Little Black Apron

Do you remember  that post in which I wrote about cookbooks? I do. I never bought any of them, though. I haven’t even purchased a cook book until today.  Borders was having a huge sale, with boxes upon boxes of books for 3.99. Sounds like my kind of deal, I  thought. I picked up a few new reads, along with  The Little Black Apron.

At first I was basking in all its Little Black glory, because it is a cookbook aimed at single young nothings who don’t know how to boil eggs. Thank you, powers that be! You’ve been watching! I am a bit hesitant to admit that I don’t know how to do much if it doesn’t require a microwave, but this book was written because I’m obviously not the only one. Oh, sure, I watch The Food Network and watch all the wonderful things that are made, but I don’t even know where to begin making them on my own! The closest I get is my brave little toaster.

I got it home, and opened it. (Why didn’t I think of this before I bought it?!) There they were, those terrifying eighteen-word titles. If you’ve ever looked at a cook book, you know what I mean. I was seeing things like “carrot and tortise shell flambe with garlic potatoes and glazed, grilled tofu”. What about the basics? What about boiling eggs? Where is that cookbook? Even after reading the first two chapters, I felt bad. No, I don’t know how to broil, and I vaguely remember my Home Ec teacher mentioning that there are two different measuring systems for wet and dry ingredients but… that can’t be important, can it? Around page 14 the book compared cooking to sex, and I liked the book a little more.

Before I continue, I feel that I should mention that fear has not stopped me from playing in the kitchen! I make fantastic (edible!) banana bread… then I lost the recipie.  There was the failed cupcakes in 8th grade, the failed Nestle Tollhouse cookies my Sophmore year, my delicious caramelized banana’s  something or other (great over ice cream), my failed break-and-bake cookies (3 attemps), and the Great Failcake of 09. So I’m no good at baking. Or keeping track of recipies. Please don’t think less of me for it.

After perusing the pages for an hour or so, I have realized that these recipes are practical! I can do this! All it takes is a timer, a little virgin olive oil, and no fear. I can’t wait to use this book. I am so inspired by this I’m going to try a little something tonight. To whet your appetites, dear reader, here is a simple little recipe pulled right off of the website.

Try serving it with roasted asparagus (toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for 12 minutes) and whole wheat cous cous.

Seared Sea Bass with Creamy Lemon-Herb Sauce
serves 4

1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1/4 cup low-fat mayo
1 small shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
juice of 1/4 lemon
1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons basil, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chives, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tarragon, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
water
extra light extra virgin olive oil
4 sea bass filets, about 4-6 ounces each

1. To make the dressing: combine sour cream, mayo, shallot, lemon juice, parsley, basil chives, tarragon, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend until herbs are very finely chopped. It will be thick at this point so add about a tablespoon or so of water and blend. It should be thin enough to drizzle but not too watery.

2. Remove the fish from the fridge about 20 minutes before cooking it.

3. Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat and add oil. While the pan heats up, season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. When the oil begins to smoke add the fish to the pan. Let it sear about 4 minutes, then flip and continue cooking another 4-5 minutes. The fish should be flakey but not dried out.

4. Serve fish with a dollop of sauce on top.

Published in: on May 4, 2009 at 6:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Losing Steam

Steam (56/365), originally uploaded by Brian Gudas Photography.

My most recent trip to the library yielded a double-digit late fee – which makes me believe I’m a repeat offender on their Most Wanted List – and a new stack of books. Almost a dozen, actually. That night I took from the top of the stack and began Not Tonight Honey, Wait ’til I’m a Size Six by Susan Reinhardt which was hailed as “the southern belle’s answer to Dave Sedaris” (Karin Gillespie). I don’t know why that enticed me, since I don’t much like Dave Sedaris, but we’ll get to him later…

So, I was excited for this book. After reading a few pages I got even more anxious to devour the text. I knew it would be great since I found this gem of wisdom on page two: “Beautiful women are a dime a dozen, you’ve got to be much more than that.” I got my hopes up and read a hundred pages.

Readers, I went to bed sorely disappointed. Yes, Susan Reinhardt is a true southern belle, and Not Tonight Honey is a book of cute short stories involving her mother, her family and a colorful cast of characters… but  she writes about things I know nothing about; overbearing mothers, running a household, Georgia, and old people. I just don’t get it, and I’m not sorry for that. It isn’t where my life is right now and I don’t think I “get” southern humor anyway.

I put the cover quote up to a challenge and, with a bot abhorrence, picked up that Dave Sedaris novel Dress Your Family in Courderoy and Denim. I was not disappointed. By that I mean I was disappointed. To reiterate, I didn’t have a high opinion of Mr. Sedaris before I picked up his book, and I still don’t. They both write from worlds that I have never encountered, and they write poorly at that.

Okay, maybe I’m being a snob.  But I’m a snob with better books to read. Besides, I don’t consider it a complete waste of my time: I got a good quote out of it.

Published in: on April 26, 2009 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

False Starts and Misappropriation

Elevator Love Letter, originally uploaded by Atomic Citrocity.

Dear Blog;

The only way I can think to start this is by saying I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you. I have no excuses. I really don’t. The thing is, things have been really rough lately, and I’ve been unfair to you. You’ve always been there for me, and i feel like I’ve re payed you by walking away. I know I’ve said that we can work this out and I just need time, nothing is wrong, its just a funk… all that stuff. But its more than that. It’s a lot more. I’ve always had a lot of fun with you, and you’ve taken me to places I’ve never been, but…

Books just don’t do it for me anymore.
It’s not normal, and it’s not me. We both know that. I don’t know whats going on. I pick one up, I read eight pages and I’m bored. I’m not tired, I’m not relaxed and I can’t wait to get out of that chair. Reading isn’t fun anymore, but not reading feels bad, too. I guess what I’m saying is that I want to work this out, and I need your help.

Maybe I haven’t found the right one. I’ve been fooling around with a lot of graphic novels, knitting books and online articles that don’t need my full attention, then trying to sit down and get into heavy political or spiritual texts. Maybe I’m going about this all wrong. I really want to work on this, because I think we have something great going for us. I’ll start making an effort, because this is something I need to fix. I know this. I’m going to start making you a priority. You have my word as a bookworm.

yours, NovelDame

Published in: on April 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

No Harm Done

I was recently informed that my dearest friend, let’s call her Miss Sousa, as in a sousaphone, has never visited Pages Turned. Truth is, this bothers me not in the least. That’s the funny thing about being close with other book lovers – books are never mentioned. I am reminded of a piece in a previous piece in which it is said that a best friend shouldn’t ever tell a girl that she hates the other’s favorite novel. It is an unspoken rule, and to ignore it is to put your very life in danger. That being said, I am thankful that Miss Sousa and I have read only a dozen of the same books. We rarely discussed them or their authors or anything of the sort. Neither of us avoid it, but (and I hope she agrees with me on this) I don’t feel the need to educate her on the joys of reading or anything of the sort, unlike other company I’ve kept. The closest we get to such discussions are short little wisps of conversation. “Have you read this?” she asks. Why yes, I say with a smile, or, no, should I? I ask, making a mental note. Then I file it away in my endless mental book list, to let the idea get dusty and maybe be remembered, maybe. It’s a rare occasion when I actually pick up something after it has been mentioned, and I’m mostly sorry for this (but my budget isn’t).

She brings out the fidgety old bat in me…ah, well. Does it wound my pride that the only other person in my life who could possibly understand my lust for Atticus Fitch has not read a single word I write? Not one bit, dear reader. Miss Sousa is better off not having to put up with my rants more than she has to. We share very little actually, be it fashions, ideas or genres. She is what balances me.

During nights like this when my mind flits about, collecting thoughts to paste on this page, I think ridiculous things that I believe wholeheartedly – until the sun comes up. Perhaps friendship is the real marriage, and the friend a real soul mate. Maybe this husband and wife thing is just a necessary companionship a step above a personal secretary so we all have someone else to complain to about the love of our lives, our best friend. And this bunkmate with a ring is there to feign interest, if that… there to meet our needs, fills our time until Tuesday coffee when we can be our true self with someone who will buy cheesecake for our birthday and “help” us weed out the needless bits in our book collection. That’s love.


Published in: on February 22, 2009 at 5:40 pm  Comments (2)  

Inheritance


Last night was full of surprises for me. Not only did I discover that it would be in my best interest to invest in a fourthbookshelf (go figure), but I had a wonderful discussion with my father:

“Dad, help me.”
“With what?”
“I need an accurate list of previous addresses for my records.”

We sat and went through all the places I have lived for the last ten years. On average, my father and I have lived in a single residence for a year. Meaning once every 11 months we pack up everything we own, move, and unpack again. Needless to say, moving is a science to me and I use it as a platform for my spring cleaning.

That being said, I have seen many things come and go, but not once have either of us (my father and I) questioned why we pack boxes, trunks and dresser drawers full of hundreds of books and haul them across town again and again like clockwork. Never have we paused to say “I have never read this” or such silly things like “this is very outdated”  or question why we have several volumes of haphazard Shakespeare compilations.

In the eyes of foreigners (those not accustomed to our ways) this might seem absurd. They might see the eighteen bibles and the six F. Scott Fitzgerald novels and three copies of The Taming of the Shrew and not understand our ways of being. Perhaps these novels will never be touched. Perhaps they will be passed down or well loved or damanged in a flood.  Their fate matters not.

What really matters here, friends, is that of all the furniture, clothes, hobbies, and knick-knacks to pass through our Gypsy Lives, the books have remained. Most of them are dusty, worn, HEAVY and generally not easy on the eyes, but they’re almost a currency… a measure of value. Yes, our couch is hideous, but we have every classic novel you can dream of.  No, the carpet doesn’t always get vacuumed, but my dictionary is well-thumbed.  See? pencil marks in the margins. Scraps of colored paper mark long-forgotten crusades and note cards call out to mysterious root words. Ignore the family photos, these are the real treasures.

Come one, come all! My family history is in these books, somewhere. Can you not taste it in the air? I do. With every glance at the embossed titles, every snap of a turned page, I am reminded of my past, my future. Like these books, life may not look too neat to start with. I may come out of this dirty, worse for wear, maybe even dog-eared, but boy will I have a story to tell.

Published in: on February 7, 2009 at 5:33 pm  Comments (2)  

Do As You’re Told


early summer road, originally uploaded by straightfinder.

My Fairy Godmother is at it again this week, keeping me on track. The only thing holding me back is the fact that 2009 is not off to a good start, as far as reading goes. I think that, according to my reading log, I have finished one book.

In five weeks, I have finished one book. Oy vey. And as expected, the To-Read Shelf has bore fruit and started a To-Read Colony in the shelf below. Oh dear… Did I mention I hit the library yesterday?

Sometimes I really think there is no hope for me, and then I am reminded of why I go to the library: its my version of Retail Therapy. Some women get a rush from picking up a new sweater (don’t get me started on my knitting problems) or a dozen pairs of shoes. Me, I go to the local library and fill my bag, and my arms, and consider “just one more” knowing full well I will never open half of them, and the other half will become overdue in two weeks. Then I check out and leave with twenty books I have never read  before and am thrilled by all the adventures that I hold in my hands, and the prospect of finding another character to love.

I love reading.  I genuinely love it. Sometimes I forget that. Especially when I’m looking at that same stack of books three days later thinking such terrible things as “why did I pick this up?”  “There is no way I can read all these.” and, my favorite  “I don’t remember leaving with this many.”

Meanwhile, the shopaholic down the street is sweating this month’s credit card bill, and I’m pondering why the Library would give people a 99-book limit if they don’t recommend getting beyond ten. Imagine getting 99 books from the library. Just imagine.

Where would they go? How would you get them out of there? What does this say about one’s sanity?

This is what I do when I should be reading. Au Revoir, dearest. Down the road I go.

Published in: on February 6, 2009 at 2:34 pm  Comments (1)  

They Remain in the Shadows

 

Mohawk, originally uploaded by lib-lab.

Since I got to take a glance at my reading list, I present you with a list from the list.

Honorable Mentions of 2008:

Colleges That Change Lives, Loren Pope
         
I adore this book simply because it was such a great reference. It is well organized, informative and brutally honest. You really get to figure out if a college is right for you or not. Note: Pick this up when you’re a junior, because EVERYONE will be trying to get into these colleges.

Sexing the Cherry, Jeanette Winterson
          I got the chance to read this right before I graduated, and it is the weirdest book I’ve ever read, and one of the most memorable. If you really want to get out of your head and just dive into a book, This is for you. Then spend weeks reading interpretations on it, and find all the allusions… its deep. And pay attention to the pictures in it, they say a lot.

The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul, Douglas Adams
          Its Douglas Adams, people. There’s Norse Gods, and a Holistic Detective, and british humor. I recommend reading it right after Sexing the Cherry.

The Private Albert Einstein, Peter S. Bucky
          This really sheds a lot of light on Einstein’s actual life, rather than what he’s memorable for. It goes beyond hours of equations and into his hobbies, letters he wrote, his habits, even his laugh. It paint Einstein to be the kind of guy you want as your Grandfather or your best friend. My favorite fact: He loved sailing for most of his life but couldn’t swim a stroke.

Candy Girl, Diablo Cody
          This threw me off in a big way. Its written by the gal who write Juno, and she becomes a stripper. A) to see if the can, B) because she’s bored with her day job. Honestly. Its a really interesting book, but she holds nothing back. Its not presented in a trashy way, its just truth. A good read, but only for those with a brave stomach. She meets some really strange folks…

Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
         
I’m a knitter, too. I’m a Reader, and I’m a knitter. This is the most amazing book I’ve ever come across. Its funny, if you’re a knitter. If you’re not, don’t bother; you just won’t get it. Its not to exclude you or anything, you just have to be a certain breed of batty to get jokes about wool.

 

 

 

          That’s it. That’s All, folks. Thats really it… the rest weren’t that great, or are getting an entry all their own. Ok, you’re done.            That means go home.   now.

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 4:12 pm  Comments (2)  

“Some” Is Not Enough

 

The best days are not planned, originally uploaded by Marcus Hansson.

I’m not looking forward to going home after work today, because I know I have a grim job ahead.

          I have a sad, sorry tale to tell, dear readers. My wonderful father and I have just moved into a wonderful little house, and it has been my job to turn it into a wonderful little home. So far, so good. But I encountered a problem last night: I had filled the bookshelves, and still had stacks of books left on the floor. Well, obviously, there’s not enough bookshelf. I called my father over to observe this phenomenon.

          “Lets make room,” he parrots. My first thought was  lets get rid of his books then. Logical, yes? I’m afraid I don’t like his books nearly as much as I like mine. We managed to weed out two dozen, but fifteen of those were from stacks that were still on the floor (We are bad at this). Then I brought up that we can take them to the used book store, get credit, and come home with some that we’ve been meaning to get. he liked that idea (we are very bad at this). The grim job ahead is the act of getting rid of books, and I can’t getrid of books. No. We will not have that in my house.  So I thought that I’d be sneaky, and do the NovelDame version of sending the children away for the weekend: I decided to send some of my favorites away with a trusted book lover (trusted, because she brings them back). So I sat and pondered. What has she read? What do I think she would enjoy? I came away with three books. Three rather skinny, measly, willowy books. Not because I didn’t fond any she would enjoy but because the majority of MY books on the shelves were. . . unread. (See The Infamous To-Read Shelf from March)

          Well, at this point I had to figure out why that was. I took inventory: I had started precisely THIRTY of the books without committing to finishing, knowing full well that they really are worth finishing. That can’t be right… here I am, looking at my reading log for 2008, and out of the 45 books I’ve read this year, six have been my own personal novels. Six. Suddenly, that To-Read BOOKSHELF is looking very logical.

          Be warned, ye hearty readers: The perils of To-Read thinking are treacherous! It goes from a stack (2-3 books) to a pile (4-9) to taking up a whole shelf (10-30) to a whole bookcase. That still astounds me! A whole bookcase of books I haven’t read.

                                                                                               oh my.

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

A 3×5 Slice of Life

 

green tara, originally uploaded by silkway.

I have a fancy for postcards. I can’t even explain why. I guess its because they’re fairly cheap, they can be rather beautiful (I frame more postcards than photos), and they bring pleasure to all they encounter on their travels (if you manage to let go of one). So I obviously jumped on the chance to read an interactive book series called Griffin and Sabine.  It is fully illustrated, and a feast for the eyes. The colors are rich and detailed, and the illustrations add a whole new layer to the story. Frankly, I don’t know what you would call it. They appear to be children’s books, but they read like a love story, or a mystery, depending on what strikes your fancy. the book consists of postcards and letters that flow between two (or three) characters, and you never really know whats going on until the end. As a series goes, it looks like a quick read, but there’s so much to absorb once you open the pages. Everything has a double meaning, and more than once I found myself just staring at the page. Not reading, barely thinking. Just… absorbing. Even thinking about it now (its been six months) the only word that sums up everything about it is beautiful. What I adored was that every character has their own style. Griffin is very flowing, industrial, rough, modern, graphic. Sabine is his equal and opposite: feminine, natural, bohemian, detailed, bright. I never really appreciated the power of the visual language until I read these books.  You begin to understand them and how they’re feeling based on how they draw, paint, write. Short storkes and dark colors are interpreted differently based on how they move, what they create, what they’re paired with, what is written… beautiful.

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Don’t Give A…

 

“Snow doesn’t give a soft white damn who it touches”
– E. E. Cummings

it isn’t snowing today, but I fully embrace the attitude. You’ve heard my take on the Men’s side of things. I think its time for some girl power.

 

First off, we’ll start with what I think is the Anti-MANual. Any girl who has gotten desperate, curious or both has picked up The Rules. Even the title makes women shiver without knowing why. I loathe this book with every fiber of my being. I cannot stress that enough. Simply put, a bunch of Old Bats sat down and wrote a book on how to lure a man into marrying you. It includes such “time-tested miracle rules” like Don’t Accept a Date after Wednesday.  The whole book is depressingly pre-feminist and comes from a time when men and women were practically at war with eachother. It preaches playing hard to get and aiming to be arm candy. It advises women to play sports that make them look attractive “such as tennis and golf”, not ones that make them look sweaty or mannish. And if it makes them more attractive, they should invest in “getting their noses and such fixed”. This book really pushed my buttons. I think it teaches manipulation and is frankly degrading. I wouldn’t let anyone talk to me in the same tone this book narrates.

          The funny thing is that Susan Gilman took them to heart and turned them around – to use them as business tips in her book Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule The World as a Smartmouth Goddess:

Play hard-to-get. Don’t accept the very first offer. Test the waters instead. After an employer names the salary, say ‘well, I was actually hoping for more.’ If They refuse to budge on the money, my friend Sarah (another career diva) suggests negotiating benefits, vacation days, profit sharing, and stock options.”

          Brilliant. I enojy this book because it builds women up instead of tearing them down. it tells you what to start doing right. It preaches being strong, witty, creative, logical, and above all things, honest. Really, how many women are honest with themselves nowadays?

          In any case, I don’t think it really matters what you read, exactly. Just take pleasure in the fact that you are willing and able to read, and find a gem a truth somewhere in there. If you can do that, then all is well.

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Men Can’t Claim the World Anymore

 

Volcanic Clouds, originally uploaded by HaMeD!caL.

I’ve been following a very strange path lately that has been leading me to women’s books written by men. Sort of a Book of Secrets from the other side of the line. Really though, they should all be praised individually but they share too many similarities to be ignored.

    It started with The MANualby Steve Santagati. I got a hold of it thanks to my sister about a year ago. Good God, was that a learning experience. It confirmed two things: Men are really very simple, and Women love to complicate everything! At the time I thought it wise to discuss my findings with my father and he gave me the Duhlook. Then he gave me a lovely lesson on Blondes, Brunettes and Cookies. That really is a story for another day, so I’ll save it. Basically, this book teaches you a lot of things you didn’t know you should know. Its a nice start.

          From there, I just hadto know more, so I hit the local library immidiately. That is where I found my next adventure;  Cad: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor. Whaaaaat?  Exactly. I read the title and iimmidiately thought to myself that I have dated this man. If not this man, then one just like him. I read the book, cover to cover. Every word. It was exhausting. It was educational. It was very, very discouraging. he gave away every one of his moves,the tactics he used to hook a girl. Woman after woman, actually. He had a game plan. He had a system that had been perfected and the only thing that ever messed it up is when he actually got involved. Emotionally, mentally, physically… it doesn’t matter. It still ruined everything for him. The worst part is, he knew exactly what he was doing. Part of me still wants to believe that he really is a nice guy inside, he’s just… Bloody hell. I don’t know. He really did act like a Cad. This book confirmed that  I really have dated guys just like him! And now I see how they managed to hook me, too.

          Now I was just angry at men… so I gave the “confessional genre” a break for a bit and only recently rediscovered it when I haphazardly came across What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business. I tell you this: if you do nothing else with your life, buy this book. Buy it now. It is the single greatest investment you could ever make (aside from that commemorative Wizard of Oz porcelain doll set you just blew your retirement fund on). Really. It doesn’t just explain men in business, it explains men’s behavior period! Again, men are very simple. This book explains how they do business with eachother, what signs they look for in behavior and dress and why you aren’t (or are) getting what you deserve from them.

          The reason I grouped these three books together is for the simple fact that they aim to give power back to women. Females can (and have) spent all of their lives trying to find the secrets held in these books. There really is valuble information in here, including ideas you can put to use immidiately. Whether you’re looking to improve your dating pool, get a promotion or just get along with your co-workers, you can’t find a good excuse to put this off for any longer.

          Alright, one last try… if you’ve ever read He’s Just Not That Into You and had an epiphany about multiple relationships, you NEED these books. Its never too late to fix… well, you tell me.

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Movie Mad(ness)

 

The Matrix has you., originally uploaded by mechanics.

I’ve been looking at my Book Log for 2008 trying to figure out which books I didn’t get around to writing about (so I can do so now) and I’ve noticed a trend. Its a trend that I don’t like.

     It began when I picked up the graphic novel V for Vendetta. It really was up there in terms of quality. I was very impressed. The images weren’t cartoony or action-figure poses and the colors were natural. The story line was detailed, quick-paced, and well thought out and V made a wonderful Anti-hero. While the little boys down the block wanted to be like Batman and Superman, I wanted to be like V (part of me still does).  It is a graphic novel that is definitely worth buying . . . then the movie came out. Personally, I have never seen the movie. I don’t think I ever will. The truth is that from what I’ve been told, the movie only loosely resembles the Graphic Novel, which is very disappointing, because I can’t name a thing that could have been improved upon.

     Then, come last March, I picked up Nick and Norah’s infinite Playlist. Again, I thought it was fantastic! It was funny, mature, intriguing, and even a bit dark. Its not exactly something you take to your book club, but for High Schoolers and 20-Somethings its a real treat, like a slice of cheesecake after a long week. Then the movie came out. . . again, I haven’t gone to see it. Really, I don’t want to. I’ve discussed it with people who went and saw the film, and again I’m disappointed. First off, they left out some of the funniest scenes in the whole novel just to make the flick PG-13. They’re not lewd scenes by any means, and the dialogue that goes on is fantastic. But NOOOO… they got cut.

THEN…. there’s this Twilight thing. I didn’t like the book, so I probably will loathe the movie, so we’ll let this one slide.

The truth is that the only Movie-Based-On-The-Book that I really genuinely enjoy is the live-action version of Peter Pan. It was outstandingly true to the text, the special effects were amusing and the actors were surprisingly good. When I’m in a reminiscent mood I pair that up with Hook, which is a sequel of sorts.

 This whole Based-On-The-Book thing is really letting me down in the long run. This really disheartens me since I was so looking forward to seeing Brendan Fraiser in inkheart, which is another favorite… ahh well.

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 11:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Just Another Welcome Back

 

It’s been too long, old friend. I have no reasonable excuse, except for the fact that academics come first. I’ve had to drop roughly 5 books due to the chaos that is Life After High School. In any case, I was offered a challenge by a close friend. She adores a current NY Times Bestseller which seems to be at its peak of hysteria, and all year she has been trying to get me to pick this up. (Its Fiction, of course, and I have a nonfiction agenda.) So, during my peak of hysteria, she offers me this: Read Twilight before Thanksgiving. I won’t bother to put the rest in print, for I love her enough to save her the embarassment. Just know it was good enough to make me check out Twilight the next day.

I have less than a third left, and its… ugh. its Chick Lit, okay? Its cute, predictable, with a plot line much like steel wool. Its pretty, easy on the mind, rough in some spots, and keeps things clean. I admit the characters are mostly admirable even though Bella is not quite believable, and Edward stepped out of a Jane Austen novel. Its a book. I respect that. But… I strive for better. Better characters, better plot, better quality.

Okay, I’ll be nice. Right now, its the perfect book for me. It holds my attention easily, its long enough to need effort, and it keeps me distracted but doesn’t need to be pondered once I shut it. That being said, I’m off to go finish up the dozen tasks I started and then open it again.

Published in: on October 4, 2008 at 11:09 am  Leave a Comment  

A New Tale

The first book that comes to mind, obviously, left very strong impressions upon me. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale is interesting in delivery alone. It is a graphic novel (a.k.a. a long comic book) in which Art Spiegelman lets his father speak about his trials in Nazi Germany. As the reader, you are easily emotionally involved in the story, be it concerning the hiding, the concentration camps, or the priceless romance between Vladek and Anja, Art’s parents. Perhaps this involvment is only increased by the artistic format.

An important part of the book is that people are no longer people – they are animals. The mice are Jews, the cats are Nazis, The dogs are American soldiers, with the cast of characters continuing. Along with this segregation comes creativity: during many points, Jews in hiding often resorted to wearing Pig masks (to represent the Poles) in order to remain safe for a bit longer.

I think the most touching part of the whole story was how the relationship between Art and his father was just as important as Vladek’s story of “the War”. Here’s Mr. Speigelman, as a mouse, struggling to accurately portray his father’s story while trying not to kill his father amidst his ramblings. You all see the humor in it, I’m sure, as you all have been there. Poor Art… there’s dear old dad, going off about cereal, and all Art wants to do is hear more about Auschwitz.

In any case, I was very impressed with the entire novel, and was lucky enough to have gotten a copy that includes both Part I and Part II. The art is just fantastic and adds a new layer to memoirs that should be noted more often. I highly recommend it, though I must warn you: despite the happy-cartoony way in which such a tale is prestented, it is a very honest interpretation, therefore graphic.

Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 11:46 am  Leave a Comment  

A Different Way of Doing Things

 

§, originally uploaded by François D. §.

Oh my. I just went through the business of looking at how many books I’ve read that none of you have heard about. I repeat: oh my.
This will prove to be a challenge. So, dear readers, I’m going to tackle this in the most nonsensical way I can: without a plan.
Why? I can’t honestly answer that because I don’t really know. It just… sounded like an effective plan of action. Besides, why should I explain my books in a more organized manner than I choose them? (It usually involves closed eyes.)

Wish me luck. My ramblings will soon be open to the public, so to speak.

Published in: on June 28, 2008 at 11:19 am  Leave a Comment  

When to Say “When”

 

House of books, originally uploaded by CláudiaM.

I have a situation.

I’m not entirely sure what kind of situation it is yet, but I know I have one. The problem is this: Whenever I leave the house, I come home with more books than I left with.

I know what many of you are thinking; “I wish I had that problem!” No. No you don’t. You see, I leave the house every day. Its not even that I’m stuck with these books. About a third are library books, so they eventually go back… but thats hardly the point, now is it?

My situation is this: I have no room. All bookshelves are at capacity, even beyond. The dreaded “To Read” Top shelf is layered. It started out neatly enough, arranged by size, brought forward to the edge of the shelf (as my dear Librarians taught me). Come May there were two or three paperbacks on top of the row. Now… we’re halfway through June. I have pushed back the first row and begun a second in front of it.

(Wistfully) And they’re wonderful books! Dostoyevsky, Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Persuasion, A Hearbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, J.M. Barrie, J.D. Salinger, other people who use initials, and my two favorite Random-Fact Books: The Know-It-All and A Brief History of Nearly Everything. (neither of which I’ve finished – yet) The trouble is that there’s still books I want. You know, the books everyone should own, the ones you pass on to your kids. I saw this gorgeous old-style, gold-lettered hardcover of Robin Hood that would be lovely to read this winter (with a blanket and hot cocoa) not to mention the recent Naria craze, which only fuels the nagging feeling that I should have bought the series when I was 7 (like I wanted to, because then I wouldnt be in this predicament). My most recent tangent has been Peter Pan. It has been mildly amusing between the book, short stories and movies galore. (I think all these childrens books, particularly that last one, is my subconscious making a grand effort to avoid “growing up”. Ahh, the innocence and ego of childhood…)

needless to say, I do believe I am surrounded. My “To Read” Shelf occupancy has tripled, plus the seperate stack of library books (over 10 present at any given time) And the average of… three… that I carry on me at all times. Another problem: Once I remove themfrom my “To Read” Shelf, there’s nowhere to move them to. Again, shelves are at capacity. What to do, what to do…

I’m 10 books away from resorting to By any means necessary mode, (which is one step away from Crazy Cat Lady)  and fitting them into drawers, crates, stacked on tables… Its reminiscent of Elinor Loredan in inkheart (excellent book-lovers book!). In any case, I’m curious as to how the book-house was managed, because it might be the solution to my problems.

Published in: on June 14, 2008 at 9:50 am  Comments (3)  

Back in the Saddle Again

 

Saddle in Storage, originally uploaded by donegone.

Thats right, ladies and gents, I am ready to produce literary word-vomit once again. I admit that I’m rather terrible at time management, so I had to make the executive decision of not denying myself a couple hours of sleep every time I finished a novel… but I’ve kept records of what i’ve managed to finish, so you’re in store for quite a tirade!

Its good to be back. You didn’t think I’d stay away forever, did you?

Published in: on June 14, 2008 at 9:13 am  Comments (2)  

Waiting for War

 

statue, originally uploaded by createsimona.

I stepped out of my literary comfort zone yet again this Spring Break. I’ve never been into that whole Knights-of-the-Round-Table-Damsels-in-Distress genre, but I came across a paperback that was rather intriguing. The back of The Book of Mordred simply stated:

 In the tradition of Arthurian legend, Mordred has been characterized as a buffoon, a false knight, and a bloodthirsty traitor. The Book of Mordred reveals a mysterious man through the eyes of three women who love him.

How can you not be enthralled by something like that? Adventure, a soiled name, a love story…

It was better than I expected. I’m considering reading Vivian Vande Velde’s other works to see if theyre just as pleasant. Not that the storyline was pleasant – far from it. If anything, it was juicy. Soaked in the darker aspects of life like despair and betrayal. What I enjoyed the most is the portrayal of our hero, Mordred. He is an imperfect knight which made him all the more likeable in my eyes. Come time for the end, I cried. I admit it. I got as attached to Mordred as the lovely ladies who told their tales did.

Herein lies the problem: I enjoyed this novel immensely! And I fear that I will neglect my top shelf even further in favor of dazzling tales about Arthur and Sir Gawain… Will my books have to wage war for my attention? I see books gnashing their blindings, shredded pages cast away.

No, no. Sir Gawain can wait, I suppose.  (sigh)

Published in: on April 5, 2008 at 2:58 pm  Comments (4)  

Are Answers Written On the Ceiling?

 

Mirrored Church, originally uploaded by Accretion Point.

Quite appropriate, yes?

It has been a long morning and I think its about time I begin going down my growing list of books I’ve finished but not yet mentioned. Lets start with the one that bothered me the most; Diary of a Teenage Girl- Becoming Me by Melody Carlson. I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t like it. First off, the whole book comes off as a 30-year-old masked as a 13-year-old, which just ends up being a very condescending narrative. Secondly, it is very much aimed at pushing (not promoting) the idea of Christianity and various ideals rather than (as I hoped) telling a simple coming-of-age story in which a girl deals with the perils of young adulthood by finding religion.

I was very frustrated by this. I understand that such books are meant to support beliefs that already exist, but (it kills me to give a bad review!) I really felt mislead. The back of the book gave no inclination as to what I found within the pages, and I was upset by how easily many touchy issues were deemed to be “right” and “wrong” by the young narrator.

But I didn’t want to write this purely on the fact that certain aspects were close-minded, so I took it a step further; I read the sequel. In truth, my views just went downhill. I wasn’t impressed, but they were quick reads.

I’ll stop before I say too much.

Published in: on April 5, 2008 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Another Step Forward

(Like the picture? There was no way I’d use this otherwise, and I really enjoy it.)

Thank Newsweek for this Idea. While doing a large amount of research, I came across one of their weekly blurbs and decided I really didn’t know what my own answers would be. So, putting myself on the spot, I present you with nothing but honesty, dear readers…

MY FIVE MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS

  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. The autobiography of a horse as he grows from foal to workhorse to retirement, with the short chapters giving lessons in cruelty, kindness and sympathy. I loved this book when I was very young and read it maybe four times (which was quite a feat for not having met the challenges of fifth grade yet). I remember having nothing but love for Black Beauty and the way in which he spoke to me.
  • 1984 by George Orwell. Winston Smith lives a life in dictatorship. It its a cautionary tale against totalitarian mentalities and invasive surveillance. I didn’t get to this book until freshman year, and it chilled me for months. It stayed with me long enough to encourage the devouring of more Orwellian works and taught me that, until then, I was foolishly unaware of my world. If I wasn’t careful, I too would become subject to Big Brother.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Charlie begins high school in the 70’s and learns that there is much to be gained by experiencing life instead of watching from the sidelines. It deals with the issues of gays, premarital sex, drugs, abortions, molestation, young love and growing up. Of course this is on here. The last four years of my life are found in these pages, I kid you not. There are notes in red pen, passages underlined. More than anything, I know what its like to feel infinite and I hold onto those moments tighter than ever, because they never last long enough. Charlie knew from the start what I had to learn.
  • Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. A man responds to an ad in the paper; “TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Must apply in person.” The cover claims ‘an adventure of mind and spirit’ and it tells no lies. If you want to save the world, there is nothing that can prepare to for what you’re about to learn. Yes, learn not read. You cannot finish this book and go back to who you were before, I promise. I was changed, and I hold this book close to my heart.
  • Postsecret by Frank Warren. PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail
    in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard.
    This spot was hard to fill, believe it or not. I chose this because it has become a hobby, a therapy and an obsession for me. I review the website once or twice a week (usually Sundays) and I own all the books. I enjoy reading – seeing – other people’s secrets because they usually say what I cannot. It makes me feel a little less crazy, a little less alone.

IMPORTANT BOOKS I HAVEN’T READ:

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day –Judith Viorst. I have days like this, too, and it’s okay Alexander.
  • The Bible. I should. I know. But for now, I’m ok with browsing. Maybe I’ll get to it after War and Peace.
  • Anna Karenina – Leo Tolsoy. Hey! Its on my top shelf! I’ll get there…
Published in: on April 4, 2008 at 8:36 pm  Comments (1)  

Unfamiliar Territory


The Train Enthusiast, originally uploaded by MarkyBon.
WordPress changed its blogging format, so now I’m quite discombobulated. Forgive me.
In other news, my Spring Break has been both eventful and uneventful in a simultaneous sort of way. I have spent most of it surrounded by two of my sisters and my darling niece (who has a passion for electronics rather than books, despite my suggestions). But at the same time I have failed to write about all the books I have read, nor have I completed any of the paper-pushing tasks set before me.
I was able to see subjects of my family through the eyes of a foreigner, but with the insights of a native (which was very unsettling indeed). My darling readers, this whole adventure that has been visiting family has reminded me that people themselves do not change, they merely change the way in which they present themselves. Books are very much like that, you know.
My father’s green canvas, parchment-printed, tattered fourth edition of Pinocchio is of no comparison to its full-color illustrated hardcover sister (circa 2002, which is in my possession) but they are the same once you get past the flim-flam. What matters (in books and people) is what is at the heart of it all. When all is said and done, did you walk away knowing that you were forever marked? That is the goal of every author and every friend; to touch and be touched.
Dearest reader, all I ask of you is to sit down and think about the books and people that have touched you. How did each influence your journey through life? If you like what you see, then don’t think twice. If your list is short, whats been stopping you?

Published in: on April 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Back in the Day


No pressure … {}, originally uploaded by dotlyc.
I came across something rather amusing today: My original book lists from Freshman Year. This was the jump start to my “return to reading” career, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It seems odd, but I began reading again because I genuinely had nothing better to do during the summer between 9th and 10th grade. I challenged myself and managed 55 books that year, 30-something that summer alone. I haven’t counted my totals since, but I’m still rather proud of that 55. I’ve marked the good ones.
Summer List: (I don’t remember half of these)
VOX, The Chronicles of Narnia 1-7, Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Harry Potter 4, ttyl, I’m Just Not That Into You, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Can You Keep a Secret?, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Leslie’s Journal, Cut, Crashing, Adam ZigZag, Contents Under Pressure, Read in a Different Light, A Charmed Life, Pledged: The secret life of sororities, The Stranger, The book of Dead Days, Skin Game, What my Mother Doesn’t Know, The Girl in a Box, Faerie Wars, Harry Potter 6, 1984, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, She Said Yes, Rundown, Walking Naked, The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
School Year List:
Speak, the Giver, The World of Normal Boys, Lovely Bones, Thwonk!, Animal Farm, Lost Souls, Keeping You a Secret, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, Interview with a Vampire, Big Mouth and Ugly Girl, Cannibals and Cult Killers, Freaky Green Eyes, Franny and Zooey, Kerosene, The Wish List, I was a non-blonde Cheerleader, Artemis Fowl

I won’t bother to review ” the good ones”, just trust me for once… We all have a history, and it is nice to see how my reading has evolved in two years. I hope you all dig out your old reading lists, too.

 

Published in: on March 21, 2008 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Finding the Unlost


Don’t Label Me ~Take 2~, originally uploaded by Megan *.
     I haven’t read half as much as I would have liked to in my absence, but I have done enough. This began as a look into the idea of nature vs. nurture  and quickly evolved into Women’s studies, which took on a life of it’s own and ended in a very murky teen studies category, if such exists.
      The pain and trials a teen girl goes through is unremarkably vast. Then again, I’m only referring to what we put ourselves though. What about that which is out of our control? That which can genuinely harm us? Teen girls have predators, dangers,  and goings-on that turn innocence to ash around every corner. It really is quite a feat that ladies make it to the age of twenty anymore. How do they do it? That is the question I asked myself that took me on a search for answers. I attempted to cover every aspect of young-adult hood (and even parts of childhood) to see how people have survived. I read books on both instigators and victims, boys and girls. After six novels, I came to one conclusion. How do they do it?  I asked. Simple. They’re too stubborn not to.
     This may cause a chuckle or a smirk, but I mean it in the most serious of tones. Sometimes – most times – young girls are too naive to understand how long wounds will stay, and it doesn’t help that nostalgia is a deceptive liar. They “march on”, over dramatizing the wrong aspects of life, taking cues from the reaction of others. We are all so very childlike in this way. Katherine Tarbox expresses her anxiety about late homework while casually admitting she fell for the lies – hook, line and sinker – of an online predator in A Girl’s Life Online. Her warped value system is typical among the thirteen-year-olds she addresses. Most understand that it is easier to find ones identity among magazine racks and brand names than it is to formulate concrete opinions. This need for attention is what fueled the 41-year old predator that eventually isolated the poor girl.
     Of course no one enjoys living in reality, with its gray lines and smudged morals, but the most dangerous time for a girl is when she steps into this new world with that veil of naivety previously mentioned along with a new pair of blinders, called independence. Its hard to admit when you’re wrong, and even harder to admit you’re wrong because you didn’t listen. Most become unable to swallow the crow when parents are the ones who deserve the “I’m sorry”. When did this war begin? I have never known so many conflicts to exist under so many roofs simultaneously. I credit this to lack of communication and respect – by both parties. Most parents have heard this statement and asked me why they should respect their child. Simple: why would you deny your own offspring  a courtesy that you would extend to a stranger? More than anything, I wish to see more respect between parents and children. Respect of ideas, opinions and space. I never even considered bringing up this issue until I read Glass by Ellen Hopkins. A drug-addicted teen mom continues down the path of destruction, isolating herself from friends, family and reality. Midway through the novel, a mother-daughter argument arises, and the still-high teen begs for a chance to redeem herself and gain custody of her son. I kept reading, imagining the mother’s temper as she stood in the doorway, not even allowing her fallen daughter inside. I imagined her disappointment, her shattered dreams of what her angel could have been – all destroyed. And yet, she continued to stand there, listening to the rantings of an addict, and her ever-present get-rich-quick scheme. I shared her pain, hope and guilt right then. I stopped, and all I thought was whoa, what parent would do that for their child – besides mine? In that moment, the mother ceased to be a flat character, and was suddenly a real person with real emotions, more real than most of the people I encounter in a day. How many parents would set aside their anger for another minute just to listen to the person who has hurt them most, simply because they respect the fact that said person want to change (but never will)? I hope you have a better answer than I do.
     And what about those who do change? How does one sit down and explain to the world that “I’m not who I was. That other person you enjoyed was a complete lie”? It is a strange feeling when you realize that you despised the person you were not too long ago. When I made this discovery, I sat in my room for 48 hours with a pen, a notebook and an open window trying to figure out just when things changed for me. Needless to say, after 48 hours I came to understand that it didn’t really matter when I changed, that I should simply celebrate the fact that I changed at all. This topic was touched on in an extraordinary way in Bad Girl by Abigail Vona,  in which a “bad girl” is sent to a behavior modification center. Through doctors notes and her own narration, the reader is permitted to witness the great feat that is more than a turnaround, it is a complete relocation of body, mind and morals. Excuses are thrown out the window. Strict rules are enforced more for the patients’ need for structure than the nurses’ need for order. It is a book about survival, honesty and self discovery – in the sense that she discovered that there was a “self” that was not yet found.
     Then there are those who do not survive. There are those who “give up”. They give up on family, life and everything that exists as we know it. Some see it as taking the power back, holding their own fate in their hands, others call them victims of suicide. There was a time when I could empathize with these select few, but that is me no longer. I’m now an onlooker, a curious observer, along with the faceless narrator that lives between the pages of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.  He – the boyish narrator – holds the reader captive as he spins the tale of the Lisbon girls and how they came to perish through witness interviews, faded memories and stories whispered between neighborhood boys while displaying evidence (pictures, a bra, notes found) of their existence, more for his sake than ours. We know the girls as he did ; separate and equal suburban goddesses, never to be touched. We listen to the whispered secrets of who wore makeup, who was promiscuous, who had started menstruating and we swore not to tell. We, too, peeked out of the too-small treehouse window to watch for signs from Mary or Lux, yearn to know if they are as aware of our undying love for them as we are. But in the end we are only spectators who never knew them at all, and never got around to understanding why the girls resorted to nooses, razor blades, sleeping pills and open windows as their farewell.
      I am not so amazed that girls survive high school. If anything, I am amazed that they survive themselves. I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy the numerous fates I thought I wanted as a young adult, and am most thankful for the fact that I was so often denied the objects of my adolescent longings. Youth only happens once, and I must warn against ignorance and eagerness to jump ahead to adulthood. Dear reader, if you can survive adolescence (full of temptation and teen perils) then the world is yours.
I  admit that I became more aware of my younger self while reading this, and it gave me more of a sense of where I came from than any history book has in a long time. I found an unlost piece of me, a quiet piece that should have always been protected from the dangers of growing up too fast, but never was. That piece is safe now.

 

Published in: on March 21, 2008 at 8:58 pm  Comments (1)  

hello old friend.


15/365 – Good Morning Flickr – Welcome to my day!,
originally uploaded by classic perfection.
        I’ve missed you. Forgive me for my absence, I haven’t quite known what to do with myself with the recent lack of chaos surrounding me. I understand this is not a normal complaint, especially from one as young as I am. Please, let me explain. I found myself in an odd place not too long ago; I had nothing left to say. It wasn’t that I had run out of opinions, oh goodness no. But its as if I forgot how to speak at all since I no longer needed to shout above the masses. It was a truly curious feeling. So I read, I drew, I thought (anything to avoid writing). And now I’m ready to sit and chat. I’m armed with my book list, sticky notes galore, and a mile-a-minute mind.
        In any case, please don’t think I’ve given up on NovelDame – I can’t. She’s like an old friend, a trusted adviser. I’m back, ladies and gents, and I’ve got quite a show for you!
(cue circus music)
Expect thrills! Chills!         Death-defying conclusions!
    There will be books, blogs, and rants galore!
    I suggest a hot cup of tea. Enjoy your evening.

 

Published in: on March 21, 2008 at 8:32 pm  Comments (3)  

Don’t look at me that way…


loki on the mirror, originally uploaded by skaukatt.

Dearest readers, I have a confession: I have never read anything written by David Sedaris. A cardinal sin, perhaps?

 Before you condemn me, read this! I’ve never read any of his books, but I do have a Dave Eggers book on my shelf!  (which I have also never read.)

 Sad day. Don’t hate me. I’m off to read non-fiction. (GASP!)

 

To quote today’s favorite book:  DONT PANIC.

Published in: on February 28, 2008 at 1:39 pm  Comments (1)