March 29th, 2010

Caleb- snug as a bug!

Book 18: Bitter is the New Black

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Bitter is the New Black: Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass, Or, Why You Should Never Carry a Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office
Jen Lancaster
Nonfiction; memoir
400 pages
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Jen Lancaster was living the sweet life-until real life kicked her to the curb.
She had the perfect man, the perfect job-hell, she had the perfect life-and there was no reason to think it wouldn't last. Or maybe there was, but Jen Lancaster was too busy being manicured, pedicured, highlighted, and generally adored to notice.
This is the smart-mouthed, soul-searching story of a woman trying to figure out what happens next when she's gone from six figures to unemployment checks and she stops to reconsider some of the less-than-rosy attitudes and values she thought she'd never have to answer for when times were good.
Filled with caustic wit and unusual insight, it's a rollicking read as speedy and unpredictable as the trajectory of a burst balloon.

The is one of the funniest books I have ever read! Lancaster doesn't hold back (and thank goodness for that)! It is refreshing to read a book in which the author says things she is thinking and feeling without worrying about offending someone. It's not that often that you see an author nowadays admit that she is a card-carrying Republican and I was glad that she included that tidbit of information in her memoir. I really enjoyed reading about her trials while being unemployed, because I too have been unemployed for almost two years. This book has made me think about starting a website and possibly dabble in some writing as well. I recommend this book to everyone, especially women who are having a difficult time right now finding work. I hope that her other books are as witty and amusing as Bitter is the New Black. :)

***Next read: I am still rereading All Together Dead by Charlaine Harris and hope to finish it soon. I am getting my new book club read Cane River by Lalita Tademy. Have any of you all read it???
Bibliophile

Books 33 and 34 / 100

33. In Cold Blood: A True Account of Multiple Murder and Its Consequences - Truman Capote
            A fascinating account of the murder of a Kansan family in 1959 and the capture of their killers.  Capote manages to give you parallel storylines following the family members in their final days and following the killers as they planned the murders and almost escaped.  Despite knowing what happens, there's suspense and horror in the story, and Capote is amazing at putting just the right quote at the end of a paragraph to give you the shivers. 

34. Judaism for Dummies - Rabbi Ted Falcon, Ph.d and David Blatner
            A fairly in-depth introductory text, which provides history and cultural information.  Very helpful if you find yourself invited to celebrate a Jewish holiday and will have no idea what's going on.
A Alice

Books 11-17 of 2010: Flannery, Alice, and Jane



11. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Conner (192 pages)
12. The Watsons (fragment) by Jane Austen (52 pages)
13. Sandition (fragment) by Jane Austen (59 pages)
14. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (228 pages)
15. The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (358 pages)
16. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (164 pages)
17. Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll (188 pages)

Bold: read it now! It’s great
Italics: run away! It’s awful
Plain Text = various degrees of OK


"Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge."

11. Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Conner (192 pages) This is exactly why Flannery O'Conner is my all-time favorite short story author. After completing each of her amazing stories, the reader gets a feeling of having witnessed literary genius, of being washed over with the most brilliant and fascinating of symbols, the truest view of human character, and the feeling that one has touched the sacred. The collection has many similar themes, including the arrogance of the young meeting the idiocy of the old, the meeting of the generations, the epic battle of the family, the challenge of race and a changing world, religion and myth--carrying warped and confusing truth and depth--made into reality, always done with a beautiful and horrific meeting of the sacred and profane, of the grotesqueness of the ordinary, of the extraordinary, the truth, the wisdom, and the beauty that somehow exists in this pathetic existence. And, of course, always imbued with O'Connor's unique brand of dark comedy. Grade: A+

 "I would rather be a teacher at a school (and I can think of nothing worse) than marry a man I did not like."
12. The Watsons (fragment) by Jane Austen (52 pages) Emma Watson, raised by a wealthy aunt into manners and culture, returns to live with her penniless family. Her unique charm, kindness, and spirit gains the attention of rakish Tom Musgrave and snooty Lord Osbourne. Her eyes, though, are set on the bookish and gentlemanly Mr. Howard. The fragment tragically ends all too soon, but, if it were finished, was sure to have been a Jane Austen standard. Emma Watson, plump and brown-complexioned, spirited, lively, kind and mannered, though tragically poor, would certainly have been a heroine the likes of the Dashwood sisters, Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, Catherine Morland, or Emma Woodhouse. Austen-aficionados will always be left painfully wondering how Mr. Howard would have stacked up against Jane's other heroes. Still, the fragment is an enjoyable read, though tantalizingly short and pure Austen. Grade: A-

 13. Sandition (fragment) by Jane Austen (59 pages) In this fragment, left unfinished at Jane Austen's death, a sea-side town is slowly evolving into a vacation and health destination. The large cast of characters and the satirical tone seems more like Elizabeth Glaskell or Charles Dickens rather than Jane Austen. The fragment is more of a portrait of the characters, most of which are hypochondriacs or melodramatic Romantics. Grade: B


"She agreed to it all for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rationale opposition."
14. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (228 pages) Wow, I love this book. Fourth time reading this, my second favorite Austen, and I am convinced more than ever that it is Jane's work that I most identify with. It is the perfect example of Jane's amazing ability to weave an endearing, charming, realistic romantic tale, complete with irony and humor, but to do all that with such a timeless, perfect, genius eye to human sociology and psychology that elevates her literature into greatness. Her characters are some of the most human to grace the pages of literature, and yet they stand for universal models of human psychology. Marianne and Elinor, together, embody the war within everyone: that between the head and the heart, between rationale and emotional, between romance and realism, between sense and sensibility. Marianne, a slave to her emotions, falls head-over-heels in love with a man that abandons her due to the demands of his pocketbook. Elinor, meanwhile, nurses a broken heart over a kind, constant, "boring" guy. Love and marriage, as always in Austen, mean so much more than just that. They are symbols of lessons learned, of the psychological fulfillment, of self actualization. Though S&S may be the most melodramatic, most soap opera-ish of Jane's works, it is deeply satisfying because of her realism and her clever twist on the complex theme: the utter need for balance between the head and heart. Grade: A+
 

15. The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor (358 pages) If you're going to steal from a literary genius and a work of staggering brilliance then please don't insult the original creator in the first pages by saying that he got it wrong. You already have an uphill battle trying to compete with the original work; don't make it more difficult by--within your own universe--claiming yours to be better. It's not going to be anyway. Your arrogance is not only insulting and obnoxious, but it only sets you up to disappoint your readers. Particularly this book, which is standard, dull stock fantasy plot (lost princess returns to her world to defeat evil aunt) peppered with stolen imagery from the original Alice books that really has nothing to do with anything. It is a world that is cheaply and easily made dark because it is full of gratuitous violence (which does not make a book good or even allow for emotional-involvement with the characters). In fact, I would rewrite the book's tagline to read: Reality just declare war on fantasy. The book is void of imagination, plot, or character. All the subtle nonsense, the brilliant wordplay, the satire, the child psychology in trying to understand a bizarre world--all gone from this work. Now, having said that the book is a bitter and insulting disappointment to anyone who enjoys the original Alice books, I must say that the book is not an awful example of young adult fantasy literature. Grades fifth through seventh would probably enjoy this comic-bookish, standard fantasy. It is a fun, light, quick, decent read. Though, even for them, there is better stuff out there. And better young adult reworkings of classic literature (for instance, the humorous and faithful Percy Jackson series). Grade: C+


16. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (164 pages)

17. Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll (188 pages) I read this book in high school and again in college, but this time, I am thoroughly convinced that it is not only one of the greatest literary works of all time, but also one of my most favorite books ever. Oh, how I love puns and word play and energetic, surrealistic, bizarre passionate, humorous nonsense packed with brilliant imagery! I love twizzlers of the brain: the twisting illogical logic, all coupled with a truly profound philosophy. Delightful nonsense that shows the nonsense of our own world and our own language. A grand example of Victorian children's literature, of that bizarre cult of the child and topsy-turvy historical period: its love of science and math, of nonsense and oddities, of word play. All of this coupled with a beautiful sense of child psychology paired with that of the dream world (and, aren't they very similar, oddly enough?), in its portrayal of changes in identity and size, or being surrounded by critical and easily offended creatures. A brilliant, psychological, philosophical, beautiful, wonderful, magical book that is the essence of genius. PS. the annotations are fantastic and make the book even more enjoyable than ever! Grade: A+


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Book #18 -- Tim Bowler, Blade: Playing Dead, 231 pages.

Blade knows the city better than anyone. He knows how to escape, how to hide, how to go unnoticed. But when he meets Becky and her daughter Jaz, everything changes. Because now they all have people after them, and it looks like Blade's past and Becky's past have joined forces, and there's nowhere left to run. This was actually really good, fast-paced, gritty and realistic. But it's very dark and depressing. It's the first in a series, and I don't know if I'll continue or not. On the one hand - really dark and depressing. On the other - I wanna know what happens.

Book #19 -- Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver, 392 pages.

The best werewolf book I've read since Blood and Chocolate (sorry Kelley Armstrong). Stiefvater's werewolves are a completely different breed from most - harsher, more real, more conflicted - and the love story is heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure. I can't wait for the sequel to come out this summer.

Progress toward goals: 87/365 = 23.8%

Books: 19/100 = 19.0%

Pages: 4993/30000 = 16.6%

2010 Book List

cross-posted to 15000pages, 50bookchallenge, and gwynraven
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Book 16 & 17

Book 16: Flesh and Spirit - Carol Berg
Genre: Fantasy

Plot: Son of a pureblood family, Valen has spent the last 12 years running from his life and his mother's prediction that he will meet his end in water, blood and ice. When he is injured and his comrade robs him and then leaves him to die, he doesn't expect that everything is about to change. For an Abott judges him as being worthy - first of sanctuary and then of being initiated into the deeper mysteries of the world.

Book 17: Breath and Bone - Carol Berg

Genre: Fantasy

Plot: The land of Navronne is in danger of becoming torn apart by civil war and being plunged into a terrible winter. Crops are failing. No one can contact the mysterious Dane either...

My thoughts: I decided to add my comments for both novels at once. The second novel was definitely the stronger of the two - I picked up on certain plot devices far too quickly in the first - and I really enjoyed the second which, to me, seemed a bit like a Tad Williams novel. Actually, it reminded me of a particular Tad Williams book.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)


17 / 50 books. 34% done!

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