Holy Skirts

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween Eve dear readers. Do you have your costumes ready? Have you carved your pumpkin yet? Have you watched It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown? Have you eaten 1/4 of the Halloween candy already?

As I'm sure you can tell by me kicking off the Halloween posts a day early, I'm feeling very excited about Halloween because I have some totally embarrassing Halloween pictures and memories to share with you. So I hope you'll join me tomorrow dear readers, for my special Halloween blog entry.

Today's book, "In 1917 no one had ever seen a woman like the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. She regally stalked the streets of Greenwich Village wearing a bustle with a flashing taillight, a brassiere made from tomato cans, or a birdcage necklace; declaimed her poems to sailors in beer halls; and enthusiastically modeled in the nude for artists such as Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, setting the city ablaze with her antics. In a beautifully written novel, Rene Steinke paints an exquisite portrait of this woman and her time - an era of cataclysmic change that witnessed brutal war, technological innovation, the rise of urban living, and an irrevocable shift in the lives of women, who, like Elsa, struggled to create their own destinies."

Shallow Halloween Eve thoughts:

  • Can you see from the description why I thought this would be a really interesting book dear readers? Well, it wasn't. I cut the book some slack for the first hundred pages because I hadn't read the book description all the way through and so I didn't know that it was a novel about a real person. I thought it was a biography - and so I figured that the author really can't help it if there are parts of the story that are a tad bit boring. But, once I realized it was a novel I began to have higher standards, and then I started complaining about the same thing I complain about when I pass a tabloid that has the same cover as the last week, If you're making stuff up then there's no excuse for being that boring. If you're going to lie then at least have the decency to tell interesting lies. Is that too much to ask for dear readers?

  • Today's book wasn't racy - not even by my Puritan, uptight, Midwestern standards - but it wasn't what I would call wholesome either. For instance, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the way that STDs were treated in the early 1900s. I considered turning some of the things that I had learned into fun facts, but I felt like that might be pushing the limits of good taste. Perhaps a little raciness would have improved things a bit - because as it was, I spent most of the day counting down the pages until the book was over, which is never an enjoyable way to spend the day.

  • And finally, it's time for an extra shallow thought: I feel very lied about the striped cover of today's book. I see a striped book cover and I automatically think that whatever is inside must be fun, whimsical and delightful - and I just don't think an author has any business putting a boring story inside of a cover like that. It's false advertising. Am I right or am I right?


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Today's book, "When an exotic stranger, Vianne Rocher, arrives in the French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique directly opposite the church, Father Reynaud identifies her as a serious danger to his flock - especially as it is the beginning of Lent, the traditional season of self-denial. War is declared as the priest denounces the newcomer's wares as the ultimate sin. Suddenly Vianne's shop-cum-cafe means that there is somewhere for secrets to be whispered, grievances to be aired, dreams to be tested. But Vianne's plans for an Easter Chocolate Festival divide the whole community in a conflict that escalates into a 'Church not Chocolate' battle."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I approached today's book with some trepidation because I have watched the movie - or attempted - and I disliked it so much that I couldn't even make it all the way through the movie. But the book has been in my to-read stack for quite some time now (I bought it before attempting to watch the movie) and so I decided to go ahead and give it a try anyway. And I'm so glad that I did, because I really liked the book. I generally like the book better than the movie anyway, but it's rare for me to love a book and hate the movie (the one exception that comes to mind being the 3rd Anne of Green Gables movie that was so bad I actually wrote a letter to the movie studio to complain.)

  • I enjoyed today's book from the very first page. It was the kind of book that I felt like I was gently sinking down into - and I very quickly got lost in it to the point where I accidentally burned myself while making popcorn because I couldn't put the book down. I'm considering the burn a blogging scar and wearing it proudly - although I am being a bit dramatic (what a shock) with that scar bit as it's not visible to anyone that I haven't directly pointed it out to, and even then I think they are only indulging my taste for drama . . . humoring me like a five year old child who has just stood on a chair in a crowded room and sung for everyone.

  • The one downside to the book is that the whole time I was reading it I wanted chocolate. I did not plan ahead, and so I ended up having to make a chocolate run around 5:30 this evening. Don't make this same mistake dear readers, if you read this book, make sure you have a steady supply of chocolate on hand or you will deeply regret it. And then I went to the health food store and discovered that my favorite brand of sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate bars have been discontinued and I was forced to use a chocolate energy bar as my back up plan. It was as unsatisfying as it sounds. Perhaps the next time I read this book - and there will be a next time - I will make homemade candy so that I can get into the spirit of the old-fashioned made-by-hand chocolate experience.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's chapter and page count time dear readers.

For the week:


PAGES - 2,392

For the year so far:

CHAPTERS - 6,144

PAGES - 78,426

PAGES TO GO TO GET TO 100,000 PAGES: 21,574


Today's book, "Hillenbrand unearths the rarefied world of thoroughbred horse racing in this captivating account of one of the sport's legends. Though no longer a household name, Seabiscuit enjoyed great celebrity during the 1930s and 1940s, drawing record crowds to his races around the country. Not an overtly impressive physical specimen"His stubby legs were a study in unsound construction, with huge, squarish, asymmetrical 'baseball glove' knees that didn't quite straighten all the way" the horse seemed to transcend his physicality as he won race after race."

My sister peer pressured me into reading today's book, and since she couldn't possibly pick any crappier books than the ones I pick, I decided to go with her suggestion. I was hesitant because I'm not an animal lover, and so I really had no interest in reading today's book (see what a good sister I am - I give, and I give, and I give.) But, I'm glad that I read the book, not only because it got me to my page count goal for the week, but also because I enjoyed the book. I have watched the movie Seabiscuit, but thanks to having the world's worst memory, I've retain none of the details and so approached the story today with fresh eyes (is anyone else starting to see the resemblance between me and Dori from Finding Nemo.)

My sister has informed me that the author of today's book had chronic fatigue syndrome while writing the book. Oh yeah Ms. Author, well I see your one chronic illness and I raise you two more and food allergies. Top that Little Miss. Tragic. Okay, it's possible that my competitive nature has gotten off the track a little bit - and I might be starting to resemble this girl I knew in high school who always had a bigger problem than everyone else. If I had a hangnail she had a gaping wound. If I had a headache she had a brain tumor. We spent ridiculous amounts of time trying to out-drama-queen one another before I finally decided to pick up the two remaining shreds of dignity that I had left and walk away from the situation - but I did so still thoroughly convinced that I was leading a life so tragic that she couldn't even begin to comprehend the pain I'd endured. Show of hands, who here is feeling happy that they didn't know me in high school? Now it's time to travel back to reality, where I actually feel a certain kinship with the author - because we have both seen the dark side, we have sunk to the depths in order to rise to the heights. . . okay, sorry, I still haven't gotten the drama out of my system.

Fun facts:

  • The author informs us that in the early days of the automobile, "The laws of at least one town required automobile drivers to stop, get out, and fire off Roman candles every time horse-drawn vehicles came into view." - I spent at least 15 pages being annoyed that the author does not specify which town, and then another ten minutes imaging how dramatic it could be to stand on the side of the road waving around candles. You know candlelight is the most flattering light, so at least the driver would look really attractive while standing on the side of the road muttering under his or her breath, "These damn laws that make no sense. How the hell am I supposed to get anywhere if I have to keep stopping every five minutes." And I feel, and I'm sure you'll all agree, that if you have to be annoyed you should at least get to look really good while being irritated.

  • Horses generally sleep in brief sessions all throughout the day and night. - Like a newborn, but without that cute little stretching thing that babies always do when they wake up. I feel so informed now. I can't wait until the next time I can whip out that fun fact at a social gathering. Oh who am I kidding, I won't even remember that by the time I'm done posting this blog entry.

Ladies of the Lake

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Today my brain decided that it has had enough of books that are almost 400 pages and it's going on strike. I tried everything; short breaks, promising it lots and lots of bad TV as soon as I was done reading the book, a trip to dlisted.com to make fun of celebrities, but no dice. So instead, I had to take a break for several hours in the afternoon and then quickly try to finish the book after that. I am still aiming for my goal of 100,000 pages read by the end of the year, but I've begun to realize that this goal is going to be a lot more difficult than I had anticipated.

Today's book, "Sisters Dahlia, Iris, Violet, and Rose, all with grown children of their own, have a complicated relationship, so when their grandmother's will requires them to spend the whole summer - without friends or family - "camping in" at her run-down lodge on remote Lake Clare in order to inherit the valuable land, old rivalries and new understandings emerge, with plenty of laughs along the way."

Despite my brain attempting to go on strike for most of the day, I really liked today's book. Which was a huge relief, since I've read several crappy books in a row this week and I was starting to wonder if the bad streak was ever going to end. I am now officially out of the literary desert dear readers - and it feels good to be back in the land of good books.

But before I was able to read today's book I had to first overcome my extremely shallow and really confusing aversion to the word ladies. I can't figure out why I detest that word so much, but it's like nails on a chalkboard whenever I hear someone use it. But I decided to grow as a person, and act like the adult that I'm supposed to be, and not let a crappy book title stop me from reading a book that otherwise looks like a great story. Plus, I really liked the cover - and so I let one form of shallowness overpower another form of shallowness.

Favorite sentences (because I couldn't settle on just one):

  • "There's nothing wrong with this family that a funeral or two wouldn't fix." - This was the first sentence of the book, and it instantly made me excited to read the rest of the book. How could I not like a book that was filled with characters like that? And that was one of the best parts of the book, that I enjoyed all of the characters - even the totally obnoxious ones were obnoxious in a fun way.

  • "I looked at them and burst into I Love Lucy tears." - So basically that sentence just described the entire month of March for me. I spent the entire month having hysterical blogging-related moments and crying like Lucy Ricardo about it. It wasn't pretty, but it was all part of my process (I'm starting to loath myself just a little bit that I can use phrases like "my process" without the slightest bit of sarcasm.)

I would definitely recommend this book, but I think it would have been better to have read it in the summer. It was very strange reading about spending the summer by the lake while watching the leaves fall outside of my window.

Marriage: A Novel

Monday, October 26, 2009

Today's book, "It's Thanksgiving Day and travel writer Annie Wilder's 45th birthday. Her family is gathering for what she's certain will degenerate into a celebration worthy of a "Jewish Eugene O'Neill." Even worse, her husband, sexy TV detective Mickey Wilder, may be having an affair. Sweethearts since the age of six, Annie and Mickey have two grown kids, a big house outside Santa Barbara, Calif., and a marriage considered invulnerable. But in a matter of days, their comfortable, predictable world begins to crumble."

Shallow thoughts:

  • As I'm sure you've already figured out from looking at the picture of today's book, I didn't pick it based on the cover. Is that the ugliest book cover you've seen in awhile dear readers? Danielle Steel novels don't even have that bad of covers. I picked today's book because it had over 400 pages, and I am determined to get to my goal of 100,000 pages by the end of the year and that's going to require me to read at least one book each week that's over 400 pages. But, I quickly discovered today that picking a book for it's length isn't any better of an idea than picking one based on the cover. In short, today's book was bad. Not as bad as yesterday's book, but still bad nevertheless.

  • Today's book contained quite a few pop culture references - which would have annoyed me had I not just read yesterday's book which was basically an endless stream of pop culture references occasionally punctuated with two or three words of actual dialogue - but after that, the bar is considerably lower as to what I consider too much. Plus, the author of today's book threw in a reference to Knots Landing, and that warms my heart almost as much as a reference to Dallas or The Brady Bunch.

  • Today something happened that has never happened to me before with the blog - several of the books I have read this week began to blur together, and I had a very hard time staying focused on what was happening with today's book. I kept thinking, But wait a minute, what happened to that woman who was feeling neglected by her husband. I could have sworn I just read about her. Oh wait, that was yesterday. Up until this point the books had felt like a blur, but I was still able to differentiate between yesterday's book and today's. So now I've formed a new goal, to not get so mixed up about the books that I end up writing about a book on the wrong day (a lofty goal I know.)

Prospect Park West

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Today's book, "Brooklyn's famed Park Slope neighborhood has it all: sprawling, majestic Prospect Park; acclaimed public schools; historic brownstones; and progressive values. Among bohemian bourgeois breeders, claiming a stake in Park Slope has become a competitive sport. In the park, at the coffee shops, and on the playgrounds of the neighborhood, four women's lives come together during one long, hot Brooklyn summer."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I picked today's book because it's long (bet you never thought you'd hear me say that, did you dear readers?) That's right, I went looking for a book that was almost 400 pages. And why? Because I have a new blogging goal - or really, it's more like a goal within a goal. I have reached a point in the year, where I'm coming into the home stretch, and it no longer feels like it's a question of whether I will finish the year, because I already know that I will. In short, I've become blase about the whole thing. So I've decided to reinvigorate the blogging experience by throwing myself another challenge, to get to 100,000 pages read by the end of the year. In order to get to my goal I have to read 23,966 pages in the next 10 weeks. This is going to require me to read about 400-500 pages more a week than what I normally read - so it's going to be a bit of a stretch. But I'm feeling excited and energized about the challenge.

  • I'm not even going to bother sugar coating or beating around the bush with today's book - I didn't like it. It was filled with characters that I couldn't stand. This has never been a problem for me with TV as most of my favorite shows are filled with characters that I don't like (Dallas, The Brady Bunch, Knots Landing) - but apparently my brain asks for a bit more from books than it does from TV because I never reached a point where I enjoyed today's book. I just kept trudging through it, and it began to feel more and more like a chore with each page. But I just kept chanting my new motto, "100,000 pages read. 100,000 pages read," and it got me through.

  • My other complaint with the book was that there were too many pop culture references. Now I love a good pop culture reference more than anyone, and I've been known to overuse them a bit myself. But while reading today's book I started to think, "Does the author have some sort of quota she's trying to hit." There were various paragraphs throughout the book in which there was a reference made in EVERY. SINGLE. SENTENCE. It was just too much.

  • And, because being annoying isn't enough, the book went the extra mile and decided to be offensive as well. I'll just let you read the passage for yourself and see if you can spot the offensive part, "In the nineties Tim and Susan got her involved with the Innocence Project; long before it was the trendy thing to do, she bought a Prius for her house in Silver Lake; and it was not without consciousness of the PR value that she later committed the most extreme and headline-making act of recycling - adoption." - Points to any of my dear readers who can tell me why that sentence is glaringly inappropriate.

All in all, I would recommend avoiding this book. If you pass it in the hall, give it the cold shoulder. If it approaches you at a party, run screaming in the other direction. And, because I feel guilty about saying so many bad things about a book, I'm going to say something nice about the author, she looks friendly in her author picture (although I'm guessing if I ever ran into her she wouldn't be giving me such a friendly look - but hey, I calls them as I sees them.)

Wickett's Remedy

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Welcome to another installment of Suggestion Saturday dear readers. And for my new dear readers, Suggestion Saturday is when I read a book that was suggested by one of my readers, so if you have any books you would like to recommend please leave your suggestions in the comments section.

And now, back by popular demand (okay, so there was actually no demand) one of the blogs most popular features (but only in my own mind), I bring you: QUESTIONS I'VE BEEN ASKED ONCE. There are a few questions that I've been asked over and over again (How do you find the time to read a book every day? How do you choose your book? What made you decide to do this project?), but most blogging related questions I am asked only once, and for reasons which don't reflect well on me, I am totally convinced that there MUST be a second person somewhere in the world who wants to know the answer to these questions. So I shared them with my dear readers at the beginning of the year for awhile, before giving the feature a rest because it was starting to feel like a gimmick. But now I think it's time to get back to the gimmicks, so here are a few more QUESTIONS I'VE BEEN ASKED ONCE:

1. What has been your least favorite book so far? - Brightness Falls From the Air (Sorry Aunt Brenda. I tried - I really, really tried to like the book, but science fiction is not my scene.) The least favorite book is not to be confused with the most disappointing book, which was Somewhere in Time (I had expected to like that book since it always sounded like the kind of book I would like, plus I was actually reading it at Mackinac so I thought that would add to the interest. But, no. It bored me senseless.)

2. What motivated you to keep going on days when you didn't feel like reading? - I've had quite a few days where I woke up and didn't feel in a reading kind of mood, and on those days I was motivated by the thought of my dear readers showing up to read about that day's book. The reason why I decided to write this as a blog in the first place, rather than just writing it as a book, was that I knew it would be harder to quit if I had readers who were interested in the project. So thanks for keeping me accountable dear readers.

Today's book, "Raised in tough turn-of-the-century South Boston, Lydia Kilkenny works as a shopgirl at a fancy downtown department store, where she meets shy, hypochondriacal medical student Henry Wickett. After a brief courtship, the two marry (Henry down, Lydia decidedly up) in 1914. Henry quits school to promote his eponymous remedy, whose putative healing powers have less to do with the tasty brew that Lydia concocts than with the personal letters that Henry pens to each buyer."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I've only put half of the book description up for you dear readers because the full one gave away almost the entire plot of the book. Why do some books do that? Do they honestly expect us to feel the need to read a book anyway after we've already been told everything that's going to happen? It's like the literary equivalent of that expression "he won't buy the cow if he can get the milk for free."

  • Now it's time for extremely shallow thoughts: I like the cover of today's book - not so much the part with the homely child on it (and hey, why beat around the bush, when that child is clearly unfortunate looking), but the way it's supposed to look like a medicine bottle. I enjoy it when a publishing company goes the extra mile and doesn't just give us the same old boring cover. The face of the child, on the other hand, reminds me of the figurines my Grandmother used to have in her house that scared the crap out of me as a child - they always looked every so slightly possessed. And it didn't help that my Brother told me that if I got too close to them, they would come alive and try to kill me (he said the same thing about the clown pictures, the white wrought iron chair, and the toilet which allegedly had a hand in the bottom of it that would come up at any minute and yank me down into the basement.)

  • Favorite sentence, "There were rumors Miss Palantine had been barred from sales after an incident in which she had tearfully but with some force thrown a ladies shoe at the head of a male customer after a heated exchange in Neckties." - If only Miss Palantine had been on that show Say Yes to the Dress, where she could mock, trash, and verbally bash the customers during her camera interview time. I'm so jealous of the people who work at that store - can you imagine, a job where you're not only allowed to mock difficult clients, but it's actually encouraged and even a part of your job description. Brilliant.

The Book That Changed My Life

Friday, October 23, 2009

Today I decided to give myself a bit of a reading break and read a much shorter book than the one I read yesterday. And I'm so glad that I did, because it was a busy day, and I still feel a little bit burned out from pushing the limits too far yesterday. Reading tip dear readers: don't try to read a book that's almost 400 pages when you're really busy and haven't slept much. I woke up this morning with a reading hangover and turned to face my to-read stacks and thought, But I just read a really long book yesterday. I can't possibly be expected to read another book today. And, since not reading a book today wasn't an option, I went to the next best thing, reading a short book that has really short chapters.

Today's book, "What was the title of the first book you fell in love with as you sounded out the words on its worn pages? Was there one that really changed the way you think about things, whether you first read it in high school English, on a blanket at the beach, or under the covers with a flashlight? A good book can truly change our lives, altering the way we look at the world and challenging us to experience the unknown. Sometimes it is love at first sentence, and sometimes there is a single character so real that he or she stays with us long after we've turned the last page. In The Book That Changed My Life, our most admired writers and public intellectuals discuss the books that matter most to them."

Shallow thoughts:

  • Today's book turned out to be the perfect one to read today. It was thought-provoking, interesting, and each essay was so short that it was really easy to do a lot of other things in the middle of reading it. So if you're the kind of person who doesn't have a lot of spare time this book would be perfect for you. And I learned something very interesting from reading this book, Kitty Foyle wasn't just a movie, it was also a book. I've been obsessed over the last few months with searching for the kind of books from the 40s and 50s that were made into old movies (because if I don't have time to watch an old movie during the day, then I'm going to read one.)

  • My favorite essay was written by Elizabeth Berg in which she discusses the book that made her a writer. I think I enjoyed this essay so much because I remember the exact book I read that made me want to be a writer, which just so happens to be a book that I've read for the blog this year (do you see how I just casually slipped that in there, as if I haven't spent the whole day plotting out ways to shamelessly increase my page loads by putting up links to past entries - ahahahahah.) The book that made me want to be a writer was Little House in the Big Woods, and I still think of that book (and the entire series) as being totally magical.

  • Favorite sentence, "I read it until the pages fell out - and once again I speak literally." - I've only done that with two books. If you guessed that one of them is a Little House book then you are correct dear readers (oh you, you're such a good guesser.) The other book was A Voice of Her Own by Marlene A. Schiwy, which I have not read for the blog, but I have read another book by that author for the blog, so I supposed it's shameless plug time again.

A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Today has been a challenging blogging day for me dear readers. I'm on day seven of practically no sleep, I have a headache that's been with me for the last six hours, and I had more work related stuff to do today than usual. So, what would possess me to decide to read a book that's almost 400 pages in the middle of all of that? Your guess is as good as mine. The best I can offer is that it seemed like a good idea at the time. But I probably should stop falling back on that since it's the same justification I use for the orange sweater that I bought for reasons which are still unclear to me, and for my decision to watch season one of The Real Housewives of Orange County despite it being filled with people who are completely repulsive. Live and learn . . . or in my case, live and don't learn. Whatever.

Today's book, "Tired of half-hearted attempts to effect change in the world, Isabel Losada decides to walk the talk and embarks on a journey that takes her from protests in the streets of London to India and back again."

Life-changing thoughts (but not really because I'm too shallow for that):

  • I picked today's book because it was in my to-read stacks (it's not a thoughtful reason, but it's real) and it was in my to-read stack in the first place because I liked the cover - it reminds me of cartoons and, as you all know, I'm a huge fan of anything that reminds me of TV. I know, I know, I said about a week ago that I wasn't going to pick out books based on the cover anymore - and technically I haven't, because I didn't pick the book based on the cover, I only bought it for that reason in the first place. Are you feeling lied to dear readers? Do you think I'm shifty? Have I broken the blogger-reader trust? Am I being too dramatic again? Valid questions all the way around. I've decided that I'm going to have to work around that "No more books that I picked based on the cover" rule that I have set for myself because the only alternative is to throw out my entire to-read stack (which consists of about 220 books) and start over. And I can't live without my to-read stack. It makes me happy just looking at it (no seriously, I often look at it throughout the day and think to myself, Isn't it beautiful.)

  • Favorite sentence, "When the day came, I found myself wondering what you wear to demonstrate." - The author then goes on to assure us that she was thinking in practical terms and not being shallow. To that I say, there is nothing wrong with being shallow while improving the world. We live in a multi-tasking kind of world - I see no reason why I couldn't do both. Although there are those who would disagree, and give me some sort of lecture about how I should be focusing on more important things. My response to these kind of lectures is always the same, "Explain to me how I would be a better person if I was wearing ugly clothes right now." I have yet to hear a valid reason.

  • Favorite passage, "I read somewhere, 'If you want to know something, don't read a book. Ask someone who knows.' This works very well for me. It's not that I don't enjoy reading books, but when you're reading a book you can't ask stupid questions." - Point taken Ms. Author, it is important to be able to ask stupid questions (and I even have a list of "Questions I Should Already Know the Answer to By Now, But For Some Reason Don't.) However, I cannot tolerate you talking smack about books like that. Books are the answer to everything. Well, no that's actually not true - TV is my answer to everything. TV is always right. TV fixes everything. TV is perfection. But, books come a close second. Asking people stupid questions is third. Ms. Author needs to get her priorities in order.

The Girl in the Photograph

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's time for the end of the week count.

For the week -


PAGES: 2,064

For the year so far -


PAGES: 76,034

Today's book, "Stand-up comic and semi-lapsed Catholic Allegra O'Riordan now has another identity: orphan. Motherless since age three, she has just buried her father as well - fearing that with this loss, she's also forfeited any hope of knowing the history of her tight-lipped Irish family. Resigned, she sifts through her father's belongings . . . and finds a picture that will change her life. In this picture, her mother - until now just a dim memory of a solemn, melancholy woman - is someone she barely recognizes. She is younger, of course - but there is something else. The bathing suit. The bold, seductive smile. And the mysterious inscription: "darling Ted" . . . yearning to know more, Allegra begins to seek out distant relatives, strangers, old friends of her mother. She wants to understand who this flirtatious young beauty really was - and what it was that changed her. But looking too closely at the girl in the photograph may forever alter the way she sees the girl in the mirror . . . "

Shallow thoughts:

  • I have no idea why book descriptions so often end with . . . Is it supposed to make us more likely to read the book? Because it didn't work with me. In fact, today's book was yet another book from my to-read stack that I have no memory of even buying, and I feel pretty certain that I didn't even bother reading the book description all the way through (because I'm an impulse book buyer.) Which leads me to survey time again: Tell me dear readers: Does . . . make you more likely to want to read a book? And, question # 2, what was the last impulse book buy? Or are you the kind of stable, mature reader who actually reads the entire book description before buying a book?

  • It took quite awhile for me to get into today's book. I found the beginning rather dull, and only kept reading because I had already posted the book for the day on Twitter. I briefly contemplated deleting that tweet and hoping that none of my dear readers would notice, but somehow that just felt shady. But just for future reference, if I ever did want to switch to a different book after posting it on Twitter would anyone notice (not that I would ever do anything as underhanded as that.) I did eventually start to enjoy the book more, but if I hadn't been working on this project there's no way I would have ever finished the book. I think I like the idea of the book more than the actual book.

  • Favorite sentence, "She was not a vain woman, but she spent much time looking into the mirror, practicing routines, or simply talking to her own reflection." - This sentence speaks to me more than I should admit (especially publicly.) It's as if the author is describing me (except for that part about not being vain, because I'm definitely vain and I'm not ashamed to admit it.) This entry could go up at least an hour earlier every day if I cut out my daily mirror time, which takes up so much time during the day that it could qualify as a hobby. Which often makes me think of how I always have a hard time believing that people are being honest about their hobbies. Every time I hear someone talk about their hobbies, it's always a nice, normal, sane list of: knitting, golfing, reading, etc. But I can't be the only person in the world who has a list of hobbies that reads like: looking up wedding and baby registries of people I don't even know (I don't know why that's fun, but it just is), looking at myself in the mirror, playing literary family (in which I try to figure out which characters in literature most closely resemble my family members), making pointless lists (such as: stuff I should already know by now, but for some reason don't.) So dear readers, if you aren't already on question overload from the ones I've already asked, I want to know about your real hobbies. Come on, don't be shy, you can't possible say anything that would make you look worse than me admitting that I spend so much time looking at myself that it could qualify as a hobby.

Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today has been a challenging reading day for me. Construction is still going on, in the house (or rather on top of it), as well as on the streets surrounding my house. Ahh, there's nothing like living in a construction zone to produce nice, peaceful reading conditions. Plus, I have not been sleeping well lately, which always makes my brain feel like it's going on strike. So what's a blogger to do? I have several strategies for pushing through a reading plateau, and I'm going to share them with all of you dear readers just in case you ever end up reading a book that you kind of want to finish but kind of don't.

1. Break the book down into ten page sections and only think about those ten pages, the other pages do not exist. - It's just like school where I spent most of the day thinking, If I just get through the next ten minutes then I'll be ten minutes closer to getting home where I can watch Brady Bunch re-runs. (I was a wild and crazy kind of teenager.)

2. Get up and take at least a five minute break where you are doing something boring and useful (like cleaning or cooking) that requires actual effort but no brain power. - I would not recommend you approach this the way I do, which is to spend the first five minutes of the break trying to convince myself that watching General Hospital qualifies as doing something useful because it gets one more thing off the DVR, before giving in and watching not only General Hospital but All My Children as well.

3. Drink some really, really cold water. - Don't ask me to explain that one. I just can't.

Today's book, "Here is compassionate, practical, and often humorous advice about how to find time to write, how to discover your personal style, how to make sentences come alive, and how to overcome procrastination and writer's block - including more than thirty provocative "Try this" exercises to get your pen moving."

Creative thoughts (or maybe not, because I'm really tired today):

  • I love reading books about writing. Of course, most of the time I expect to become a better writer simply by having read the book. I read about other people become better writers, I vow I will use every writing exercise in the book, and then I do two of them before tossing the book aside while whining that, The advice in this stupid book doesn't work. In other words, I'm lazy. I took the same approach to all of the self help books I read in my earlier twenties (yes, I'm one of those kind of people) - I bought them, vowing that this book would be the thing that alters the very course of my life, the book that sets me on a new path to being a radically different person, I read the book (or usually skim it), I sense the book it total b.s. but I keep soldiering on anyway, I ignore 99.9% of the advice and make a totally half-baked attempt at following the other 0.1%, and then I put it on the bookshelf where I will look at it every day and feel like a vastly superior person to those lazy bums who don't even bother to try to improve themselves. So really what we have here is a situation where I'm lazy and hypocritical (which happens to be my favorite combination of bad qualities.) But hey, we've all got problems right?

  • Today's book turned out to be one of the best writing books I've ever read. But I'm mostly saying that because it was one of the shortest - a nice comfortable 238 pages, just enough to make me feel like it has the power to transform my life, but not too much that it made me feel like I had to put actual effort into it. Plus, the book had tons of short chapters (62 in all) that made the book feel like an even quicker read than it was. But, even if I leave my laziness out of the equation, I still thought today's book was interesting and useful. I would definitely recommend it to you dear readers - especially if any of you are lazy like I am.

Never Done

Monday, October 19, 2009

I am writing this entry from home, where I have Internet service once again! I arrived home from Indy this afternoon and got right to reading because today's book was over 300 pages - although "got right to reading" might be a bit of an exaggeration since my definition of getting right to anything includes first wasting 10 minutes on the Internet looking up pointless stuff (okay, 20), unpacking (read: taking everything out of suitcase, throwing it all in a big pile on the floor where it will remain for the next week and then putting the suitcase back in the closet, all the while feeling a delightful sense of accomplishment) and then checking the DVR to make sure all of my shows taped while I was gone (because I need my daily fix of watching absolutely nothing happen on Days of Our Lives.)

Today's book, "Beginning with a description of household chores in the nineteenth century, Susan Strasser demonstrates how industrialization transformed the nature of women's work, lightening some tasks and eliminating the need for others. In this lively and authoritative book, Strasser weaves together the history of material advances and domestic service, the development of "women's separate sphere," and the impact of advertising, home economics, and women's entry into the workforce."

Clean thoughts (as if I would ever have any other kind):

  • I'm sure everyone who knows me well is reading this and thinking, A history of housework? What on earth would possess her to read about an activity that she hates? (With the exception, that is, of the 75% of my family that doesn't even bother reading my blog in the first place.) It's true dear readers that I hate housework (except for cooking) - I can't even talk myself into liking it by wearing an apron and pretending to be Hazel (great show, by the way). And my own housekeeping style could best be described as messy . . . horrifying . . . appalling . . . loathsome . . . well, you get the picture. So, why read this book? Because I love history so much that it's able to overpower my disdain for cleaning. And I was curious to find out who invented the electric iron (another activity I actually enjoy - although I attribute this to the fact that I've only ever attempted it twice in my life - unlike my mother who irons her t-shirts.) Sadly, the book did not relieve my curiosity, and I am still left in suspense - although not a strong enough suspense to motivate me to actually go do some research on the subject.

  • I found the writing style of today's book a bit dull - although the information in the book was interesting enough to keep me reading, and so were the frequent mentions of the book Little Women. That seems like a bit of a paradox - a book that is written in a boring style, that nevertheless contains interesting facts - but I have found throughout the coarse of the year that it's surprisingly common. What I have yet to run across (but desperately want to, merely for the sake of satisfying my own curiosity) is a book that is filled with boring facts but that is written in such a fun way that I enjoy the book anyway.

  • Here's your fun fact for the day dear readers: In the 1800s, many people disliked fresh meat and believed that it was "unwholesome," and lacking in "strength." - I was unable to read that section of the book without thinking of Spam, which is quite possibly the most disgusting food ever invented (although if anyone would like to try to top it in the comments section, feel free to share), and sadly enough a food that I was raised on. I consider it a miracle that my growth wasn't stunted. Although maybe it was, because when I was a child people did expect me to be taller than I am now.

Winter in June

Sunday, October 18, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS 1943: She arrived amid the grace and charm of a bustling college town at the height of its golden age, a cloud of mystery surrounding her wherever she went. As she stepped from the Packard, the early morning fog gathering around her, all eyes turned toward her in curiosity. Who was she? Where did she come from? And why did she carry a book with her?

Okay, sorry about that dear readers, but you didn't really expect me to read a mystery book that takes place in the 1940s without getting a little caught up on the spirit of it, did you?. My real day went a little something like this:

INDIANAPOLIS 2009: She awakens to the sound of an alarm that she doesn't remember setting, and is somehow unable to find it. She spends ten minutes desperately searching for the alarm in question, which has gone off exactly five hours after she fell asleep. She is never able to locate said alarm . . . or to fall back asleep. She stumbles through the morning in a fog of incoherency, visits her sisters alma mater where no fog surrounds her and no heads turn as she emerges from her car, and somehow manages to read her book for the day all while acting more dramatic than is ever necessary.

Here I am reading in Holcomb Gardens while trying to stay warm and avoid falling into the mud. Being a blogger is so glamorous.
We spent half of the day reading our way across Butler's campus. While I was reading today's book, my sister was attempting to finish the last 250 pages of her 1,135 page FDR biography that has been in her to-read stacks (yes, it's a family trait) for five years. I am happy to report that she was successful!

Here I am reading in front of Jordan Hall.
Alissa would like it noted on the record that she hit the 1,000 page mark while sitting on that bench. I was relieved as well because I have been listening to her complain about having to lug that huge book around for so long that I was dangerously close to getting her a Charlie Brown style wheely cart to ease the strain. Do you remember Happy New Year, Charlie Brown dear readers - the special that Warner Home video refuses to release despite it being one of the best Charlie Brown specials ever?

Today's book, "New York 1943: Aspiring actress Rosie Winter has been marooned in New York throughout the war. Now, faced with the news that her ex-boyfriend Jack might not be coming home again, she's desperate to leave the home front and head for the war front. So when Rosie and her best pal Jayne get an offer to go to the South Pacific to perform with USO Camp Shows, they jump at the chance. But being a greasepaint soldier isn't as easy as they had hoped. Not only are the cast members surly, the schedules inhumane, and the housing conditions primitive but they also have to travel with a major - and majorly difficult - Hollywood star. But none of that is as bad as living in a war zone, and when tragedy strikes, Rosie and Jayne are left wondering if they are being targeted by the enemy of if something far more sinister is afoot."

Retro thoughts:

  • As I'm sure you're all aware dear readers, I love all things related to the 1940s (okay, well maybe not the polio, rationing or that whole Hitler business - but everything else), and so I was easily led astray by my sister who picked today's book out while we were at the library yesterday. Sadly, it did not live up to my high expectations. There was a generic quality to the story that would have made it hard to place the time period if not for the frequent references to movies and songs from that time. I suppose that's one way of approaching writing about another time period - but it seems a bit lazy and it started to wear thin after a few pages.

  • There was also the problem of the characters blurring together. I was on page 150 and I was still struggling to sort out who everyone was - not because there were so many characters, but because the characters were all so poorly defined, not to mention boring. So, while I love the idea of a mystery novel that takes place in the 1940s, I would not recommend reading this one dear readers.

Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Welcome to day two of my weekend trip to Indianapolis dear readers. Since starting this blogging project, a weekend trip is no longer just a weekend trip - instead it is a weekend challenge. Weekends away used to feel like a nice little break from my everyday routine - but now my everyday routine follows me wherever I go. At home I get up, I post comments, I read, I obsess over the blogging numbers, I post irrelevant stuff on Twitter and act like it's the most dramatic thing that has ever happened to anyone, I read some more, and then I post the blog entry for the day. When away, I do all of those things while also trying to fit in a little fun.

Today we fit in fun by exploring the city to search for the best reading spots. And, because I always like to bring you along dear readers, I have some pictures to share with you:

First, we stopped to enjoy the fall foliage on the way to the farmer's market. And then we played my favorite game - or should I say my least favorite game - "Find the Vegetable That Angie's Not Allergic To." Yes dear readers, I am actually allergic to vegetables. I'm living in a tomato-free, mushroom-free world. Do you feel my pain? Are you amazed that I'm able to soldier on in the midst of such hardship? Do you think I'm the most dramatic blogger ever? All valid questions if you ask me.

Then we headed downtown to The War Memorial. Don't I look patriotic . . . and cold? We had planned to spend a lot more time reading outdoors today, but the weather had no respect for my blogging plans. So instead, we stopped for a short time outside, took a few pictures as complete strangers stared at us and acted like they'd never seen a person having their picture taken with a book in front of their face (when everyone knows that it's a perfectly normal thing to do), and then read a few pages before heading someplace warm.

After braving the cold, we sought refuge in the warmth and majesty of the library. I had never been to the Indianapolis library, and I loved it! I had a Willy Wonka moment, and it was all I could do to keep from breaking out into song If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it . . .

Spoiler alert: while at the library, my sister picked a book for me to read tomorrow, and she found it in the mystery section. Would anyone like to solve the mystery of what book she picked?

We spent quite a bit of time in the library, exploring the six floors, searching out all of the best reading spots, confusing passersby with our mystery pictures. Perhaps the mystery pictures look casual, and easily achieved, but I can assure you dear readers, that nothing is further from the truth. Most mystery pictures require me to shimmy down into awkward positions as my sister yells out demands such as, "Hold the book up more" "move your head to the left" "what is happening with your bangs, fix that." This mystery picture was taken on the top floor of the library, and I mean that literally. In order to get the Indianapolis skyline into the picture, I ended up lying on the floor, while my sister crouched down in front of me, as people practically stepped over me and a man sat nearby attempting to conduct serious business. If I had any shame this might have been a bit awkward, embarrassing, downright mortifying even - but a good blogger never lets anything get in the way of the money shot.

Today's book, "At her husband's prompting, suburban mom and career woman Susan McCorkindale agreed to give up her job and her friends in the big city and move south with their two sons to a five-hundred-acre beef-cattle farm. Her husband never looked back. Soon after playing "spot the religious billboard" on the drive to rural Virginia, she did. And she has a lot of confessions to make about life on the farm . . . "

Today's book was yet another one that I don't remember buying, and can't figure out why I bought in the first place, so I had some reservations. It seemed like the kind of book that could go either way, light and fun or so mindless that it will wear thin after twenty pages. The story itself was light and fun - but there was one small part that started to wear extremely thin after awhile, the footnotes. That's right, footnotes. I've never seen footnotes in a book if this type, and at first I found the novelty amusing and somewhat interesting, but by the 50th page I started to think, Enough already - it's not cute anymore.

Fun fact for the day: There are treats made for cows - which the author refers to as "the dog biscuits of the bovine world" - called range cubes. The comparison resulted in me spending most of the day imagining range cubes looking like giant Milk Bones. But then my curiosity led to me looking up range cubes . . . which turned out to be a mistake. Just google them for yourselves and see what I mean dear readers. I would describe them to you here, but I'm trying to keep this blog tasteful and pleasant.

Tune in tomorrow dear readers when I reveal the mystery of what mystery book I will read.

Service & Style

Friday, October 16, 2009


I'm sure you'll be relieved to know (just play along dear readers) that I am in a secure location where I have Internet access once again. Actually, I hear that I have Internet access again at home, a fact I learned when I was about midway to Indianapolis. But I decided to come to Indy anyway to have a fun-filled Sister Weekend with Alissa. That's right, I've taken A Book a Day to the big city. It's different here, skirts are shorter, no one says hello, and customs are decidedly different. Okay, just kidding, two people said hello to me within minutes of arriving . . . well one of them was my sister, but that still counts.

My battered soul (sorry, too dramatic, and I see that now) - Let's try that again, my mind is relieved to be away from the construction that was going on all around me at home, both in the house and on the streets surrounding it. And I am now enjoying a quiet, peaceful evening of reading without having to ignore the constant hammering, and I'm reveling in Internet service without the fear that if I don't write my entry really quickly the construction crew might accidentally hit the phone lines again. In other words, it's paradise.

Today's book, "The history of downtown department stores is as fascinating as their names and as diverse as their merchandise. Their stories encompasses many themes: the rise of decorative design, new career paths for women, the growth of consumerism, and the technological ingenuity of escalators and pneumatic tubes. Just as the big stores made up their own small universes, their stories are microcosmic narratives of American culture and society."

Materialistic thoughts:

  • I picked today's book because it made me think of old movies and the way they make working in a department store look so fun (Bachelor Mother is one that comes to mind.) Old movies make lots of things look fun that really aren't: going to school, bathing babies, snow fights, dancing (or maybe that's just me), having people over for dinner, going to war (I'm talking about you White Christmas), being a maid. Usually picking a book for such a shallow reason ends very badly for me and results in extra whining here on the blog - but then I don't need to tell you that dear readers since you have traveled down that dark and scary road with me. But, I am happy to report that the opposite happened today - the book was fun and delightful and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys history.

  • Not only was the book fun, I also learned a few things. For one, in the early 1900s, some department stores had public libraries located in them. I also learned that most department stores had book departments. How delightful! I, of course, am of the opinion that there is no such thing as too many books (or book sources), so tomorrow I start my campaign to get department stores to "BRING BACK THE BOOKS. BRING BACK THE BOOKS."

  • Overall, what I've gathered from reading this book, is that department stores from the first half of the 20th century were like the shopping version of Disney World, lots of sucking up from the employees, the kind of service that will delude a person into thinking the entire world should cater to them from that point on, and so many things to see and do that you can't possibly see it all in one day. I spent most of the book wishing I had a time machine so I could go back and see what it's like to shop at a department store where I don't have to choose between dealing with the salesclerk who doesn't want to help at all and the one who becomes so emotionally invested that telling him/her that I'm not buying the dress that I tried on feels like a break-up.

And here's your fun fact for the day dear readers: clothes from the Juniors department used to be known as "the flapper size," and then later "the subdeb size." - If I was the kind of thirty year-old who desperately tries to cling to their youth by buying clothes from the juniors department, I would begin referring to it as "the flappers department" right away. Since I am not, I will instead work on ways to awkwardly insert that phrase into my next shopping experience, Let's go to the shoe department. If I'm not mistaken, it's located right next to the flapper department.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

Thursday, October 15, 2009

***From the Office of the Vice President of the Blog***
a.k.a. - Angie's ever-devoted little sister, Alissa

Dear Angie's Readers, Tonight's entry finds our county in a crisis. Ok, really just our blog. Due to the charms of country life (read: road construction), the telephone lines in and around the book a day headquarters have been unexpectedly cut off. As a result, tonight's entry is being dictated from Angie, via cell phone, to a secure location. Ok, really just to me in my apartment in far off and exciting Indianapolis. Given that I am a political geek (perhaps you've noticed, subtlety is not my specialty) I prefer to think of my apartment as the Camp David of the blog. You can indulge me in that delusion if you'd like. But either way, I hope to type Angie's words with the spirit and joie de vivre with with which she ordinarily brings to the blog. I appreciate your support during this difficult time and may God continue to bless the blog. (Too much?)

-Signed, Alissa, VP of the Blog and huge geek

As dictated: Dear Readers, while I am saddened to be unable to perform my usual blogging duties, I am heartened to think of the dramatic possibilities that this - my first major blogging crisis - will bring to the book a day experience. So far, I am pleased to report that I have handled this crises like a character on The Brady Bunch: with undaunted cheerfulness and an optimism that makes those around me cringe. However, unlike The Brady Bunch, this blogging crisis is unlikely to be resolved in 30 minutes. I've been informed that I can expect a return to normal blogging conditions sometime between now and Monday. This may result in some exciting alternative locations over the coming days! . . . stay tuned. In the meantime, I certainly hope that my neighbors have all found someone to whom they can dictate their blogs (te he).

Today's book "Iris Lockhart, a young Scottish woman, is suddenly informed that she has the power of attorney for her great aunt, Esme Lennox—who Iris never knew existed. Esme has been locked away in a mental institution for over 60 years—a fact never mentioned by her sister Kitty, Iris' grandmother, who now has Alzheimer's. In compelling prose, O'Farrell gradually pieces together the puzzle of Esme's life up to the age of 16, when her cold and repressive parents sent her away to the hospital that is now closing down."

Crisis-Induced Shallow Thoughts:

  • First, lets start with my most shallow thought: I really enjoyed the aesthetics, weight, and feel of today's book. There are certain books that are just enjoyable before you even open them: they feel just right in your hands, they have the perfect font size, they have a soothing color that is restful to the eye. Today's book fits that description perfectly. Does that make me a book freak dear readers, or do you find yourself thinking the similar thoughts with your own books?

  • Unfortunately dear readers, the content of the book did not live up to the aesthetics. It was well written, but I found myself floating across the surface of the story, rather than sinking down into the book as I would have preferred. I suppose I could blame this on my ADD (a diagnosis I still dispute, by the way) but its just easier to blame it on the author. Sorry Ms. O'Farrell... did I mention I liked your font?

And now (in a dramatic actor voice)"Tune in tomorrow dear readers for the continuing saga of Survivor: Indiana - She doesn't eat bugs, but she also can't check people.com"

Don't You Know There's a War On?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's chapter and page count time dear readers.

For the week -


PAGES - 1,911

For the year so far -

CHAPTERS - 5,770

PAGES - 73,970

Today's book, "In this evocative cultural and social history, Richard Lingeman, recreates the events - historic, humorous, and tragic - and personalities of the American home front during World War II. It was a time of partings and loneliness, tragedy and triumph, blue stars and gold star moms, when V stood for Victory, Home Front USA was the Arsenal of Democracy, and prosperity turned the corner."

1940s Thoughts:

  • Operation Deal With the To-Read Stacks continued today as I took a trip back to the 40s. I'm very tired today but nothing invigorates me more than reading about the 40s, watching a movie from the 40s or wearing my "There's a War On But I'm High Spirited So I'll Be Okay" apron (not to be confused with the "The Great Depression Has Been Hard But I'm Resourceful So I'll Be Okay" apron.) I would have put on a little Glen Miller music while reading the book, but I don't need music because I had the theme song to Homefront (a great show about the 40s that the studio absolutely refuses to release on DVD) stuck in my head all day. Why it was all I could do to keep from getting up and doing the jitterbug mid-way through reading. Although I would have been slightly hampered by the fact that I don't actually know how to do the jitterbug (I have somehow deluded myself into thinking that if I tried it, I would somehow just know how.)

  • I loved today's book - but, I think a lot of that has to do with my unnatural love of all things related to that time period. If you're not as big of a fan as I am (and by that I mean, if you don't waste ridiculous amounts of time trying to figure out how to fix your hair in the 40s style while listening to Glen Miller in between trying to figure out how to make a Ration Cake) then you might not care for this book because it was filled with a lot of statistics and facts that might be slightly dull to a person who is looking for a really fun read.

  • Among those facts and statistics; there was a rise in crime, teenage prostitution, and bigamy during the early 40s. Ahh, the good old days. Or as I like to say to people who claim that the 40s were the good old days when everything was better, "You're right. Those days were good. Hitler, rationing, the threat of polio just hanging over them at all times - they had it made." In other words, today's book tells us what we already know, that there's no such thing as the good old days and every era had it's problems, but it uses statistics I have never run across to make that point.

Not Fade Away

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I'm getting a late start on today's blog entry because I had some very important things to take care of tonight. And by that I, of course, mean that I was watching the 18 Kids and Counting special. I can't turn away from The Duggars, not even to be a responsible blogger. So, I'm sorry dear readers, I promise that from now on I'm going to get my priorities in line better: blog, then the Duggars, then trivial things like food, air and sleep.

Today's book, "I'm hardly the first person to notice that there is only the present, constantly," writes Barton in this extraordinary memoir. "The present moment is lived, and relieved; written, and rewritten. Every previous version still inhabits it." What gives this insight and the many others that follow uncommon power is the ever present fact that Barton, a pioneering entrepreneur in the cable television industry, was dying of stomach cancer as he wrote them. Alternating chapters with mystery writer Shames (The Naked Detective), Barton, who died in September, 2002, at 51, offers us-and his wife and three children-his final rewrite of a life filled with the optimism and idealism of his generation. Barton tells us how it feels to die while the party is still raging, offering us glimpses of a life that packed in everything from being a professional ski bum to working as an aide to New York State governor Hugh Carey to huge success as a visionary businessman (Barton helped found MTV, among other achievements). Readers will be knocked out by his honesty and his utter lack of self-pity or sentimentality."

Shallow thoughts:

  • Today's book has been in my to-read stack for awhile. It is yet another book that I don't remember buying, and am somewhat shocked to even find in my to-read stacks since I'm normally don't like to read sad books. I prefer to stick to light, fluffy, happy books that don't make me think about death, illness, or anything unpleasant. In other words, I'm a literary wimp. But ever so often, I feel like I need to take a step outside of that happy, pleasant box and read something that isn't all sunshine and rainbows.

  • I was a little bit nervous about today's book, because I feared it would be like Tuesdays With Morrie, a book that I attempted to read and desperately wanted to like because it came so highly recommended by several people. But I couldn't make it past the fourth page. I decided to go ahead and risk it with today's book, and I'm so glad that I did because it was much better than Tuesdays With Morrie. I always find it gratifying to read a good book on a similar subject from one I disliked - it some weird way it kind of wipes the memory of the bad book away. I frequently do this with books, a book with substances erases a trashy, mindless book, a book that's good erases a bad ones. I like to pretend like everything in life evens out in the end, even if it doesn't.

  • And now it's time for my extra shallow thought of the day: I can't stand the word chuckle. At one point during the book the word was used and I found it horribly distracting. There's just nothing pleasant sounding about that word, and so it goes on the list of words I don't like along with lady, purse, moist, and hubby (which isn't technically a word, but that certainly doesn't stop people from using it waaaaay too much.)

The Egg and I

Monday, October 12, 2009

Today I decided to tackle my to-read stack. At the beginning of this year I thought that this project would be a great opportunity to get through my to-read stacks, which contain over 200 books. Ha Ha Ha - I was so naive. I completely forgot to factor in my undying love of the library, and so about 75% of the books I have read this year came from the library. But today, I tripped over my to-read stacks about five times, and decided that it's time to start reading more books from there and fewer from the library. I won't say that I'm reading nothing but books from the to-read stacks, because I don't want the people at the library to think I have died.

Today's book, "When Betty MacDonald married and moved to a small farm on the Olympic Peninsula in the State of Washington, she was largely unprepared for the rigors of life in the wild. No running water, no electricity, a house in need of constant repair, and days that ran from four in the morning to nine at night, with barely a moment to put one's feet up. And this was before the children arrived. But the MacDonalds managed to keep their sense of humor, and this account of their adventures with the house and with neighbors is an endearing frontier classic."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I originally bought today's book because it's the book that the Ma and Pa Kettle movies were based on (movies that I'm almost ashamed to admit that I love.) I'm so excited that I actually remember buying this book - something that normally doesn't happen. And I'm not going to let the fact that I only bought the book a month ago take anything away from my victory. Fun fact about Ma and Pa Kettle: Marjorie Main, who plays Ma Kettle, grew up (partially anyway) in the same town I grew up in.

  • I really liked today's book, but Alissa (who is feeling ever so slightly sad that no one found her guest comment from yesterday brilliant) attempted to read the first few pages and quickly got bored (although she did enjoy my favorite sentence of the book, see below.) Do what you will with that information dear readers - I trust you.

  • Thanks to today's book I have found a new favorite expression, "Deargrandmother." - I am going to have to visit my Grandmother soon so I can start calling her that. And I'm contemplating sticking "dear" on the front of everything that I say from now on, Dear Mother, how are you feeling today? Dear mailman, thank you for the mail. Dear gas station attendant, thank you for responding to my request so promptly. . . What do you think dear readers? Too much?

  • Favorite sentence, "Mother had been reared to believe that if you were unfortunate enough to be born with a pale green face, you, if you were a lady, would not for a moment entertain the thought of rouge, but would accept your color as your cross and do nice things for poor people." - Well thank goodness I don't have a green complexion, now I don't have to bother doing things for poor people. Whew!

Jane Austen Ruined My Life

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My sister has requested/demanded that I let her make a special guest comment in which she is going to mock my reading/blogging habits. And since I'm an accommodating blogger (who is lazy enough on weekends to be perfectly willing to let someone else write some of my blog entry) I've agree.

Special comment:

Dear Angie's Readers,

You all look so nice. You didn't have to dress up just for me. But I'm glad you did. I thought it may interest you to know a little bit more about Angie's "process," specifically I think you should know that when she's weaving her Book a Day magic, Angie hauls armfuls of crap from room to room. The crap includes, but is not limited to: her book, paper, pens, an inkless pen, a writing board that she's had since the 90s, and a label-free bottle of water (she finds the labels offensive.) "But she's creating a blog," you say. "She needs supplies." Well, dear Angie's readers, I would like to be able to tell you that this habit originated with the blog. Sadly, I cannot, for it predates the blog . . . by decades (this culminated in one incident, circa age 8, when she felt the pressing need to pack a calculator for a trip to an amusement park.*) While the pile of crap may not seem like a lot, Angie transports the crap in question with her EVERYWHERE - and I do mean everywhere, whether she's in a large house, a one bedroom apartment, a hotel room, a boat, a cabana on the beach in Hawaii (no, seriously), the car, on a picnic, or in the backyard. In short dear Angie's readers, the process isn't always pretty** but the end result is the blog you've come to know and love.

*Note from Angie: My feeling at the time was that you never know when you might need to calculate something. I mean what if I got there and needed to calculate something and I didn't have a calculator around - well, that would have been a disaster.

**Another note from Angie: Hey, that "it's not pretty" remark better be about my crap and not about me.

Today's book, "Emma Grant, the heroine of Pattillo’s first outing, has a major beef to settle with her literary heroine, Jane Austen. Austen’s novels taught Emma, a college professor, to believe in happy endings, but her own happy ending goes up in flames when she discovers her husband, Edward, in the arms of her teaching assistant, after which the two have her professionally discredited by claiming she plagiarized a paper. Disillusioned and disgraced, Emma flees the U.S. for her cousin’s house in England after being contacted by Gwendolyn Parrot, an elderly woman claiming to be in possession of a stash of lost Austen letters. Rather than simply handing over the letters, Mrs. Parrot sends Emma on a succession of tasks that gradually reveal a secret about Austen’s life previously unknown to scholars. Along the way, Emma reconnects with Adam, her former best friend whom she fell out of touch with after marrying Edward."

Shallow thoughts:

  • I was hesitant to read today's book because I feared it would follow in the same vein of other Austen-inspired books I have read in the past, that try (and fail) to write in the same style as Austen. But, the author of today's book wisely chose not to go down that path and as a result I was able to enjoy the book without making constant comparison's to Austen's writing style. And I did enjoy today's book - it was light and fun without being totally fluffy and mindless.

  • Favorite sentence, "One sentence of Pride and Prejudice and I was hooked like a junkie who had to keep coming back for a fix." - I think it will be obvious to my longtime readers as to why I love that sentence. For those of you who are new to my blog, I give you this link.

  • I had another horrifying moment mid-way through reading this book when the plot began to feel waaaaay too familiar, and I became convinced that I had already read this book for the blog. I'm beginning to feel like a broken record with that one - I think this is about the fifth or sixth time this year that I have done that. So I ran to the computer, while hyperventilating along the way, and discovered that the reason why the plot seemed so familiar is because the plot is similar to the plot of The Bronte Project which I read earlier this year, but today's book was so much better than that book.

The Guinea Pig Diaries

Saturday, October 10, 2009


Today's book was suggested by Kara, one of my dear readers who endlessly indulges my need for constant whimsy by calling me dear writer while I call her dear reader. The first time I saw her after starting my blog I really dramatically said, "Hello dear reader," and she responded with, "Hello dear writer." I have no words to describe how much it amuses me to be called dear writer (I've even been tempted to demand that everyone call me "dear writer" from now on.) Since then we have dispensed with first names altogether, and we (well mostly me) try to find as many opportunities as we can to work "dear reader" and "dear writer" into the conversation as possible.

Would you like a drink dear reader?
Yes I would dear writer.
Here you go dear reader.
Thank you dear writer.
You're welcome dear reader.

Today's book, " Having already read the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover-to-cover (The Know-It-All) and spent a year living by every rule in the Bible (The Year of Living Biblically), Jacobs, a kind of latter-day George Plimpton, tests our patience and our funny bones once again with his smart-aleck, off-the-wall and uproarious experiments in living. No cross-dresser he, Jacobs lives a vicarious life as a beautiful woman, the experiment growing out of his role in persuading his son's nanny, Michelle—a stunning beauty—to participate in an online dating service. He signs her up for the site, creates a profile for her, sifts through her suitors and co-writes her e-mails. Pretending to be Michelle, he learns not only the regret of rejection (having to let some guys down), but he also predictably discovers that there's a lot of deceit, boasting and creepiness in Internet dating. In another experiment, Jacobs outsources everything in his life to a company in India, from his research for articles to a complaint letter to American Airlines. This experiment worked so well that he continues to use this company every few weeks to make car rental reservations or to do research for him."

I have read all of A.J. Jacobs's books, including one that I read for the blog, so I was looking forward to reading today's book. And it didn't disappoint. In fact, I think it's my favorite of all of his books. I highly recommend this book - it's going on my list of favorite books I've read this year.

Shallow thoughts:

  • Reading the passage where Jacobs is discussing the woman in India he has outsourced his errands to made me want to outsource my life as well, "She's the single most upbeat person I've ever encountered. Whatever soul-deadening chore I give her, she says, "That would indeed be interesting" or "Thank you for bestowing this important task." I have a feeling that if I asked her to count the number of semi-colons in the Senate energy bill, she would be grateful for such a fascinating project." - I know some people find it annoying to run across people who are that cheerful, but I just can't get enough of people who are so pleasant they put the members of The Brady Bunch to shame. Of course they make the rest of us look like the whiny slackers that we are, but I can live with that.

  • And later, Jacobs decides to try out a method called Radical Honesty, in which we, "toss out the filters between our brains and our mouths. If you think it, you say it." - Oh isn't that cute how the founder of that movement has decided that everyone in the world has a filter between their brains and their mouths (or in my case, between my brain and the keyboard.) In my case I need to find a movement that will teach me how to form some sort of filter, because at present I have two forms of communication 1. complete silence or 2. I tell people everything there is to know about me.

  • But I think my favorite part of the book was when Jacobs attempts to follow George Washington's rules of life (all 110 of them) including, "While you are talking, point not with your finger at him of whom you discourse, nor approach too near him to whom you talk, especially to his face." - This is a good rule, which I believe needs to be expanded in order to fit certain members of my family (who shall remain nameless) who not only point, but who point with their middle fingers. Now sure this method is endlessly amusing to the under seven crowd, but past that point it can be a little disconcerting. And then we might need to add an additional amendment for certain people (Mom): No poking people while trying to make a point. When I was a child she would talk about me to people, while I was standing right there feeling mortified, and say things like, "And she likes to be really stubborn," as she poked me a few times and followed it up with, "Don't ya. Don't ya. Come on, admit it."

And now dear readers, I'm sure after reading today's blog entry you really want to read today's book. Don't ya. Come on, admit it.