Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday Teaser - 2/22/11

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

My Teasers:

"Mom doesn't yell at me anymore; most of the time she treats me like a boarder who should be shunned for not paying but for some reason can't be evicted..."

"Instead of hacking my way through a thicket of needy children and threatening punks near home, in Manhattan I saunter in a clearing from which I can see the horizon..."

Welfare Brat (Mary Childers) pg. 186-187.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I'd Know You Anywhere - Lippman

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman is the story of Eliza Benedict, nee Elizabeth Lerner, wife and mother of two: a gregarious young boy and a moody teen girl. She lives a boring life, having recently returned to the States after a brief stay in London for her husband's work, until one day she receives a letter in the mail.

The letter, it turns out, is from a death row inmate, but not just any inmate. The letter comes from Walter Bowman, who is currently on death row for murdering a young girl some 20 years before. But Bowman murdered more than one girl, several in fact...except for one. One he abducted and, for reasons unknown, decided to let live, driving around the Maryland/West Virgina landscape until they are eventually caught.

That young girl returns home and tries to regain control of her life, changing schools, moving to a different community and changing her name from...from Elizabeth to Eliza.  When she receives Bowman's letter years later, Eliza decides that the only way she may ever understand why he let her live is to reply to his letter, and to eventually visit him. Everyone thinks she is crazy to give in to his wish to see her, but she has a goal, a plan.  But, so does he...

This book was...well, just ok.  It's not that the book was bad. It just wasn't particularly great.  It was a fairly quick and easy read...a nice brainless work of fiction.  Given the premise of the story, however, it could have really been a real work art...mystery, intrigue, excitement. But, it just never gets there. The reader never lacks the knowledge, though it is only spelled in the last few chapters, that Bowman wants...

***Spoiler alert (if you can call it that...)***

...Eliza's help to get his death sentence turned around.

There is a second story running through this one...Eliza's struggles with her daughter growing up. Unfortunately, that story never really delivers either. The school principal tells Eliza that her daughter is, in fact, missing her friends and live in London.  Yawn.

2/5- Just okay.  Choose with extreme prejudice.

5QF (Five Qustion Friday) - 2/18/11

Its time for 5QF (Five Qustion Friday), courtesy of Mama @ fivecrookedhalos.

1. Have you worn the same outfit more than one day in a row?
Not that I can recall...

2. If you had to choose any LARGE city to live in, which would it be?
I really like Boston, it's small...while still being a large city. But, if I had to pick a different city..I'd say Atlanta, GA or maybe Houston, TX, somewhere warm!

3. Fly or drive with the kids on vacation?
Both sound hellish!

4. What is your idea of "spring cleaning"?
Top to bottom, in and out, move the furniture and clean underneath! I like clean!

5. What is the best book you have ever read?
Hmm...that's hard. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or, maybe To Kill A Mockingbird, both were wonderful.

Book Blogger Hop! - 2/18/11

Book Blogger Hop

What book(s) would you like to see turned into a movie?

The blog hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books. Hop on over to join in the fun! 

Actually, many of them have already been...  

But, if I have to chose something, I'd say: All Souls: A Family Story from Southie, by Michael Patrick MacDonald.  It was the story of an boy growing up in "Whitey" Bulger's South Boston in the 80's.  It tells all about how his family is affected by the drug trade struggle in the projects.  A great read!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Blogger Hop! - 2/11/11

Book Blogger Hop

Tell us about one of your posts from this week and give us a link so we can read it (review or otherwise)!

The blog hop is hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books. Hop on over to join in the fun!

This week I reviewed Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman.  Its the memoir of a woman who was sentenced to a year in federal prison ten years after her offense of carrying money internationally for her drug-dealing lover. The book shares both the lead up to her being incarcerated, as well as her time in prison during which she comes to terms with her mistakes and actually finds herself becoming close with her fellow inmates.  The book was a very good read and Kerman's no-pity, no-excuses acceptance of her failures is refreshing.  A great book for memoir-lovers, or those just looking for something totally new.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Orange is the New Black - Kerman

True to my varied tastes in reading, I chose a book this time round that was about prison. I haven't read one in a while and figured, why not?!

Piper Kerman and I share some similarities. We are both from self-described good families and lived nice childhoods. We went to college in the same western-Massachusetts area, though to different schools. We were both theater majors about the same time, though we never met.  We both graduated with no idea what we were supposed to do next and decided to stay in the area for a while to figure it out.

But that is where the similarities end. Kerman is a unique spirit. She thrives in the western Massachusetts town of Northhampton and shortly finds herself living with her lover, Nora, a lesbian who has become involved in a drug-smuggling and money-laundering ring.  Kerman enjoys the benefits of the money her lover is making, traveling internationally, shopping and enjoying the high-life.  Her role in the business is small (she makes a few trips to deliver money, but avoids actually smuggling any drugs).  But, the damage has been done.

Ten years later, Kerman is living a great life. She's got a good job, a nice home and a wonderful boyfriend.  The happy ending seems within reach until The Feds come knocking. Not surprisingly, someone has cut a deal and turned her in.  In the hopes of avoiding or minimizing prison, she pleads guilty.  She receives a sentence of 15 months.  But the government works slowly and years pass.  Eventually, however, the bell tolls and Piper Kerman reports to Danbury Federal Correctional Insitution to complete her sentence.

Prison is not at all what Kerman is expecting. Yes, the guards are stoic and hardened.  But upon her incarceration, she finds her fellow inmates helpful, generous and even kind. In Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman tells us about her fellow inmates, real women who become not only fellow survivors, but friends.  She learns to survive (with the continued support of her amazing fiance, family and friends...and lots of books) and more importantly, she learns regret. She sees how her actions all those years ago are instrinsically linked to the lives and sorrows of her fellow inmates, many drug addicts or casualties of the drug trade themselves.

As she points out however, a lengthy community service sentence working with the population outside of prison would have served the same purpose. She makes some very good points about retributive justice vs. restorative justice. But at no point does she make excuses. She accepts her mistakes, and her punishment, and even comes to terms with her past when she is forced to co-habitate with her ex-lover, eventually finding herself considering even Nora a friend.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit.

3/5- Good. Read it, have a good time and move on. Or not.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Confessions of a Prairie Bitch - Angrim

I was never much a fan of Little House on the Prairie. I was a city-kid who abhorred anything reeking of "country" [of course, I now live in the suburbs and love country music...but that's a different post]. I did, however, see it enough times to recognize a few key characters: Laura, Pa, Mary and to, of course, hate Nellie...the fabulously evil Nellie. 

I had already read Melissa Gilbert's book (which I will review in the future) and really enjoyed it. But she was engaged to Rob Lowe! Alison Angrim didn't date anyone cool, that I know of, so when I first saw Alison Angrim's Confessions of a Prairie Bitch I didn't really have any interest in reading it. But someone unwittingly convinced me to check it out and I'm glad I did. 

Angrim, who grew up in a Hollywood household (her mother was the voice of Gumby and Casper the Ghost), writes about her childhood. She talks candidly about her initial interest in acting...getting out of the home she shares with an older brother who uses her for his sexual enjoyment (remember she was a child actress). She admits freely that her father carried the secret of his homosexuality for years. 

Angrim also dissects her seven-year stint as Nellie Oleson, admitting to the juicer Little House stories like Michael Landon's drinking and penchant for avoiding underwear, her and Gilbert urinating in wetsuits during one scene shot in a very cold river, and about her one and only costumed public appearance, where school girls physically and verbally attacked her because of their hatred of her character.

Angrim also tells of her loss of her Little House husband, Steve Tracy, to AIDS, explaining her adult focus on political activism for AIDS and sexual abuse causes. Ultimately, Angrim explains how being Nellie taught her to center and focus her inner bitch and utilize it for good, leaning to appreciate and love being hated.

3/5- Good. Read it, have a good time and move on. Or not.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Get to know the blogger...

I wanted to take the opportunity to tell my readers a little bit about me.  So I took the opportunity to combine several memes I've seen into one and have completed this, somewhat long, overview of myself...

1.    How long have you been blogging?
Since January 5th, 2011…a newbie!
2.    Why did you decide to blog?
I love reading almost as much as I love talking, so I decided to combine my interests and talk about reading.
3.    What books do you blog about and why?
Whatever I’m reading…lots of memoirs, some non-fiction, children’s, historical fiction, books about animals. My reading tastes are so varied, my blog is likely to be as well.
4.    What is your review style like?
I tend to write very much as I speak…casual, easy-going and completely honest.
5.    If you can describe your blog in one word, what would it be and why?
Baby-steps…oh, is that one word or two…because I’m just starting out and gaining knowledge slowly.
6.    What advice can you give other bloggers about blogging?
At this point, pretty much none…but if anyone wants to share advice with me, I’d love that!
7.    What can readers look forward to from your blog in the future?
Lots of more interesting reviews and eventually giveaways as well.
8.    Favorite childhood book?
Big Little Kitty by Jan Biggens...this was one of those Little Golden Books about a kitten who runs away and then returns home to his little girl with three of his best friends Christmas morning. I remember crying that the kitten was lost. I was a bit of a sap as a child.  Ok, I still get choked up when I read it...
9.    What are you reading right now?
Ever changing...check out my Shelfari page!
10. What books do you have on request at the library?
Typically, I have between 5 and 10 on hold, all items from my TBR list, many memoirs and some fiction.  Currently, I have only one, a memoir, which I have been waiting on for months.
11. Bad book habit?
Taking too many from the library at once and then not being able to finish them all...having to return them unread.
12. Do you have an e-reader?
Yes, a Nook Color, though I haven’t used it much.
13. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I have always been a one book person, as my brain often gets the specifics confused between stories. Recently though I have been trying to take on a second book which is intentionally very different to enable my brain to handle it...for example, reading a memoir and perhaps a children’s book at the same time.
14. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not yet, I’ve got way too many books to review before then!
15. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Pretty much never.  I keep telling myself I will challenge myself with something different, a classic maybe, but there are so many varied books on my TBR list, I can always find something I want to read more.
16. What is your reading comfort zone?
Memoirs and memoir-ish non-fiction, literary fiction, historical fiction, children’s.
17. Favorite place to read?
At home in bed.
18. What is your policy on book lending?
I don’t often buy books, but I have no problem loaning out books and don’t really care if they come back, unless they are a favorite.
19. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Rarely, never if possible. I use an over sized paperclip for a bookmark and try to avoid marring the book in any way.
20. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Nope, see above.
21. Not even with text books?
No, not even highlighting.
20. What makes you love a book?
Personal connections I have with either the characters or with the plot itself...if I cannot connect, I won’t love it.
22. Favorite genre?
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Science Fiction (nope, no interest). I did manage to get through War of the Worlds this past year, that ought to keep me for another 40 years.
24. Favorite biography?
Late, Late at Night – Rick Springfield
25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Never all the way through...but I have started many (I usually realize eventually that there just isn't any help for me...lol)
26. Favorite cookbook?
Joy of Cooking…it looks really pretty in my kitchen, but is rarely opened.
28. Favorite reading snack?
Stacy’s Cinnamon Pita chips and Mott's Strawberry applesauce, yum, yum!
29. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I never read critic reviews, but I often agree with other blogger's comments.
30. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Honesty is the best policy! Different strokes for different folks, just because I like (or not) a book, doesn’t mean the next person will or won’t.
32. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Too many (15+).
37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?
Every time.
40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
What’s a vacation?
41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
5-6 months, during college.  I always felt guilty reading “fun” stuff when I should have been reading “school” stuff, so I would avoid until I couldn’t stand it anymore.
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Recently, The Road by Cormac McCarthy...I hear it’s great, but I just can’t get into it.
43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
My fiancĂ©...he doesn’t get the whole personal time thing.
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I don’t skim, I just read the cover and make a decision to read or not to read (...that is the question!).
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Usually by then I’d call it done and move on, but if I got that far...it would have to go really, really wrong and lose my interest. Or have some sort of animal abuse in it...I find that really, really tough to get through.
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Unless I love a book and cannot part with it, I generally pass it on if possible.

So, that's me in a nutshell. Feel free to comment!