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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...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Omnivore's Dilemma

You haven't read the omnivore's dilemma until you have read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.  See, I have done a nice bit of research into foods and I try hard to eat (and often fail at eating) sustainable food and properly raised meat, vegetables, and other goodies.  I have seen the documentaries on food sustainability and I am aware of genetically modified food, engineered meats, and the lack of truly "organic-ness" in our "organic" markets.  But I was still deeply affected by Pollan's book.

I needed another reminder that everything I eat is corn.  I am a sucker for corn, mostly because I am the product of my environment.  Bless my mother, she was into the organic movement in the 1980's long before anyone thought it was remotely cool, and I am so thankful to her for instilling these values in my life and my diet.  She raised me to be aware of my food and the chemicals that I put in my body.  But I can't get away from corn.  It's everywhere--my yogurt (what do you think the cow ate?), my bagel in the morning (what do you think serve as the grains...and not to mention the butter from the previously mentioned cow?), and even my "healthy" salad dressing (high fructose corn syrup, anyone?).

I do what I can--I have my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that I pick up weekly.  I try to do as much shopping at the farmer's market on Sundays as possible, and I pay attention to my labels at the grocery.  But it's not enough, because I have no choice but to deal with corn being the center of my world.  And do you know what that means?  It's the center of yours too.  Sorry to be Debbie Downer.

The biggest effect I on me was the economic and environmental impact these farming practices are having on us.  I am not going to the extreme of veganism, but I am far more conscious now of what I am bringing into my home and what I am putting in my mouth.  I am also more conscious of what is going in to my cat's mouth as well; what he eats will have a huge effect on his health--and my wallet.  It makes a difference--in my health, mentally and physically, and just my overall well-being.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Breakfast At Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote is the stunningly beautiful story that it always has been--it has just taken me a long time to get around to it.  And shame on me.

How captivating the Holly Golightly in this story is; she has stayed with me far longer than Ms. Hepburn's portrayal in the movie version.  Not because the movie isn't lovely--I think she is positively indulgent.  But this Holly, Capote's Holly, is far more fallible and irresistibly broken.  And lovable in the most sympathetic way.  Don't you want to take her home and make her better?  Let her know it's ok, and that it gets better?

I also have to say, "A Christmas Memory" is one of my favorite of Capote's short stories, and it is included in this collection as well as "A Diamond Guitar" and "House of Flowers."  But "Memory" still moves me every time I read it.  It's no secret that I am a Capote fan.  (In Cold Blood, anyone?  A magnum opus if there ever was one.)  He is so languid and beautiful it's hard to put him down.

So if you have yet to pick up this stunningly short work (did you think it was a novel?  I might have...), do so.  It won't take you long to be sucked into Miss Holiday and her web of stories, and you will have to put her down far sooner than you anticipate.  But it will be worth every second, I promise you.  Classics don't become so simply by making nice.  They endure for a reason.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Unforgettable Embrace

Unforgettable Embrace by Joanne Clancy is the story of Rachel, a 30-ish Cork woman who doesn't lie around weeping (for long, anyway) when she breaks off her 14-year relationship with her childhood sweetheart; instead she finds herself in a big way.

I felt that I could hear the Irish brogue throughout the book, and I loved that.  That manner of speaking is so different than American slang and I thoroughly appreciated hearing the characters speak in my head.  It was positively lovely.

There is quite a bit happening in this piece, from Rachel's breakup to her road trip to finding new love (not so much a spoiler since you could guess by the title it involves romance) to happiness (again, same thing) to unexpected danger at the last minute.  I won't give away the details, since everyone deserves a chance to read for themselves.  Just know that it's twisty and curvy--just like life.

If you love intense description, this is definitely the book for you.  I found the often-occurring detail a bit too tedious and often found myself skimming; interesting in everyday life, yes, but a bit heavy for fun reading.  However, come for Rachel--positively messy and relentlessly open to who she might really be.

If you are interested in grabbing the book, it's on in ebook format on Smashwords: www.smashwords.com.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Thank You Economy

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk is exactly what is sounds like--it's not a romance, it's not a super indulgent story, and it's not even fiction.  It is, however, a vital read if you want to keep your business relevant in today's economy, be it your eBay store, your Fortune 500 corporation, or your non-profit theatre company.

Vaynerchuk spends a good bit of the book making sure that you understand how to use social media for your company, not just use it because you feel you have to.  This, I would agree with his assessment, is what can only serve to hurt companies.

This book is incredibly bottom line driven--as long as you understand and embrace that customer service is the bottom line.  A loyal customer base will keep you afloat and will be your best (and sometimes most important) asset, and you do this by saying thank you.  Not just with words or with gifts, but with service and loyalty of your own.

I might now be recommending this book to everyone I know.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Sometimes you come across a book that humbles you.  Sometimes you come across a book that knocks the wind out of you and leaves you gasping for breath.  Sometimes you want to find a character from your book to put the pieces of your broken heart back together.  Sometimes a book does all three.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer deserves more than a simple blog post review.  It deserves to be savored and remembered by all who have the honor of coming across it in their lifetime.  This is the story of Oskar Schell, a young boy who lost his father in the World Trade Center.  Oskar finds a key two years later and sets off through New York City to find what it belongs to, hoping that he can hold on to his father just a little longer.

Last night after I flipped through the last pages (and they are flip-pages, I didn't just not read them), I closed the book and held it to my heart hoping that it would put the pain I shared with these characters back inside.  I needed Oskar to stay in my life so that I could hold him and tell him that it never gets better, but you can sure try.  And I would be with him as long as he needed.  I fell in love with Oskar (more like an aunt-nephew relationship), and I didn't want to send him off into the world without someone to hold his hand.

For fear of giving just too much away, know that by not having read this book you are missing something.  It will affect you, break your heart, and love you back.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Horizontal Life

Today's review will take on a different format.  I would like to write a love note to the author.

An Open Thank You Note To Chelsea Handler

Thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty for the entertainment of Americans everywhere. You are witty, honest, and unfailingly open.  With you, the laughs never cease and I am constantly inclined to shift nervously in my seat on the subway when you write your squirm-inducing passages of your exploits.

The green M&M costume story?  Priceless.  If I had a dollar for every Awkward Ex Encounter I had, my riches would not compare to yours.

You provide a bar for which I am inclined to reach in my dating life, and I appreciate you.



Friday, October 7, 2011

The Tipping Point

We all know our dear friend, Malcolm Gladwell.  And most of us are familiar with The Tipping Point, the beginning of our love affair with Gladwell's pop-psychology.  And I have a confession--I am a (95%) fan of our long-time-non-fiction-writer-crush.

I find Gladwell to be a compelling writer.  He is a conversationalist who takes the reader from everyday to knowledgeable on ideas that people might not be aware of.  His prose lead you to immediately trust his knowledge and he is someone you want to invite to your next dinner party to be the entertainer of the group.

Full disclosure: I take issue with a few of his pronouncements that I feel ignore the "buts" of psychological research.  Those who have done studies are very hesitant about ever saying something is absolutely true, especially when it comes to correlations.  (NERD ALERT!)  I get a tiny bit (read: super) frustrated when I read a passage that talks about a correlation then says that A caused B and uses a correlation as proof.  A correlation is not convincing enough evidence that causation exists, and that's not to say there is no causation.  I am only saying that it's not alright to use cause-and-effect when speaking of a correlation.

Other than that, I love reading Gladwell's prose and his connections between otherwise seemingly innocuous lines of thinking.  I enjoy his everyman writing that still comes across as smart yet still remaining common.  Now that I have read all of Gladwell's books, I guess I should turn toward his New Yorker articles.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bright Lights, Big City

I may be on an '80's kick right now.  Between Bret Easton Ellis and a not-so-long-ago viewing of Brat Pack films, I am immersed in the overindulgent culture of the 1980's all over again.  Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney is no exception.

Focusing on the decadence afforded to even those who were broke in New York City in this time period, McInerney's narrative focuses on our faceless and nameless main man who is reeling from his wife's abandonment of their marriage and his hated and thankless job as a fact checker for an unnamed highbrow and important magazine publication.  He rails through the night, hyped on anything he can get his hands on, then falls in late to work until he is finally fired.  Slowly McInerney reveals a deeper reasoning for his actions and humanizes him toward the end of this short novel.

This novel was short and a fairly easy read.  It didn't take too much out of me emotionally but I still felt myself needing to find out why the main character was such a messed up human being.  Beyond the wife leaving him, that is.  I got my answer in the final few pages of the book, and I felt it was satisfying enough.  I appreciated McInerny holding that out until the end; I felt it really gave the book a perspective that kept me intrigued about from the beginning.  I realize I am about 27 years behind on this book, but I am glad that I added it to my collection of knowledge regarding that fascinating decade of (what else?) decadence.