Featured Post

Happy 6th Birthday, SPR!

As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Prince Charming Isn't Coming

Damned right he's not coming.  Where have you been?

Prince Charming Isn't Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money, by Barbara Stanny, is a book that is leveled at empowering women (regardless of whether or not they have Prince Charming) to know their finances and be smart about investing. 

This book was incredibly informative and a great read for any woman who has yet to take control of her finances, investments in particular.  It addresses the actual barriers that women feel with investing, but more importantly it tackled the emotional ones: we aren't supposed to talk about money; if we wait long enough a man will do it for us; we just aren't mean to understand the markets.  The biggest thing you can take out of this book is the importance of grabbing the reins to your financial horse and steering him in the direction you need him to go.

Also, if you have yet to learn anything about investing, the stock market, or still need to know what to do to prep for retirement (yes, even if it is 30 years away) this book will lay out for you very clearly what you need to be asking your financial planner.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero, by Bret Easton Ellis is everything it is cracked up to be--a discontented, illicit, rich-kid romp through the drug-addled '80's in Los Angeles.  And how interesting it was.

At times my head was spinning from Ellis's style of writing--almost stream of consciousness.  However, that being said, his writing is very indicative of the action that is happening throughout this novel.  The story moves quickly as if you, the reader, are in a drug-induced haze and are stuck in the mire of this disaffected young man, Clay, the young protagonist (if you would even call him that).  Clay's family is highly dysfunctional and what everyone would imagine the life of a Hollywood family to be: disconnected, unaware, and distant from each other.  Distant being almost an exaggeration, of course.

You watch Clay drift through Christmas break of his freshman year with these people who are his "friends," although you get the feeling that Clay is still hanging around with them only because he hasn't discovered his true self yet--and since they have been his friends since childhood, who else would he hang out with?  I got the feeling as I read this that Clay would have given his right arm to not go home for the holidays--if he, in fact, cared enough to care.

This book is often called minimalist, and I would entirely agree with that.  You don't get much closure on the characters, but maybe that's what the sequel, Imperial Bedrooms, is for.  Or maybe it's the reality of these children's (because they are just that--children) lives, that in the end they get no closure.  Who is to say? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Philosopher and The Wolf

The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons From the Wild On Love, Death and Happiness by Mark Rowlands will open your mind and break your heart.  Losing a pet is always heart-wrenching, but losing this wolf, Brenin, will move you.

Rowlands writes of his relationship with Brenin, the wolf that he adopted as a pup and raised until his passing.  The relationship the two had was truly one-of-a-kind and once-in-a-lifetime.  Rowlands tells of what he learned from Brenin and how he was pushed to be the best he could because of this beautiful and trusting creature.  

I grew to love Brenin in a way that a true reader falls in love with a fully developed character.  I didn't want him to move on, but (and this isn't a spoiler--he is an animal and no one lives forever) I understood why he had to leave this world.  That understanding, however, doesn't take away the heartache I felt when his life came to an end.  I loved that wolf; I really did.  

And what a testament that is to not only Rowlands writing, but also to the animal himself and to Rowlands' deep and abiding love for him.  This book was moving, for sure, but it also made me think about life, death, and the philosophy in between.  It made me think about my relationships, my beliefs, and yes, even my dear sweet kitty, Henry. 

What I took away the most from this book, though, was learning to live in the now.   Rowlands writes, "The wolf takes each moment on its merits."  What he means by this is that wolves do not see through moments the way that you and I do; each moment for us humans (or apes, as Rowlands calls us) is punctuated by the past, the present, and the future.  For wolves they live in the here and now.  This doesn't mean the past doesn't exist or the future is too abstract; it means that they live in the "now. here. this." model.  We all have much to learn from Brenin: live in the moment, and let each stand on it's own.  So much easier said then done, but certainly a noble goal to which we can aspire.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Red Hook Road

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldeman needs no introduction, mainly because you just need to go out and get this book. 

 Oh Ayelet, how you love to break my heart.  I knew what I was getting into; after all, I read the book flap.  But I didn't know that I wasn't going to be able to get out of bed for want of reading just two more pages.  I didn't know that I was going to cry and long for these two people whom I never met, and truly only spent seven pages (if that!) with.  I didn't know that my heart would break along with their devastated families.

Red Hook Road sees John and Becca on their wedding day, 10 years in the making.  Sadly, they are killed just an hour after they become man and wife, and they leave their families with each other and the heartbreak.  What you see are the next three summers in the lives of these families.

This book tore at my heart until it couldn't be torn anymore--then I read the coda, which socked me in the stomach and I needed a few mind-blowing moments to breathe again.  What a lovely, heart-wrenching, and full-bodied piece of literature this is.  And how I wish I could experience the longing and heartbreak for the first time all over again.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Silent Land

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce took my breath away.  Yes, my friends--it literally took my breath away while sitting on a commuter train on the third to last page.  I gasped so hard the lady next to me gave me a look of concern.

A couple takes an early morning ski run only to endure an avalanche.  When they find their way back to the hotel, they find everyone is gone.  They spend days looking for signs of life only to discover that everyone is gone.  Were they evacuated?  Where did they go, and why has no one noticed that Zoe and Jake were left behind?  Why can Jake not taste a thing or remember what happened just one minute before?  Is the land haunted, and what is up with the strange man who leaves footprints behind in the hotel?

All of these questions can not be answered here in this blog because I would be ruining this most amazing piece of literature for you.  The language is beautiful, the story is strong, and you empathize with Zoe in her descent into madness.  I could not put this book down because I desperately had to solve the mystery that haunted me every time I had to shut the book to do things like work, eat, or pay bills.  I needed to be with Zoe and Jake through their journey, and to leave them to enter back into my life broke my heart.

This book must never be left on the shelf; you must pick it up and be with these two as they journey through what is quite literally the silent land.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Drama Kings

Drama Kings: The Men Who Drive Strong Women Crazy by Dalma Heyn was written for me.  Ms. Heyn, in 2006, looked into my soul and saw my past and future.  Ok, maybe not entirely realistic, but this seems to define my dating life.

Ms. Heyn lists the four main types of Drama Kings: The Visitor, The Proprieter, The Easy Going Guy, and the Hit-and-Run Lover.  I was able to identify each and every type of man, because it seems like I have dated each and every type of these men.

To sum up: The Visitor is a man who is emotionally distant except when he needs you, a man who is attracted to your strength but repelled by it at the same time; The Proprieter is a control freak who will go to extremes to cut you down and keep you in his grasp (some people call this emotionally abusive); The Easy Going Guy wants to be with you but can't quite initiate, yet when you show initiative to be with him he pulls back; and the Hit-and-Run Lover is full-force until he isn't anymore--and he just disappears.

This book was incredibly insightful and brought gasps of acceptance from me almost every time I turned the page. Ms. Heyn discusses why women stay (which is basically classical conditioning, which all psych grad students grasp the first day of class), and why women (those of us!) who are smart, strong, and so normally independent not only fall for these hooligans but also continue to go back for more.  I am so appreciative to have read this book and to have made a note to run from these types that I am ever-so-familiar with.

Ms. Heyn is a writer who is clear, concise, and friendly in her writing--you often feel as though you are in conversation with the best therapist you have ever had.  She never pulls out excuses for the horrid behavior of these four types of men--nor does she allow women to make excuses for their choosing to stay.  She lies out the reasons and lets you as the reader determine your own destiny. 

Most of all this book empowered me to make better decisions in my dating life.  Ms. Heyn tells her readers that when women can finally break away from these types of men, they have the right to learn from them and to never go back again.  I certainly have (or am at least trying!), and by having it spelled out for me in writing I can't use "lack of discovery" as an excuse anymore.  I have seen the light!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sex and the Single Girl

This professed "cult classic," Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown, was originally released in the 1962.  Although if you read the 2003 introduction, you quickly discover that Ms. Gurley Brown feels nothing has changed.  Which makes you giggle and you find kinda fun until you actually read the book.

I am not quite sure how much has changed from 2003 to today, July 9, 2011, but I am going to venture to say, "Not that much."  Not enough to justify some of these amazing little tidbits.

On married men, page 24: "It seems to me the solution is not to rule out married men but to keep them as pets. [...] One married man is dangerous.  A potpourri can be fun."  (A potpourri of married men--why didn't I think of that?!?)

On wives, page 25: "What about the harm you may do his wife?  I'm afraid I have a rather cavalier attitude about wives.  The reason is this: A wife, if she is loving and smart, will get her husband back every time."  (Totally--only a wife can keep her husband from cheating.)

On jobs, page 34: "Now...it seems obvious to me that if you aren't meeting any men through your job, you are in the wrong job."  (Clearly she doesn't know a thing about theatre.  You should hear the horrendous things she says about homosexuals; it's so embarrassing I refuse to even quote in jest on this blog.)

On how to be man bait, page 63: "Carry a controversial book at all times--like Karl Marx' Das Kapital or Lady Chatterly's Lover.  It's a perfectly simple way of saying, "I'm open to conversation," without having to start one."  (That's right--no need to have any actual interest in them.  Pray the man hasn't read them so he won't ask questions you can't answer.)

On a career, page 89: "What you do from nine to five has everything to do with men anyhow.  A job is one way of getting to them.  It also provides the money with which to dress for them and dress up your apartment for them. [...] Most importantly, a job gives a single woman something to be."  (Thanks for the clarification; I forgot I wasn't anything until I had a job!  My mom was wrong!)

Now, I have to say there is some good advice in here.  One chapter, titled "Money Money Money," offers very practical (regardless of the era) budgeting and money-saving advice.  I appreciated the practicality of it.

But overall, this book was like a train wreck I watched in slow motion.  I wanted to quit the book about halfway through but knew that if I did I might miss another little gem.  The tag line you can see at the top of the cover says, "Before there was Sex and the City, there was..."  But I have to tell you, if Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, or especially Miranda read this book, there would have been hell to pay.  According to Ms. Gurley Brown, I will never find a man.

So in conclusion, I am glad I had a good laugh.  I was entertained, and was able to share some of the above tidbits with friends in good jest.  But thank goodness times have changed.  Speaking of which, I have to go to work.  The work I do not because I want to attract a man or to define me, but because I love it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Emperor of All Maladies

It took me two rounds of library-check-out, but I finally had the privilege to finish this amazing piece of work. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee is an amazing 592-page tome that no one should miss if there is any desire to be educated on cancer.

This biography--and it is a biography, as Mr. Mukherjee points out in his introduction, as cancer is a living being and has a very specific history--is incredibly in-depth. I am a history buff, so this book was right up my alley from Page 1. Mr. Mukherjee does a superb job of mixing history with anecdote, and manages to tie everything together beautifully.

Cancer is ubiquitous, and no one is immune to it's effects on our family and friends. The biggest message I took out of this book is that within us all like the cells that can turn malignant at some point in our lives--and that this battle will continue to be waged. The more cancer that is cured, the more cancer that is found. This is a seemingly endless war, yet we will continue fighting.