Month: December 2012

Dec 30

Do You Hear The People Sing? (Give Them ALL THE OSCARS!)

Classics, Historical Fiction 52

Hiya Bookworms,

Oh man. I just saw Les Miserables. I rarely go to movies because I don’t like to put on clothes that aren’t pajamas on weekends. Yes, I’m exaggerating. But I seriously don’t go to the movies that much. Which is why I can in good conscience declare that Les Miserables should win ALL THE OSCARS! (It’s not like I’ve seen anything else in the running…)

I’ve never seen the actual stage production of Les Mis but I’m familiar with the soundtrack because it’s beautiful. I challenge you to not get the chills when you listen to “Do You Hear The People Sing?” I like the musical because although it takes some liberties, it doesn’t stray too terribly far from Victor Hugo’s epic novel. (Unlike the late 90s movie version of Les Mis starring Liam Niessen and Claire Danes in which Jean Valjean LIVED. WTF, guys?!)

I love you. So much.

I love you. So much.

I thought the casting in this movie was phenomenal… With one exception. But I’ll get to that in a minute. Anne Hathaway?! Your Fantine was brilliant. Amanda Seyfried? Well, grown up Cosette doesn’t do a lot, but you know, you hit the high notes and cried in the right places. Plus, you’re so darn pretty with Eddie Redmayne. Who’s a bit of a dreamboat himself. Who knew freckles could sing? OMG who was that girl playing Eponine?! She might be my new favorite human being! Hi Samantha Barks! You rock! (Who was Taylor Swift kidding when she auditioned for that part?!) Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were the perfect diabolical duo as the Thernardiers. And little Gavroche was AMAZING. I totes ugly cried when Russell Crowe pinned the medal on that kid’s corpse.

But let’s talk for a minute about Russell Crowe. He wasn’t awful. He does the stern cranky unrelenting douche canoe thing very well. However… The singing… I mean, it’s not like his voice cracked or anything, but his vocal chops just paled in comparison to the rest of the cast. You know who should have played Javert? Hugh Jackman. Yes, he was a MAGNIFICENT Jean Valjean. I’m not saying he shouldn’t have played that part. I’m saying he should have played BOTH parts. You KNOW it’s possible. Lindsay Lohan played both twins in The Parent Trap (as did Haley Mills) before she went cray cray. They could have thrown in an evil twin aspect, no? A little soap operatic twist? I know. It’s ridiculous. But Hugh Jackman, I want to hear you do “Stars” justice. Please?

Photo Credit: AceShowBiz

Photo Credit: AceShowBiz

Having never seen the musical, I didn’t have a lot of expectations for how this would play out on screen. The only comparison point I had for this was the book (plus the musical soundtrack, but I’ve already discussed the OMG singing.) First, can I just say how glad I am that they made it ABUNDANTLY clear in this movie that this was NOT the official French Revolution? That’s a common misconception, and it irritates me, because, you know. History. Realism points to you, Tom Hooper. Ooooh I just love a period piece with good detail! The hoards of poor people- the all looked disgusting! It was great! There’s no bronzer in the gutters of 18th Century Paris, y’all. The makeup artists went above and beyond with the scabs and sores and pock marks. And they grossed up most people’s teeth. I appreciate the little bits of authenticity. The prostitutes were also delightfully gross. They all looked like walking syphilis! Granted, the period makeup was pretty scary, the way these gals were painted up was terrifying. OSCAR, OSCAR, OSCAR!

Finally. The sewers! I’ve discussed this before, haven’t I? Hugo went into excessive detail about the nastiness of the Parisian sewer system. It was stomach churningly realistic. OMG soupy disgusting chunky river of poop. So VIVIDLY rendered! I can’t come up with enough superlatives to express my love of this movie (with the notable exception of my lukewarm feelings about Russell Crowe. Bleh.) In summation, I am a blubbering mess of fan girl right now. Vive la France!

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Dec 27

9 out of 10 Penguins Prefer My Blog (The 10th Penguin was Eaten by a Leopard Seal.)

Blogging, Humor, Personal 37

Hello my Bookworms!

I know, I know, I’ve been absent. I’m sorry. I’ve been rolling around jovially in a potent stew of holiday spirit, thousands of cookies, and more than a few drops of liquor. It’s been a magical experience, to be sure. I’ve been trying to keep up with my reading, but you try to read when there is so much visceral fun to be had. Seriously.

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Did you not see this? Crazy fun times!

Anyway, I’ve been pondering some things. It’s a little bit unusual for me to be running a “review” site and not have a ratings system. There are so many cute and clever ratings systems out there. There are ye olde “stars” to be had, cups of tea, thumbs up/down, and the like. I suppose if I had a ratings system it would consist of penguins, because I love them. Then I could say things like “This book was so bad, all the penguins got angry and pecked it to shreds! Or perhaps they pecked it because it was about the ocean and they got confused thinking it contained tasty penguin snacks.”

wedding cake

My wedding cake had a penguin topper, you guys. This is a lifelong love affair with the penguin I’ve got going on. No joke.

But alas, I feel I am incapable of a ratings system. I’ve noticed my Goodreads ratings are completely arbitrary. I feel stingy with my 5 stars, so something has to be AMAZING to get that 5th star. At the same time though, I feel like an ass to give something a mere two stars unless it had no redeeming qualities. Just because I didn’t like something, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Then I get this horrible miasma of books that DO NOT belong together thrown into the 3 star crowd. Like, The Hobbit, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Wuthering Heights all ended up with the same rating? What the what? That’s not right at all!

And yet, with my random “eh it wasn’t my favorite, but it had a dragon and Bilbo is totes adorbs” or “it got a lot of people to read who otherwise wouldn’t have” or “I can see why it’s a classic but it wasn’t my cup of tea because I wanted to punch Heathcliff and Catherine all the time” every last one of these got three stars. This is why I can’t do ratings. I have to be overly verbose and TALK ABOUT IT.

How do you all feel about ratings systems? Are you more likely to see a movie with two thumbs up? Are you more into a book with stellar Goodreads feedback? Do you wish I talked more about penguins? (I can make the penguin thing happen. Seriously.) Talk to me. Bookworms!

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Dec 24

Merry Christmas To All, And To All A Good Night

Personal, Poetry 7

God Rest Ye Merry Bookworms,

Let nothing you dismay.

I’ll be back to writing for you

After Christmas Day.

My husband sits here being weird,

And I think that’s okay.

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and Joy.

Ooooh-oh ti-idings of co-omfort and joy!

Merry Christmas Y'all!

Merry Christmas Y’all!

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Dec 21

Don't They Know It's The End of the World?

Dystopian, Fantasy, Humor, Personal 21

Hi Bookworms! Today is “Doomsday.” People who have misinterpreted the Mayan calendar have decided that the world is supposed to end today. I’d really prefer the world not end. I have things planned for next week. Beyond that though, I’d do very very poorly in a post-apocalyptic world. I looooove dystopian novels, so I figured I’d explore how I’d perish early on in some of my favorites. Ready?

1. The Stand by Stephen King. It’s easy to assume that I’d die in the plague that kills 99% of the population, but I have a really impressive immune system. I may be jinxing myself here, but I haven’t needed an antibiotic since I was 16 and had my wisdom teeth removed. I get sick very infrequently. So. I think I’d survive Captain Tripps. One of my favorite parts of The Stand though was that King discussed the casualties that occurred AFTER the flu had run its course. I’d probably survive the flu only to succumb to something really stupid… Like getting a paper cut from a book and contracting a flesh eating bacteria. It would be my cosmic punishment for bragging about my immune system and how I don’t need antibiotics. I’d survive the virus to be taken out by a self important bacterium.

Good vs. Evil. Super Flu. Apocalypse.

Katie’s battle with the paper cut didn’t make the final draft.

2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. If I were in Katniss’s shoes, I wouldn’t make it very far. I lack aim, archery skills, and knowledge of edible forest plants. The good news is, I probably wouldn’t need those skills. You know how at the very beginning of The Hunger Games the contestants stand on pedestals until the countdown is over and the games begin? If anyone has a “false start” their pedestal explodes. That would be me. Considering the alternatives in the arena, that’s probably not a bad way to go.

Ka-Pow!

Ka-Pow!

3. World War Z by Max Brooks. I shy away from physical violence, and I’m not especially strong. To be frank? I’m a weenie. I can’t even arm wrestle effectively. I’d be bitten very early on. But then? Then I’d be a zombie! Only, I’d make a terrible zombie! I’d be really really slow and unobservant. I’d be the zombie that they use in demonstrations to teach small children how to defend themselves. At least I’d be useful to humanity in some capacity. As the loser-iest zombie.

Zombie Katie!

Katie: The Loser-iest Zombie

4. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Yes, I know this isn’t an “end of the world” scenario, but I being in the middle of a war zone is definitely an “end of the world as we know it” scenario. Scarlett was really annoying during peace time, but she kind of kicked butt during an emergency. She delivered babies and farmed cotton and still managed to keep up her unhealthy fixation on Ashley. If I were a character in Gone With The Wind, I would not be Scarlett. I’d be like her first husband, Charles Hamilton. He got sick and died before he even saw combat. That’d be me. I was always the one dying of dysentery in Oregon Trail. I know I have a great immune system, but I’ve never had to contend with dysentery, okay?

That's me.

That’s me.

5. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Technically, the villains in this book were vampires, not zombies. Why wouldn’t I make it? I am DELICIOUS. No, seriously. Blood sucking insects seek me out. If there is a mosquito within a mile radius, it will find me and feast. Once, I lived in an apartment and my upstairs neighbor managed to infest my apartment with fleas. Do you know what fleas like to eat when there aren’t animals readily available? KATIES! It was beyond miserable. This contributes to my pervasive and borderline obsessive fear of bed bugs. In case you were ever curious about the existence of vampires in the real world, the fact that I’ve yet to be eaten is definitive proof that they do not exist. I’d be vampire catnip. For reals.

vampire-bats-2-clipart

It’s a good thing vamps aren’t real. They’d be seriously offended by this clip art.

There we have it. Five very specific reasons I would not survive any number of apocalypse scenarios. Like I said, it’s a good thing the world isn’t ending. I am going to celebrate by enjoying some of my favorite things: pizza, electricity, the internet, and my husband. Who will continue to have zero chance with Taylor Swift. Happy days, Bookworms. Happy days.

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Dec 19

Lost in Translation

Classics 32

Hi there, Bookworms.

I’ve had some thoughts rattling around the old brain cage for a while now, so I’m going to attempt to write them down. Once upon a time I had a blog commenter give me a hard time for flippantly dismissing the work of Hakuri Murakami. I tried and failed to keep myself conscious through all of 1Q84 and gave up. I was offended and angered by the comment. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh yeah?! Well, talk to me when you’ve read his work in the original Japanese, Ms. Fancy Pants.” Really, it’s just that my ego had suffered a blow. The truth is I probably SHOULD give Murakami’s work another shot, because I’m sure he’s completely brilliant. It’s just kind of been soured for me by a random stranger on the internet. But it got me thinking. A lot of world renowned literature isn’t written in English.

I speak for myself in saying that I (shamefully) only think, speak, read, and dream in English. I’m all kinds of monolingual. And while I’m sure there are plenty of avid readers out there who speak more than one language, they certainly don’t speak ALL the languages (even in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxythe babel fish only worked for auditory things. And who can trust a fish in their ear anyway?!) The odds that you’ll find someone who can read Kafka in German, Hugo in French, Murakami in Japanese, Cervantes in Spanish, and Tolstoy in Russian are pretty slim.

I don’t think translators get enough credit, dagnabit. Seriously. You buy a copy of Les Miserables and you see VICTOR HUGO in big fat letters. Then in teeny tiny print you see “translation by…” Usually not even on the cover. Sure, the translator didn’t birth that puppy, but can you imagine how tough translating a great work would be? Not only is there incredible pressure to get it all right, but you’re not dealing with “see Spot run” sentence structure. It’s complex stuff! It’s flowery and full of adjectives (and parenthetical asides!)

les-miserables-176x300

The fact that this was made into a (completely brilliant) musical is more important to the book cover than the name of the French to English genius who translated. Sad trombone.

Can we all just take a few moments to shower some appreciation on the polyglots of the world? Can I get a slow clap going for literary translators? I’d miss out on so much if it weren’t for them. I’d like to present the literary translators of the world with this CERTIFICATE OF AWESOMENESS for being awesome and bringing me ALL THE WORDS. In English. Because I’m too ignorant to learn other languages.

awesome

Oh yes, I know “translators” is plural and “is” is singular. Cut me some slack, I SUCK at these things! A for effort, yes?

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Dec 17

God Bless Us, Every One: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Classics 29

Happy Monday, Bookworms. In honor of the holiday season, I decided to re-read my all-time favorite holiday story, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It’s a classic tale of redemption and good triumphing over indifference. In light of all that’s gone on in recent days, I think it’s helpful to focus on some of the positives in the world. Teachers are often unsung heroes because so much of what they do is intertwined with politics. I firmly believe that most teachers try to help their students to the very best of their ability, regardless of what test scores may say. When the chips were down, the heroic teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary that laid down their lives to protect their students. Let’s just take a second to be grateful for awesome teachers, shall we? My love affair with A Christmas Carol began in school, thanks to some of those fabulous teachers.

When I was in the 4th grade, we did a class production of A Christmas Carol. I wanted to play Ebenezer Scrooge (because it was the lead role, and I have always been a praise junkie), but instead I was cast as potentially the coolest character in the whole story- The Ghost of Christmas Present. I got to wear what I believe was a seasonal altar boy’s robe and a wreath on my head. I look good in hats… Even if they’re made of evergreen. I REALLY wish I had a photo of this. Sadly, I do not. Instead I offer you this:

Here's a photo of me wearing antlers instead.

Here’s a photo of me wearing antlers. Also Jim. Looking annoyed with me.

When I was in the 6th grade, my English teacher assigned us our first major paper. It was a compare/contrast paper highlighting the differences between Dickens’s original text and two movie versions of the story. The teacher in question reads my blog. The internet is funny that way. Hi, Mrs. Y! (You can’t see it, but I’m waving at you right now.) I’m sure you cringe at my “artistic” use of fragments and run-ons, but I assure you that I really DO know the rules. I just flout them. Trivial tidbit: if you read A Christmas Carol you’ll notice that instead of being divided into chapters, it’s divided into sections called “staves.” A “stave” is the plural word for staff, as in, music staff. Dickens was being cheeky and “composing” his Christmas “carol” as though it were actually music. It’s enormously clever. Let’s all give a polite poetry clap to Charles Dickens’s humor…

God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay! I don't remember how to read sheet music but I'm sure that's not what this photo is depicting.

“God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay!” I don’t remember how to read sheet music but I’m sure that’s not what this photo is depicting. Whatever, it’s positively Dickensian.

On the off chance that you’ve never read A Christmas Carol, seen a single movie adaptation of it, or watched a sitcom in the last 150 years, I’ll give you a little synopsis. Ebenezer Scrooge is a wealthy man, but he’s the biggest grump in all of London. He’s rich, but super cheap. He gives nothing to charity, he underpays his clerk, he is mean to his only living relative, and he’d rather be cold than spend money on coal t0 keep his office warm. He used to have a partner in crime named Jacob Marley. Marley died 7 years before our story begins, but chooses to come back in his ghostly form to give Scrooge a warning one Christmas Eve. Marley tells Scrooge he needs to quit being a cheap bastard because if he doesn’t, he’ll be forced to wander the afterlife dragging chains and being miserable. He tells Scrooge that he’ll be visited by 3 spirits that night (to which Scrooge rather glibly replies that he’d like to see them all at once to get it over with…You’ve got to give him credit for being ballsy. I wouldn’t argue with a ghost…)

Scrooge goes on to be visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future. It’s a fascinating journey through Scrooge’s psyche as we explore Christmases past. We get to watch the childhood traumas he experiences that turn him into a big mean jerk. We see his lost love. We see the glimmers of humanity that must be hiding under the gruff facade. The Ghost of Christmas Present (a part I am known to have played more brilliantly than any other 4th grader ever… Obviously) takes Scrooge on a tour of the present’s festivities. Scrooge visits the nephew he constantly brushes off. He sees his clerk’s family subsisting on his meager salary, but displaying love and joy despite their poverty. The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Scrooge a bleak picture of what will become of him if he does not change his ways.

You know what happens when Scrooge gets up on Christmas morning?! He changes his ways! He jumps on his bed, he buys a giant turkey, and he goes to dinner at his nephew’s house. He gives Bob Crachit a raise! He gives a fat chunk of cash to charity and he begins to laugh again. Is there anything more heartwarming than a story of redemption? A story that celebrates giving, joy, and caring. A Christmas Carol is a classic for a reason. It reminds the reader that there is more to life than money. There is immeasurable joy to be had by helping out our fellow human beings. Decency and kindness don’t go unnoticed.

I’m being rather cowardly in avoiding in-depth discussion of the nightmare that occurred in Connecticut on Friday. My heart broke along with the rest of the world when the story broke. I simply can’t wrap my mind around that much sadness without plunging into a black hole of despair… Which will accomplish absolutely nothing. Right now I CHOOSE to celebrate the good. I want to buy someone’s coffee. I want to send a card to a little old lady. I want to give a gift just for the sake of seeing the recipient smile. I can’t undo what’s been done, but I can refuse to allow tragedy to define my behavior. I’m going to spread some JOY to chase away a tiny corner of darkness. I encourage you to do the same. As Tiny Tim so succinctly put it, “God bless us, every one.”

And God bless free clip art.

And God bless free clip art.

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Dec 14

A Christmas Miracle: The Most Glorious Tale of the Wrapping Paper

Confession Friday, Humor, Personal 36

I like to buy wrapping paper on sale after Christmas. I’m rather particular about the paper, as I prefer penguin print (which comes as a surprise to exactly no one.) Last year I found myself wrought with the most frustrating of first world problems: wrapping paper storage. They make these lovely tubs to store wrapping paper. I like plastic storage items- they are significantly better at fighting your traditional basement storage foes (humidity, bugs) than their soft sided counterparts. Sadly, my wrapping paper tub was of the short variety, and I had purchased paper of the long variety.

Womp, womp.

Womp, womp.

“No big deal,” I thought to myself, “I’ll run out and pick up a taller wrapping paper container. I know they exist, my dad has one.” Thus I embarked on the most annoying shopping hunt that has ever been. I went to every single store that could conceivably stock the tall container. No luck. I trolled the internet tirelessly. No. Freaking. Luck.

Oh, there were “products.” There were soft sided boxes, racks to hang on the back of your door, a plethora of containers that were too short to be useful. I was several times teased with the majestic object of my affection only to be foiled by the dreaded “NO LONGER AVAILABLE” notice. To say I was annoyed is an understatement. I was absolutely fixated on this wrapping paper problem.

“WHY would they MAKE wrapping paper in tubes and NOT make a suitable storage option,” I’d cry shrilly to anyone willing to listen to me complain about something so mundane. Then, one afternoon my husband called. He sounded exceedingly proud of himself…

“Katie! I’ve got a solution for you!” I then had one of those rare moments of psychic awareness. Dread filled the pit of my stomach. “Please tell me that you did not just cut the ends off of the rolls of paper!” Silence on the other end of the line.”But they fit in the container now!” How could he not understand?! One does not simply destroy rolls of wrapping paper to make them fit into storage containers!

Jim's "solution."

Jim’s “solution.” Really Jim? Really?

It does not matter if the paper was bought at a hefty discount or that big chunks of it get tossed during the wrapping process anyway. It was the PRINCIPLE of the thing. Katie vs. The Man. The Man wasn’t going to get away with this! But. The Man did. After nearly crying over my massacred rolls of paper, Hubs went out and very sweetly purchased a laundry hamper to use for storage, but it wasn’t the same. It had no top. It was not impervious to basement-ness. I never did bring the paper down to the basement to store, for fear of humidity… (Also laziness. That would have been heavy. We have a lot of paper.) I stared at it spitefully in the corner of the guest room all year long.

The laundry hamper of disappointment.

And then it happened. THE MIRACLE! This year I was out Christmas shopping. I couldn’t find what I was looking for (an ornament shaped like a camera, if you must know) so I was store hopping. I stopped in a K-Mart. I rarely ever shop at K-Mart, unless I can’t find things other places. It’s kind of out of the way, and the lighting is bad. I like a brightly lit store. Sue me. It was at this moment that the SUN broke through the ceiling of that dingy K-Mart aisle. The Cherubim and the Seraphim joined their voices into the most beautiful rendition of Handel’s Messiah that has ever been heard by earthly ears:

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! (Look! THE PAPER FITS!)

Hallelujah! (Look! THE PAPER FITS!)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (I was so excited, I bought two!)

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (I was so excited, I bought two!)

HALLELUJAH!!! And then we had the merriest of Christmases.

HALLELUJAH!!! And then we had the merriest of Christmases.

Miracles don’t always have to be healing the sick and raising the dead, people! Sometimes they appear in the form of molded plastic. May you all have a MIRACULOUS Christmas! (And if you do not celebrate Christmas, may you enjoy your respective holidays! Or, at the very least, the day off work for no good reason!)

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Dec 13

Sad Desk Salad: A Selection For Mandy's Blogger Book Club

Blogging, Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Humor, Personal, Women's Studies 21

Hello Bookworms! I’m super excited about today’s blog post. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in Mandy’s Blogger Book Club. Have you met The Well Read Wife? She’s kind of a big deal in the world of book bloggers, and she’s really nice. I mean, she bought 20 copies of Jessica Grose’s Sad Desk Salad and sent them out to strangers from the internet out of the goodness of her heart! Can we all just take a moment to shower some love on Mandy for being awesome and sending me a free book? (Applause!)The only rule of Mandy’s Blogger Book Club? Blog about the book. I know! I already DO THAT, right?

BloggerBookClub-masthead1

Let’s talk about the book, shall we? Sad Desk Salad is a novel about a career blogger. Alex is 25 years old and working for a popular women’s website called Chick Habit. Alex lives in Manhattan with her boyfriend Peter. She works from home, rarely changes out of a grungy black muumuu, and has been sucked into the black hole of internet drama. When she receives an anonymous tip containing incriminating footage of the daughter of a prominent parenting author turned politician, Alex has to wrestle with her morals in posting the footage. She has to deal with the consequences of going public… Or not. To add to the bubbling stew of chaos, a hate blog has popped up attacking Alex and the rest of the Chick Habit staff. She has to deal with all of this while her relationship with Peter hits a rough patch and her friendships are put to the test. I’m having anxiety just writing that all out. Reading this book was rather intense for me.

It’s been a while since I read a book that I could not put down. I typically get most of my reading done in bed before my brain turns off for the night. When I start getting tired, I go to sleep. Makes sense, yes? Needless to say, I spent two rather sleepy days at the office this week. It’s okay, because, you know. Coffee.

I really enjoyed this book. It was sort of like The Devil Wears Prada meets… all of my own personal neuroses about blogging. (Jessica Grose can see into your MIND, people!) Alex gets completely absorbed into her own digital world. She has this insane demanding boss, Moira, who, while not being nearly as nuts as the boss in Prada expects her staff to be glued to their laptops at all times. Just reading about the frantic pace at which the “Chickies” are required to write causes my blood pressure to rise.

A little something about me. I have a “grown up” job. 8-5, Monday through Friday, I can be found in my office, at my desk, surrounded by an army of wind-up penguins. I work with numbers (I’m crazy good at algebra. But only basic algebra.) On the rare occasions where I’ve worked from home, I’ve hated it. When I’m at the office, it’s not a big deal if I have to run to the bathroom or take a break to dog shame Dakota. When I’m at home with my only connection being digital, I feel chained to the desk. Moira expects Alex to be at her beck and call, so Alex rarely takes even 10 minutes to shower. I cannot tell you how many times during the reading of this book I BEGGED Alex to shower. Oh, the humanity! And that muumuu? Don’t get me started. But, being high strung like I am, I completely GET Alex’s drive to do well at work.

sad-desk-salad1

I adore this cover art. I also adore the concept. A “sad desk salad” is the lame lunch of wilted greens and grilled chicken that every last office working female has consumed at some point in her life.

But Alex’s work? Oye. I’ve never been so happy that my blog is just a hobby. Bloggers tend to learn the hard way that everyone’s a critic. Heck, I’m probably an author’s worst nightmare. Who do I think I AM dissecting people’s work on the internet?! And yet, here I am- writing my thoughts, making bad jokes, misinterpreting symbolism all over the damn place. I haven’t had much experience with negative commenters, but MAN does it sting. Alex struggles with that. She struggles with commenters attacking her work, and often, her personally. When she’s upset and tries to discuss her boundaries with Moira, she’s told to “grow a pair.” (Can I just take this opportunity to thank the universe that my bosses are far more likely to give me a hug when I’m upset than to tell me to “grow a pair?” Because wow.)

Alex gets so sucked into the digital drama that she forgets all the important REAL stuff in her life. Like eating food not obtained in a rush from the local bodega. Like having actual conversations with her life partner. Like basic hygiene and laundry. When threatened by a hate blogger with exposure from her past, she absolutely panics. She begins to get suspicious of her friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. She’s just exposed someone’s dirty laundry, what’s to prevent someone from exposing hers? (And no, I’m not talking about the black muumuu, but DAMN girl, laundromats exist in big cities, don’t they?)

If I had to put Sad Desk Salad into a category, I’d call it smart chick lit. It’s not Shakespeare, but I’m not smart enough to read Shakespeare anyway. I think most of you bookworms would enjoy this book. Certainly, these isn’t a blogger among us who couldn’t relate to some of these situations. I encourage you to give it a whirl, and be sure to let me know how you like it. I know I’ll never look at my own “sad desk salads” the same way again! Thanks for the great pick, Mandy!

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Dec 12

Haul Out The Holly: A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship, Humor 16

Ho ho ho, my little Bookworms! (I know not all of you celebrate Christmas, so on behalf of humanity, I apologize for you having to deal with this craziness every December. However… Saying “ho ho ho” is humorous on a number of levels, so I’m standing by my greeting.)

I’ve mentioned before that I love Fannie Flagg. It’s sort of a guilty pleasure thing, because I am fully aware that her novels aren’t highbrow literary fanciness. That said, they offer warm fuzzy feelings I haven’t found in anyone else’s work. Plus, southern charm is so darn whimsical, I can’t help myself. Soooo, when I saw that Fannie Flagg wrote a Christmas novel, I was all over it.

The book in question is called A Redbird Christmas. There’s this middle aged man who lives in Chicago. He’s told by his doctor he’s basically going to die because his lungs suck and his innards are broken and that he needs to move someplace warm so he doesn’t die like today. The guy’s name is Oswald. It’s Oswald because that name was the next on the list at the orphanage where he was deposited as a baby in a basket inexplicably containing a can of Campbell’s soup. Because the nuns had a sense of humor, they named him Oswald Campbell. (I just looked it up- there IS in fact a Saint Oswald. I was about to complain about a Catholic orphanage having a list of baby names that weren’t saints, but there are a LOT of saints… Even an Oswald, apparently.)

redbird christmas

Anyway, Oswald is given this random brochure for a health resort in Lost River, Alabama. Sadly, the health resort no longer exists, but he’s given reasonable room and board by one of the residents, so he decides to make the move. In typical Flagg fashion, there is a lot of southern cuteness to be had in this novel. There are neurotic old women who dye their hair crazy colors. The town’s mail is all delivered via boat since all the homes are located on piers along the river. The town’s only grocery store is run by an eccentric man who allows a crippled cardinal free reign over his store. (This part made me cringe a little. I don’t care how many tricks you can teach a bird, there is no teaching a bird not to poop on the produce. Not cool.)

One day a little girl shows up. There are people who live “back in the woods” who are basically transient and terrible at taking care of their children. (No “trailer trash” stereotypes here or anything. Oh, wait…) The little girl in question is named Patsy. She’s been abandoned by her father and stuck with a stepmother who doesn’t want her. She’s got a birth defect that causes a pronounced limp, and her sweet vulnerable little girlness charms the whole darn town. When the stepmother decides to skip town and doesn’t want to take Patsy, Frances (one of Lost River’s most prominent ladies) jumps at the opportunity to raise the little girl. Patsy, no surprise, bonds with Jack (the bird) and sweet loveliness ensues.

Frances takes Patsy to a doctor to see about getting her leg fixed- it’ll require an expensive series of surgeries and a lot of emotional support. The town really bands together to raise the money to help Patsy, but nobody can get through to the little girl like that darn bird. Unfortunately, birds don’t have a super long life expectancy. So… Well, I’m not going to get into all the spoilers. If you’re even remotely interested in this sort of word candy, I don’t want to ruin it for you. (Be sure to floss! Novels this level of sweetness are sure to cause cavities.)

red-cardinal-md

Hi! I’m Jack. I’m the Redbird of Happiness! (And feces)

To be quite honest, this wasn’t my favorite Fannie Flagg offering. I didn’t get wrapped up in the lives of the characters the way I did in some of her other books. Since I wasn’t expecting it to be the greatest book I’d ever read, and it still warmed my snarky little heart, I’ll say it was alright. It won’t stick with you, but it won’t make you want to gouge your eyes out either. Probably. Unless you really hate birds, Alabama, Christmas, and sugar. Then don’t read this at all. Not even a word of it. If you’re interested in a holiday read that’s sweeter than southern style sweet tea (seriously, you might get diabetes from this novel) give this a shot (of insulin. Oooooh I’m punny today!)

Do any of you Bookworms out there have a favorite holiday read? I’d love to add to my seasonal reading collection!

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Dec 11

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite New-To-Me Authors Read in 2012

Top Ten Tuesday 25

Happy Tuesday Bookworms! It’s time for our weekly list of Bookwormy goodness with The Broke and the Bookish. Today’s topic is the top ten new-to-me authors I read in 2012. Without further ado…

toptentuesday

1. Kent Haruf. If it weren’t for “My Neighbors Are Better Than Your Neighbors Book Club,” I may never have stumbled across Kent Haruf. That would have been a terrible shame- Plainsong and Eventide were beautiful novels.

2. Erin Morgenstern. The Night Circus was super awesome. Magic and mayhem and blood feuds?! Yes please!

night circus

3. Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I can’t overstate how much I adored The Language of FlowersIt was one of those books that makes me happy to be alive and reading!

4. Jeanette Walls. I freaking loved The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses. I’m a little surprised that Ms. Walls survived to tell her tale, but I’m so glad she did!

5. Max Brooks. Okay people, Zombies are awesome. World War Z was super brilliant. The stuff of nightmares, truly. Anyone out there who enjoys Zombie-lore in the slightest should read this book.

6. Kathleen Grissom. I love historical fiction, and The Kitchen House rocked my socks off. Bare feet all over the dang place!

7. Gillian Flynn. Was anyone in the world not completely blown away by Gone Girl?! Seriously.

8. Markus Zusak. Thanks to a blog contest, I won a copy of The Book ThiefSo freaking good.

Excellent cover art! Death and Liesel are dancing!

Excellent cover art! Death and Liesel are dancing!

9. Neil Gaiman. I decided to read Neil Gaiman because The Bloggess was always raving about him. She wasn’t being hyperbolic. A whole lot of awesome went on in American Gods

10. Betty Smith. Yes, it took me until 2012 to read A Tree Grows in BrooklynDon’t judge me!

What about you, Bookworms? Who are your favorite new-to-you authors this year? Big plans for the new year? Let’s talk about it!

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