decided that day to read every parenting book I could find to try to figure out what to do, which lead me to 1, 2, 3 Magic. Now I'm sure it's a lovely book that's been oh so helpful to many people, including those who gushed about the book on amazon and who may or may not be relatives of the author, but I didn't find their technique (which consisted of saying "That's one" then waiting five seconds before saying "That's two" and "That's three" and then escorting the child to timeout) all that effective when the child in question was lying on the pavement in the middle of the parking lot of restaurant in order to try to get run over by a car. That's right, he was actively trying to get run over. So thank you very much for the advice Dr. Phelan, but when cars are whizzing past the child I'm desperately trying to keep alive at 7 o'clock at night . . . in the middle of January. . . in an icy parking lot and the cars keep sliding and almost hitting him before swerving at the last minute, then I don't believe I'll be stopping to count to 3 while taking little breaks in between in order to give him a chance to realize the error of his ways. I think instead I'll be dragging the child to the car and threatening to take away every toy he owns if he so much as thinks about throwing himself back onto the pavement again. I think I'll also be going back to the child's home and telling his parents, "I'm never taking that child in public again." But I suppose you know best Dr. Phelan, after all you are the expert.

I came to the end of the book and flipped to the author's picture (which I like to wait to do until the very end of the book) and was quite startled. I spent the whole book picturing the author looking like Samantha Brown from the traveling channel only to discover that she looks nothing like that. And so you can properly understand my shock dear readers, I've found pictures of the two. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the travel channel, here's Samantha Brown:

And here's the author of today's book:

I don't know why I even bother wasting space in my imagination trying to figure out what people look like since they never end up looking the way I picture them.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Today is the end of blogging week number 19 (it's kind of hard to believe that it's been that long), so it's time for the end of the week count:

For the week:


PAGES - 1,922

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 2,815

PAGES - 37,051

Today's book, ""It takes a village" aptly describes how Lone Oak, Texas, comes to the aid of one of its own in this latest offering from Texas author Wood, who has a real appreciation for the laid back lifestyle and language of a small town. When Mary Lou's husband is trampled to death by his horse, she signs up for more hours at the DQ and for a single-parenting course at the community college. The seven class members openly share their personal concerns--cancer, abuse, AIDS, absent children, and the death of a spouse--while the professor struggles with uncertainty as she ends a five-year affair. The group quickly bonds and all rally around Mary Lou, whose 14-year-old daughter, Echo, leaves home after her father's death, first living in their neighbor Mr. Roseborough's tree house, then taking to the road, sending only the occasional postcard home. When Echo returns with a baby of her own, the classmates support Mary Lou once again, hopefully during what will be a happier phase of life."

Shallow thoughts:

  • This was not the book I had planned to read today. I started out reading a different book, but while I was reading the first ten pages I kept feeling like the book was so familiar . . . and boring. By the time I got to page 12 I realized that I had already read the book, and hated it. How sad is that, I'm starting to buy books that I've already read and disliked. If that isn't the surest sign of a person with a book buying problem then I don't know what is.

  • I picked today's book (or rather, today's book Part 2) based on the cover - I didn't even read the description beforehand to find out what it was about. The cover made me think of cartoons, and how can you go wrong with cartoons? And, as I'm sure you can see by the description, the book turned out to be a bit of a downer - but it was still a good book. It wasn't a great book, just good - the kind that is good enough to justify spending one day on but that I'm not sure is interesting enough to want to read spread out over a period of days or weeks.

  • Writing this blog has given me a lot of freedom to branch out and try different types of book because I know I still have 29 or 30 other books to read that month. But if I only had time to read a book or two a month I think I might feel kind of let down by today's book. My standards have become totally different now (oh look at me, pretending like I have any standards in the first place AHAHAHAHA), which makes me feel as if my recommendations of what's a good book and what isn't should be totally ignored. So, if you haven't already started to ignore me when I say a book is good, then sorry for leading you astray dear readers. And from now on I think I'm going to try a new standard for what is good and what isn't, and I'm going to call it: Would I still think this book was good if it was the only book I had time to read this month. For today's book, I'm going to give it a great big NO.

  • My biggest pet peeve about the book was the way the author felt the need to keep reminding us that one of the characters had adopted her daughter. Is that really the kind of information that needs to be mentioned every fifty pages or so? Does the author not think the readers have the ability to retain that piece of information from one chapter to the next? I expect to be constantly reminded of details in a Danielle Steel novel, but not here. And I choose to believe that the reason Danielle Steel novels are like that is not that Danielle thinks we've forgotten, but because she's drunk while writing her books. Just look at her picture on the back of her books and tell me that doesn't look like a woman who spends all day drinking champagne while writing - although I secretly like to imagine that when she's not being photographed she really wears sweats and drinks beer out of one of those beer helmets (it's entirely possible that I may have given this too much thought).

  • There was one aspect of the book that I found amusing, but it was only amusing because it reminded me of a movie. Every time the main character, Mary Lou, went to her single parenting class I kept thinking of that part in About a Boy when Will joins the single parents group (Single Parents Alone Together) in order to meet women. It's kind of sad when the best part of the book is the way it reminds me of a movie - or maybe it's not the book's fault, maybe it's my TV addiction talking on that one.

The Ladies of Missalonghi

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Today's book, "Like a box of chocolates, this short novel by McCullough is seductive and satisfying; readers will want to devour it in one sitting. Set in the early 1900s in the tiny town of Byron, nestled in the Australia's Blue Mountains, it tells of the blossoming of Missy Wright, 33-year-old spinster and poor relation of the town's ruling family, the Hurlingfords. Missy, her widowed mother and crippled aunt live in genteel poverty, victims of the Hurlingford inheritance policy that gives riches and power to the male members of the family, who heartlessly abuse the women they dominate. Plain, painfully thin and doomed to dress always in serviceable brown, shockingly dark-haired in a clan of luminous blondes, Missy seems fated for da dreary future until a distant cousin, a divorcee, arrives from Sydney. Under her tutelage, Missy acquires spunk, hope and the means to a happy ending."
Shallow thoughts:
  • I picked today's book because it was short. There I said it. I don't feel well today and on days like this I just want to go back to bed, curl up under a quilt, and read something that's not only short, but also comforting (actually that's not true, what I really want to do is curl up under a quilt and watch The Brady Bunch), but since that wasn't an option this morning, I decided to search for a comforting book. So this book seemed like the perfect one to read today. And my instincts were right (for once), I really enjoyed today's book, it was a pleasant diversion from the minor illness I seem to be coming down with.
  • It was also a nice alternative to what I was originally going to read today - another book by the same author, The Thorn Birds (I watched the mini-series in junior high, although I had to go to a friends house and watch it because my mother thought it would "give me ideas", but I've never actually read the book before) - but that book was quite long and I just didn't feel like I was up to it today, so I went with this book instead.
  • During the first 60 pages of the book I was seeing some similarities between today's book and the plot of Sense & Sensibility - with one huge difference, I didn't get sucked into this book immediately like I always do with Jane Austen. This book took about 20 pages before I felt like I was really interested in what was happening. The sad thing is that if I wasn't writing this blog I probably wouldn't have continued reading past page five - which makes me wonder how many other books I've stopped reading just before they started to get really good.
  • The town the book takes place in, Byron, has no library. Every feeling revolts (sorry, I'm in a Jane Austen kind of mood right now). Instead, they have a place where they can rent books. I'm feeling very happy right now that things aren't like that where I live, or I'd be bankrupt right now.
  • Several of the characters in this book talked a great deal about how horrible they think novels are. I'm always amused by the way old books (or books that take place in other time periods) talk about novels as if they are positively scandalous, as if anyone who reads them must have incredibly low standards and morals. I'm actually not crazy about novels myself - it's because of my high standards (ahahahaha). Okay, so that's not believable - I clearly have no standards. The real reason why I'm not crazy about novels is because I've always considered real life more interesting than fiction.
Okay, so it's question time again dear readers: What do you do with a book that isn't holding your interest? Keep reading? Set a page limit that you're going to read to and then quit if it's still boring? Quit as soon as it gets boring?

Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade

Monday, May 18, 2009

I've been in sort of a reading slump for the last four days, where I would wake up and just not feel like reading. But today I woke up feeling invigorated and ready to read again. It was such a relief, because I was really started to worry that I might have burned out for good. But, I watched a lot of TV last night, bought a season (or two) of Dallas DVDs online, and now I'm feeling fresh and ready to face the page again. Balance, it's all about balance. I just don't think I'm meant to be one of those people who does nothing but read - I need to have shallow experiences too (and yes I do realize how absurd I sound by saying that).

Today's book, "After the death of his father, 10 year-old Patrick is sent to live with his eccentric Aunt Mame. Mame, all glitter and martinis, raises her nephew in a world filled with acceptance and her oddball literati friends. Nothing is too bohemian. This unfolds in colorful episodic segments that allow us to watch Patrick grow as Mame oversees his unusual upbringing while she juggles a few spouses and an extended household."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I love the movie version of Auntie Mame - except for that weird middle part that's kind of boring - so I decided to read the book. And I loved it. The only downside to the book was that it didn't contain my favorite scene from the movie in which Partick's trustee, Mr. Babcock, stops by to visit and expresses his disgust that ten year-old Patrick knows how to mix a martini. To this Auntie Mame replies, "Mr. Babcock, knowledge is power."

  • But that one little downside was balanced out by the main advantage the book has over the movie, the middle part is just as good as the rest of the book. The movie is really good in the beginning, then it gets boring for about 25 minutes, and then it's really good at the end. I've never seen a movie do that before. Usually when it starts to get boring, it's all downhill from there (like the movie The Doughgirls, which was the worst movie I've ever seen in my life and that includes the time I watched The Barney Movie).

  • I got today's book from the library, and the person who read it before me was so very helpful in rewriting several of the sentences for me. I can understand that, I mean I'm sure the author didn't really intend to say "which Auntie Mame said to scratch out and forget about." Clearly what she really meant to say was, "and later told me to scratch them out and forget it." Because apparently, there's a huge difference between those two statements, a difference that MUST BE POINTED OUT. Pardon my sarcasm dear readers, it just really annoys me when people write in other people's books.

  • Fun fact for the day: Auntie Mame was loosely based on a the author's Aunt. I always thought the story was completely true, but it turns out that the character of Mame is based on Patrick's real-life Aunt, but Patrick's parents were really alive and he never actually lived with his Aunt. I feel so disillusioned.

Tupperware Unsealed

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Today's book, "Brownie Wise, the first woman to appear on the cover of Business Week, was the driving force behind making Tupperware a household name. Fired under mysterious circumstances, she was written out of Tupperware history and died in obscurity. A trailblazing businesswoman decades ahead of her time, Wise created the Tupperware "home party" phenomenon in the 1950s."

Tupperware was a huge part of my childhood. Not only did my Mother sell it for awhile, but she also filled every closet and cupboard in the house with it. Our cupboards were legendary among the kids in my class at school. I would invite someone over to my house to play and as soon as I would open the cupboard to get a snack they would be amazed by how everything was so organized and neatly labeled. Then I would go to school the next day and hear from several other kids, "I heard about your Mom's cupboards." I would have slumber parties and the kids who had been to my house previously would tell the newly invited kids, "You've got to see her mother's cupboards." Then I would show them the cupboards and someone would always say, "There are even labels on the cereal containers." I was always surprised that they were so fascinated by it since I had lived with the containers and labels my entire life and hadn't yet realized how weird our house was. I always felt disoriented when I would spend the night at other people's houses and have to use a kitchen where the food was still in boxes.

So naturally, when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. Unfortunately, the book turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. It was interesting in the beginning, but it got really boring around page 90, and I never really got interested in it again after that. I think the story the author was telling was a good one, it was just told in a boring, lifeless sort of way. So I spent the rest of the day forcing myself through the book.

I did learn a few interesting things about Tupperware from the book, which I'm going to share with you so I can save you the trouble of having to read the book:

  • In the early Tupperware days the company made Tupperware cigarette cases. (I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which that wouldn't be the tackiest thing ever but, nope, I just can't do it.)

  • Tupperware did not sell very well at first. It was originally sold only in stores, and customers were confused by the products. Customers had to be told that the products were specially designed to extend the life of food, and shown how to use the lids, before they would buy. Which led to sixteen year-old Gary MacDonald speculating, "Man, that could be a great home-demonstration product." (I think from now on I will cease to use the expression "Doesn't have the sense to come in out of the rain," and replace it with, "Doesn't have the sense to figure out how to use Tupperware." I mean seriously, who can't figure out how to put a lid on a container?)

  • When Earl Tupper set out to create Tupperware he was having trouble acquiring the raw materials he needed. Plastic was in short supply since World War II had just ended and wartime shortages were a problem that carried over into the last 40's. So Tupper had to rely on using a smelly, greasy, rubbery, black substance that was a smelting waste product. (I have a few unpleasant images rattling around in my brain right about now. Can you guess what those images might be dear readers?)

  • Earl Tupper originally considered having a Tupperware theme song, but later abandoned that idea. (I'm having a hard time figuring out what song would be appropriate for that, but I can't think of any song that has the word plastic in it. Any ideas dear readers?)

Big Book o' Beer

Saturday, May 16, 2009
Today is my brother's birthday and so I temporarily suspended SUGGESTION SATURDAY so I could read a special book in honor of the occasion. I asked him for a suggestion but his response was, "You've already read the one book I've read in my life." So I decided to go to Plan B, reading a book on a subject that he's interested in. As far as I can tell his two main interests are sports (and I just can't go through that again) and beer. So I chose to go with beer.

Today's book, "Beer may have gone a bit upscale in recent years, what with all those micro brews and Belgian ales, but Swierczynski (The Perfect Drink for Every Occasion) is more interested in the history of Pabst Blue Ribbon and the trivia of hangovers, not to mention the physics of a flying bottle cap, the world's weirdest beer flavors (he's found banana and white chocolate mousse, among others) and beer label art. He divides this visually captivating compendium into a six-pack of chapters, covering history, geography, crafts, the sciences, the arts and even connoisseurship as they relate to readers' favorite hop-flavored brew."

Today's book was very interesting, although it did feel really weird to spend the whole day reading about something that I'm allergic to. First I find out I'm allergic to cake and now this, I never get to have any fun (just kidding, I never even tried beer before I found out I was allergic to it, in fact I've never had alcohol of any kind - I'm boring and square that way).

Fun facts about beer:

  • In 2600 B.C., the Sumerians drank their beer through a straw, because back then beer was often full of really unpleasant-tasting grain hulls that were left behind after the crude brewing process. (The lesson here dear readers: Be thankful for modern brewing techniques. You know some people are lucky enough to get to drink hull-free beer. Some people had to rough it.)

  • During the Middle Ages, in England, it was a standard practice to have what was known as "elevenses," a beer break at 11 a.m. to "nourish the body and spirit." (So if you ignore the plagues that kept wiping out their population, people in the Middle Ages had it pretty good).

  • It was also customary during the Middle Ages to bathe newborn babies in beer, because the beer was more sanitary than the water supply. (I think it's time for an official EEEEEWWWW. I don't even want to think about what was in that water to make beer seem like a wholesome alternative).

  • The beer can was first introduced in 1935 - however those cans didn't come with pull tabs so the cans had to be opened with a special opener called a "church key" to puncture the tops. (Was the person who came up with the name for the opener trying to be ironic, or were they trying to shame the drinkers into getting back on the straight-and-narrow? I want to know more. But, unfortunately the book doesn't elaborate on that point). Then in 1963 pull tabs made their debut (ahh, progress).

  • The creepiest bar in the world (in the author's opinion, and I must wholeheartedly agree), is in Holywell, England. Legend has it that the bar is haunted by a teenage girl who hanged herself and then was buried nearby. I wish I could say that was the creepy part, but no. The creepy part came later, when the bar expanded and now the girl's gravestone is inside of the bar. (Okay, I have nothing clever to follow up that tidbit of information, because I'm still reeling from how disturbing it is).

  • There are more breweries in Portland, Oregon than anywhere else in the world - 20 to be exact. (I fear there's a family trip to Portland in my future).
I hope you've enjoyed this tacky blog entry of mine - and if you didn't, well then, no need to worry because I can assure you that tomorrow's book will be a wholesome one.

The 13th Juror

Friday, May 15, 2009


I'm doing a special entry tomorrow for my brother's birthday, so today I'm doing SUGGESTION FRIDAY. Today's book was suggested by Steve, whose book I'm currently borrowing. I'm being very careful with the book, and I've only dropped it in the toilet once (just kidding Steve - I'm taking care of the book as if it were a newborn child).

And just to prove that the book is fine, I'm going to show you all a picture of him (and if you're wondering why I say him, I like to think of books written by women as "her" and those written by men as "him," and I defy anyone to tell me that's weird. Okay fine, so it's weird . . . and I do see that. Anyway, here he is:

Oh that book, he's such a kidder.

Today's book was quite a challenge for me, because it's the longest book I've ever read in one day. It's 544 pages long, and a certain person (by the name of Chad) didn't think I could read a book that long in one day. HA HA, I laugh in the face of a challenge (I also laugh in the face of written laughter - I have no idea why, but it really amuses me). Seriously, just try to look at this: HA HA HA HA HA, and not laugh (or maybe that's just me).

Today's book: "Jennifer's fairytale life as the wife of Dr. Larry Witt seems perfect. When Larry and their seven-year-old son are murdered while Jennifer is out jogging, the newspapers have a field day weeping with the photogenic young widow. After she is arrested for the crime, a full-fledged tabloid feeding frenzy erupts. Into this fray steps Dismas Hardy, a fortysomething former district attorney's office hotshot and an ex-bartender who is 43 days into his new job with a prestigious law firm. Dismas, new to the role of defense lawyer, is uncomfortable with his growing belief in Jennifer's innocence, especially since she is reluctant to take her one chance at a "Not Guilty" verdict: acknowledging Larry's years of abuse."

I really enjoyed today's book, which surprised me because it's not the kind of book I would choose to read on my own. But you see dear readers, my brother practically double dared me to do it, so I had no choice. I couldn't let his mocking go unanswered. I would never be able to face him across the table at Thanksgiving.

And because I love a good list, I'm debuting the "Things I enjoyed about this book" list:

  • The fact that Larry died really early in the book (and I don't feel I'm giving anything away because that information is in the book description on the back) - I'm not sure if I could have put up with that man for longer than 2 pages.

  • The suspense - I had no idea what was going to happen next. I've read several other courtroom books that have dropped so many breadcrumbs along the way that it was obvious by page 20 what was going to happen in the end. Okay, so to be fair, those other books weren't really courtroom novels, they were Danielle Steel novels (seriously, it's like the woman is trying to write a book with as many flaws in it as possible).

  • The lack of wasted pages (I feel certain there was a more eloquent way of saying that, but after reading 544 pages, my brain refuses to function anymore, it's decided to go on strike until I meet it's demands: two episodes of Golden Girls) - When I saw how long the book was I expected there to be a bunch of dead space in the book; back stories on the court room stenographer, long descriptions of the clothes people were wearing - crap like that (again, excuse my lack of eloquence, I'm tired). The readers were spared that in this book.

  • The accuracy - The author actually stuck to correct courtroom procedure. Actually, I have no idea whether the author stuck to accurate details because I'm not old enough to have watched L.A. Law, but it just felt more accurate than the badly written courtroom-related garbage I normally read. I guess I was I'm trying to say dear readers, in this long and painful ramble, is that I appreciate the attention to detail.

  • The ending didn't feel like it was rushed. So many books spend several hundred pages moving at a rather slow pace, and then get to the last 20 pages and race to tie up all the loose ends, and I end up feeling like I have literary whiplash. But in this case, I felt the ending moved at a good page, not so long and drawn out that I didn't give a crap anymore by the time it came, and not so fast that I ended up sitting there at the end thinking What the hell just happened?
Overall, I would recommend this book dear readers, even for those of you who don't normally enjoy this kind of book.

Disclaimer: No books were harmed in the writing of this blog entry. And, despite how it looks, Mr. Book is NOT being held hostage until Steve finally leaves a comment on my blog.

Say Goodnight, Gracie!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I couldn't find a picture of today's book. There seems to be about 5 or 6 books with the same title and I ran across pictures for every one of those books, but not this one. So I'm sorry dear readers, you'll just have to settle for a picture of the subjects of the book.

Today's book, "Say Goodnight, Gracie! is a nostalgic look at one of America's favorite television shows: The Burns and Allen Show. Beginning with George Burns and Gracie Allen's first meeting in 1922 backstage, after one of Gracie's vaudeville acts, and following their careers through the beginning of their own vaudeville act together, the radio show that launched them both as stars, and the wildly popular television show that put them into the homes of millions."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I love reading books that take a behind the scenes look at television - especially the early years of television - so I was excited when I found this book. It turned out to be a bit of disappointment. I think it would be interested to die-hard fans, but beyond that I don't think it would appeal to very many people. I think part of the problem is that the bar was set high when it comes to behind-the-scenes-of-early-television books because I recently read Betty White's book, Here We Go Again: My Life in Television and it was so much better than this book. I'm sure part of the difference lies in the fact that Betty's book is an autobiography and this one was, so it felt so much more personal - and let's face it, who wouldn't want to spend a little time with Betty, she's delightful.

  • This book was a little short on the history of the show and a little too long on dialogue - there are some points in the book where the author recites actual dialogue from the show, and it goes on for several pages. It made me feel like I was reading a play (something I really dislike doing and spent most of high school trying to avoid).

  • While reading this book, I kept thinking that the story of Gracie Allen and George Burns' life together sounded so familiar - and then I realized that it's very similar to the plot of My Blue Heaven (not the crappy remake, but the original from 1950). I did some Internet research to see if the movie might have been loosely based on their lives, but I couldn't find anything. And now it's really bugging me. I hate it when I can't figure something out, like when I can't remember someone's name and spend several hours going through the alphabet in a desperate effort to remember what it was (I probably should spend that time driving to the health food store and buying so Gingko instead - this memory problem I have it really getting out of hand).

  • In the last two weeks I've read 3 autobiographies and 1 biography (I promise tomorrow I'm going to read something that's fiction), and so I spent most of the book debating with myself (in case you're wondering who won the debate: I did) about which is better autobiographies or biographies. On the one hand I think autobiographies feel so much more personal which I consider a plus, but then I always wonder if the author is sugar-coating their life and their own flaws which makes me think biographies are better. I guess it all comes down to whether I think an author is being honest or not, so it could go either way. Tell me dear readers, which do you prefer?

I'm not going to be doing Suggestion Saturday this week because I'm reading a special book on Saturday in honor of my brother's birthday, so instead I'm doing a special Suggestion Friday tomorrow in which I'm going to attempt to read the longest book I've read for the year so far. So, wish me luck dear readers. I'm going to need it because the book is over 500 pages.

No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Before I get to today's entry, I want to do the end of the week count.

For the week:


PAGES - 1,862

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 2,680

PAGES - 35,129

Today's book, "Marie Sharp may be a little creaky in the bones as she heads toward the big 6-0, but she is fine with it. She'd rather do without all the moving-to-Florida-bicycling-across-Mongolia-for-the-hell-of-it hoopla that her friends insist upon. She has already led an exciting life. She came of age in the 1960s after all. Now with a new grandchild and a new man on the horizon, all she wants to do is accept the happy, sassy, curmudgeon she has become and "start doing old things."

I liked the basic storyline of today's book, but I didn't like the main character at all. I found her to be rude (and not even in a fun Sophia-from-Golden-Girls kind of way), boring, whiny, and excessively negative. It's really hard for me to like a book - even one with a decent plot - when I don't the main character so I never really got into the book. I spent the whole day counting down the pages until I reached the sweet relief of that last page, and then I fought off the urge to yell out "I'M FREE. I'M FREE. I'M FREE." I think I'm going to have to go watch a few episode of Golden Girls to see cranky-old-woman done right. I have no idea why I'm saying "have to" as if someone is holding a gun to my head and making me watch it - but sometimes I just feel like I need to watch something from the 80's and be wrapped in the comfort that only a cheesy 80's theme song can provide.

Favorite sentence of the book: "Dinner parties can be mini-prison sentences, only you don't get out early for good behavior."

Most ironic sentence of the whole book: "As for discussing books, forget it. As far as I'm concerned there are only two phrases to describe books. One is: "Absolutely brilliant! You must read it!" or "Total crap. Don't touch it with a bargepole." (I guess the author should just be happy that not all of us adhere to that system of rating books. If I did, I think you can guess which category I would put this book into.)

I guess I shouldn't complain about the book being bad - I really have no one to blame but myself. I really should have known that any book with the words "book club" in the title was going to be just like every other book like that I've ever read. The market seems to be flooded with books about book clubs and they all seem to follow the standard formula and have boring, one-dimensional characters (most of which I can't even keep straight from one another because they're so unremarkable), they have predictable endings, and they pretty much all blur together. You've read one, you've read them all. Which really begs the question: Why on earth did I read today's book? And the answer is: I don't know. I don't know why I checked it out in the first place (I was most likely caught up in the book buying/borrowing frenzy that seems to cause my common sense to completely shut off - I've begun trying to reserve books through the library website in the hope that it would slow down the frenzy and give me time to reflect, but it seems to have made the problem worse. It's just so easy to click on the reserve button) - and then once I've checked out a book I feel like I have an obligation to read it since the librarians took the time to transfer it from one library to the next for me (they're totally my patsies down at the library.)

P.S. - I have a question for my fellow bloggers, Are you as obsessed with the number of followers you have as I am? I spend all day long feeling like an auctioneer, saying to myself things like I've got 108 followers, 108 . . . 108 . . . 108 . . . Do I hear 109. Come on ladies and gentlemen, who wants to be follower number 109? And then when the next follower shows up I go around saying to. . . well, anyone who comes in contact with me, I'm not going to name names, but someone in this room has 109 followers. (That last exchange becomes especially awkward during the times when I'm the only one in the room.) I think it's possible that I might be just a teensy bit obsessed.

I'll Scream Later

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm feeling totally unmotivated today. I just want to lie around and watch Brady Bunch episodes and not have to use my brain. So, what's the best thing to read on a day when you don't want to have to use brain cells? A celebrity autobiography. They're light and fluffy and completely lacking in substance, and so much fun.

"In I'll Scream Later, Marlee takes readers on the frank and touching journey of her life, from the frightening loss of her hearing at eighteen months old to the highs and lows of Hollywood, her battles with addiction, and the unexpected challenges of being thrust into the spotlight as an emissary for the deaf community. She speaks candidly for the first time about the troubles of her youth, the passionate and tumultuous two-year relationship with Oscar winner William Hurt that dovetailed with a stint in rehab, and her subsequent romances with heartthrobs like Rob Lowe, Richard Dean Anderson, and David E. Kelley."

I know what you were probably thinking after reading the description of today's book, Another book about a celebrity with a drug problem? Didn't she just read one of those last week? Is this last week? Or maybe I'm the only one who asks myself questions like that. It's a habit I picked up after a several decades of being related to my Mother, a woman who really enjoys repeating conversations (sometimes word for word). She frequently attempts to have the exact same conversation with me two, three, even four days in a row, to which I respond, "Didn't we just have this conversation yesterday? Is this yesterday?" Every day I get up, I read a book, I write an entry, I make fun of the neighbors clothes for awhile, I have the same conversation with my Mother that I had the day before - it's like being stuck in that movie Groundhog Day.

I liked today's book a lot better than the last autobiography about celebrity addiction that I read, for several reasons: this book didn't drag out the chapters on addiction and then race through the rest of the book, there was no attempts to blame anyone else for the beginning of her drug problem, and I didn't have to work to fight off the image of Marcia Brady shooting up while reading this book. All in all, it was a good reading day, despite my lack of motivation.

Fun fact for the day: Sign language is different from country to country, and the way Americans sign the letter L is an obscene gesture in Nicaragua, a fact that Marlee learned the hard way. . . while visiting a school. . . that was filled with small children (although she was coy about what obscene gesture it was - I hate it when books leave out the really important facts).

And my final shallow thought of the day: Marlee is the only celebrity I can't think of off the top of my head whose children all have normal names. There are no children in her family named Apple of Banjo. I always notice, while reading biographies and autobiographies of celebrities from the 30's-60's that very few of them gave their kids odd names. When did this crazy name thing start? And more importantly, why did it start? It's like they're all having some sort of contest that the rest of us don't know about. I imagine them showing up at red carpet events saying, "I just named my child Banjo. Ha ha, top that." And then whoever they're speaking to will respond with, "Oh yeah, you may think you've won, but just you wait. My child is due in six months, and I can top Banjo. You'll rue the day you ever challenged me." Or it's entirely possible that conversations like that never take place and I just have too much time on my hands - time that could be put to a much better use than sitting around imaging what celebrities say to one another on the red carpet, a better use like. . . watching Brady Bunch.

Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man

Monday, May 11, 2009

Today was a much easier reading day than yesterday. I only had three things to do: make my Dad breakfast for his birthday (he resisted the idea of breakfast in bed because he likes to have a table to rest his elbows on), read the book, and write this entry. I made his favorite, Campfire breakfast, a meal that he loves despite how gross it looks (so you can get a mental image of it: it's a mixture of sausage, onions, red pepper and hash browns with a couple of eggs scrambled right into the dish - it ends up looking like a meal that's already been digested, but he likes it).

I wanted to read a special book in honor of his birthday, and since I've already read several Disney-related books I decided to give it a rest and read about one of his other interests. His other interests are: meat, sleeping, and TV - so naturally, I decided to go with TV. Home Improvement is one of his favorite TV shows - although, he was unable to narrow it down to one clear favorite and instead said, "Oooh there's so many to choose from." I wonder where I got my TV habits from, hmmmmmm.

And now I think it's time for a "Favorite things about Dad" list, in honor of his birthday:

  • When I was in elementary school he came on every field trip. At that time (the mid-80's) none of the Dads from my class would go on the field trips, so it would end up being 90 kids, 3 teachers, 5 Moms, and my Dad. I loved it when he came on field trips because then I would get to be in his group, otherwise known as "the fun group." Unlike the teacher's group, we weren't expected to learn stuff or behave really well, we only had to comply with Dad's minimum standard of good behavior - which roughly translates to, "Don't do anything that would cause them to throw us out."

  • He never takes himself too seriously. Basically, he's like a really tall eight year old who just happens to have a house, a job, and a car. I've always been glad that I didn't have one of those serious, boring, uptight kind of Dad's.

  • He knows how to fix, and build, everything. Need a set of bookshelves? Done. A baseball diamond complete with dugouts? He'll get right on it. A basement dug by hand out from under the house that you're living in? He'll have it done by next February.

  • He's still totally, completely in love with my Mother - which I found kind of disgusting when I was a teenager (particularly that time when I found them making out at my 16th Birthday party), but now I think it's wonderful. Lots of people stay together for 38 years, but not everyone is still in love, and I'm so glad that they are.

  • When I was a child, he used to take my brother, sister and me on day trips to Chicago and Indianapolis to go to museums. My Mother hates museums, so she stayed home. But he loves them - and I learned to love them too, in large part because of him. And so, to this day, whenever I walk into a museum I feel just a little bit like an eight year old again (of course I feel a little bit like an eight year old no matter where I go, so that's not really saying much).

Okay, I'm done boring you all with a list about someone you don't even know. Thank you once again dear readers, for indulging me in my little trip off the book path.

Today's book; "Part humor book, part autobiography, and an explanation of why men are different from women--this is Tim Allen at his funniest." - (I think that just might be the shortest book description I've ever put up - but I probably don't even need to put up a description for autobiographies since it's pretty self-explanatory.)

Favorite things about this book:

Favorite sentence: "So much is happening to guys today, from the women's movement to changing social values to the demise of the Sears catalog." (The Sears catalog, oh that takes me back. I think the day they stopped sending it was the day the 80's officially died.)

Favorite Chapter title: Chapter 4: The Eddie Haskell Syndrome (I just love any book the mentions Leave it to Beaver - and now of course, I have the theme song stuck in my head, and for once I'm not annoyed to have a song stuck in my head, although I am having to fight off the urge to go stand on the front porch and wave while wearing an apron.")

Favorite Passage: The Leave it to Beaver references continue; "To deal with the stress, some of us developed split personalities: half model citizen, half hooligan. In other words, we become Eddie Haskells. I was an Eddie Haskell. With my friends' parents, I was the model kid they wished their kids would be. I made their brood look pitiful. "Don't you look nice today, Mrs. Cleaver. That's an interesting tool, Mr. Cleaver." But when friends folks were away, I became Tim, the instigator, forcing those same kids to buy beer. "Okay, Beav, they'll be back about ten o'clock. Now go get me a gun and some brown liquor and see if you can find two loose women."

Overall, today's book was a fun, quick read. It wasn't the greatest book I've ever read in my life, but it was entertaining enough to spend a day on. And reading today's book taught me a very important lesson: Always be careful about what words you type into a search engine. The search engine seemed to be a little confused by the words "naked man" in the title and assumed that I wanted to look at porn.