Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Reading List: Jane Green and Jenny Lawson

So this has nothing to do with either Jane Green or Jenny Lawson or anything either of them have written but . . . this morning Yahoo had an article about the ring Mark Zuckerberg bought for his blushing bride.  Apparently there are people who have their drawers twisted because it's just a simple ruby ring (that, FYI, could've cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000) and not some huge, blinging diamond.  People!  Hello!  First off, um, this dude wears hoodies.  It's not like he's into the flashy flashy, ya know?  And, second, for once can we be GLAD that someone who is worth a bazillion dollars isn't blowing it on overpriced jewelry?  I mean, really?

I'll step off my soapbox and get on with my summer reading . . .

The Beach House by Jane Green - I've read a few Jane Green books and while I tend to find her plot lines not-all-that-believable, her books are at least enjoyable.  This one was no exception.  I didn't love the book, but I liked it.  Short plot summary:  A 60+-year-old Nantucket widow realizes she stands to lose her home so she turns it into a boarding house.  Her guests are her own son, a recently separated father of two, and a divorced mother with an angry teenage daughter.  The book needed more meat, to be a little longer, to really develop any connection to the characters.  For the most part, they fall flat and you don't find yourself missing them once you turn the final page of the book. There was a big plot twist that I didn't see coming but, then, maybe I'm just a little naive.  ;)  All in all, it was a decent beach read.  But definitely not Jane Green's best.


Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson - The following is written in the epilogue of this book:
Because I can finally see that all the terrible parts of my life, the embarrassing parts, the incidents I wanted to pretend never happened, and the things that made me "weird" or "different," were actually the most important parts of my life.  They were the parts that made me me.
Don't you just love that?  Don't you wish more people thought like that? 
Here's the deal: if you don't enjoy The Bloggess, then you're not going to like this book.  If you do enjoy The Bloggess, then odds are good that you're going to love the book.  You'll read this book and cringe with embarrassment in parts -- and also be thankful that it didn't happen to you (though, I'm sure, we all have something just as equally embarrassing somewhere in our past!)  You will quite literally LOL and there are some parts where you'll even shed a tear.  Or two.  If you're a fan of The Bloggess, then this book is a MUST.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kindergarten. It's Scary Stuff.

Three months from now, J will be full entrenched into kindergarten.  I'll have graduated from "parent of toddler/ preschoolers" to "parent of toddler/ preschooler/ elementary schooler.  Not to sound like a total asshole or anything but most of the time I feel like doing this when I think about him going to school:

I love my kid like crazy but the thing about the chaos of having three small children in the house with you all day, every day?  Sending one of them off to school for several hours a day is tantamount to a beach vacation.  It's going to be . . . refreshing.  Don't get me wrong -- I can't believe the fattest baby ever is going to kindergarten already.

See?  Such a fat little roly poly baby!

I know that I'll miss him.  Or, at least I think I will.  But on days when he argues with me or turns up his nose at his lunch or calls his brother a "poo poo brain," I dream lustily of kindergarten and can't help but think on that first day I'll be all "PAR-TAY!"

Then there is this other part of me who has turned into some neurotic worrying FREAK.  Kindergarten - school - is a whole new ballgame for us.  And, I guess since it's the biggest changer (thus far) in the Bird's life it has me all a big ball of nerves.  I don't like this.  I'm not good at being a big ball of nerves.  But I can't help it.  I worry!  I'm worried about the first time that J realizes there's someone out there that doesn't like him (I know this will probably hurt MY feelings worse than HIS).  I'm worried that his teacher will be an asshole and he'll hate school.  I'm worried that, thanks to the teen pregnancy epidemic in Memphis, I'll be a good decade older than the moms of his classmates and during their little "holiday" party they'll all sneer at me and be like, "who let the Granny in?"  I'm worried that he'll be more advanced and, therefore, bored.  I'm worried that he won't be as advanced and, therefore, behind.

And, people.  Oh my gosh, people.  I am so worried about older siblings.

See, I happen to think that most five-year-olds are inherently innocent.  They don't just know stuff, you know?  They have to be taught it.  And who teaches them?  Their older brothers and sisters.

When it comes to older siblings, J definitely lucked out. Please don't get me wrong. He and Z fuss and fight and argue and call each other all manner of "crybaby" and "booger faced booty head." And there are most def times when I wish we were living in rural Arkansas and it was the late 1980's and I could lock them outside* while yelling, "And I don't CARE if you go tell your granny on me, assholes!"** without anyone calling CPS on me.

* My mom TOTALLY did this.
** She never called us assholes, though, unless she just muttered it under her breath. Which I'm pretty sure she did.
***Actually she would've just said, "asshole" and she would've been referring to my brother. I've been afflicted with this perfectness since birth, y'all.

Anyway. My point. While Z and J will fight and carry on like their lives depend on it, Z is still a good big sister. And, by that, I mean she's not teaching J dirty words or helping him look up porn on the Internet. The worst thing she's taught him is the story of Jesus dying on the cross. That in itself wasn't so bad but she didn't spare any details and also didn't differentiate between the baby Jesus and the 33-year-old man who was crucified. So for weeks J was having fairly gruesome nightmares about a baby being hung in a cross.  It pissed me off a little bit, at the time, but the way I see it - that story is much better than her letting him sneak into her room at night to watch Freddy Krueger slaughter a few people via DirecTV.

For all I know, though, there could be some five-year-old right now who is suspended from preschool because he got caught drawing pictures of naked ladies like the ones he saw in his older brother's - who probably has some dumb name like Butch - magazines.  And that little five-year-old just cannot WAIT to get to kindergarten and scratch the f-word into his desk and tell all the kids on the playground about blowjobs.  And, OMG, my baby is going to leave for kindergarten in August being totally oblivious to anything other than a world that's centered around Transformers and Power Rangers and he'll come home with parts of his innocence chipped away and an increased vocabulary.  He is going to grow up

Thing is, I have no desire to raise my kids in some sort of glass bubble.  They need to be out in the world and out from under my protective wing.  I know that a glass bubble existence is not good for anyone.  I get that.  But J has been home with me since he was 14 months old.  We never did preschool.  This - kindergarten - will be the first time he's been "out in the world" without me right along there behind him, telling him it might not be the best idea to BFF up with the kid who is using obscenities on the playground.

I know I'm being irrational and a little crazy but it's all new territory.  And I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for it yet.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer Reading List: Jen Lancaster and Kristin Hannah

Just a couple books to share with you this week!
Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster - I was approximately halfway through this book when I texted my friend Mo and asked her if she read it.  (Note: Mo lives in Chicago).  She hadn't but she quickly downloaded the sampler and read the first chapter.  That one chapter was enough for her to discover that Jen Lancaster also lives in Chicago -- and that one chapter was enough for the two of us to decide that, whenever I make it back to the Windy City, we might just have to stalk Jen Lancaster.  I LOVED THIS BOOK!  Oh my goodness.  I loved it, loved it, loved it.  Parts of it were laugh out loud funny.  It reads almost like reading someone's blog and the absolute only thing I can say I wasn't crazy about was that it just starts.  There's not much back story (i.e. this is my husband, Fletch, we met at blah, blah, blah).  This isn't a real complaint which should just further prove how much I adore this book.  Let me tell ya real quick what I really appreciate about it: it's written by a Big Girl.  And she is legitimately a Big Girl.  This is not someone who wants to slit her wrists over being a size 12.  Very early in the book she states that she's a size 24.  She tries several different diets before she hits her stride and finds what works for her best.  If you have ever struggled with your weight, this is a must-read.  Please.

(And Jen Lancaster?  If you ever Google your name and find this review on page 238402289 of the searches, drop me an email.  Let's have pizza with my friend Mo the next time I'm in Chee-ca-go).

Summer Island by Kristin Hannah - The only other Kristin Hannah book I've read is Distant Shores and I really enjoyed it.  This one?  Notsomuch.  It's almost as though the author was rushing to finish the book and, therefore, doesn't provide a lot of depth.  It's the story of a mother who abandons her family when her daughters are teenagers, becomes a celebrity based on promoting family values, and then has a very public fall from grace.  The book focuses on her relationship with her younger daughter.  Neither of the main characters are all that likeable, everything - everything - in the whole book is predictable, and the way conflict is resolved is very unrealistic.  Honestly, I felt like I just wasted my time by reading this one.  Such a disappointment.

Right now I'm reading a Jane Green book.  After that one?  I Happy Birthday'd to me and downloaded the Bloggess' book the other day.  I can't WAIT to read it!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Summer Reading List: Mary Higgins Clark, Elin Hilderbrand, Jaycee Dugard

Back in those days when my family was doing our bi-weekly jaunt to the used book store, I would pick up a couple of paperbacks.  A Babysitter's Club title or Sweet Valley book I hadn't read yet.  Or maybe something by Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary or RL Stine.  Or even something that just happened to have interesting cover art.  I would start reading one of the books in the car on the way home and generally have it finished by the end of the evening.  No later than the next morning.  It used to drive my dad crazy!  But, like any true Book Person, if I have extra time it's going to be devoted to reading the book I'm into at the moment.  These days, I'll read while peddling away on my exercise bike.  I'll keep one eye on the kids, the other eye on my book when the little guys are outside playing.  I'm not opposed to taking my iPad to the playground with me.  And I always, always, must read at least a chapter of any book every night.  Total book nerd, y'all.

I'm making my way through my summer reading list.  Here are the books I finished this week:

The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark - MHC was one of the first "grown up" authors I ever read.  She was probably THE first.  My mom read her books and, when I was in late junior high or early high school, she passed one on to me to read.  I've been devoted to her books since.  With the exception of a couple of the Christmas novels she's written with her daughter and her newest book (The Lost Years, also on my summer reading list), I've read all of her adult novels.  She's an amazing author and definitely has an art for storytelling.  I love that her books are so predictable in that you can always figure out whodoneit by picking out the least plausible suspect.  All that said, The Shadow of Your Smile was boring.  It wasn't as bad as  Just Take My Heart (oh em gee, that one was painful to read) but it just . . . it wasn't classic MHC.  It was boring.  You knew whodoneit all along because there was really no major suspense to it other than wondering if the main character was going to end with an untimely fate (and it's MHC so . . . well . . . you know).  I also have to add - and I'll try to do so without giving much away - but a MAJOR crime was sort of glossed over in the book.  It made me sad that a female author would take such an "aw shucks" approach to something that's so horrific.

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand - I picked up the Hilderbrand book Nantucket Nights at a half price bookstore a couple years ago because . . . I liked the cover!  Yes!  I'm STILL one of those!  I'm so glad I picked up that book because I've fallen in love with Hilderbrand as an author.  To date I've read Nights as well as Barefoot, The Blue Bistro, and now The Island.  I was totally and completely NOT disappointed with this book.  It was really good.  I read the entire thing in two days and was sad that it ended.  I'm always a bit conflicted when reading a book I really love.  I want to get to the end to see how it ties together but also want to take it slow because I don't want it to end.  If you're looking for a good beach-y read then this one is perfect.  If you're anything like me, it'll having you wish you could be sunning yourself on Tuckernuck . . . or, at the very least, Nantucket.  Also, this one reminded me, in a lot of ways, of Jennifer Weiner's Fly Away Home.  If you like Weiner then you'll also like Hilderbrand. 

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard - I was on a flight from San Jose to Dallas when this story broke back in 2009.  The second leg of my flight home, from Denver to Dallas, the airline comped TV because we were so delayed.  I somehow ended up on CNN and was enthralled by this story.  I never heard of Jaycee Lee Dugard before that moment but I am a bit of a true crime junkie.  I sort of waffled on whether or not I wanted to read this book.  On the one hand: true crime junkie.  On the other: it seemed deeply personal and, not only that, but I was worried about how it would affect me as the mother of a little girl.  I found, though, as I read through the book that I didn't read it so much as a mom.  Jaycee and I are the exact same age, our birthdays are separated by just a couple weeks, and as I read further into the book I couldn't help but compare my life at the time with what hers was like.  We were the exact same age and while I was going to a conference with my church youth group, she was having her first baby.  When I was suffering through a break up and thinking my world was coming to an end, she was living in a backyard and penning journal entries trying to convince herself that she was happy.  The book was a hard read.  She talks about the rape and, difficult as that was to read, it was the psychological aspect of it that was more upsetting to me.  This girl had her life completely stolen from her.  She was with her kidnapper when she got her first period.  She never got to experience high school football games or graduation or putting on her freshman 15 or switching majors seven times her first three semesters at a university.  It was just heartbreaking.  I can't imagine how she went through all that and I can't imagine how it felt to be her mother.  Not only to be her mother while she was missing.  But also to be her mother in the aftermath, to have to realize everything her daughter went through.  I cried like a baby when she talked about calling her mother after she was found and it makes me a little tear-y now just thinking about it.  In the interest of full disclosure, the book is not well written.  It's obviously not written by a professional but I think that provides some authenticity to it that wouldn't be found if she'd hired a ghost writer.  It's confusing in parts and, in a lot of ways, especially when she talks about animals, it feels like Dugard is still an 11-year-old girl.  It's a very sad book and it feels voyeuristic at times.  I can't say this is a must-read book but I will say: only read if you're up to feeling a little heartbroken and completely disgusted with the evil that's obviously in our world.

Note: all the links in this post are to the Amazon Kindle store.  I get paid approximately 1/4839438th of a cent if you click on the link and then buy something.  Just so you know.

Happy Reading, y'all! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Something Borrowed


I have been harping on Something Borrowed since I saw the movie a few weeks ago.  I read the book over the weekend and now I'm harping once again.  For the last time.  Probably.  Maybe.  Possibly.  At the very least until I read Something Blue.

I cannot believe I'm about to admit this -- in written form where it can be preserved forever more thanks to Google Cache - but . . . I actually liked the movie better than the book.  I KNOW!  When I revealed this to my husband, he informed me that it was because Jim Halpert - I mean, John Krasinski - was in the movie.  This just goes to show that he is most definitely not a Book Person.  Any Book Person - any real Book Person - knows.  Your very favorite actor can star in a movie based on a book that you only marginally enjoyed and you run a 90% chance of leaving the theater muttering about how you can't believe HE starred in a movie that slaughtered a perfectly good plot line and see if you'll be buying a copy of Us Weekly with HIS face on the cover again.

No.  John Krasinski was perfect in the part of Ethan and I'm pretty sure he had to read the book to "fit" the part the way he did which made me feel like this small kinship with him and I definitely enjoyed him in the movie.  But he's not the reason I liked it better.  It just . . . it was . . . better.  And maybe that's part of the reason I'm about to diss on this whole book/ movie big time.  Because I'm never - never! - supposed to like the movie more than the book.  I feel like a bad Book Person right now.  A really bad one.  Thanks a lot, Emily Griffin.

If you have not read the book/ seen the movie and you don't know want to know any important details (i.e. HOW IT ENDS) please don't read any further.  I'm about to get all kinds of SPOILER ALERT up in here (up in here).

For those of you who aren't awares, or those of you who need a refresher since you read the book when it came out in 2005 and refuse to watch the movie because you're a good Book Person who knows better than to see any movie that's made from a book, here's the basic plot line: Main character Rachel is an attorney in Manhattan.  On the night of her 30th birthday party, she hits the sauce a little hard and ends up doing the no pants dance with her best friend's (Darcy) fiance (Dex).  Over the course of way too many pages and much analyzing by a Rachel who was extremely more likeable in the movie, Dex and Rachel carry on their affair.  They love each other!  Darcy is the girl we all went to high school with.  You know, the Homecoming Queen who bulldozed over everyone and everything that got in her way and ended up getting whatever she wanted.  She's selfish and rude and we're supposed to hate her because she's, well, selfish and rude.  Rachel wants Dex to call off the wedding and, at first, he tells her that he can't do that to Darcy.  But, like any good Chick Lit, he comes to his senses and calls the wedding off without telling Darcy about his affair with Rachel.  In the end, Darcy finds out about the affair -- but not after she spills the beans that she's been doing a little bit-o, bit-o cheating herself by rolling in the hay with Dex's BFF, Marcus.  And, oh yeah, she's preggers with a Little Marcus.  The friendship is over and ruined but, HEY, it doesn't matter because all four of these horny SOB's have their lusty relationships to keep them going.

There are four things fundamentally wrong with Something Borrowed.  Four reasons it left a bad taste in my mouth even though I plowed through the entire book in a weekend whilst still managed to make sure my children were fed and (mostly) clothed and not killing each other.  I'll break down those four things for you right hurrre.

1) The most obvious: it glorifies cheating.  Basically, everyone cheats on everyone else and it's all okay in the end with the only casualty being a life long friendship.  Say it with me now: Dubya Tee Eff?  That's not okay!  Cheating isn't okay! 

2) The book is totally black and white and things just.aren't.that.way.  The character of Darcy is thoroughly unlikeable.  She's the girl we all love to hate because she gets whatever she wants and she does so by only looking out for number one.  There are very few things about the character that one can find likeable.  She has pretty much ZERO redeeming qualities beyond her pretty face.  And therein lies the problem.  It's not really like that.  There's always a gray area.  No matter how selfish and nasty the person is, there's usually some sort of good about them.  I mean, look at Angelina Jolie.  She's a Brad-stealing, leg-showing harlot but she also ADOPTS BABIES FROM THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES. 

The author paints Darcy as this icky icky poo character because we're supposed to hate her.  And if we hate her then that makes it okay for Dex to cheat on her (yes!  Let the Beautiful Girl Who Always Gets Everything be cheated on for once) and Rachel to betray her friendship.  But ya know what?  Still not okay.  Emily Griffin tries so hard -- too hard -- to get us to hate Darcy and cheer for Rachel and Dex.  I hate that.  Show us the gray area.  Let us feel a little tiny bit of empathy for Darcy.

3) The consequences are glossed over.  Other than the ending of the friendship, we don't see many consequences at all in the movie.  In the book, Rachel's mother calls her and is disappointed.  Those are not real consequences of something this major.  And, even though we get that Darcy is self-centered and Not a Good Person, wouldn't there be just a little more mourning of the death of a friendship you've maintained since elementary school?  Especially a BFF-type friendship?  That's a major consequence and I think it could've . . . should've . . . been highlighted more beyond the "gee, I feel really bad but that beyotch was totes selfish!"

4) It's just not realistic.  I mean, duh, it's a book and I get that.  Hello!  I've read the Twilight series (please don't judge me).  I know not to expect reality in 99.9999% of my fiction reading material.  I get that.  But, for some reason, it pissed me off more than it should have with this book.  If this had of happened in real life, if Rachel and Darcy and Dex were real people and this was a real situation, this would've ended one of two ways:

* Darcy's affair with Marcus - and the subsequent pregnancy - never would've happened.  That's another one of those things the author threw in to make us feel like it was okay that Rachel and Dex were getting it on.  Dex would've gone ahead and married Darcy, if this were real life.  Rachel would've been devastated -- until she shagged Dex in the bathroom during the wedding reception.  They would've carried on their affair for several years, Rachel giving up on a potential suitor here and there because she was so in loooooorve with a man she could never have.  The affair would've finally fizzled out when Dex traded Rachel for a new, blonder, bustier model.


* Dex would have called off the marriage and the affair with Rachel would've lasted another week or two.  After sufficiently ruining the friendship between Darcy and Rachel, Dex would've moved on to the next set of BFF's and Rachel would never get over him.  She'd end up swearing off men forever and finally find herself, at age 40, pouring over the information for sperm donors at her local fertility clinic.

Have you read the book?  What did you think?  Am I the only one JUST SO IRRITATED by the whole theme of this book? 

For the record, I've never had a fiance cheat on me with my BFF so I don't know why this has got my panties so twisted.  There really is no reason for me to be so annoyed by this book.  None!  I'm so annoyed that I wish I COULD give a reason. 

In other book-related news: I downloaded the 50 Shades trilogy over the weekend and started it yesterday.  Y'all.  I realize that I'm supposed to be all, "OMG, you HAVE to go read this NOW!"  But.  It's . . . well, I'm about 85 or so pages in and I'm just not digging it at this point.  It's so poorly written.  Like, if I see the word "murmur" one more time (is that the only synonym the author knows for said?) I AM GOING TO SCREAM.  Thus far, the main character isn't even slightly relatable or likeable.  Imma give the book another chapter or two but right now?  Yeah.  Not buying the hype.