Where the Girls Are

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Today I learned several very important lessons which I'm going to share with all of you so you can avoid making the same mistakes:

1. Don't make jokes on your blog where you ask people to insult you if you have such a bad memory that you will forget what you wrote by the next day. - Everything was fine last night, I got a few insults, I laughed at them, life was good. But then I woke up this morning, having forgotten about yesterday's entry, and I checked the comments and thought Hey, why are these people insulting me? It took a few seconds before I remembered and then I felt really happy that my dear readers are so willing to indulge my ridiculously lame sense of humor. Thanks!

2. Never under any circumstances take twice as much zinc as recommended (oops), unless you enjoy spending the whole afternoon feeling like you have the flu. Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of reading done during the afternoon.

I also learned that I'm like those people on reality shows who will do anything for ratings. Any time something bad happens to me that even remotely relates to reading I think, This is great!! I can use this for the blog!! My life has turned into one big blog entry.

Today's book, "In this insightful study of how the American media has portrayed women over the past 50 years, Douglas considers the paradox of a generation of women raised to see themselves as bimbos becoming the very group that found its voice in feminism. Modern American women, she suggests, have been fed so many conflicting images of their desires, aspirations and relationships with men, families and one another that they are veritable cultural schizophrenics, uncertain of what they want and what society expects of them."

I really enjoyed today's book, even though I strongly disagreed with certain parts of it. The author makes a lot of really good points, but there are also times when she seems to be trying so hard to make a certain point that she starts bending her examples to try to force them to demonstrate her point.

The most glaring example of this was when the author was discussing sitcoms from the late 50s and early 60s - and how sexist they were. She mentions several, including Leave it to Beaver. I haven't watched a lot of the other sitcoms she mentions, so I can't really comment on them - but I've been arguing for years (to anyone who would stand still long enough to listen to me) that Leave it to Beaver is not a sexist show - so I look forward to boring you with my rantings on the subject.

The author first tries to argue that those shows were sexist because they portray stay at home moms. I appreciate the point the author was trying to make about there not being enough family sitcoms in the 50s that portrayed working Moms (especially in light of the fact that, at that time, twenty percent of mothers with children under the age of 6 were employed outside of the home). But she doesn't seem to factor in that the other eighty percent of women were being represented. I could have appreciated, and agreed with, the authors argument had she been arguing for more diversity on TV shows - but arguing that none of the shows that portray stay at home moms are accurate is pushing things a bit too far for my taste. There seems to be some underlying implication to the authors argument that being a stay at home mom is a bad thing, or that you can't be a feminist and a stay at home mom. And I find that argument ridiculous and offensive. Being told that I don't belong in the home doesn't make me feel any more liberated than being told that I do belong there. Either way someone else is trying to define for me what my life should look like.

The author then goes on to argue that during the last 50s grittier shows like I Love Lucy (I'm still reeling just a little bit from hearing that show described as "gritty") were replaced by shows featuring women who were quiet, calm, always cheerful, practically perfect - and that this was another example of sexism on TV. I would agree with the author if not for the fact that the men and children were also sanitized on those shows. Did you ever see Ward having a Ricky Ricardo-style argument where he screams at June? I must have missed the scene where Ward tells June Quit nagging me, I'm trying to read the paper. And what about the children? I don't recall either Wally or the Beave responding to punishment with You're the meanest Mom on earth and I hate you or If I can't have my way then I might as well kill myself, since no one around here loves me anyway. No, instead they respond with, "Gee Dad, I guess I really messed up this time" or "I guess you're right mom." And where was the scene where Wally turned to his brother and said, Cross this line and you die or Beave, did you know that the frosting on that doughnut was made from alligator skin? So how is it sexist when the women, men, and children have all been transformed into smiling, cheerful Pod People? A valid argument could be made for those sitcoms being unrealistic, but I don't see how they're sexist, especially in light of the fact that Ward was regularly shown doing housework and taking care of the kids.

I actually find the show that the author is defending, I Love Lucy, to be the show that was incredibly sexist. I want to like that show so much, but I end up getting disgusted every time about mid-episode because I get so tired of watching Ricky talk to Lucy like she's a five year old while Lucy stand there saying "Yes sir" and "No sir" while cowering in the corner. I think when people defend I Love Lucy they're blurring the lines between Lucille Ball the actress and businesswomen, who did so much to advance women in the entertainment industry, and Lucy Ricardo, the wife who attempts to go against her husbands demands for the first twenty minutes of every episode, but always ends up back under his thumb by the time the half hour is up.

Now on to the part I wholeheartedly agree with: commercials. I will be forever grateful to the person/people who invented Tivo for sparing me the daily dose of irritation that commercials brought into my life. I can't even look at a commercial for anything involving cooking, childcare, or cleaning without feeling disgust over seeing eight women and zero men. The Tivo inventors have also saved me lots of time previously spent on writing angry e-mails to companies that go a little something like this: Is this 1920? Did I just fall into a time warp? - I'm happy to say that Target is one company that is the exception to that annoying time warp. They regularly feature ads with both women and men cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children. So now when I go into Target I don't think I'm wasting time and money buying stuff I don't need. No, instead I think I'm standing up for equality. Sometimes I have a hard time thinking that and keeping a straight face, but I still try.

Thank you for sitting through my long rant dear readers and I promise you that tomorrow's entry will not be filled with the hysterical ravings of an irritated blogger. Tomorrow I'm going to channel June and be calm and cheerful (Gasp, how very sexist of me.)

Stories From Candyland

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Before I get to today's entry I was to reassure all of you that the childhood picture of me with a typewriter will make it's triumphant return to the blog soon (just as soon as the V.P. and I can figure out what disk it was on - Oops). So now you won't have to lose any sleep worrying about this very pressing matter that I'm sure is weighing heavily on every one's mind. (I couldn't even type that with a straight face.)

While planning out what to do for the new summer layout I was looking through the photo albums to see if I could find a new picture to put up, perhaps a childhood picture of me outside reading a book, something outdoorsy and summery. But I couldn't find anything, which was very poor planning on my part - I can't believe that I didn't take the time back in 1986 to think Maybe I should have Mom take a picture of me reading outside just in case I decide to write a blog one day. It really surprises me that we don't already have a picture like that since my Mother seems to have captured every other moment of my life on film.

Today's book, "The life Candy created for her family—her husband and children Tori and Randy—was fabulous, over-the-top, and often magical. So what if California Christmases don’t come with snow? Let’s make some on the tennis court! How do we take a cross-country family vacation with a dad who doesn’t fly? By private train car, of course (with an extra for the 52 pieces of luggage). The kids want to dress up for Halloween? No problem, why not call in Nolan Miller to design their costumes?
Candy had a hand in some of the most beloved television shows of all time (she once stopped production on “Dynasty” because Krystle Carrington’s engagement ring was not spectacular enough), has entertained half of Hollywood in epic fashion, and lives an enviable life. But under all the fun and showmanship lies a more interesting character, still wrestling with some of the insecurities of her ingĂ©nue self."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I picked today's book because I've already read Tori Spelling's book for the blog (http://abookaday09.blogspot.com/2009/01/stori-telling.html) - and so naturally I had to read Candy's book so I could decide whose side I'm on in the feud because there's just no fun to a feud if you can't pick sides.

  • Figuring out whose side I was on was rather difficult - it was like playing that game Marry, Date, or Dump when I've just drawn a card with all repulsive people on it. Have you ever played that game dear readers? It's a really fun game in which you have to select a card that lists three people who are either celebrities, characters on TV or in movies, historical figures, or sometimes just random occupations are listed - and you have to decide which one you would marry, which one you would date, and which one you would dump - and then everyone else tries to earn points by correctly guessing your answers. It's a great game, but I feel I should warn you, never play this game unless you are fully prepared to hear the answers because fights between husbands and wives have been known to break out during the game. You like her? How on earth could you like someone so sickening and then marry me? I also could have died happy without ever finding out that my Grandpa has a certain fondness for stewardess (oops, I mean flight attendants.) Anyway back to the point: I find both Tori and Candy annoying and so trying to decide who annoys me less was giving me flashbacks to when I drew the card that said: Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and Billy Bob Thorton.

  • But in the end I decided that I'm firmly on Team Candy (and I just want to apologize right away from that Team Candy thing because I do realize how endlessly annoying that Team crap is.) Do you see how I just channeled Candy and Tori there dear readers? I just used the classic Spelling "It's not annoying when I do something annoying as long as I can admit that it's annoying" trick. This device is used throughout both books, and sadly enough I find myself falling for it much too often. Despite how annoying they both are I still can't seem to work up the proper amount of disgust for either one of them. After reading both books I've decided that Candy seems like the kind of person who is totally unbalanced but in a way that would be really fun at parties, and Tori seems like a spoiled brat who expects millions to be handed to her for doing nothing but who would also be fun at parties. . . provided that I was drinking enough liquor that I would be too incoherent to notice that she bashes her mother approximately once every 30 seconds for not financially supporting her. Since I don't drink I'm going to have to say that Candy would probably annoy me less . . . especially if she was giving me a present from one of her three wrapping rooms.

  • As for the writing style of the book, I'm not going to beat around the bush: It's not good. The book was disjointed and some of the chapters felt like she took 4 or 5 totally unrelated chapters and pieced them together in no particular order. The book was also very short on interesting autobiographical details and instead spent page after page talking about Candy's clown fan collection (not I'm not kidding), and her extreme shyness - and while I can sympathize with the shyness, having been a shy child myself, it's doesn't make for riveting reading. So I would strongly advice just skipping this book and instead keeping up with the feud through the personal messages Tori and Candy send to one another through the media in between pretending that they're not feuding through the media.

Look Me In The Eye

Saturday, June 27, 2009


No dear readers this isn't just a wonderful dream, it's really that magical time of the week that I know you all look forward to: SUGGESTION SATURDAY (why or why don't computers come with sarcasm fonts for those times when the italics fond just isn't strong enough?)

I had really good intentions this morning, to get up and read the book right away and get this entry up really early. But then I got distracted midway through the day by my attempts to make a Reese's that doesn't have any dairy or refined sugar in it (For those who are new readers: I'm allergic so I'm living in a Reese's-free world and that's just too horrible to bear. For those who aren't new readers: Just pretend like I don't harp on this subject all the time - it'll be fun, like a little game.) The closest I managed to get was something that tasted like those crappy, inferior, generic rip-off Reese's that my Grandmother used to buy because she was too cheap to buy the real ones (Love you Grandma.)

Today's book, "Robison's thoughtful and thoroughly memorable account of living with Asperger's syndrome is a moving memoir, beginning with his painful childhood, his abusive alcoholic father and his mentally disturbed mother. Robison describes how from nursery school on he could not communicate effectively with others, something his brain is not wired to do, since kids with Asperger's don't recognize common social cues and body language or facial expressions. Failing in junior high, Robison was encouraged by some audiovisual teachers to fix their broken equipment, and he discovered a more comfortable world of machines and circuits, of muted colors, soft light, and mechanical perfection. This led to jobs (and many hilarious events) in worlds where strange behavior is seen as normal: developing intricate rocket-shooting guitars for the rock band Kiss and computerized toys for the Milton Bradley company."

My knowledge on the subject of Asperger's syndrome is limited to what I picked up from watching All My Children during the time when they decided to butcher (I mean feature) a few social issues story lines - so that's pretty much the equivalent of knowing nothing at all about it. So I found today's book very informative and interesting, except for that middle part where he was working for KISS and there was an excessive amount of descriptions about sound equipment - that part was kind of a snoozefest.

I promise you dear readers that this books-about-difficult-childhoods thing is not going to become a theme on the blog. I think this is the third one for the week - that can pretty much be chalked up to poor planning. For the last few weeks I haven't been planning out ahead of time the books I'm going to read the way that I used to - and now I see why that's a very bad thing. I don't even understand why I keep reading those kind of books since I can't seem to relate to them in anyway - maybe it's just the novelty of reading about a kind of life that is so different from my own experience that makes it oddly intriguing. But I am determined that I will find a book about a happy childhood to read by the time the year is out - and if I can't manage to do that then I think I may have to write one because this "my childhood sucked" phase the literary world seems to be stuck in is getting out of hand. It's almost as if authors are playing a literary version of Queen for a Day. Are any of you dear readers old enough to have watched that show? For those of you who aren't old enough, or who don't have parents who insist on taking them on scenic trips down Television Lane, Queen for a Day was a game show from the 50s and 60s where contestants would compete to see who has the most tragic life, and the winner gets a bunch of prizes. We could strike up our own little game in the comments section. I'll go first: I can't eat Oreos because I'm allergic (insert dramatic music here). Now let's see who can come up with something more tragic than that.

Despite being unable to relate to the book as a whole, there were smaller parts I could relate to - especially the part when the author was sharing all of the mean things he used to do to his brother. Although I related to it from the younger brothers perspective - not that I didn't do mean things to my sister, but I usually confined it to tricking her into bringing me drinks on trays because "Bert and Ernie would want you to bring me some Kool-aid and Chips Ahoy. It would make them very happy if you did.") My brother's meanness was more of the "there are monsters in the basement that will reach up through the toilet and yank you down there" variety. And then of course there was the "if you rip that tag off the pillow someone will come and murder you" or "the glaze on that donut was made from alligator skin." And now because my brother has accused me of only mentioning him on the blog when I'm saying something bad about him, I'm going to say something nice: He once saved me from choking on a Mentos (Thanks Chad.)

And now I'm going to go eat my fake Reese's and whine Grandma why can't you buy name brand chocolate?


Friday, June 26, 2009

Today's book, "In Couplehood, a New York Times bestseller for more than 40 weeks, Reiser reflects on what it means to be half of a couple -- everything from the science of hand holding, to the technique of tag-team storytelling, to the politics of food and why it always seems to come down to chicken or fish."

I know I complain a lot about how the description on the back of the book are too over-the-top, but in this case I'm going to say the opposite: Couldn't the publishers have tried just a little bit harder with this description? The description doesn't make the book sound good at all, and yet it was a pretty enjoyable book. It wasn't laugh out loud funny, but it was amusing.

Reiser doesn't just share amusing anecdotes about marriage in this book, he also gives out a little marriage advice. The first piece of advice being to let your spouse see your faults very slowly so you won't scare the crap out of them (I'm paraphrasing a bit here of course). And I read that and thought That's great advice Paul. So in other words, when first meeting someone perhaps I should hold off on the "I have the crappiest taste in TV and I never admit when I'm wrong no matter how wrong I am and I've been known to switch personalities more than 5 times per hour" stuff to myself at first. Instead I should start slow, first mention the more socially acceptable Dallas habit, then slip in the bit about how despite listening to a million lectures from Mike Brady I still never admit that I'm wrong, and then work up to mentioning that I own every season of Little House on the Prairie except for the last season because the Carters have no business living in the Ingalls' house and Nancy DOES NOT look just like Nellie no matter what anyone says. And then I can reveal the worst character flaw of all: that I have a really unfortunate habit of making Little House jokes and expecting other people to find them funny even though they're really not - so there's no telling how many times a day you may have to listen to me pretend like the seat heaters in the car are really baked potatoes in the covered wagon or play along at Christmas time when I'm wrapping presents in the other room and I say, "Don't forget to knock before coming into the barn, because after all Christmas is not the time for barging into the barn unannounced." That's good solid advice Paul, and I'll be sure to remember that in the future. So what do you think dear readers, should I e-mail Paul and let him know that I think his advice is great, or should I maintain what little dignity I may have left and pretend to be too cool for that?

My favorite passage was when Reiser was describing what it's like to house hunt as a couple, "And you always walk through the place imagining a life that has nothing to do with reality. Planning things you'll never do: parties with tantalizing guests and performers from other lands. 'This is great. We can have a dancer floor here, a cocktail area there, the orchestra can set up near the receiving line . . . ' And then you move in and spend the rest of your life eating corn chips out of a bowl in front of the TV." - I often mock the people on House Hunters because every couple claims they "love to entertain," even though probably only 10% of those people actually do - but then I go to an open house and smell that new house smell and suddenly I fall into the trap too. I begin to imagine that if I lived in that house life would be perfect, I would become like those people in fitness magazines who walk around all day eating sugar-free granola and somehow feeling really excited about it, I would never wear ugly clothes not even on the days when I was just lying around watching TV, but then why would anyone want to waste time watching TV while living in such a house. I just become ridiculously delusional - so maybe I should stop judging the liars on TV. Oops, that last little insult just slipped out.

Some Memories Of A Long Life, 1854-1911

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I had a lot of trouble figuring out what to read today, which is completely absurd considering I have over 200 books in my to-read stack and another 20 from the library. I've become like those people who stand in front of a full closet and whine I have nothing to wear. Clearly the problem isn't a lack of reading material - I think the problem is that the part of my brain that will forever be twelve (which unfortunately happens to comprise the biggest part of my brain) is rebelling against the idea of having to read during the summer. I've woken up every day this week thinking But it's my summer vacation, I just want to watch cartoons and run through the sprinklers and not have to use my brain cells again until late August. But I decided instead to act like a grown up and read today's book anyway.

Today's book, "Malvina Shanklin Harlan witnessed - and gently influenced - national history from the unique perspective of a political leader's wife. Her husband, Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911), played a central role in some of the most significant civil rights decisions of his era, including his lone dissenting opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson, the infamous case that endorsed separate but equal segregation. And for fifty-seven years he was married to a woman who was busy making a mental record of their eventful lives."

I enjoy today's book - I thought it was very interesting. My one problem with it was that the introduction gave away too much. I can't stand when introductions give away the entire book away like that - not only does it remove any possibility of a good twist happening in the story, but it also makes me feel like I'm having that dream where I just keep dialing the same phone number over and over again - I just kept thinking Wait a minute, didn't I already read this part?

My favorite parts of the book where when the author was describing the social customs of the time. Here are the ones I found the most interesting:
  • Engagement: The author shared that in that time (1856) it was considered indelicate to announce an engagement. Instead invitations were sent out announcing that the family would be "At Home" on December 23rd, and in enclosed in the invitation were two cards tied together at the top with white ribbon, with the names of the engaged couple written on the cards. - What no engagement announcement in the newspaper? No advance warning? No chance to sit around for months and gossip about how "he could of done better" or "what in the world does she see in him" - way to suck all the fun out of someone getting married. And I don't even like to think about how boring engagements and weddings must have been in the pre-registry days when there was no chance to sit around and say "And just what do they plan on doing with three toasters? Who registers for three toasters? Do they not realize that one is all you need? What do they expect to have some kind of toast emergency in which they NEED three toasters at once?"

  • Honeymoon: I enjoy how in the book a honeymoon is referred to as a "Bridal Tour." It sounds so much more elegant that way. I think people should start using that phrase again, because I think it would be so much harder for people to justify going on tacky honeymoons like Cedar Point (not offense Mom and Dad) if they called it a Bridal Tour. It might also be harder to justify packing hideous clothes like pleated shorts and tie-dyed shirts. I'm a bit of a clothes snob when it comes to travel - my personal travel motto is "Ugly clothes do not cross the state line." But judging by the clothes I see while on vacation it's painfully obvious that not everyone agrees with me on that one.

  • Politics: I enjoyed the chapter in which the author describes her husbands campaigns for the Governorship of Kentucky (I also, for reasons which are beyond my understanding, really love the word "governorship.") She describes how the campaigns were run, "The opposing candidates travelled together from place to place and generally on horseback, dividing the time as to the speaking - one candidate having the opening and closing speech at one town, while the other had the opening and closing speech at the next town." She goes on to describe how these events would last for three to five hours, followed by the candidates always stopping at the same hotel or way-side inn and taking their meals together. - Three to five hours? Seriously? That's what happens to people who don't have TV, they become way too amused by things that aren't worth listening to for three to five hours. - The author also describes, "One night after a long day's ride, in the course of which they had participated in joint debates at two places they not only had to room together, but were compelled to occupy the same bed! (insert lame political joke here.)

And here's your interesting fact for the day dear readers: When Justice Harlan wrote the sole dissenting opinion on Plessy v. Ferguson he did so using the same inkstand used almost forty years before by Chief Justice Roger B. Tanney when he wrote the Dred Scott opinion.

Kick Me: Adventures In Adolescence

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's that magical time again dear readers, time for the end of the week count.

For the week:


PAGES - 1,649 (I never thought I would say this after a week of reading over a thousand pages, but that number seems kind of low, I guess I've been flaking off too much this week.)

CHAPTERS - 3,591

PAGES - 45,850

I picked today's book because I found the cover amusing - although after spending 43 minutes trying to get the picture of the cover onto my blog I'm not feeling as amused - now I'm just feeling like I hate my computer and I never want to have to see the picture of today's cover ever again as long as I live. But I hope that those of you who haven't been staring in frustration at the picture for 43 minutes will enjoy it.

Today's book, "Written in side-splitting and often cringe-inducing detail, Paul Feig takes you in a time machine to a world of bombardment by dodge balls, ill-fated prom dates, hellish school bus rides, and other aspects of public school life that will keep you laughing in recognition and occasionally sighing in relief that you aren't him. Kick Me is a nostalgic trip for the inner geek in all of us."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I seem to have a theme going this week, yesterday I read a book about a crappy childhood and today I'm reading a book about a crappy adolescence - I guess this means that tomorrow I'm going to have to read a book about a crappy adulthood, followed by a book about a really crappy death on Friday. Just kidding dear readers, I promise I'll read something happy tomorrow - I don't think I can handle three unhappy books in a row. I didn't have much to say about yesterday's "I had a crappy childhood" memoir because I had a really happy childhood and so I had a hard time relating to it - but a "my adolescence was horrible" book, now that's something I can relate to.

  • There's no point in even trying to pretend that I don't have an inner geek that related to this book because I've already admitted that I own all five season of The Brady Bunch on DVD, so I'm pretty much the head geek right about now. And I'd like to say I had no geekiness when I younger but unfortunately I had a really bad allergy problem from 5th through 8th grade which necessitated me carrying a box of Kleenexes with me everywhere I went, resulting in me being known around school as "that girl with all the Kleenexes" (oh how I wish I was making that up for dramatic effect.) And if not for those last two shreds of dignity that I'm attempting to cling to I would show you a few school pictures that can back up my claims at geekiness - one that involved an attempt to curl my hair in which one side lost it's curl completely about 2 minutes before picture time while the other side held the curl perfectly so it ended up looking like the two sides of my hair were completely different lengths and styles, and the other involving an attempt at "The Rachel" haircut which unfortunately had about 15 layers too many and made me look more like a boy from the 70s than a girl from the 90s.

  • I'm going to have to disagree with the part of the book description that promises a "side-splitting" read. Why do they do that, why do they go so over-the-top with their promises (and by the way, I'm not really sure who "they" is in this scenario)? It just sets the readers up to be disappointed. It would be so much better if they would just level with us from the beginning and say "So this book isn't going to be a laugh riot, it's still a good book and there are a lot of amusing parts." Okay, so it's not as catchy as claiming a book is "side-splitting" or "breathtakingly beautiful" - but at least it's honest. So if you decide to read this book I would strongly advise you ignore the description on the back of the book, and go into reading it expecting it to be an amusing book and not the funniest book you'll ever read - I would also strongly advise that you skip over chapter three if you have a weak stomach because there are some graphic descriptions about throwing up at school. I'm all in favor of adding the gritty details of live to make a story come alive, but some details are a little too gritty for my taste - isn't it enough that we've all had to live through that stuff, do we have to hear about other people living through it too. It reminds me of when reality shows have a "We're going to the dentist" episode (and for some reason a lot of them do) and I just sit back and think Isn't it enough we have to put up with crap like that in real life, why do these morons think we want to experience it a second time on TV?"

And now it's time for another magical blogging moment, when I try to manipulate my dear readers into leaving more comments then they normally would have by asking pointless questions: Internet show of hands, who here was a geek as a teenager? Or maybe it would be quicker to ask who wasn't.

Sleeping Arrangements

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Today's book, ""Inside our apartment, we are gradually creating customs and inventing our own special language." So eight-year-old Lily describes life with two bachelor uncles in the Bronx of the 1950s. The unorthodox arrangement came about after the death of Lily's mother, Rosie--who invented a war-hero husband, improvised his death in the Korean war and bequeathed to her daughter a persistent hunger for information about him. We follow Lily through her adolescence, aided and abetted by uncles Len and Gabe, who keep house, cook erratically, pursue their own dreams and tend their precocious niece. This odd, yet creative, household was a happy one, even as they coped with the ups and downs of Lily's schooling and her indoctrination into junior high-school society, where she learned the sexual ploys of her peers, entertainingly detailed here. In an effective memoir that delineates a real, if idiosyncratic, world, Cunningham captures a special slice of New York with humor and integrity."
Shallow thoughts:
  • I have mixed feelings about today's book, I think it was well written and yet I didn't really enjoy it. I read a movie review once for The Hours that said it was the kind of movie a person would admire but not love - and that pretty much sums up how I feel about today's book. It's always strange to run across a well written book that either has a story that bores me or characters I can't stand - but that seems to be happening to me quite a bit lately.
  • The beginning of today's book was the typical "I had such a screwed up childhood" memoir, filled with dysfunctional stories. Book that like that always leave me wondering why stories about screwed up childhoods seem to sell so well. Aren't there any writers in the world who had happy childhoods? Or is the problem that the public doesn't want to read about happy lives? I personally would find it refreshing to run across a memoir about someone who had a really happy childhood - but I have yet to find one. If anyone knows of a happy childhood memoir please tell me about it in the comments section, I would love to read it.
  • The part of the book I identified with the most - actually it was the only part of the book I identified with at all - was this sentence, "We'd toured so many model apartments that our dream wafted this specific scent: new pine and shellac." If you substitute the word house for apartment and paint for shellac it's like the author is describing my childhood. My mother has a fascination with moving into new homes, touring new homes (at the annual Parade of Homes), talking about building new homes, looking at house plans - she's slightly obsessed with moving to new houses or as she puts if "If I ever stop wanting stuff, I don't want to live anymore." And so now the smell of new wood and paint is the smell of home. I wish there was a candle or room spray called "New House," I would buy it by the case.

Eating My Words

Monday, June 22, 2009

Today's book, " Sheraton's got a plum job: the New York Times's restaurant critic in the 1970s and '80s, she's also worked as a consultant for the Four Seasons and a food writer for New York magazine. Her forthright, enthusiastic memoir instantly engages, as she tells of her adventures as a food lover and journalist, from her years as a newlywed in postwar Greenwich Village to the present."

It's been a long time since I've read any food related books - at least I think it's been a long time, but how would I really know since I seem to forget about every book I read as soon as the next day comes - so I decided today would be the perfect day to read another one. Today's book was alright, not wonderful but decent enough to spend one day on. I would have been very disappointed in it though if I only had time to read a few books a month because it just wasn't quite interesting enough to justify taking valuable reading time away from more interesting books. Lucky for me I don't have to worry about such things, if a book turns out to be mediocre I can always tell myself I have 29 more chances to read a really good book this month. And that has really given me a chance to branch out and try new genres that I might not have wanted to take a chance on before.

As much as I enjoy reading books about food, I do have a hard time relating to books writing by food critics because my taste in food could best be described as common. In other words, if it doesn't come in a box and include a flavor packet that has to be stirred in then I don't consider it real food. I'm being forced against my will to eat real food because my allergies prevent me from eating packaged foods - but I'm doing it while mentally kicking and screaming. So when the author was complaining about how horrible school lunches are all I could think was I beg to differ. Okay so there was that crappy Taco Haystack thing that I hated, but then on the flip side there was the heavily processed Mexican Pizza that was amazing, and those star crunch cookies that were so filled with sugar I could practically feel my teeth rotting while eating them - you know, real food. I just don't understand food snobs. How on earth could a person not appreciate the joy and wonder that is an Oreo dipped in mint chocolate - it's too perfect for words, why would you want some snooty gourmet food when you could have that? But alas, my Oreo days are over - and now I'm stuck eating food that actually occurs in nature, food that doesn't have that delightful layer of powdered cheese on it, food that has ingredients that I can actually pronounce, food that doesn't have that special dye-infested glow - it's awful.

Here's your fun fact for the day dear readers: In the 40s it was a common trend for women in high school and college to wear what was referred to as Sloppy Joe sweaters. It was bugging me throughout the whole book because the author never explained what a Sloppy Joe sweater is, so of course I had to look it up otherwise it would be bugging me for the next three to five days. A Sloppy Joe sweater is a long, baggy pullover sweater, commonly worn with blue jeans. I guess the next time I see someone in public who is stuck in a time warp instead of leaning over and whispering to whoever is with me "Look at the hideous monstrosity over there" (and yes I really am that catty), I can just say, "Doesn't that woman know that Sloppy Joe sweaters are so 1940s." Although now that I think about it, it sounds more like something from the 80s than the 40s.

The TV Guide TV Book

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I couldn't find a picture of today's book online so I had to take a picture of the book, and for some reason I couldn't get one without the glare, so please excuse the picture dear readers.

And now on to today's entry:

Happy Father's Day dear readers (even though I'm not even sure if I have any fathers reading my blog, other than my own father of course.) I debated about what to read for Father's Day - I first considered a book on the theme of fatherhood. But then I thought that would be too obvious, so I decided instead to read a book on one of my Dad's favorite subjects: TV.

I started the day by making Campfire Breakfast for my Dad (a breakfast that I think looks disgusting, but he loves it), and then we all went to the Parade of Homes together. So I had a chance to read him random tidbits from today's book and ask him about his favorite TV memories in the car on the way. I asked him to share any memories that would demonstrate to my dear readers just how much he loves TV - and he said, "Well my brother and I used to get up so early on Saturday mornings that the cartoons weren't on yet, so we would sit and watch the test pattern." This really doesn't surprise me coming from a man who will stand and stare in fascination at a commercial that's on mute. He also told me about how he and his brother would fight, back in their pre-remote control days, over who got to be in charge of changing the channels - proving that children really will fight over anything.

Today's book, "Relive all your favorite television moments - from Howdy Doody, Marshal Dillon, and I Love Lucy to Bart Simpson, J.R. Ewing, and Murphy Brown. This book contains all the greatest hits and the biggest flops, the famous "firsts" and the endless feuds, the embarrassing scandals and the glorious heights of television."

When searching for a book about TV to read I ran across today's book and thought it would be perfect because it's filled with TV trivia, just like my Dad who can still remember the names of the penguin and the walrus that were on a cartoon he watched when he was six (Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumly.) The downside to the wealth of TV trivia that lives in his head is that approximately once a month he accidentally lets slip some information about Dallas that happens in a season I haven't gotten to yet. When I was in season three he let slip a few things about season four, and then while in season four he let slip a few things from seasons 5. Since I've grown accustomed to these monthly spoiler slip-ups, it wasn't nearly as jarring for me when I ran across a few tidbits from season six while reading today's book. Some people just have no respect for those of us whose Mother's wouldn't let us watch the show the first time around (that's right I had the meanest Mom on earth, or so I thought, who wouldn't let me watch Dallas when I was four years old.)

Fun facts about TV:

  • Nick at Nite once did a 2 -hour special in honor of the woman who played the back of Patty Duke's head as her body double on The Patty Duke Show. - This little piece of information has definitely substantiated my belief that Nick at Nite is just not as much fun as it used to be. I remember when I was in high school and I spent nearly every day in the summer babysitting for the two kids who lived down the street. We would watch "Block Party Summer" which was filled with amusing commercials(anyone remember the dancing squirrel commercial) and shows that actually were classics. Well the magic has died because there is apparently someone in charge of Nick at Nite now who has no sense of whimsy.

  • There were two different actresses who played Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched. - Now I'm torn, the next time my Mother is watching what the neighbors are doing so intently that she has no idea what's going on in the room she's actually in and I end up saying "Umm Gladys, could you please focus on our conversation," I won't know which Gladys I'm referring to.

  • There were originally plans to do a TV show based on the movie Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. It was in the planning stages in 1954 and then again in 1959, but it never made it past that point. - I feel very sad about that because I love that movie, and I think it would have made a great show. My mind is still trying to wrap itself around the fact that someone decided to green light the show My Mother the Car but The Blandings got passed over. It's a travesty.

  • Mr. Belvedere was originally planned back in 1959, but it didn't make it onto the air until 1985. - So basically the people who created that show are go-getters. I'm certainly glad the show didn't make it onto the air until the 80s because otherwise there might not have been anything good on during that time slot, and I might have had to actually read a book or talk to my family. I don't even like to think about it. And I'm very excited because I managed to stump my Dad with that little piece of TV trivia. Ha Ha, he really shouldn't have gotten so smug when I asked him if he knew there were two Gladys Kravitz and he responded with "Of course."

Overall the book was good but not great. It didn't have nearly as many fun facts or interesting back stories as I had hoped it would, but I did pick up a few interesting piece of TV trivia.

My favorite part of the book was the list of TV Guide Picks of the top 20 Television Shows of the 80s. I disagreed with almost all of their picks, with a few exceptions which I'm sure anyone whose read my blog for more than a month will be able to pick out. But I had fun while reading it trying to come up with my own Top 20 list (but I could only come up with 6.)

Here are TV Guides' picks: 1. The Cosby Show 2. Dallas 3. Hill Street Blues 4. Dynasty 5. Brideshead Revisited 6. Nightline 7. Cheers 8. Moonlighting 9. Miami Vice 10. The Day After 11. Wheel of Fortune 12. Lonesome Dove 13. L.A. Law
14. The Winds of War 15. Saturday Night Live 16. The Golden Girls 17. Tabloid TV
18. The Thorn Birds 19. The Wonder Years 20. St. Elsewhere (Clearly TV Guide couldn't come up with 20 either since they cheated and added in a couple of mini-series.)

Here's my list: 1. Golden Girls 2. Designing Women 3. Dallas 4. The Wonder Years
5. Full House 6. Little House on the Prairie

Tell me about your favorite TV shows dear readers. Or about your favorite TV memories. I would love to hear about it. Or you can share a piece of TV trivia and play "Do I know more about TV than Angie's Dad?"

Wishful Drinking

Friday, June 19, 2009

Today's book, "Fisher has fictionalized her life in several novels (notably Postcards from the Edge), but her first memoir (she calls it a really, really detailed personals ad) proves that truth is stranger than fiction. There are more juicy confessions and outrageously funny observations packed in these honest pages than most celebrity bios twice the length. After describing how she underwent electroshock therapy for her manic depression, Fisher then sorts through her life as her memories return. She predicts that by the end of the book, you'll feel so close to me that you'll want to divorce me. At one point, this daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher (one an icon, the other an arm piece to icons) hilariously diagrams her family tree of Hollywood marriages and remarriages to make sure her daughter's potential date is not a relative."

I've had a headache since the moment I woke up and a very busy day, I had cookie to bake and soap operas to watch, my life's a whirlwind (I couldn't even type that with a straight face). Okay, I actually did have more important things to do than just that, but I also managed to squeeze in an soap opera (where there's a will there's a way). So I decided that today's book had to meet to two very important requirements: 1. it be short and 2. not require any actual brain power. Today's book fit the bill. It was a shallow, fluffy, fun sort of book - which seems weird to say given the subject matter, but some people can make any subject seem fun and amusing and Fisher seems to be one of them.

Fisher's writing style seemed similar to Ellen DeGeneres - they both tell rambling stories with random bits thrown in that don't have much to do with the story at hand - with the one key difference being that Fisher's humor is less wholesome than DeGeneres' . . . a lot less. I love those kind of books, so I thoroughly enjoyed this one, but if you're the kind of person who finds rambling annoying then . . . what on earth are you doing on my blog?

I also enjoyed the stories Fisher told about her mother, Debbie Reynolds, and something that really added to the stories was that I've watched a few of her mother's movies and so I could actually hear her voice in my head while she was saying things like, "I need you to go to the house before the police to let them in, but also I need you to go through the house and hide all the guns and bullets and - what else . . . Oh yes! I need you to flush your brother's marijuana down the toilet." - I kept imagining Reynolds talking in the same tone of voice she used in the movie Mother (good movie, by the way). I always wonder, when telling a story about my own mother, if the full humor of the story comes across since most of you don't know her and therefore can't picture her voice - which I think is the thing that makes her remarks the most amusing. How inconvenient of my mother to not be a celebrity - didn't she realize that I might want to write a blog one day. I mean really, some people are just so inconsiderate. For those of you who don't know her, you should imagine during all future Mom stories a voice that is very high pitched, and every so slightly squeaky (and when you read this Mom, I'd like you to remember that I'm saying that with love).

My favorite sentence from the book, "In almost - well, I won't say every other situation, but in a lot of situations, you can hardly tell that there is anything really wrong with me - I just have basically too much personality for one person and not quite enough for two."

My favorite passage from the book came when Fisher was describing a visit her mother made to her talk show. It was a special Mother's Day episode in which Fisher would be interviewing her mother: ". . . and then somewhere in the middle of our little chat my mother casually says, "You know, dear, it's like that time when I was a little girl and I was kidnapped. Oh, darling, I told you about all of this, you've just forgotten."

And now I'm feeling in a Debbie Reynolds kind of mood, so I think I'm going to go watch one of her earlier movies Bundle of Joy. Fisher shares that her mother was pregnant with her while filming that movie as well as the movie Tammy - or as she puts it, "Well, I am the bulge in the side of her abdomen. It's some of my best screen work; I urge you to see it."

The Wives of Bath

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Today's book, "Bath, England - the swanky town once home to ancient Roman spas and Jane Austen heroines - is the setting for Wendy Holden's brilliant new novel. Birthing class brings together two sets of expectant parents who couldn't be more different. Hugo and his spoiled wife Amanda plan to throw money at the problems of parenthood, making use of private hospitals and nurses, while environmentally friendly Jake and Alice have arranged a home delivery complete with birthing pool and whale music. But even after their babies are born, these seemingly disparate couples can't escape each other. When Amanda decides she's not cut out for motherhood and Hugo must look elsewhere for a sympathetic ear, the couples are inextricably drawn together once again, resulting in hilarious social comedy, as only Wendy Holden can write it."

Deep thoughts on today's book (just kidding, the thoughts will come from the shallow end of the pool as always):

  • I honestly have no idea why I bought this book in the first place - and it's starting to feel ridiculous that I read so many books that I could say that about. I think I bought it at some charity book sale once and I figured Hey, even if it's terrible it won't be a complete waste because I can still have the delightful sense of doing something for charity. Don't you love the way I tried to convince myself I was buying books for the sake of the children? I'm capable of deluding myself so much when it comes to books. Well, as it turns out, buying this book was more of an act of charity than I originally realized because all it provided me with was several hours where I felt like my blood pressure was rising. I haven't been that irritated since the season of Brady Bunch when Greg got that stupid guitar and tried to be Johnny Bravo (I'm just grateful that I can't remember the words to that song he kept singing or I would be close to losing my mind right now.)

  • And what was the cause of my blood pressure rising with today's book you ask dear readers (oh you, always asking questions at just the right moment)? Well the problems started early, and continued throughout the book, culminating in one of those post-book moments where you sit there thinking Well there's five hours of my life I'm never getting back. The first problem was that I disliked all of the characters - every last one of them, including the minor characters such as the dinner party guest who only appears once and Hugo's boss who only makes a few appearances but nevertheless manages to irritate me more than I ever thought possible. The second problem was that I spent the whole book feeling like I was being manipulated by the author who seemed intent on convincing me that several of the characters were totally perfect while the others were evil. Subtlety doesn't appear to be the author's scene - she prefers to beat the readers over the head with a sledgehammer in an attempt to let us know Amanda= selfish mother, Hugo=wonderful father, Alice= perfect mother, and Jake= jerk of the century. I just kept thinking Okay, we get it, I'm not watching a children's show, you don't have to spell it out for us, draw us a diagram, and sing us a little song about it.

  • And then there were the attempts at humor which involved Jake reusing junk for household items: the plate that was an old Frisbee, the vegetables that were grown using human waste as fertilizer. I got the feeling that the author wanted me to find this endlessly hilarious - but all I could think about was the segments on Sesame Street when the audience gets a glimpse inside Oscar's trashcan - and quite frankly Oscar is much more amusing than the author of today's book. And now I'm feeling a teensy bit paranoid because I make daily attempts at humor on this blog and I'm now imagining all my dear readers sitting there at home thinking Rugrats is funnier than this. Actually, I'm okay with you finding Rugrats funnier than me, because it's a damn good show. But please, please, please tell me I'm at least funnier than The Berenstain Bears - which is actually a really good show too, but they miss the mark every time when making an attempt at humor.

  • And now I'm feeling like the meanness blogger on earth for insulting today's book - even though I feel it's well deserved - so I'm going to say something nice about the book: I like the color of green on the cover. I wouldn't paint a living room that color or wear a dress that color, but it seems serviceable enough for a book cover. Okay, that barely counts as saying something nice, so I'll try again: the book was not graphic about the birth parts and since I'm firmly in the "I don't want to see the baby until it's clean and wearing a diaper and spare me the details of the birth because I've already been to 8th grade health class" camp I was grateful for that.

All in all I would highly recommend you skip this book. Unless of course you enjoy spending several hours in the presence of repulsive characters. I have a higher than average tolerance for annoying characters, I watch The Brady Bunch for crying out loud, and even I couldn't handle it. Or in Brady-speak "I don't dig."

The Shade of My Own Tree

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Today - making it's triumphant return to the blog - is the picture of today's book. My computer actually cooperated today, which really saved me a lot of time that would have otherwise been spent screaming at the computer and calling it names (a blogger's job is never done). I probably should stop that ridiculous habit of calling electronics names when they malfunction - but it's just too much fun to give it up. You just can't beat the joy of yelling at something that you know will never be able to respond with Oh yeah, well I'm sick of your whining.

Today is the end of week 23, so it's page and chapter count time. I know what you're thinking dear readers Page and chapter count time? Could we really be so lucky? I like to picture you all saying that using your best "I'm a teenager in a sitcom from the 50s and so everything is really, really exciting, even the stuff that no teenager would ever be dorky enough to find exciting" voice.

For the week:


PAGES - 1,739

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 3,431

PAGES - 44,201

Now I know it's going to be hard dear readers, but you're going to have to wait another week to get another update like this. Now go tell Bud and Kitten it's time for dinner - and I expect to see clean hands when you show up at the table or no dessert for you.

Today's book, "The courage to change doesn't come easy. When Opal Sullivan walks out on an abusive husband after fifteen years, she has only her dreams in her pocket. Her new beginning starts in Appalachian River country, where she sees a bit of herself in a graceful but dilapidated house. Like Opal, the house is worn-out and somewhat beaten up, but it still stands proudly and deserves a second chance. So Opal opens her doors - and her heart - to a parade of unforgettable characters."

I was about ten pages into today's book when I started to think that the name of the author of today's book sounded familiar (and no this isn't another one of those "Oh crap, oh crap, oh crap I think I read the same book twice" kind of stories.) So I did a little investigative research and found out that the author of today's book also wrote another book I recently read for the blog:
http://abookaday09.blogspot.com/2009/06/girls-most-likely.html (Ahahahaha, don't you love the sneaky little way I tricked you into artificially inflating my page numbers when the entry was already on the front page anyway - I'm cagey that way.) Since I enjoyed the other book by this author I figured I would like this book too, but no such luck. I ended up feeling very disappointed. The first chapter felt a little too much like a public service announcement on abusive relationships. I haven't seen an attempt to educate people that awkward since that week last summer when Days of Our Lives attempted to let us all know how easy it was to "Go Green." It went a little something like this, "Oh Hope darling, I don't think I can live without you, or without my Brita water filter which allows me to drastically cut down on the amount of plastic water bottles I use."

Chapter Two was filled with a story about a haunted house. How could they deceive me this way and sneak a creepy story into a book with such a wholesome looking cover. I guess I'll be sleeping with the light tonight. For the record dear readers: the story wasn't even that creepy, so as long as you're not the kind of person who gets creeped out by ghost stories told on cartoons then you should be fine. What is wrong with this stupid spellcheck thing, don't they realize that "creeped out" is the only appropriate expression to use in this instance. Well pardon me spellcheck for not using the fancy-schmancy words that you prefer. I think Mr. Spellcheck is getting just as smug as Karen the GPS woman (and for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, here's an entry that will explain it:
http://abookaday09.blogspot.com/2009/05/might-as-well-laugh-about-it.html - and proving that my shamelessness never ends, I just linked back to an article that has four other links in it Ahahahahah.)

A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I'm having computer problems so I can't get the picture up right now, so I'll have to wait and add it later.

Today's book, "Sonita's new book is about losing oneself in the pleasures of an experience, about wandering and being lost, about the uses of the unknown. She is interested in the stories we use to navigate our way through the world, and the places we traverse, from wilderness to cities, in finding ourselves. Written as a series of autobiographical essays, her books draws on emblematic moments and relationships in her own life to explore issues of uncertainty, trust, loss, memory, desire, and place."

I don't like to brag dear readers but getting lost is a subject I know an awful lot about. In fact, I'm practically an expert. So I figured that I would be able to really relate to today's book. But it turned out to be one of those books where the author spends page after page writing in circles and never seems to really make a point. There were parts of the book that weren't awful, and other parts that read like "Blah, blah, blah" - and so I spent most of the book thinking could we just get the show on the road already.

So I guess reading this book has answered for me that age old question of: Is it a good idea to buy a book that you found in a bargain bin at the dollar store? Clearly the answer is no. But I'm sure you understand dear readers that I had to at least give it a shot, I mean you climb mountains because they're there right?

Forcing myself to finish a book I'm not enjoying makes me feel a little bit like I'm still in school, except in this case I'm the mean teacher who is making me read a boring book when I'd rather be watching The Golden Girls (and by the way C, you are the official winner of the "Guess what Angie's talking about when she says 'Take a trip to Miami' " contest). I feel little like Sarah, a child I used to take care of in my Mary Poppins days, who would make up assignments for herself. She would walk into the living room looking frantic and stressed - I would ask her what was wrong and she would say, "I have to color all of the pages in this coloring book by Thursday." And then I would ask why and she would respond, "Because I just have to. It has to get done. And I have to finish making those two bracelets by Friday and I have to get that potholder made by next week." Ahh, the "make your own potholder" kit - that brings back memories. I used to have one of those when I was a child, and I would make the ugliest fluorescent potholders for my Mom - they were hideous but it was the 80s and fluorescent was very in.

The author gets a little self righteous in places. For instance, when she's complaining about how cell phones and GPS have ruined the mystery of being lost - she equates it to ordering up our own rescue the way we would order a pizza. To that I say Hey get off your high horse Ms. Author, some of us have cell phones and GPS and still manage to regularly experience the mystery of being lost - and last time I checked I've never ordered a pizza by accidentally taking two wrong turns in the white pages, followed by a long and disastrous trip through the yellow pages in which I just keep circling and circling the pages with the pizza place's phone number without ever actually finding it before giving up and decided to just have chicken. Clearly that woman has never been in a car with me. Some of us do embrace the mystery of getting lost - and sometimes I even find it relaxing - but I stop embracing it at the point when it looks like I'm going to have to give up on finding my way home and start life anew on the side of the highway. That's the point when I start to get cranky and think that everything bad in life has happened to me First I get stuck with knees that look like baked potatoes and now this.

And now I have to go finish organizing my to-read stack because it has to be finished by tomorrow. It just has to.

Gossip of the Starlings

Monday, June 15, 2009

I've spent a ridiculous amount of time lately trying to organize my to-read stacks, and I'm still not finished. I'm trying to sort them out into "Books that I can read for the blog" and "Books that are either too short or too long to read for the blog" (okay so that's not a very catchy title, but I'm working on it). Maybe I should call them "Books for the blog" and "Why the hell did I buy this book" - or "Blog books" and "Books even I have too much shame to admit I read." I don't know, I'll figure it out for sure later while I'm finishing with the sorting.

I also noticed while sorting that the part of my brain that does the shopping is under the impression that I'm living a totally different kind of life than what I'm really living - a life where I actually grow my own herbs while learning how to deal with my anger (how on earth did that even get in there and why does my inner shopper think I'm so angry?) There were moments where I felt like I had gone into some one's house after they died and been assigned the task of sorting through their stuff. I sorted it as if I had no part whatsoever in actually buying those books, I would pull out a book and think Well would you look at that, I guess whoever lives here had quite the interest in raising children who aren't addicted to TV. (Seriously, I don't even have kids.) So I spent a lot of time today wondering why I bought certain books - and even more time trying to remember why I chose today's book.

Today's book, "When Catherine Morrow is admitted to the Esther Percy School for Girls, it's on the condition that she reforms her ways. But that's before the beautiful and charismatic Skye Butterfield, daughter of the infamous Senator Butterfield, chooses Catherine for her best friend. Skye is in love with danger and the thrill of taking risks, breaking rules, and crossing boundaries, no matter the stakes. The problem is, the stakes keep getting higher, and Catherine can neither resist Skye nor stop her from taking down everyone around her."

Today's book was pretty good for the first forty pages and I then I found myself rapidly losing interesting from that point on. Normally I enjoy a good tale of teenage life just as much as I enjoy watching an episode of a teen show (which is to say, quite a bit - and I don't care who knows it) - but this one wasn't fun and fluffy and mindless. It was dark and filled with people I didn't like. I just don't find it entertaining to spend the day reading about a bunch of spoiled rich kids who spend all their time doing drugs and being irresponsible. I'm too boring and Midwestern for that. I spend the first half of the book thinking Where are those kids' parents and why aren't they confiscating car keys - and the second half of the book thinking I don't even care what happens to these people, I just want them to go away.

There was one brief mention of one of my favorite TV shows Little House on the Prairie - so that helped entertain me through a couple of boring chapters because I was busy thinking about what my favorite episodes are so that I can watch them the next time I "take a trip to the prairie." That's how I always refer to watching Little House, and when I watch Dallas I'm "taking a trip to Southfork ranch" or sometimes I "take a trip to Miami" (who wants to guess which show that is?) - it's this totally dorky thing that for some reason people indulge me in. That settles it, I'm definitely going to have to take a trip to the prairie very soon.

And now it's time for me take a trip back up to the to-read stacks to finish organizing them. That was a Mom-segue if ever I saw one. For those of you who didn't grow up in the same house with me: my Mom used to do what we called "Mom-seques" in response to practically everything we would say. I would say, "I'm really tired" and she would respond, "Well tired yourself right over here and clean up your mess." Or my sister would say, "I need to relax on the couch," to which Mom would reply, "Before you do that why don't you relax yourself upstairs and make your bed." We tried and tried to explain to her that what she was saying made no sense whatsoever, but it never stopped her. And you know I don't like to brag, but I've gotta say, my seques make a lot more sense than hers ever did.

The Bright Side of Disaster

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Today's book, "Jenny Harris is nesting in her Houston home with her fiance, Dean, awaiting the birth of their child, to be followed by their wedding. But Dean grows more distant, especially after a coworker dies in a plane crash, and Jenny ends up becoming a single mother. Determined to take good care of her child, she tries to forget about Dean, relegating him to the past. Coping with a baby takes all Jenny's time, so when her perfect single neighbor takes an interest, Jenny is flattered but exhausted. Then, when she finally decides to take a chance and get to know him, Dean comes back into her life."

I picked this book based on the cover. The cover made it look like such a happy book - despite the word disaster being in the title. Clearly I've learned nothing from that book I picked because it looked happy that turned out to be about death because this book wasn't happy - although it wasn't terribly depressing either. The description of the book sounded familiar, like the kind of book I've already read twenty times before, so I wasn't really expecting the book to be all that good. But I figured Why not, what's the worst that can happen? The book ended up exceeding my expectations, but since they started out so low that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. All in all, I would say the book was good but not great. It was a rather ordinary story, but there was something about this book that made it seem fresh.

I think I may have officially crossed a line where I'm willing to admit that I watch too much reality TV. And what caused this revelation you ask dear readers (and by the way, I love how you ask that at just the right moment)? Well, it's because I kept picturing the character of Dean as looking and acting like Wes from The Bachelorette. Maybe it's because Dean was such a jerk, maybe it was the description of what he looked like, or the fact that Dean was in an amateur band - but I just couldn't shake the image of Wes and that damn guitar. Which also means that I unfortunately had the first line of that truly horrible song Wes kept singing playing in my head over and over again They say that love don't come eaaaaaaasy. It was too horrifying for words. Apologies to any Bachelorette fans who have probably spent the last couple of days trying to wipe the memory of that stupid song out of their heads, and who are now reeling from being assaulted with it here on my blog of all places. Sorry. But in my defense I figured you're going to be forced to listen to it about seven times tomorrow night, so what's one more time gonna hurt.

I was able to blot out thoughts of Wes when another character entered the book - a character by the name of Gardner. Gardner is the name of a character in an old Doris Day movie, The Thrill of It All, which is a totally sexist movie that still manages to be kind of charming in spite of it. And how can I possible have any bad thoughts while thinking about a Doris Day movie? You're right dear readers, I just can't (oh you - I love the way you're just right there with me). Okay sorry, I promise I'm not going to do that again for the rest of the blog entry - I was just channeling those hosts on children's shows who pretend like they hear the audience answering their questions. It's just something I've always wanted to try.

My favorite passage came shortly after Dean left, when Jenny's mother and best friend came over to help her cope, "By ten o'clock the three of us were collapsed in the living room, eating take-out Mexican food and listing all the things we hated about Dean in hoarse voices: his UP YOURS t-shirt, his smoking (and his insistence that he wasn't addicted), the way he shushed everybody when a song he liked came on, his collection of Matchbox cars, his affection for ZZ Top, his unwillingness to see any movie he deemed "too girly," his love of Budweiser, his crooked bottom teeth, his use of the word dude ("Who says that?" Meredith kept saying. "Who talks like that?"), his pretentious handwriting, his love of the Three Stooges, his refusal to eat any vegetable besides ketchup, his occasional tendency to forget to flush, and, of course, his penchant for air guitar." - That's so healthy. I was raised to believe that there's no problem so big that a good session of trashing whoever is annoying you the most at the moment can't fix. And I stand by that belief - there's just something about trashing a person that's treated you like crap that just feels cleansing. Or is that just my family?


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Today's book was suggested by Sara - well sort of, she suggested an Augusten Burroughs book and left it up to me to decide which one. And I chose Dry because. . . well how could I not pick a book with a fish in a martini glass on the cover. It was just too weird for me to pass up.

Today I finally broke out of my reading slump. I have been feeling for the last five days as if I don't want to read at all, and I was starting to get really worried because I've never had that many days in a row where I didn't feel like reading. Thoughts were running through my head like Well that's it, I'll never feel like reading again and the whole project is ruined. In other words, I'm good in the middle of a crisis - I keep a level head. But after reading today's book I feel reinvigorated.

Today's book, "You may not know it, but you've met Augusten Burroughs. You've seen him on the street, in bars, on the subway, at restaurants: a twenty-something guy, nice suit, works in advertising. Regular. Ordinary. But when the ordinary person had two drinks, Augusten was circling the drain by having twelve; when the ordinary person went home at midnight, Augusten never went home at all. At the request of his employers (well, it wasn't really a request) of his employers, Augusten lands in rehab."

Do the beginning couple of sentences of that description remind anyone else of a movie trailer? Are you hearing that "movie theater man" voice while reading it and imaging music in the background, the kind that starts out peppy and then becomes dark and Melrose Place-ish as the announcer guy talks about Augusten's drinking problem, followed by the announcer saying "Join Augusten as he takes a voyage of self-discovery. Coming to theaters August 2009." Or am I the only one who has the voice of the movie theater guy living in my head?

I enjoyed most of today's book - with the exception of the first chapter which was a mixture of enjoyment and disgust.

  • The enjoyment part came when the author was discussing his job in advertising and how hard it is to come up with an ad campaign for a product that is terrible. A produce that, despite its awfulness (it that even a word) he has to make seem is "essential to the continued quality of life." While reading that I kept thinking about those ridiculous commercials for onion choppers - the one that starts out reminding us all of how hard it is to cut up an onion the traditional way - and judging by the sweat, messed up hair, and wrinkled clothes of the person demonstrating the hardships of onion cutting the degree of difficulty involved seems to fall somewhere between digging a ditch and performing brain surgery. But, thanks to the magic Onion Chopper all your hassles are over. You can now cut up onions in less than ten seconds, and you can use the spare time to do much more important things - although if the after shot of the person using the onion chopper is any indication those "important things" don't include fixing ones hair or putting on a decent outfit. Isn't it a relief to know that America is now saved from the backbreaking work of cutting up an onion?

  • The horrifying part of the chapter came in when the author went out for drinks with his friend the undertaker, who shared some rather gruesome details of his job - details which I may never be able to get out of my head again. Gross, gross, and more gross. Oh how I wish I had skipped over those parts - but that stupid conscience had to get in the way and say ridiculous things like Angie, that wouldn't be right. You can't write a blog entry where you claim to have read the whole book when you've really skipped three pages. Damn that conscience, it gets in the way of everything, always wrecking all the fun and forcing me to do responsible, grown-up things.

And then there was the best part of all, when the author gets drunk and starts singing Karaoke to The Brady Bunch theme song. You know how I feel about a book that mentioned The Brady Bunch (and for those of you who are new and don't know about my Brady Bunch obsession: it makes me feel like I'm wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold winter day). It's ironic that The Brady Bunch is mentioned since it's going to take at least an episode or two for me to wipe away the memory of reading the gruesome parts of Chapter One. If you read this book I highly recommend you start skimming during Chapter One when Jim starts talking about work. And if you're one of those people who instantly wants to do something the minute someone tells you not to then all I have to say to you is: Don't skip those parts. Read every word.

Girls Most Likely

Friday, June 12, 2009

I can't figure out why the picture of today's book keeps coming up so small - you'll just have to blame my computer illiteracy for that one and overlook it dear readers just like you graciously overlook my inability to use commas correctly (thanks for that by the way.)

I had a very hard time motivating myself to read today's book - not because the book wasn't good - but because I recently bought season four of Dallas and all I wanted to do was goof off, watch episode after episode of the aftermath of J.R. shooting. But, I decided instead to be responsible and actually read the book instead. Well okay, to be perfectly honest I did watch one episode before reading the book . . . okay two.

Today's book, "Of four friends who have seen each other through college, marriages, divorce, and children, Vaughn Jones is the girl mostly likely to write the great American novel. She has a love of words and an appreciation for literature that the others do not understand. Audrey Taylor is the girl mostly likely to run the world. Her father demanded perfection, and she has spent her life working to surpass his expectations. Susan Penn is the girl mostly likely to be famous. Her mother was a model and dancer, who instilled a love of the arts and glamour. Her struggle with alcoholism became Su's embarrassment and heartbreak. Irene Keller is the girl most likely to marry a prince. When she becomes pregnant by Su's high-school boyfriend, the four have their first conflict. Over the years their friendship has withstood many obstacles and tests. At their 30-year high-school reunion, they put all of the past hurts and misunderstandings aside and enjoy being the girlfriends they have always been. A well-constructed story."
Shallow thoughts:
  • I enjoyed today's book. I started reading it, expecting it to be the typical "lifelong friendship" book where someone dies of cancer by page 150 - but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this book didn't fall into that trap. Although not as fluffy and devoid of substance as I thought it would be, this book would still make a good beach read.
  • My favorite part of the book was reading about the characters' childhood memories from the 50s - it just made me want to go watch an old movie, something involving a blue convertible pulling into the driveway of a ranch house that's just like every other ranch house on the street.
  • I also enjoyed the part of the book that talked about childhood lunches and how everyone would sit down and compare what they brought from home. - The first thing I used to do when checking my lunch box was look to see what kind of napkin note my Mom had left for me. She had a special marker that she would use to write notes, and draw pictures, on the top napkin that she would put in my lunch box. Sometimes they would say, "Have a Happy Day" with a great big sun that had a happy face on it, or sometimes she would draw a stick person with big tears falling and the caption above the stick person that said "I Miss You" or if it was close to Christmas then she would draw a tree and write at the top "4 Days Until Christmas Break, 9 Days Until Christmas."
I would definitely recommend this book. It was one of the best lifelong-friendship kind of books I've ever read, and I've read quite a few of them.

The Martian Child

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Today's book, "Ten years ago, sf and fantasy writer Gerrold, a single, gay man, saw a photo of a towheaded kid bursting with life and fell in love. Gerrold eventually took Dennis, the child in the photo, home and began the work of earning the acceptance of a hyperactive, severely insecure eight-year-old who desperately wanted a father but thought of himself as a Martian and, therefore, probably unworthy. Gerrold's memoir is of the first two years of being Dennis' father."

Thoughts on today's book:

  • I picked today's book because it was the shortest one in my to-read stack. I probably shouldn't admit that, but why fight the truth. I had a really busy day today and a headache that lasted for half of the day - so I figured a short book was my only hope of actually getting a book read today. I also picked today's book because I heard the movie was terrible, which makes me want to watch it even more - it's sort of the movie equivalent of Don't look now, you won't believe who just walked in - and I like to read the book before watching the movie so I figured Why not. The book was kind of a mixed bag - it was pretty good for the first 100 pages or so and then got really sketchy for 20 or 30 pages, and then went back to being good again (not great, but good enough to justify spending a few hours on.) There were a few amusing parts, but nothing that was laugh-out-loud funny. And the brevity of the book resulted in the author skimming across the surface of a lot of the experience - but I guess I shouldn't complain about that since I was looking for a short book in the first place.

  • There were a few places in the book where I got kind of chocked up - of course coming from a person who cries like an idiot throughout the annual Home for the Holiday's special (a special that features older children who have been adopted as well as children who are still eligible for adoption) that's not really surprising. If you're not a ridiculously sappy kind of person who cries during Hallmark commercials than you should be fine. I, unfortunately, am so sappy that I've actually started crying before while describing a Hallmark commercial to someone (in my defense dear readers, it was a really good commercial).

  • I think my favorite part of the book was when the author started to feel like he was turning into his Dad just a little bit. I remember the first time I started to channel my Mother - it was in my Mary Poppins days and I found myself saying "Do I look like a maid," and then of course there's the classic Mom-standard, "This is not a restaurant." But, I'm glad to say, I kept my cool and I didn't completely descend down into the pit of Mom expressions - I have yet to say "You better straighten up over there," or "It's a long time till breakfast" (actually I think that might have been one of my Dad's expressions), and then there was my least favorite of all-time, "You need to cooperate" which in Mom land does not mean "everyone works together" it means "everyone caves to Mom's plans." And since my headache has still not gone away I think it's time for me to go "rest my eyes" - which is Dad-speak for "I'm going to be asleep in my easy chair for the next three hours."

Separate Beds

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I realized this morning that I forgot to reveal the number of books in my to-read stack in yesterday's entry. Sorry about that, it sort of slipped my mind. And now it's time for the big reveal. Drum roll please . . .


That number actually surprised me because it always feels like a lot more books than that when I'm sifting through the stacks every day trying to figure out what to read.

I was really plagued with the "What to read today" dilemma this morning because I woke up feeling like I didn't want to read at all. I eventually decided - after reading the first pages of a few different books - that I should read another book in the "Books I haven't read since I was a child and therefore have forgotten every detail of" pile. Today's book was one I haven't read since junior high when my mother confiscated it because it would fill my head with all the wrong ideas and destory my moral fiber. I remember loving the book at the time, but that's about all I could remember about it.

Today's book, "Catherine Anderson and Clay Forrester come from two completely different worlds, but one blind date leaves them forever linked. Clay, a handsome law student, and Catherine, a serious, bookish undergrad, experience an evening they will never forget. Fortified by the beauty of the night, as well as a bottle of wine, they share a night together. A few short months later, Catherine discovers she's pregnant. They agree to a marriage of convenience, an arrangement that suits them both-until they begin to fall in love."

Just reading that description makes me embarrassed that I used to have the kind of taste in books where that was considered a great book. I guess I can plead "I was only thirteen, give me a break" as my defense. I went over to amazon.com earlier today to check the customer reviews and there was one review that said this was the best book she's ever read and I found myself thinking I really hope whoever wrote that review was under the age of fifteen, because there's just no excuse for considering this a great book otherwise. Although maybe I should hope that person isn't a teenager since this book pretty much sends the message of "Hey kids, if you get really drunk and have a one night stand you'll end up married to a really rich man and all your problems will be solved." I think I can see now why my Mother took this book away from me the first time around. At the time I thought it was because she was clearly the meanest Mom on earth, but now I get it.

Today's book was one step above a Danielle Steel novel, and that one step in this case would be that I didn't have to hear the life story of every minor character in the book. At one point the housekeeper came out and served the family their dinner and I kept thinking If this was a Danielle Steel novel, Inella would have served the salmon at dinner while reliving the memory of the man she used to make the dish for, the man who broke her heart, leaving her a shattered shell of a person. Then she would serve the mushrooms while remembering the baby she gave up for adoption when she was seventeen, as she wistfully looks off into the distance and brushes a tear form the corner of her eye. And then she would serve the cake which reminded her of the man she met after that, the one who helped her learn to love again. Why do some authors do that? I think it's because they have a certain word quota they have to hit and they're out of ideas for the actual story they're supposed to be telling so they decide What the hell, I'll bore the readers into a coma with a story about how the gardener was raised by an angry father and a detached mother?

The best thing about today's book was that it was written in 1985, and we all know what that means, descriptions of clothing and house decor that sound so hideous it actually starts to become amusing.
I'll give you a few examples:

  • a brown corduroy jacket (I could barely type that without gagging)
  • a long vanity, topped with gold-veined black marble (it's hard to believe that hideousness like that once existed and that people actually paid money to acquire it)
  • stylishly pleated navy trousers and a V-necked sweater of pale blue lamb's wool (Is anyone else getting a mental image of Stuart Smalley?)
  • a vested tuxedo of rich cinnamon, with an apricot shirt underneath (I guess the one advantage to getting married in the 80s is that there's no way you won't look better at your 20th Anniversary)

I'm sure you're in suspense over whether things end happily - because as well all know, books of this nature are so unpredictable - but I'm not going to give it away. I want you to experience the joy of gagging your way through this book on your own. And now, because I feel so guilty about making fun of a book that's written by someone who looks like a really nice person, I'm going to say something nice: This book was well-written for the fluffy, light, substance-free kind of book that it was. It's not Tolstoy by any means, but it is one of the better trashy romance novels I've ever read. It seems a little unfair to read a book and judge it for not being something that it was never intended to be - so I'm going to go easy on the book now and say that if you like romance novels, or light fluffy beach reads, or making fun of 80s clothes, then you'll probably like this book. If you like a book with some substance then you'll probably hate it.