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Monday, April 30, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.
Books completed last week:
The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel by Susan Vreeland
When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? by George Carlin (audio)
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Up next:
Biting Back: A No-Nonsense, No-Garlic Guide to Facing the Personal Vampires in Your Life by Claudia Cunningham
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes

Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Beginnings on Friday: Clara and Mr. Tiffany

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme originally hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages but now hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel by Susan Vreeland
"I opened the beveled-glass door under the sign announcing Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in ornate bronze."
 
Seems very appropriate that the word "glass" would appear in the first sentence (and not just in the name of the company.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel



“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel

Synopsis from bn.com:
Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor.

Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel’s childhood . . . and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter goodnight, forever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf. It’s a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother—to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers.

Publishing May 1, 2012 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: The Tiger's Wife

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.


Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht p. 53-54
 
"Half a block from where we were standing, an enormous shadow was moving along the street, going very slowly up the Boulevard of the Revolution. At first I thought it was a bus, but its shape was too organic, too lumpy, and it was going far too slowly for that, making almost no noise."
 
This sight is a very special experience for Natalia and her grandfather.  I won't tell you what it is, but it's not that hard to guess, especially given the title of the book.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?



This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John

Books I am currently reading/listening to:When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? by George Carlin (audio)
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel by Susan Vreeland

Up next:Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick
Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler
The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws by Margaret Drabble

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Beginnings on Friday: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme originally hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages but now hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

"He is coming on the Lord's Day."

That sounds really serious, but I assume she just means Sunday. But who is coming? And where? I like first lines that make you think questions right away.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Books A-Z


Matthew at A Guy's Moleskin Notebook posted this meme in which you name your favorite book that starts with each letter in the alphabet. I couldn't resist, so here is mine.

A And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts
B Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
C The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
D Dead Man Walking by Helen Prejean
E The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
F The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
G Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner
H High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
I The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman
J The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
K The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
L Love Is One Of Choices by Norma Klein
M Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
N Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
O Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
P Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Q The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
R The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds
S Straight Man by Richard Russo
T True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
U The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
V Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
W Watership Down by Richard Adams
X Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture by Douglas Coupland
Y Youngblood Hawke by Herman Wouk
Z The Zygote Chronicles by Suzanne Finnamore

I had to cheat on the X. It was interesting how on most letters, I'd pick one book, then replace it with a second, and even a third. The only letter (aside from the ones with very few choices like Q and Z) where I just skipped the rest of the letter once I came across The One I knew was the perfect book was P. Pride & Prejudice I knew couldn't be beaten by anything else, I knew!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday: An Uncommon Education


“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

An Uncommon Education by Elizabeth Percer

Synopsis from HarperCollins:
A young woman tries to save three people she loves in this elegant and remarkably insightful coming-of-age debut.

Afraid of losing her parents at a young age—her father with his weak heart, her deeply depressed mother—Naomi Feinstein prepared single-mindedly for a prestigious future as a doctor. An outcast at school, Naomi loses herself in books, and daydreams of Wellesley College. But when Teddy, her confidant and only friend, abruptly departs from her life, it's the first devastating loss from which Naomi is not sure she can ever recover, even after her long-awaited acceptance letter to Wellesley arrives.

Naomi soon learns that college isn't the bastion of solidarity and security she had imagined. Amid hundreds of other young women, she is consumed by loneliness—until the day she sees a girl fall into the freezing waters of a lake.

The event marks Naomi's introduction to Wellesley's oldest honor society, the mysterious Shakespeare Society, defined by secret rituals and filled with unconventional, passionate students. Naomi finally begins to detach from the past and so much of what defines her, immersing herself in this exciting and liberating new world and learning the value of friendship. But her happiness is soon compromised by a scandal that brings irrevocable consequences. Naomi has always tried to save the ones she loves, but part of growing up is learning that sometimes saving others is a matter of saving yourself.

An Uncommon Education is a compelling portrait of a quest for greatness and the grace of human limitations. Poignant and wise, it artfully captures the complicated ties of family, the bittersweet inevitability of loss, and the importance of learning to let go.

Publishing by Harper on May 1, 2012.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Outcasts United by Warren St. John


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John p. 168

"To tell you the truth, I didn't think you guys were going to come through today," Luma said finally. "But you played a beautiful game."

Luma is a very tough coach, but she's demanding because she has high expectations and wants these kids to succeed in life, not just in soccer.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John
When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? by George Carlin (audio)
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (I swear, I am making progress on this book! Just very, very slowly.)

Up next:
The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol
The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Review: The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow


I was, as most people, skeptical about a man writing about a friendship among women (or girls, as they were when they first met), but Mr. Zaslow really does pull it off! I was also skeptical that a group as large as 11 could really all be close friends, but in the end the girls convinced me of that as well (although it certainly isn't everyday.)

In the end, about half of the girls came alive for me, like Kelly and Karla and Marilyn, but others remained distant enigmas, like Diana and Jenny. Mr. Zaslow began the book with four chapters each about one girl (well, some of them were sort of about two girls, the main girl the chapter was about and the girl she was closest to), but then he abandoned that structure and most of the following chapters were more thematic, focusing on children, growing older, and mean girls. Personally, I wish he'd continued with his initial structure, covering all 11 girls (at least in pairs), and I wish there was a little more about their youth and teen years, and less on their adult years. Yes, their friendships have really influenced and molded their adult decisions and helped them face hard times, but I never fully understood how a group this large worked, how it held together, and how it worked within the larger community of their high school. I frequently found myself referring back to the page with three pictures of each girl and a brief description to remind myself, "now, who is Jane? Which one is Cathy?" I don't think it's any fault of Mr. Zaslow's, it was just an inevitable outcome with a subject so large and unwieldy.

I did enjoy the book very much. These women are exactly ten years older than me, so exactly the age of my cousin Mary Jo which helped me to always know what year it was and how old they were in certain situations. I liked the flashbacks to keggers in cornfields and the 70s music and pop stars, and the photos with Farrah Fawcett hair were priceless. For the most part the women seemed open and honest, but you could tell certain things were glossed over, and only one particularly ugly incident where the group turned on one of their own was noted, although there must have been others (albeit perhaps not as notable in their viciousness or long-lasting repercussions.) I got the feeling that while they did want to be honest with Mr. Zaslow, they did keep things relatively light, and there were certainly hints of deeper ugliness that weren't addressed, such as most of the group's disapproval of Kelly in recent years.

Being ten years younger, I was dismayed at not only the assumption that they would all marry and have children and jobs would be a second priority, but that even Cathy, the one who never married and hasn't had children, is presented a bit as lonely and wistfully wishing for what the other women have. Some of us aren't that maternal and we don't all need to be paired off right away and forever. While a couple of the women do divorce, they remarry right away, and I just got a vibe of disapproval about both Cathy and Kelly's paths, even though neither of them chose those paths, and they also aren't "wrong." But I think that's partly a generational issue. No one was disapproving at Karla's nearly immediate remarriage, which I personally found to be a much more questionable decision, even though it did work out.

Overall, this was an intriguing glimpse into a time and a place and eleven women whose lives were changed forever by knowing each other. Through tragedy and happiness, they always are there for each other and come together over the years to provide support, caring, and common history.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

Book Beginnings on Friday: The Girls from Ames



Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme originally hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages but now hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow

"At first they were just names to me.
Karla, Kelly, Mailyn, Jane, Jenny.
Karen, Cathy, Angela, Sally, Diana.
Sheila."

I rarely do more than one sentence for Book Beginnings, but this one just demanded it. We're starting off with our cast of characters which is good since there are so many of them!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Getting Your Foot in the Door: New York Editors Tell All on How to Get a Publishing Deal


I know I don't usually talk about my editorial business on my blog, but I have something fun and cool coming up that I thought would be pertinent. My colleague Betsy Thorpe and I have joined together to host our first Workshop for writers, and this one is called Getting Your Foot in the Door: New York Editors Tell All on How to Get a Publishing Deal.

I used to be an editor at St. Martin’s Press and Betsy has worked at Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and John Wiley and we will be telling writers what it takes to get noticed by agents and editors alike. We’ve seen thousands of book proposals, edited hundreds, and given many authors the offer of a publishing contract.

With our experience, find out:
• How to compose an effective elevator pitch
• How to write a query letter that will not be overlooked
• How to write your author bio and come up with a marketing plan
• How to research and land a literary agent
• What to expect if you get an offer from a publishing house

We will also provide an individual critique of your first 500 words and let you know how to best pitch your book.

Meet fellow writers and bond over this exciting process!

Enrollment is limited to 15. Price $250, 1:00-5:00PM, Saturday May 12th, snacks and beverages provided.

If interested, please email me at carin at cseditorial dot com. This is in Charlotte, North Carolina. Please let your writing friends in North Carolina know about it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

11 Books I Loved As a Kid—And Still Do

I saw a list of 11 beloved children's books on author Mariah Frederick's blog, and having just read an entire book about Judy Blume's novels, I felt compelled to come up with my own list. Mariah threw a wrench in the list formulating in my mind when she threw in Eloise to an otherwise middle grade/young adult list as I hadn't been thinking of picture books myself, so I'm not going to include them as then I'd need to list the 111 Books I Loved as a Kid. (And yes, I too am surprised to not find a Judy Blume book on the list, but Tiger Eyes only just didn't make the cut. It might have, had I reread it as an adult which I still hope to do.)

So here they are!

1. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder (The Little House Books)

I think this is my favorite of the Little House books (how much do I love the Little House Books? My youngest sister is named Laura, thanks to heavy lobbying from moi and middle sister.) I like that they are in one place for a while, that Laura is growing up, and I love the romance between Laura and Almanzo. Laura is becoming more mature and able to hold her tempter, but she doesn't lose any of her spunk and charm. I love how much she wants to help her family, especially her sister Mary, and works so incredibly hard in difficult circumstances with no thought of keeping the money for herself. She also struggles a little with growing up - part of Laura still wants to be a child and misses being a child, which you don't often see in coming of age stories.

2. Karen Kepplewhite is the World's Best Kisser by Eve Bunting

I bought this book from Weekly Reader in the heady days of young puberty, before my first kiss. It inspired me so much, I actually made a pair of knickers with a neighbor's help (actually, I think mostly she made the knickers) so I could even dress like Karen does at the party. I was utterly intrigued with the idea of a boy-girl party and kissing games, and at the time I felt that Karen Kepplewhite was the How To manual I was looking for, for teen success.

3. It's OK if You Don't Love Me by Norma Klein

I think this is my favorite Norma Klein book because I really identified with Jody. She's not one of those people who just goes around spouting off the first thing on her mind, but she's very truthful, even if the truth will hurt. This book was also nice as a non-New Yorker as Lyle was kind of like a tour-guide as he was new to the city himself. It was also a good one for a smart kid from the South to be reading over and over again about kids applying to Harvard and Yale, and then some like Jody deciding they'd rather go to Swarthmore, when my peers were mostly looking at state universities. Ms. Klein's books were filled with good examples of healthy sexual relationships, smart kids doing well, and occasional warnings of potential potholes to avoid (like ex-boyfriends). This book was so beloved a page of it is being held in only with paperclips.

4. Making Half Whole by Terry Wolfe Phelan

Yet another teen book about a potential life-threatening illness, although one (for once!) with a happy ending. What teenager isn't fascinated by twins? And I read this shortly before I switched from a small private school to a large public one, and Allison with her multiple moves (Navy brat) was an inspiration for how to get along in a new school, and a primer for how a large public high school worked (lockers, electives, changing classes). She also introduced me to eyebrow plucking, although her description of the pain meant I didn't actually try it for another 15 years.

5. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

At one point I owned 3 copies of this book. My edition is kind of held together with tape, the cover is half off, it was apparently soaked at some point, and it reminds me of the Velveteen Rabbit - this is a much, much loved book. Mr O'Dell is amazing in his ability to get inside the mind of a 12-year-old girl. While Karana is amazingly determined, capable, and resilient, he also shows how she can be vain and like pretty things. It is amazing he's able to write such a compelling book when over half of it has no dialogue and just involves one person. A beautiful and touching story of strength in the face of hardship, Karana's tale teaches and inspires.

6. Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary

This book probably should have been titled Ellen and Austine as it really is the story of their friendship. Austine is so loyal and indomitable, which of course makes the heartbreak of the fight and estrangement later in the book all the more wrenching. Ms. Cleary is just so amazing in her ability to understand a 3rd grader and how they think and how they behave. When Ellen and Austine's mothers make the two dresses, you rarely get that kind of story from the point of view of the girl with the nice dress, who has to battle feeling proud and pretty, with feeling guilty and badly for her friend. Now thanks to reading Ms. Cleary's awesome memoirs, I know that this book is her most autobiographical, which makes it all the sweeter. I always wished she'd written many more books about Ellen.

7. Tough-Luck Karen by Johanna Hurwitz

The main reason I had to add this book is that thanks to Karen, I got my own nickname "Carin." At one point Karen starts changing how she spells her name - hoping it'll lead to better grades (maybe "Karynn" is a better speller) and I saw how Carin fit my given name well, and as I'd always liked the name Karen, I decided I was going to be Carin from then on. I liked that Karen didn't do well in school but not because she was stupid or didn't try. And I really liked how she had other talents and skills, particularly baking, that showed she wasn't just a dud. And I learned how to pronounce "Poughkeepsie."

8. The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts

This one I have not reread as an adult. It is the story of Katie, a young girl with supernatural powers (telekinesis). I think all young kids go through a stage of wishing they had special powers - particularly if you could use those powers to clean your room instantly! And it had the added intrigue of the mysterious, possibly dangerous guy, and Katie trying to figure out why she's different. All children on the cusp of puberty feel they're different from everyone else (and that's a bad thing) so a book about a girl who's very different and yet her difference is something kids would want, can make them more open to uniqueness in themselves and others.

9. Jason and Marceline by Jerry Spinelli

This book is very true-to-life for what being a teenager is like. And for me (when I first read it) it had the added bonus of giving a glimpse into the frightening inner workings of the teenage boy brain. I remember so admiring Marceline for her independence, and her ability to truly not care what other kids thought about her. It's also nice for once to have the main character kids be the middle of the pack: neither the most popular, nor the nerds of the class. I appreciate that the book was all about the relationship between Jason and Marceline, not entirely a build-up to it as most books are (ending with the first kiss) as how relationships work is a lot of what kids this age are really curious about and need to understand.

10. Al(exandra) the Great by Constance C. Greene

This one is tricky. I did love the Al books when I was a kid (4 of them - I didn't know about Al's Blind Date), and I know this one was the most well-read, but I not only haven't reread them and no longer own them, but I can't find them! They're long out of print, out of circulation, and don't even have much information at all on Goodreads, so I really don't have specifics on this book. I remember our main character doesn't have a name in any of the books, which really blew my mind at the time (and made writing book reports difficult) and Al was quite a character! Very unique, kind of a tornado that blows her unnamed friend along with her, Al has an outsized amount of self-confidence, and the ability to usually stay positive, but sometimes her true anxieties do surface and you see the fear beneath the bravado.

11. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

A tragic, perfect, classic, guaranteed to make you cry. Not only does it teach children about dealing with death, but also about dealing with the guilt that often accompanies it. I reread this one about 15 years ago, when an ex-boyfriend was performing as Jesse in the play at Nashville Children's Theater. Beautifully written, touchingly told and brutally honest.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Crossing the Borders of Time


“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and a Love Reclaimed
by Leslie Maitland

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Leslie Maitland is an award-winning former New York Times investigative reporter whose mother and grandparents fled Germany in 1938 for France, where, as Jews, they spent four years as refugees, the last two under risk of Nazi deportation.

In 1942 they made it onto the last boat to escape France before the Germans sealed its harbors. Then, barred from entering the United States, they lived in Cuba for almost two years before emigrating to New York. This sweeping account of one family’s escape from the turmoil of war-torn Europe hangs upon the intimate and deeply personal story of Maitland’s mother’s passionate romance with a Catholic Frenchman. Separated by war and her family’s disapproval, the young lovers—Janine and Roland—lose each other for fifty years.

It is a testimony to both Maitland’s investigative skills and her devotion to her mother that she successfully traced the lost Roland and was able to reunite him with Janine. Unlike so many stories of love during wartime, theirs has a happy ending.

Publishing April 17, 2012 by Random House.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review: Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume edited by Jennifer O'Connell


I loved it! Anyone who read and loved Judy Blume books as a child and teen needs to read this book! It's a series of essays from Young Adult and Chick Lit authors about how certain Judy Blume books impacted their lives.

Because of that theme, one of my favorite of her books, Tiger Eyes, barely was mentioned at all, presumably because this group of women didn't lose anyone tragically in their teen years (thank goodness!) and the Fudge books got the short shrift too, but mostly my favorites were covered, along with a couple that were past my time (Rachel Robinson) and a couple that I just never read (Iggy's House, Then Again Maybe I Won't) but were certainly aware of. While there was diversity, I do wish there had been a bit more - I think the two books Are You There God It's Me Margaret and Deenie covered nearly half the essays. I was impressed that one of the essays was based on The Judy Blume Diary, and also one on Wifey. And I did like the diversity of topics even among essays on the same book. Different women identified with Margaret because of her religious confusion, because of the rift between her parents and her grandparents, and because of her moving to a new town and having to make new friends, not just the puberty stuff that gets all the press for Margaret. Similarly with Deenie some writers were drawn to her story because of the masturbation, because of the smart versus pretty dichotomy with Deenie and her sister set up by their mother, because she was a more average girl who'd never had expectations for herself and had to learn to be more. Some writers, upon rereading the books as adults, were surprised to find themselves identifying with the protagonists' mothers, and were surprised to find flawed, three-dimensional characters in those mothers, in just a few brush strokes.

What most of these writers come back to time and again is how Judy Blume is so beloved because she draw very real children and she didn't pull punches with the truth. In books like Deenie and Blubber, it would have been so easy for Ms. Blume to go with the stereotypes, but she most definitely does not. She also doesn't end the books with pat moral lessons - she frequently leaves issues open for interpretation or simply unresolved although not as much of a problem as they once were. Many lesser authors feel compelled to wrap stories up in a bow, and many people don't believe children and teens can interpret for themselves which brings me to the number one thing everyone loves about Ms. Blume and why she's been so beloved for decades - she trusts children and would never talk down to them. She's not demeaning or judgmental or high-handed in any way.

This quote really spoke to me: “As I look back over the other best friendships I've had that also ended, I wonder if, in addition to simply having a finite amount of time for such intimacy, we also have certain periods in our lives in which we seek out people who seem to embody the things we lack. Then, when we gain those things for ourselves, we no longer need that friend in the same way, which causes a serious dissonance in the relationship. Perhaps this is why these particular friendships burn so bright and then disappear so completely.” (Megan Crane "A Long Time Ago, We Used to be Friends") While I haven't read Just As Long As We're Together or Here's To You Rachel Robinson, I will be seeking them out at the library. Friendships are not only nearly the most important thing in your teen years, they certainly continue to be true later and this plainly shows how the lessons from Judy Blume books can follow us into adulthood, which is when we find out which friendships will last and which won't.

I can't imagine having had to navigate the tough years from 8-16 without Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, It's Not The End of the World, Are You There God It's Me Margaret, and Forever..., but luckily I don't have to. Even into adulthood I had Smart Women and Summer Sisters to keep me company. It's lovely to have so many smart and articulate women pinpoint all the perfect details that make Ms. Blume's works so seminal in young women's lives, and I hope one day to share the wonderful stories she tells with a new generation (my nieces.)

I borrowed this book from a friend.

Teaser Tuesdays: Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume edited by Jennifer O'Connell p. 63

"Reading Judy Blume taught me this lesson long before I would have to learn it for myself. You can't hold on to people."

I am loving this book! So many good lessons from Judy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk

My wonderful boyfriend got this book for me for Christmas, after hearing about it on NPR. I was worried it would be terribly dry, but it was a pretty interesting, fast read.

Today, people who are depressed are told to "snap out of it!" or go to a doctor and get on drugs. In Lincoln's day, melancholy was looked at romantically, as a sign of deep thinking and deeper feeling. Many great poets came out of his era, frequently lauded for their melancholy, and Lincoln himself loved poetry and occasionally tried his hand at it.

Mr. Shenk methodically explores the past theories and research and makes a good case for throwing out some old theories (that he stood up Mary Todd initially, that his heart was broken by a woman named Anna), and for backing up some other, less popular ones (he and Mary had a good marriage, considering). He explains the personalities and political leanings behind historians over the years who slanted their research and/or conclusions to suit their theories and wishes for Mr. Lincoln, and how history is not something that occurs in a vacuum. It is amazing the amount of materials (letters, poems, eyewitness accounts) left behind regarding Lincoln, and yet also amazing how much guesswork is still involved.

Lincoln's depression or melancholy made him a better president and a better human being. He was empathetic to an extreme degree, mostly pardoning deserters during the war, and writing heat-felt letters of sympathy to survivors. He had suffered tragedy frequently and early, losing his mother, his brother, and his son. His melancholy made him appreciative of his accomplishments and position, and made him open to others' opinions. It is sad that he suffered considerably, including a period in his early 20s when his depression was so severe and obvious that his friends arranged and sat up for a suicide watch. And yet, we are all fortunate recipients of the results of his depression, which made his disinclined to rule by fiat, punish the South, or impose strong-arm policies. (After his death the South was punished by his successors which created havoc, the consequences of which occasionally can still be seen today.)

Mr. Shenk doesn't get bogged down in minutia, nor does he get sidetracked from his primary thread. We don't hear much about certain things we might think, such as his failure with multiple generals and the bickering amongst his cabinet. You will learn a lot about Lincoln from this book, but not being a general biography, one might be surprised at certain events that are glossed over. It can be very reassuring to hear that Lincoln thought himself to be a complete failure just two years before his election as President, and lamented that he would be able to do nothing for history, while the name of Stephen Douglas would be remembered for all time, he thought. If a failed shopkeeper, twice defeated for Senate, can rise to such heights despite his great flaws, what can we accomplish if we set our minds to it?

I received this book as a gift.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr
Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk
Everything I Needed to Know about Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume edited by Jennifer O'Connell

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow

Up next:
Being Dead by Jim Crace
Sushi For Beginners by Marian Keyes
Hawaii by James A. Michener

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Beginnings on Friday: Lincoln's Melancholy


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme originally hosted by Katy from A Few More Pages but now hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk

"In early May 1860, a week before the Republican party held its national convention in Chicago, the delegates from Illinois met in Decatur, a small town in the center of the state."

Hmm, 1860 - I wonder who's going to be nominated?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

“Waiting On” Wednesday: City Of Scoundrels



“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

City Of Scoundrels: The 12 Days Of Disaster That Gave Birth To Modern Chicago by Gary Krist


Synopsis from Goodreads:
Documents the harrowing 12-day period in 1919 Chicago during which a blimp crash, a race riot, a crippling transit strike and a sensational child murder case challenged the city's modernization efforts. By the author of The White Cascade.

Publishing April 17, 2012 by Crown Publishing Group.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays: Lincoln's Melancholy


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk p. 69

"For some people, psychological health is a birthright. For many others, like Abraham Lincoln, it is the realization of great labor."

I think this book is great in showing how depression can actually be an asset, and also provide a very positive rold model for people prone to depression. Yes, for some people staying happy and sane takes effort.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review: The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr, narrated by Erik Davies


In the 1890s in France, a very disturbed young man killed man more people than Jack the Ripper, and it is surprising that we still know who Jack the Ripper is, but no one's heard of Joseph Vacher. Perhaps he could have been okay if he'd stayed in the army or if he'd been lucky in love, but it seems unlikely either would have happened, and that his disturbing behavior began early. But he didn't seem to completely lost control until Louise Barant, the young woman he became obsessed with rejected him (they never were in a relationship but he imagine they were). He tried to kill them both and did not succeed, but was placed in two insane asylums. He got out pretty quickly and soon began traveling the countryside as a vagabond, killing mostly teenage boys and girls (I was confused why they are called shepherds when they aren't herding sheep but are herding cows. I assume it's a translation issue.)

Meanwhile Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne has been revolutionizing the field of forensics. Methodical and creative, Lacassagne made many things that were formerly guesswork, into science. For instance, he had one of his graduate students do a study of bone lengths compared to a person's height, and the results were made into a very accurate chart that could give a height within a centimeter from just a single bone. He had worked on some renowned cases and wrote many definitive articles and books, and when followed, his techniques were terribly advanced. I had no idea that more than a hundred years ago, pathologists already knew about lividity and patikia and mostly about rigor mortis (their theories on why rigor mortis doesn't seem to affect the whole body at once were pretty amusing and thoroughly wrong as it does affect all muscles simultaneously.) Another Frenchman in a police department started keeping detailed records of not just appearance but also many measurements of the length and breadth of body parts, which helped immensely to identify criminals who, until then, could easily obscure their looks and go to another county and continue to commit crimes.

Luckily for the young boys and girls of rural France, Vacher was identified thanks to the cards of measurements and identifications. Prosecutor Emile Fourquet along with Lacassagne, helped prove Vacher was not only guilty of murder, but was sane and should be imprisoned, not returned to an asylum. This book was not really written as true crime - there's never any suspense, no worry about who the bad guy was or if he would be caught. It's much more of a history of forensics, using Vacher as a case study. I did find the chapters about Lacassagne to be the most fascinating, but Vacher is so sick and twisted that the other parts certainly aren't boring. I was irritated by the repeated incorrect use of the word "entitled" to mean "titled," but that's a minor error.

The audio is well read. With all the French names and geography, I was a little bit confused at times, but I don't know how much that would have improved with reading the printed version. Overall I enjoyed it okay. I wish I'd had longer blocks (like a road trip) to listen to it as it didn't go as well broken up into small bits over a couple of months.

This book is a part of the Audiosynced roundup of audio book reviews at Stacked and at Abby the Librarian. They alternate hosting the monthly post. The April roundup will be at Stacked.


I bought this book from Audible.com.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This meme is now hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

Books completed last week:
The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Lincoln's Melancholy: How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness by Joshua Wolf Shenk
The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science by Douglas Starr
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Up next:
Silent Witness by Richard North Patterson
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett
Woodsburner by John Pipkin