Category Archives: Books

Books on Deck – Need Help

So, these are my current books on deck. Since I finished Outliers yesterday, I’ve been hung out to dry on reading material. I’m finishing a bio of Chanel, but that’s strictly bedtime reading.

books

The big question is – which one of these puppies should I crack open first?

And on a completely unrelated note, Felicity Blunt appeared in my ‘People You May Know’ list on LinkedIn. Felicity. Blunt. Sister of Emily, wife of Stanley Tucci.

And literary agent in the UK.

Heck, I have no idea why she’s someone I ‘might know’ but I’ll take it as a sign. A good one! And keep writing.

Now, which of these books would you recommend?? My boss has been suggesting Stephen King titles, but I need at least two going – one for work and one for home.

Thoughts? Please?

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Filed under Books, Reading

Change of Pace: Book Reviews

Wow! This is a bit of a different take on my usual posts, but I’m so proud of myself that I’ve just got to toot my own horn here.

Guess what? I’ve been reading! Not only that, but I’ve finished not one, but two books! Granted, they’ve both been on deck since just after Christmas – but that doesn’t count. What DOES count is that I made time to read, finished two books and enjoyed them both. So I thought I’d do a mini-book review here. Just because.

First up – my at-home reading. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. I mentioned this one a few weeks back, when personality types and behaviors started sounding a bit familiar. Once I Googled the book and read that the town of ‘Leechfield’ is actually the town where a good chunk of my extended family on the Spouse’s side are from, this made sense. I actually need to go back and reread now. Some of the families mentioned in the book could be clones of some people I know. Hmmm…

Anyhoo, Karr uses this book to give us a glimpse of her childhood – which really puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional  – growing up in southeast Texas during the sixties. She manages to put a comic spin on even deep-seated family issues, while painting her family as living, breathing individuals. These are not caricatures. Even those Yankees who may read the book need to take my word for it – these are picture-perfect depictions of people I have met. No stereotypes here. Well, they sure have aspects of the stereotypical redneck Texan – but each person’s issues will strike a chord of familiarity within you, no matter what your upbringing.

I will say that the book became more and more uncomfortable for me to read towards the end. Not through any fault of the author, but her story and its direction brought out some experiences, memories and fears of my own. And that, to me, is what makes this book so memorable and transcending. Regardless of your background, issues or life story, Mary Karr puts us smack dab in the middle of her story – and makes us truly feel what her characters are going through. Empathy. The mark of a Really Good Author.  Just my two cents on that one. Read it. Read it if only for the description of flight from Hurricane Carla across the Bridge. I’ve been on that bridge. In calm sunny weather. Scares the crap out of me every single time. And Mary Karr actually makes it funny.

Next up – my lunchtime-at-work reading. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. This is incredibly interesting stuff. Gladwell actually looks at data, events and statistics surrounding ‘good ol’ American success stories.’ As well as some stereotypes regarding cultural background and achievement. With incredibly interesting results. Turns out that the American Work Ethic of ‘hard work equals success’ isn’t absolute. In fact, if you look at many rags-to-riches stories, you see that hard work is only one part of the equation. Place, time, culture, events – they all add up to very specific opportunities for very specific people in very specific situations.

At first I was depressed. See, I definitely was NOT born in any certain situation with these kinds of opportunities – at least as far as I know. My attitude halfway through the book was basically ‘what’s the point of effort then?’ That’s my Type A pessimism kicking in. It was a Debbie-Downer-ish moment. Well, more than a moment. A few tens of moments. But I kept reading.

And at the end, Gladwell’s message isn’t that only a few individuals have certain exceptional opportunities – it’s that we need to pay more attention to the details of the journey and their impact on the end result. I actually feel inspired. Part of me wants to do a study on myself and my background to see if there are any trends for people like me.

Or maybe I’m just looking for the next bend in the road. I can’t see around it yet, but I’ll take this book as a message that it’s coming. And in that I have faith.

Like I said, I’m not a book reviewer. But what kind of dream job would that be? To get paid to read books and write about them? Count me in!! But that’s what I’ve been up to lately, y’all. Had to give myself a shout-out.

Now, if I could just decide which book on deck to pick up next…

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Filed under Book Clubs, Books, Reading, writing

I Finished a Book!!

I did, really. Took me a few hours last night in total isolation from my family, but it was worth it!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Even the title is beautiful and mysterious. Wonder what I’d call a book written around here? Oh, I’ve got it – Mosquitoes Bite in Houston. Haha.

Anyhoo, this book is absolutely fantastic. A coming-of-age story set in 1900’s New York. Beautifully written. I found myself reading so fast to try and find out what would happen to this family next, and then going back to re-read because the descriptions and thoughts are so profound. Take this one:

All of us are what we have to be and everyone lives the kind of life it’s in him to live.


Pretty much sums up last weekend for me and the realizations that came with it. In fact, I used it in a blog entry earlier this week.

Or this one:

But it was just as well. There had to be the dark and muddy waters so that the sun could have something to background its flashing glory.

That hit yesterday on the head for me. Hello?? The entire homework situation and my reaction to it? I guess that’s true for everyone in any situation. See what I mean though? This book is just chock-full of wise nuggets like these.

At first I figured that this was an autobiographical memoir. I mean, the author gives such detailed description of 1900’s Brooklyn and life in its tenements that I assumed she had lived it. So, of course, I had to Google Betty Smith, the author. Found some rather interesting stuff about her. Apparently when the book was published in 1943, she claimed it as semi-autobiographical and based on her own New York upbringing. This was even published in her memoir. But now, with technology and the access to public records we have, intellectuals have done some research on her.

Turns out that she based most of her ‘upbringing’ on the lives of the fictional family in the book!!

Wow, how’s that for deception? And pretty shrewd marketing for a female author back in the ’40s. I’m impressed. Obviously it worked, because this book is truly worth the best-seller status it has achieved. Give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

Hey, if I can finish it in less than a week, it must be good. Good enough to make me sacrifice necessary chores and precious free time!

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Filed under A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith, Books, Reading

Small World

Unrelated to this morning’s earlier post, which is why I’m sticking it in here as an aside. I’VE BEEN READING!! A couple of interesting things. Most of my free time (ha!) during the work day has been taken up by Outliers. It’s a bit depressing so far, seeing as how it basically debunks the good ol’ American work ethic of ‘hard work equals success.’ But interesting to look at actual statistics too, and the chapters on geniuses actually make sense. As a teacher I can totally see where the author is coming from.

And on a funny note – not the subject matter of the book, but the connection. Last night I started a memoir called The Liars Club. As I read about the people of Leechfield, TX I noticed some familiar twangs in their mannerisms and way of speaking. So I did what the nerd in me always does – I Googled the town. Imagine my surprise when I learned that ‘Leechfield’ is the fictional name given by the author to her hometown. Which happens to be the exact same hometown of some of my extended family-in-law. Huh. Wonder if I’ll recognize anybody?? Heheh…

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Filed under Books, Coincidence, Reading, Southeast Texas