Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress

Today, a little review of something I read quite a while ago.  I actually borrowed the book to a friend and am waiting for it to be returned but whatever.  It's worth the read and I thought I'd share it since the book has been on my mind for a while.

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress looks at Susan Gilman's quirky childhood - she grew up as the "uncool white kid" (as her website says) much like the rest of us did.  Of course, in order to have a best-selling memoir, her life was certainly more eventful than mine was but still.  Most of us can relate to being the odd one out, and boy oh boy was she an odd one.  The title comes from her meltdown surrounding her wedding - what's a feminist to do when she's gotten to the point in a relationship when it's time to try on wedding dresses?  While I haven't had to try on wedding dresses yet - thank god - I can see myself in the same position.  I've said for quite a while that I don't know if I'll ever get married.  It's not necessarily that I don't want to get married, more that I don't think I'm the kind of person that needs to.  I don't want to need anything (besides of course food, water, and all of the basic things that you can't deny in life like a great pair of shoes).  But if I get to that point, I can guarantee that I'll have a meltdown, much like the one which serves as the title of this book.  Same thing with children.  The idea of children isn't so bad but if I actually get to the point that I'm prego, I can bet it'll be an issue no matter what stage in my life I'm at.  It's comforting to know that a not-so-average yet all around ordinary life can serve as a best-selling reminder to the rest of us that we aren't alone in our insecurities, our idicincricies, or our all around strange-ness.

Susan Gilman's books are good for a decent laugh, cry, or general all around feeling of "God, at least my life doesn't suck that badly."  I also recently read her book Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, which details a trip to China she took soon after the country opened for American travel.  While it wasn't my favorite book by any means, it left me wondering how so many strange things can happen to one person.  And it made me want to travel to completely different cultures, but since I work a real job there will be no traveling all that soon.  

Her writing is genuine and has a quality to it that makes you realize that all of these improbable things really did happen.  If they didn't, she's a wonderful liar.  Better than the rest of us, at least.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tana French: The Intriguing Irish-woman

Ok, it's been far too long since I blogged and I haven't even actually launched the damn blog yet.  Already failing.

I knew when I started writing this that I wanted to talk about Tana French's books so I figure why not today.  A few years ago I was strolling through the airport, flying from Nashville to Minneapolis, when I realized I had nothing to read.  I ended up buying her first book, In the Woods, and it's memorable both because it's a good book and also because some annoying guy chatted me up at the airport that day for hours before asking me out (who does that at an airport?!) and I didn't even get around to reading it for quite some time.  Once I did, I knew I had found a new favorite author. The book is a murder-type mystery but packs a punch.  An unsolved crime from the main character's childhood serves as a psycological backbone for the story.  An it's a doosy.  When he was playing in the woods as a young child, something happened.  No one really knows what and he can't remember.  But he came home alone with blood in his shoes and his friends have never been seen again.  I won't give away the ending, but I was disappointed.  Until I read it again and realized it's better this way.  Anywho...

Since then, she's released a second book, The Likeness, which I would probably put on my top five or six favorite books list.  Both books delve into characters who you fall in love with, in part because of their utter imperfection.  Her books are linked together through the characters but each book features someone new - someone you were introduced to in the last book but who you didn't really get to know yet.  It's a wonderful idea and leaves you wanting more.  This book is also murder mystery-esque but features a woman who's previous undercover character is found murdered.  Or something like that.  Suffice it to say that it's a great read.  And way at the end of the book there's a little gem of wisdom that goes something along the lines of, "you can't love someone who's not ready to be loved."  Nothing to do with the book (really) but come on.  Brilliantly simple.

Her third book comes out soon and is already on request from the library.  Can't wait.

The thing about Tana French is that she's goofy looking.  She's Irish - which is very evident if you've ever been to Ireland and seen the Irish people - and she looks like she writes the weird books that she does.  I want to be her friend.  I want to sit down at the pub, pull up a stool, and chat about her books over a pint of Guinness.  Maybe someday I will.  Doubt it but whatever.  Don't judge.

I guess this is where I'm supposed to give my review and say how this relates to whatever else is going on in my life.  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  Ok, here goes.  I love them both and I couldn't put them down.  The end.  Don't get caught up in the overtly Irishness of the writing - both books are police procedure driven with a little intrique, romance, and real life drama thrown into the mix but carry what I call a cloudy day effect.  They remind me of the windy, rainy, sleety, cold days I spent in Ireland last year.  There's something about them that makes me want to stand on a street corner under and awning, smoking a cigarette while I wait for the rain to let up.  They aren't easy reads exactly, but I don't always want things to come easily.  Some days the greyness is exactly what I need.  And Ms. French delivers.  Neither story ends up the way I really want them to.  Neither story gives me everything I'm looking for and in some areas gives me way too much.  But that's fricking life.

God, I'm a rambler.  This blogging idea isn't going to go anywhere, is it?  Maybe... doubt it... but maybe.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Didn't Change My Life But Did Inspire Me to Write

Ok, here I go.  First crack at this blogging thing in a while.  I haven't blogged in ages, mostly because it turns out I'm a rather boring person when I try to talk about myself.  And people can only read so much about my cat before they get a bit bored.  But books - I could talk about books all day and people usually appreciate my recommendations.  So here it is world.  My first book recommendation.

First some background.  I am an avid reader, which is probably obvious.  I'll read almost anything.  I moved to Lexington a few short months ago and the only people I've really gotten to know are the librarians at my local library - which is fine by me, in case anyone was wondering.  Like I said, I'll read almost anything. Mysteries, romance, sci-fi or fantasy, non-fiction (I have this weird love for biographies about relatively obscure people), popular fiction, chick-lit, books with good cover art, books with attractive authors, books translated from other languages, those written 100 years ago, those published last week, academic fiction... Just about anything.  I'll give most authors at least one chance, and usually 4 or 5 chances if I can't make up my mind the first time around.

Last week, a book jumped off the shelf at me while I was browsing the library* about a small-town library cat that I vaguely remember hearing about on the news or something some time back.  Knowing that I was probably going to go home that evening, make dinner, and lay on the couch reading a book with my kitty curled up next to me, I figured bringing home a story about a cat wasn't the end of the world.  I live alone.  No one would have to know - unless of course I decide to start a blog to tell the world about the books, but that's another story.

The short story about how Dewey became famous (for a cat) goes like this.  The librarian lady lived in Iowa and found a cute kitten one morning in the book drop.  They named the cat Dewey Readmore Books - cheesy but my cat's named Lady Bug so I can't really say anything about stupid cat names - and it turned out to be a friendly cat that everyone loved.  The town was falling apart and Dewey made their days a bit happier and ultimately better.  Then he got old and died.  The end.

Of course there's more to the story - there always is.  Honestly, I loved the book.  Trying to tell about it sounds pretty stupid, but really, it's a rather charming tale about a woman and her pet.  And those of us who have pets know the impact they can have not just on one life, but on an entire community of people.  The story is also about the library in a small town.  Basically it combined my two favorite things on the planet (books and a wonderful cat) and wrapped them together in a big, old, sappy story.  I confess, I cried and then hugged my baby and realized that I'm not crazy and pets really can have that big of an effect on people's lived.

So here's where the blogging gets tough for me.  What do you all want?  I give it 3 out of 4 stars... 1 and a half thumbs up... It's good enough to waste some time reading?  I don't want to be one of those book reviewers, because I don't see books that way.  They become a part of my life.  Every book I read, I can relate back to something going on in the rest of my world.  Like this middle school girls who glean advice from the most benign love song on the radio, I always think I can take away great insight from whatever it is I've just read.  So maybe I'll share that.  Dewey was a silly story, yes, and I probably should find more of a social life so I don't spend Tuesday nights on the couch reading books about cats with my cat laying on my lap.  I'm only 25 for pete's sake!  But it was heartwarming.  It made me happy that small-towns still exist (even though I'd never want to live in one).  It made me thankful that my dad taught me the love of reading when I was merely 3 years old.  It made me smile at the thought of the many libraries I've visited in every city I've lived in.  And most of all, it gave me a reason to hug my little Lady, sniff in the smell of sunshine (long story... I'll tell it someday), and tell her I love her.  Which of course prompted her to kiss my nose and snuggle up against my shoulder.  That is love.  And ultimately, that's what Dewey's story was about.  Love.

And couldn't we all use a little more love in our lives?  There's way too much oil spilling, family shooting, and war fighting going on in this world.

*Ok, I was browsing in the cat section and yes, I know that makes me a crazy-cat lady.  But so does the 3 other books I got about cat personalities.  The Dewey book was at least a story.

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
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