Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Beginnings: Happens Every Day

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme 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.

Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gillies

"One late August afternoon in our new house in Oberlin, Ohio, my husband, Josiah, took it upon himself to wallpaper the bathroom with pictures of our family."

While it might seem like a very caring, loving, family-reinforcing thing to do, in fact this was the beginning of the end. It's more like he did it out of guilt or desperation.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Gulp

“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:

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The irresistible, ever-curious, and always best-selling Mary Roach returns with a new adventure to the invisible realm we carry around inside.

“America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) takes us down the hatch on a unforgettable tour of our insides. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions inspired by our insides are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find names for flavors and smells? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? We meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks—or has the courage—to ask. And we go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a bacteria transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal.

Like all of Roach’s books, Gulp is as much about human beings as it is about human bodies.

Publishing April 1, 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: 38 Nooses

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!

38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End by Scott W. Berg p. 30

"Another shot, this one to his intestines, struck with enough force that Gleason was catapulted off the wagon. The Dakota who had not fired took hold of the panicked horses and spoke urgently to Sarah."

A panicking horse can kill you as easily as a bullet, so that second Dakota was not just very smart, but may have saved Sarah's life.

Book Review: 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End by Scott W. Berg

Last year I realized that my knowledge about Native American history was pathetically lacking and I felt I needed to do something to remedy that. When I heard about this book, it caught my attention immediately as a fascinating topic.

Little Crow and his Dakota were involved the The Dakota War in 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, and there is a direct line from this incident to Crazy Horse and the Indian success at Little Big Horn, followed a few years later by the Massacre at Wounded Knee, which was really the end of any Indian rebellions to speak of. Yet, I was completely unfamiliar with this Dakota War, although the name Little Crow was familiar.

A couple of very young men from Little Crow's tribe in Minnesota killed a family of farmers on the frontier, and they excited other teens and young Indians to join them on a bit of a rampage, pillaging, raping, and murdering. While Little Crow didn't want the whole tribe to get involved, he got pulled in, and he wasn't about to abandon his people. It didn't take a lot to incite the Dakotas, as the promised money from the U.S. Government was months overdue, which meant the Dakota were actually starving. When they tried to get one of the shopkeepers to extend more credit to them, for food, he said they could eat shit and grass. After he was killed, his body was found with his mouth stuffed full of grass. I had trouble feeling sorry for him. Although the rest of the settlers were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the killings were really a result of the Native Americans starting to get sick and tired of making treaties with the U.S. Government, that the U.S. apparently had no intention to uphold.

I found the background of Lincoln's involvement quite interesting. In 1786, his grandfather was killed by Indians, and his uncle Mordecai saved his father's life. That family history likely would have impacted anyone's feelings about Indians, justified or not. But Lincoln, ever the fair lawyer, did insist on reading over every single trial transcript from the 303 Indians who were convicted of murder and rape after the war. Has there ever been a war where the other side was later charged with murder? This whole story was bizarre. In the end, 38 Dakotas were hanged in the largest government-sanctioned execution in U.S. history.

The story was a little dry, but it read quickly and certainly had plenty of excitement and horror. Any American history buff ought to like this and we all ought to know more about this chapter in our country's history.

(On a side note, knowing about this war made Caroline Ingalls's fear of Indians in the Little House books more understandable, since this was recent history to them, and only one state away.)

I checked this book out of the library.

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner

Up next:
Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Book Review: The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden


I know my sisters and I loved this book as a child, but I didn't remember much about it. Upon rereading, I am baffled to think of how I might have possibly imagined a New York City subway station, having never been there, let alone Times Square! Luckily, with kids' active imaginations, those things are not usually limitations.

Chester Cricket got into a picnic basket in his home in Connecticut, and ended up accidentally hitching a ride into New York City. He manages to escape in the Times Square subway station, specifically at the shuttle that goes to Grand Central. He is adopted as a pet by Mario, the son of the owners of the newsstand at that stop, and befriended by Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat. They show him around and find him exotic foods and Mario travels to Chinatown to get him a pagoda especially made for crickets. And one day Chester discovers he has an amazing talent, which saves Mario's family's newsstand. Sadly, he also discovers he's really not a city cricket and needs to go back home.

This is a terrific story of friendship, including the surprising cat and mouse friendship, of trusting yourself, and of doing what you need to do for yourself, not for others. Beautifully illustrated by the masterful Garth Williams, I found myself showing the pictures to my boyfriend while I was reading. A charming and sweet portrayal of a city that is rarely either, but filled with charming and sweet creatures great and small, this is a wonderful classic that I hope continues to stand the test of time.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I bought this book from Scholastic Book Fairs.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Beginnings: 38 Nooses

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme 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.

38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End by Scott W. Berg

"On the bright May afternoon in 1786 when his family would be shattered and the course of his newborn country forever altered, Mordecai Lincoln was fifteen years old."

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln's father and uncles were involved in an Indian raid when they were children? Me either. Pretty fascinating.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Life After Life

“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:

Life After Life by Jill McCorkle

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Jill McCorkle’s first novel in seventeen years is alive with the daily triumphs and challenges of the residents and staff of Pine Haven Estates, a retirement facility, which is now home to a good many of Fulton, North Carolina’s older citizens. Among them, third-grade teacher Sadie Randolph, who has taught every child in town and believes we are all eight years old in our hearts; Stanley Stone, once Fulton’s most prominent lawyer, now feigning dementia to escape life with his son; Marge Walker, the town’s self-appointed conveyor of social status who keeps a scrapbook of every local murder and heinous crime; and Rachel Silverman, recently widowed, whose decision to leave her Massachusetts home and settle in Fulton is a mystery to everyone but her. C.J., the pierced and tattooed young mother who runs the beauty shop, and Joanna, the hospice volunteer who discovers that her path to a good life lies with helping folks achieve good deaths, are two of the staff on whom the residents depend.

McCorkle puts her finger on the pulse of every character’s strengths, weaknesses, and secrets. And, as she connects their lives through their present circumstances, their pasts, and, in some cases, through their deaths, she celebrates the blessings and wisdom of later life and infuses this remarkable novel with hope and laughter.

Publishing March 26, 2013 by Shannon Ravenel Books (Algonquin).

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: The Art of Fielding

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 Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach p. 37

"Owen didn't want anything from Coach Cox--not a starting job, or a better spot in the batting order, or even any advice--and so Coach Cox could afford to treat him as an equal. Much the same way, perhaps, that a priest appreciates his one agnostic parishioner, the one who doesn't want to be saved but keeps showing up for the stained glass and the singing."

Religion always seems to come up eventually in books or movies about baseball. But it's interesting that since Owen didn't want anything, he can be an equal to the coach. I understand that the coach can't punish or reward him, but that's different than being an equal.

Book Review: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

I did not want to read this book. Yes, it got great reviews from all the right places, but something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. I just got the pretentious, overhyped vibe from it. I considered it, but then I got one look at the length (528 pages!) and was even more sure that my original knee-jerk reaction was right. Then my book club picked it.

And thank God they did because I adored it!

Henry Skrimshander is a young baseball phenom at Westish College, more than ably coached by a senior, Mike Schwartz, who discovered him in the first place. Just as Henry is coming into his own, there's a bad accident involving Henry's roommate, and Henry loses his confidence. Without baseball, who is he? And Mike's future is also crashing down around his ears, complicated by Pella Affenlight, the president's rebellious daughter who has suddenly returned after a very young and misguided marriage.

It's been a while since I've read a book set at a college and I'm reminded how much I love these when they're done well. Mr. Harbach perfectly captures the small college feel. And Henry is such an endearing character. He's a bit of an archetype, but in a good way. Mike is even more endearing because unlike Henry, he has no natural talent, except a talent for working insanely hard, and knowing how to get the very best out of people. Pella's character is intriguing because it's one we don't often see - a reformed rebel. She ran off with the much older teacher when she was only 18, in fact she didn't even finish high school, but now she's seeing the error of her youthful impulses and is unsteadily moving to put her life back on track. There's also Owen, Henry's roommate, and Guert, the college principal and Pella's father, and a cast of characters on the baseball team.

I occasionally laughed out loud with the humor! I feel like I could walk around Westish and know where I was. You don't have to know anything about baseball to enjoy this book. The characters are the key, and the characters are fantastic. When I got 100 pages in, I was so in love with the book, that I was thrilled I still had 400+ pages to go. And yet, it was a fast read for the length. I am thinking that even though it's so early in the year, this book is going to be a contender for my favorite book of the year. Every time I think back on it, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling and I catch myself smiling. Go read it, now.

I got this book at a WNBA Book Swap event.

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Getting In by Karen Stabiner

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst

Up next:
The Leopard by Jo Nesbø
Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Beginnings: The Art of Fielding

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme 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 Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

"Schwartz didn't notice the kid during the game."

This book is about three things: Henry (the kid), Mike (Schwartz) and baseball (the game) so in some ways even if this is a quiet, unassuming sentence, it's also a perfect introduction.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ten Best Books I Never Read

Over at the New Dork Review of Books, Greg was inspired by a Jimmy Kimmel list of the best movies he's never seen, to post a list of the best books he's never read, and I thought that was a pretty cool idea I would do too. Some of these books intimidate me, some I don't like their reputations, and for others I don't like the authors personally. Are any of these favorites of yours? Should I reconsider?


1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy -- This one I still might read one day. We'll see. It's the only likely one on the list.
2. Ulysses by James Joyce -- I read Portrait of the Artist in college and that was painful enough at half the size. No thanks.
3. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville -- I have read and hated at least three Melville novellas, and from what I've heard in this one he just tells you that now that he's got you into the story, he's going to change the subject and talk about something irrelevant for a chapter or two.
4. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez -- Couldn't get through One Hundred Years of Solitude. Don't like magical realism. Sorry, but this one just isn't going to get read.
5. All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy -- This book just reeks of misogynism and all things manly. Thanks, but if I'm in the mood for that I'll read another Hemingway.
6. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger -- Tried twice to read this but couldn't get past twenty pages. Didn't feel the least bit sorry for the whiny little brat and wanted him to just grow up.
7. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen -- Too good for Oprah, means he's too good for me, too.
8. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace -- Have you seen the size of this book? I'm sure it's great and I've heard wonderful things about Mr. Wallace, but have you seen the size of this book? I'm no sissy (last year I read Lonesome Dove and the year before, Shogun!) but that looks like it would break my wrists just to hold it.
9. On the Road by Jack Kerouac -- Pretentious drug-taking isn't improved by good writing, in my opinion. I could be wrong though, since I haven't read it.
10. White Teeth by Zadie Smith -- I have seen Ms. Smith in person a couple of times and was shocked at how snobby and put-out she was by having to be in the same room with riff-raff. I will spare her the insult of someone never featured in a monthly magazine touching her book.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Heart Like Mine

“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:

Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When a young mother dies under mysterious circumstances, those she leaves behind begin looking for answers in the past—and find a long-buried secret they could have never imagined.Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?

At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been the one taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again.

But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.

Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant and hopeful portrait about womanhood, love, and the challenges of family life.

Publishing March 19, 2013 by Washington Square Press.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: How It All Began by Penelope Lively

The entire premise of this novel is that one small event can lead to large changes in many peoples' lives, some of them who don't even know about the original incident (and yes, they do mention the butterfly in the rainforest theory.)

Charlotte is mugged and her hip is badly injured. That means her daughter has to take a day off from her work as the assistant to an elderly academic, and so his niece has to accompany him on a trip. Which means she sends a text to her lover which his wife sees, leading them to separate, and so on. By the end of the book, loves will be won and lost, relationships will be created and sundered, careers will be affected, and it all happened because of the mugging.

The book is a short, sweet read, with engaging characters and a lot of events. That said, it was a little lightweight and fluffy. It was nice read which I thoroughly enjoyed, but it didn't really stick with me. But that's not a terrible thing. In fact, I bet I will recommend this book to people. It's sharply written without a spare word, masterfully plotted, but the reader never really gets inside the skin of any of the characters (perhaps because there are so many of them) so you're always at a remove. But it's a thoroughly pleasant and diverting novel.

I bought this book at my local independent bookstore.

Teaser Tuesdays: How it All Began

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!

How it All Began by Penelope Lively p. 28

"Henry has lived in London for years, or rather, he has existed on a particular one of London's planes. He lives in his white stucco house in an expensive postcode, and goes forth to his club in Pall Mall, to Wiltons or Rules, to Covent Garden (a couple of times a year), to the Royal Academy and the Tate and the British Library and the British Museum."

I know exactly what she means. After college I dated a guy who was from the north side of town and I was shocked to discover that the city I had lived in my entire life and thought I knew like the back of my hand, was only half the city. I'd never gone north or east and had simply ignored that those parts of town existed.

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End by Scott W. Berg
Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis (audio)

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Getting In by Karen Stabiner

Up next:
1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, The Horse That Inspired a Nation by Elizabeth Letts
The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick

Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis, narrated by John Lee and Lorna Raver

I listened to this audio because I thought that it would be a good one for my boyfriend and I try listen to together on a long car trip, since in college he studied ancient Greece and Rome. He, however didn't like it. I will agree with him that the Introduction was overly long and explained things a bit too much about how the book was structured and all, but he didn't have the stamina to get past that to the meat of the book. Which he likely still wouldn't have liked, but I enjoyed immensely.

I really love knowing tons of useless facts, and a big-picture overview of a topic is a great way to know a little bit about a lot of things. For the Greece and Rome section, understandably the longest, it was mostly a review, as well as the Middle Eastern myths related to the Old Testament, but pretty much everything else was all new, although with some bits I did already know about like Gilgamesh in the Mesopotamian section, and the story of Siegfried (naturally!) in the Norse section (although to my dismay, he didn't call him Siegfried, because it was from the Norse, not German, point of view, but Sigfrud was close enough.) It was neat to see certain trends and stories repeat themselves across different cultures and great distances, like a flood myth which almost every culture has, and trickster gods which occur across the Pacific from China to North America to New Zealand. I could have used a little less of the straight-up history, as I didn't think things like that Australia was colonized to become Britain's biggest penal colony, actually had anything to do with the Aboriginal myths, and the book was already chock-a-block full of facts that I was having trouble retaining.

That said, I did very much enjoy it, and I think I will check out another Don't Know Much About book. The narration was just fine, although I am baffled as to why the narrator was British, yet the book was written from a distinctly American point of view, using American cultural reference points, occasional American slang, and a Brit didn't add anything to the narration. I liked that the "Mythic voices" sidebars were narrated by a different narrator, as it helped keep things straight. Neither lists of gods and goddesses, nor timelines, translate terrifically well to audio, but they weren't bad as presented here. Plus I often will skim those in books (if not outright skip) and I probably shouldn't, so it's kind of nice that in an audio you can't easily skim those parts. Thoroughly diverting.

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.

I checked this book out of the library.

Book Beginnings: How it All Began


Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme 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.


How it All Began by Penelope Lively

"The pavement rises up and hits her."

Isn't that funny how when you fall, it often seems more like the ground hit you than the other way around? I think it has to do with the speed that it happens.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Is Time Always Good to Good Books?

I recently saw a headline: "Time Is Always Good to Good Books," and after hearing about a guy who's going to be reading the bestselling book of the year for all of the last 100 years, I seriously questioned the first statement. After all, it's not a bad assumption that the bestselling books would stand the test of time, and yet have they? Have you heard of The Eyes of the World by Harold Bell Wright, If Winter Comes by A.S.M. Hutchinson, Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton, or Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen? No? Me either. (And that last one was the bestselling book of the year for two years in a row!) Sadly, I don't think all books stand the test of time.

I read Peyton Place by Grace Metalious a couple of years ago, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, it's ability to shock was completely gone, and not just because I was prepared for shocking things. Times and mores have moved on but Peyton Place stands still in time.

Exodus by Leon Uris was dense and slow moving and very political for a novel. I don't know that it would be as popular with today's disappearing attention spans.

Wifey by Judy Blume was very much of its time, with sexual experimentation and fantasies that are pretty amusing these days. Not because they're tame, but because they were trying to say that to be fulfilled you must give in and be open to your wildest fantasies, and I think these days we pretty much think that's a bit too much. Ditto for Fear of Flying by Erica Jong which is equally dated for the same reasons. Sexual freedom isn't the only thing holding women back.

Kramer vs. Kramer by Avery Corman - this book actually was excellent, but the writing style is very out of style now - it's entirely told in passive voice, using no quotation marks, as if our narrator is a step removed from the events. It was awkward to read even though I loved the story itself.

I definitely think some books that are excellent and popular and read widely will fade in time. Some due to dated content, some to dated style, but not all great books stand the test of time. Not all of these I listed here are "great," but I think an argument can be made for all of them that they are very, very good, but have dropped out of the public zeitgeist. I wonder what current popular books will disappear in the next twenty years or so? I know which ones I hope will, but I wonder which ones readers a century from now will find bizarre. Do you have any ideas which books are too current to last?

“Waiting On” Wednesday: The Astor Orphan

“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:

The Astor Orphan: A Memoir by Alexandra Aldrich

Synopsis from Goodreads:
AN ASTOR DESCENDANT,
RICH ONLY IN NAME AND HISTORY . . .

The Astor Orphan is an unflinching memoir by a direct descendant of John Jacob Astor, Alexandra Aldrich.

She brilliantly tells the story of her eccentric, fractured family; her 1980s childhood of bohemian neglect in the squalid attic of Rokeby, the family's Hudson Valley Mansion; and her brave escape from the clan. Aldrich reaches back to the Gilded Age when the Astor legacy began to come undone, leaving the Aldrich branch of the family penniless and squabbling over what was left. Mordantly funny, sometimes shocking, it's a dazzling debut set amid the ruins of a once prominent family.

Publishing April 16, 2013 by Ecco.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: Sybil Exposed

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!

Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan p. 27

"When she returned to school Connie chose psychiatry as her specialty, and she became fascinated by patients with hysteria: girls and young women who twitched, grimaced, lost their sight, fainted, forgot how to walk, and had pains for no reason that doctors could detect. Connie, too, had suffered from symptoms that her male doctors could neither see nor measure."

Connie, soon to be Dr. Wilbur and treating "Sybil," had suffered from Graves' disease, which at the time doctors thought was a result of "extreme dependence on the mother" and fear of "assuming the maternal role." Of course they also thought diabetes was due to poor mothering. It's really hard at times in this book not to think these doctors were idiots, or only one step removed from believing in humors. Thank goodness we've come a long way in the last eighty years.

Book Review: Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan

I admit, I watched the old Sally Field movie of Sybil as a rerun at some point. I was sucked in by the melodrama, the trauma, the spectacle of it all. This poor woman had been tortured as a child by her sadistic mother and had fractured into multiple personalities to deal with the psychological damage done to her. Or had she?

Ms. Nathan stumbled into the archives of Flora Schreiber, the writer who penned the shocking story of "Sybil," or Shirley Mason and her psychiatrist, Dr. Connie Wilbur and what she found was both astonishing and predictable -- this story WAS too shocking to be true. It was pretty much fiction. But who was the liar? Flora, Shirley, or Connie?

After The Three Faces of Eve, Connie had become fascinated with the concept of multiple personality disorders, even though in the 200 years prior to her coming on the scene, there were only 200 cases documented. Shirley was a sad, lonely, mixed-up girl with some health issues that led to her being diagnosed with "neurosis" (although most of them could be explained medically from her persistent anemia) who clung to her psychiatrist and wanted to see more and more of her, even though she couldn't afford it. Did Shirley consciously know she was lying when she began telling stories of her "alters?" Did Connie persuade her to tell the story by her leading questions and injections of barbituates including Pentothal (aka "truth syrum") which makes patients highly suggestible? Did Flora embellish when she found the truth lacking and Connie and Shirley questionable? All are true to some degree, and these three women unintentionally caused a craze around the now-discredited diagnosis of MPD. (I read a book titled When Rabbit Howls back in the late 80s that was another MPD "memoir" which was one of dozens capitalizing on the popularity.)

How these women came to find themselves in this situation, how they came to make the decisions they did, and how the notoriety played out in their subsequent lives is a bizarre and captivating story. Ms. Nathan has done her research and she knows how to write. These women aren't especially likable but she makes them come alive. She explores the culture of the time and how it influenced their behaviors. In a time when psychiatrists and medical doctors thought bad mothering caused everything from Graves' disease to diabetes,  this outcome was nearly inevitable.

I bought this book at B&N.

Monday, March 4, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Older Men by Norma Klein
Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gillies

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth C. Davis
38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End by Scott W. Berg

Up next:
Open: Inside the Ropes at Bethpage Black by John Feinstein
The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Review: Older Men by Norma Klein


Elise's father loves little girls. Elise is the apple of her father's eye. He adores her. He takes her into Manhattan, buys her gifts, and dotes on her. His relationship with Elise is so important, it is exclusive of all others, including her mother. Her mother, already a delicate and quiet woman, has been relegated more and more into the shadows until her depression overwhelms her and her husband has her committed to a mental hospital.

When Elise graduates from high school, a few weeks later, she surprises everyone by deciding she'd rather spend the summer at her grandmother's apartment in New York City than stay with her father in Connecticut. In New York, she finds a job at a bookstore where she eventually meets Kara, her father's step-daughter from his first marriage. Elise has always heard how Kara was a lovely girl until she went to college and became "difficult," but the Kara she meets seems terrific. Yes, she is getting divorced from a much older man and she now acknowledges that was a bad case of a daddy complex, but she's moving on and no one understand Elise better. With Kara, and Kara's brother Tim, Elise starts to understand the feelings of ickiness she's been having around her father lately are normal and it's healthy for her to want to stand up for herself and be independent. She also understands that even if it means her father will turn against her, as he did with Kara, it's a price worth paying for keeping your self-esteem and being an adult.

Now Ms. Klein does a truly masterful job of making the relationship between Elise and her father just on the border of inappropriate. It's inappropriate how much he values his daughter over his wife, how he involves Elise in his marital difficulties, and how he wants Elise to stay a little girl forever, but you never get the feeling that he would abuse her. It's a fine line to straddle, but she does. And this is unique in Ms. Klein's world too, as most of her parents are pretty decent parents, is a little lax and self-involved; but Elise's father is a pretty terrible father, although he would say he's an excellent one. Yes, Elise has gotten everything she's ever wished for, but at what cost? Her mother is a simpering, sniveling waste who never stands up for herself until it is almost too late. She does redeem herself in the end.

This book's plot is more complicated, somewhat more dark, and Elise goes through more changes than any other of Ms. Klein's protagonists. I thought because Elise is a little younger (16) and the book is shorter, that it might be appropriate for younger teens, but I'm very glad I reread it as the content itself with her creepy father and depressed mother is very heavy, not to mention she does have sex. But as usual, Ms. Klein handles tricky and uncomfortable situations with aplomb and delicacy. Elise does learn to stand up for herself, but also to be true to herself. Her situation doesn't miraculous reverse itself overnight, and yes, some parts will not end well, but the important thing is that we and Elise realize Elise is strong enough to handle what difficulties may come her way. I think that usually is the key note in a young adult novel - all the plots may be different, but the commonality is learning who you are, and learning to stand up for yourself.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

This is a reread from my personal collection.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Book Beginnings: Sybil Exposed

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme 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.

Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan

"'What about Mamma?' the woman psychiatrist asks her patient, another woman, who is lying on a divan in the early 1960s."

That's pretty much the picture in my head of "Sybil's" therapy sessions, even before I read the sentence, so it's nice to have that reinforced.