Friday, December 23, 2011

Review: Half the Sky

Half the Sky
By Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Knopf September 2009
258 pages


Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl DuWunn are Pulitzer-prize winning journalists who work for the New York Times. They are also husband and wife. The year after they reported on the hundreds of lives claimed at Tiananmen Square, they discovered that 36,000 baby girls die each year in China because their parents do not give them the same level of care they extend to their brothers. They realized that the horrors inflicted on women in countries such as China, India, Pakistan and the Congo rarely get any media coverage. They set out to change that.

In Half the Sky, the authors address the issues that women in many countries are dealing with today, such as sex trafficking, maternal mortality, wife beating, bride burning and rape. Each chapter introduces us to a woman that Kristof and DuWunn have worked with personally. Their stories are heartbreaking. The fact that we haven’t heard them before is an outrage.

The authors posit that these are more than ‘women’s issues,’ as they are so ignorantly referred to by many politicians. Instead these are transformative issues that, with proper attention, can transform countries. “Think about the major issues confronting us in this century. These include war, insecurity, and terrorism; population pressures, environmental strains, and climate change; poverty and income gaps. For all these diverse problems, empowering women is part of the answer.”

One thing that I appreciated about this book was the honesty of its authors. They admit that nonprofit organizations tend to play up their successes and downplay their failures. They want to keep working in their fields and if they are discredited and lose funding, then they can’t assist the people they want to help. The authors even admit their own faults, when they crossed the line from journalists to saviors and the times when their efforts were not successful.

I listened to the first half of this book on audiobook, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, and read the remainder because I had to return the audiobook. I really appreciated Ms. Campbell’s narration. With stories as painful as this, it would be easy to read with sorrow and hopelessness in your voice. Instead, the narration is poised and factual without losing a very real sense of compassion and empathy.  When I was reading the ending, I missed the narration. The stories that I heard from Ms. Campbell’s excellent narration are the ones that stay with me.

This is not a cheerful book. However, it is one with hope. The authors provide an appendix with so many ways for the reader to get involved. Although this is not a happy book, it is an incredibly important one. If you are going to read one non-fiction book, choose this one. It will open your eyes to the incredible cruelties and disadvantages that women are still dealing with in the twenty-first century and make you completely reevaluate the way you see power, safety, and the world.  




A note, my friends o' the blog: I am taking a little time off to enjoy the Christmas joy. I will be back one week from Monday, otherwise known as January 2nd. I hope each of you have a wonderful, amazing, stupendous, fantastic Christmas and New Year's filled with happiness, family, and lots of cookies!

PS - Enter the giveaway right here! I will send you, yes you, a book! (Well,,,,if you win. But the rest of you can say, "I entered the very first giveaway on Literary Lindsey and it was awesome. Maybe you should all make T-shirts...)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy 100th Post Day!

Well friends, this is my 100th post here at Literary Lindsey. Woo and also hoo. Balloons and streamers and cake. I wish we had cake.

This book blogging is fun stuff, people. I'm finding new books, talking to people about said books, and telling people what they should and should-not-under-any-circumstances-if-it-were-the-last-book-in-the-world read.

In celebration of this auspicious event, I am holding the very first Literary Lindsey giveaway! (And the crowd goes wild!)

What am I giving away, you ask? Well, I like options in my life and I think you might as well. So I am giving the winner the choice between one nonfiction book and one fiction book.

The first choice is The Invisible Line by Daniel Sharfstein. This is the second book that I reviewed here on the blog. The author looks at three families who toed the color line throughout history. Sometimes they are perceived as black and sometimes they pass themselves off as white. It is an interesting look at how we construct racial identity. The book is hardcover and in great condition.

The second option is The Echo Maker by Richard Powers. This is a novel I read for my modern lit course during my senior year of college. It's about a man who has a car crash. When he wakes up from a coma, his sister has come to care for him. He believes that the woman at his bedside is an impostor. This novel won the National Book Award and was a Pulitzer finalist. My copy is in great condition, if you can look past the collegiate bookstore stickers affixed to it.

                

Here are the rules, ladies and gents. I am in full Christmas spirit, so leave me a comment and tell me about your favorite Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanza, etc.) tradition. Also leave me your email address because if you don't, I cannot get your address and send you a book. I will use the random number generator to pick a really awesome winner. Please only enter once. You do not have to follow my blog, because Google Friend Connect is going the way of the dinosaurs in a few months. You should, however, come and visit me again.

The giveaway will be open through January the 2nd, when I will return from my lovely holiday bloggy break.

Happy 100th post to me and happy giveaway to you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesdays with David: King Jack and the Dragon

King Jack and the Dragon
By Peter Bently and Helen Oxenbury
Dial August 2011
From the library


The Story: Jack sets off with his best friends Zack and Caspar to make a great fort. King Jack and his knights build a castle out of blankets, sticks, and a cardboard box. Then they are ready to do battle against the dragons and monsters that threaten their kingdom...at least until their mommies and daddies come to take them home.

Mama opines: This was a really sweet story with lovely illustrations. I loved the focus on imagination, playing outside, and friendship. I also liked that Caspar was younger than the other two boys, so it subtly emphasized playing with kids of all ages. 

Thoughts from David: I love this book. I liked the dragons! And the front of the book (the cover)! 
Favorite part: When his mommy and daddy come and he thinks they are a monster!


Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Secret Santas Revealed!

I was really excited to take part in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap this year. The concept is simple - you send a book and goodies to someone, and another book blogger sends a gift to you. I would like to introduce you to my Secret Santa and the blogger whose Secret Santa I was this year.

BBHS_Teaser_small

Briana sent me an awesome package. She included two ornaments, Ghiradelli chocolate, peppermint taffy, a homemade book thong, and two books! Hooray! The books were The Maze Runner and Entwined. She blogs over at the Book Pixie. She just got home from college and I'm sure the book reviews will be flowing.

The blogger I sent a gift to is the lovely Steph The Bookworm. I sent a copy of Before I Go To Sleep her way. Make sure to check out her blog - she is reading and reviewing some great books!

Thank you, Brianna and I hope you enjoy your new read, Steph!

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Monday and I'm breathing a little easier...


Good morning, readers! How are you? How was your weekend? Ours was good, but a little crazy. The husband had a Christmas party with the youth group he leads on Friday night. Saturday was somewhat of a lazy day, but Sunday was a Christmas Worship Service of Music that we were in charge of (no pressure at all). I am happy to report that it went well and I was so happy that my mom could come and accompany my singing in the service. Now that I'm not in charge of anything for a while, I'm not feeling so frenzied. I'm ready to focus on Christmas and being with my family.

Finished this past week:
The Dovekeepers
By Alice Hoffman

Half the Sky:
Turning Oppression into Opportunity
for Women Worldwide
By Nicholas D. Kristof and 
Sheryl WuDunn

Still Listening To:

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life
and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee
By Karen Abbott

Posts from the Past Week:
Reviews of The Marriage Plot and The Dovekeepers (at the AH Herald)

Reading Now:
The Grief of Others
By Leah Hager Cohen

Coming Up Next:
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
By Mary Roach

Mr. Fox
By Helen Oyeyemi

Also, before you head on to your next bookish blog, check out this post. I'm going to be reading through the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald in 2012, and I would love for you to join me! Let me know what you are reading in the comments. Make sure to check back later in the week - my 100th post is coming up and I'm feeling in a very giving mood... 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Review: The Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers
By Alice Hoffman
Scribner October 2011


My review is up at the Atlantic Highlands Herald this morning. I really loved this book. Read my thoughts here.

Have an awesome weekend! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

F. Scott in 2012

Before I started this blog, I toyed with the idea of reading the entire cannon of an author in a year. I couldn't figure out quite who I wanted to read, so I didn't pursue this in 2011. Recently, though, I figured out who I wanted to read, or rather re-read. F Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors and I haven't read some of his works in almost a decade.

So....during the year of 2012, I am going to read it all. I would love for you to join me!

Here is the schedule:

January
This Side of Paradise
February
Flappers and Philosophers (stories)
March
The Beautiful and the Damned
April
Tales of the Jazz Age (stories)
May
The Vegetable (play)
June
All the Sad Young Men (stories)
July
The Great Gatsby
August
Tender is the Night
September
Taps at Reveille (stories)
October
The Last Tycoon (unfinished)
November
Save the Last Waltz
December
Catch Up!

I will be posting on the selection at the end of each month and would love for you to join in the discussion. At the end of each post, I will put a linky up so we can see all of each other's thoughts.  Please leave a comment at the bottom of this post  if you would like to participate. Feel free to grab the picture of the gentlemen himself and put it on your blog. If you have questions, leave them in the comments and I promise to get back to you. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesdays with David: Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs:Missing Treasure!

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: Missing Treasure! 
Written by Giles Andreae
Illustrated by Russell Ayto
Margaret K McElderry Books October 2008
From the library

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: Missing Treasure!

The Story: Flinn loves dinosaurs and is excited when Miss Pie takes his class to the museum to see the dinosaur bones. When the guide reveals that pirate treasure has been stolen from the museum, Flinn is on the case with his friends Violet, Pearl, and Tom.They follow the trail through the museum closet and onto a pirate ship. They discover that the treasure was stolen by Gordon Gurglegutts, who was reclaiming the treasure of his grandfather. Unfortunately, he has recently been robbed....by pirate dinosaurs! The fearless foursome set off to have an adventure and recover the treasure! 

Mama opines: I like so many things about this book and the other books in the series. I'm learning new things about dinosaurs myself (like how to pronounce giganotosaurus). I also like how they are pirates and they fight, but no one seems to really get hurt. I know that little boys like to play fight and read about fighting, but I still want to keep it preschool appropriate. And have I mentioned the awesome illustrations? Flinn is a lot of fun for little boys and their mommies. 

Thoughts from David: Well, I like it because it has dinosaurs. And because Flinn is a good fighter!
Favorite part: When he ties up the dinosaurs! 



Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot
By Jeffrey Eugenides
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux October 2011
406 pages


Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell are graduating from Brown University. Leonard loves Madeleine. So does Mitchell. Madeleine loves Leonard…she thinks. After graduation, Madeleine and Leonard move to Cape Cod, where Leonard works in a research facility and Madeleine tries to get published. Mitchell sets off to travel abroad, looking to confirm the beliefs he discovered as a religious studies major. This novel follows the three as they graduate from college and attempt to figure out adulthood.

This book was excellent. It lives up to all of the hype. I was somewhat wary as I started this book. I read The Virgin Suicides a few years ago and thought it was fine, but didn’t love it the way some other people did. This book though – this felt like the book of 20 somethings everywhere. Lines like “She had just started living like a grown-up and she’d never felt more vulnerable, frightened, or confused in her life” give word to the post-college experience in a very specific, beautiful way.

I really related to Madeleine as she decides what to do after college and learns that living with someone is very different from dating them. I also enjoyed Mitchell’s journey to find purpose and exactly what he believes. His journey is both divine and very human. While volunteering at Mother Theresa’s hospital, he frequently gets drunk and finds himself falling short of his own expectations.

On the other hand, I had some trouble relating to Leonard. Even in the sections told from his point of view, he is not a particularly likeable fellow. Perhaps this is a success on the part of the author, though, because Leonard suffers from manic depression. Even Leonard doesn’t like himself sometimes. For parts of the book, I found myself wishing that Madeleine would just leave him but, as Eugenides and generations of authors before us remind us, love is rarely simple.

The English major in me geeked out often while reading this book. Reading things like this made me smile knowingly. “Reading a novel after reading semiotic theory was like jogging empty-handed after jogging with hand weights. After getting out of Semiotics 211, Madeleine fled to the Rockefeller Library, down to B Level, where the stacks exuded a vivifying smell of mold, and grabbed something – anything, The House of Mirth, Daniel Deronda – to restore herself to sanity. How wonderful it was when one sentence followed logically from the sentence before! What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly enjoying narrative! Madeleine felt safe with a nineteenth-century novel. There were going to be people in it. Something was going to happen to them in a place resembling the world.”

One of my favorite things about The Marriage Plot was remembering when it was set. When one of the characters would casually refer to the year (they graduate in 1982), it always took me aback for a moment. Although this book is set a few years before I was born, it feels as if it could be about people who graduated in my class at college. Eugenides has managed to create a really timeless feel in the novel.

At its heart, this is a great story about figuring out your life in your twenties – who you date, where you live, what you believe. With a more discerning eye, this is an examination of how we dealt with love and marriage in the past and in the present. Madeleine ‘s thesis on the themes of marriage and love in the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries in no way prepares her for real life romance, love, and marriage. Her journey, and those of Mitchell and Leonard, will resonate with you for a long time. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Monday - Does this weather make anyone else tired?


Let's see, what shall I tell you, lovely people who stop by my blog? Once again, I failed to post a review on Friday (guilty face). I blame it squarely on Christmas, people. I ordered Christmas cards on Thursday night and it is a lot of work deciding which cute picture of your kid to send to people. So after working all day Friday, I came home, did the dinner thing, put the little guy to bed, and promptly passed out on the sofa. The kind of passing out where your husband rouses you after midnight and suggests that you sleepily stumble up to your bed. 

There was also napping on Saturday. I am going to chalk this phenomenon up to the cold weather, dark evenings, and allergies...yup, I'm the only person who suffers from winter allergies. Go figure.

I feel like I'm having a sort of slow reading period, but I realize that is not particularly true. I'm just reading books with 500 pages or more, which take a while.

Still here? Awesome. I'm putting together a sort of read-a-long thing for F Scott Fitzgerald for next year. I've never done anything like this before, but I'm excited. Check back on Thursday for details? Thanks! 

Now about those books...

Read This Week:
The Marriage Plot
By Jeffery Eugenides


Currently Reading:

The Dovekeepers
By Alice Hoffman

Half the Sky:Turning Oppression into
Opportunity For Women Worldwide
By Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
(Long story short - audiobook had
 to go back, picked up paperback)

Listening To:

American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life
and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee
By Karen Abbott


Up Next:
The Grief of Others
By Leah Hager Cohen

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
By Mary Roach


Alright, that's enough from me. What are you reading this week? Let me know in the comments please! 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: The Matisse Stories

The Matisse Stories
By A.S. Byatt
Vintage April 1996
134 pages



I read one of these stories in a seminar during my senior year of college. The story really stuck with me and I made a note on one of the million scraps of paper that float around to one day pick up this book. Now that I am trying to journey on through my books-to-read list (let’s just say it’s a Word document with more than 20 pages and fewer than 40…), I got this book from the library. After picking it up, I realized that several other Byatt books are on my list, but this is the first one I have read!

Because this book has just three short stories, I think we can give each of them some attention. Each one references or centers on a piece by the artist Henri Matisse.

The first is entitled “Medusa’s Ankles.” Susannah is a middle aged translator who picks Lucian’s hairdressing shop because of the Matisse painting she sees through the window. Her time in the salon causes her to reflect on aging and her relationship with her husband.

“She remembered, not as a girl, as a young woman under all that chestnut fall, looking at her skin, and wondering how it could grow into the crepe, the sag, the opulent soft bags. This was her face, she had thought then. And this, too, now, she wanted to accept for her face, trained in a respect for precisions, and she could not. What had left this greying skin, these flakes, these fragile stretches with no elasticity, was her, was her life, was herself.”

The second story is “Art Work.” Debbie is a former artist who now works as a design editor for a woman’s magazine so that her husband can continue to create his art. Their life is held together by the presence of Mrs. Brown, their eccentric housekeeper. The constant fighting between Debbie’s husband Robin and Mrs. Brown threatens to unravel the tenuous grip that Debbie has on balancing career and family.

“She hated Robin because he never once mentioned the unmade wood-engravings. It is possible to feel love and hate quiet quietly, side by side, if one is a self-contained person. Debbie continued to love Robin, whilst hating him because of the woodcuts, because of the extent of his absences of interest in how she managed the house, the children, the money, her profession, his needs and wants, and because of his resolute attempts to unsettle, humiliate, or drive away Mrs Brown, without whom all Debbie’s balancing acts would clatter and fall in wounding disarray.”

The final story in the book is “The Chinese Lobster.” This is the story I read for my class. Dr. Gerda Himmelblau, the dean of women students, is meeting a professor at a Chinese restaurant. Although it is a favorite restaurant of hers, the reason for their meeting is not cheerful. A troubled student has lodged a complaint against the professor claiming that he sexually harassed her. The discussion is further complicated by the pasts of both the professor and the dean.

A.S. Byatt writes really good stories. The characters are rich and interesting and her descriptions are beautiful. My only complaint is with the second story – it’s a tad long. I found myself skimming some of said description, although I suppose a plethora of detail is to be expected in a house full of artists.

After reading this book, I remembered how much I enjoy reading short stories. You can read them quickly, sit with them for a bit and feel the accomplishment of finishing a book amidst trudging through gigantic novels. Byatt is a beautiful writer and I look forward to reading her novels (gigantic though they might be). 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesdays with David: Are You Going to Be Good?


Are You Going To Be Good?
By Cari Best
Pictures by G. Brian Karas
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux August 2005
From the library


The Story: Robert is excited that he gets to stay up past pajama time. Tonight is Great-Gran Sadie's one hundredth birthday and he is invited to the party along with his mom, dad, and big sister. Robert is disappointed though. The food is yucky, everyone is old and boring, and every single person keeps telling him "don't do that!" Will a surprise from Great-Gran Sadie save the night for Robert?

Mama opines: Do you have a smallish person in your possession? Do you feel like all you ever say is "don't do that!" (Not so much because you care, but because they really can't spill the pasta all over the grocery store floor or break all of the collectibles that grandma has all over her house...) We loved this book. Poor Robert tries so hard to be good, but it is hard when you are little and there are a lot of rules. I also loved Great-Gran Sadie because she reminds me of my Grammy (we refer to her as the foxy minx, so you get the idea that Grandma Sadie is one cool lady). 

Thoughts from David: It's nice and funny when he bumps into people. I love when they blow out the candles on the birthday cake. 

What is your favorite part? When he is with Grandma Sadie! 



And now because David just had a birthday and this is my blog and I can do things like this, I present to you David four years ago and David now. Happy Reading, friends! 



12/2007


12/5/11

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
By Michael Chabon
Picador August 2000
636 Pages



Sammy Clay is cautious when his cousin from Prague, Joe Kavalier moves into the New York City apartment he shares with his mother. Before long, he discovers that they are a talented team in the new world of comic books –Sammy comes up with the stories and Joe is an amazing artist. As Joe focuses all of his efforts on getting his family safely out of Nazi-invaded Europe, the boys find themselves at the height of the comic book world as they invent beloved characters like The Escapist and Luna Moth.

Mr. Chabon is an immensely talented writer.  Reading one of his books always feels like reading an engrossing classic. This novel is extremely dense, chock-full of fascinating characters, engaging locales, and a great story.  The two cousins are very different, but both are compelling.

“Over the years, reminiscing for friends or journalists or, still later, the reverent editors of fan magazines, Sammy would devise and relate all manner of origin stories, fanciful and mundane and often conflicting, but it was out of a conjunction of desire, the buried memory of his father, and the chance illumination of a row-house window, that the Escapist was born. As he watched Joe stand, blazing, on the fire escape, Sammy felt an ache in his chest that turned out to be, as so often occurs where memory and desire conjoin with a transient effect of weather, the pang of creation. The desire he felt, watching Joe, was unquestionably physical, but in the sense that Sammy wanted to inhabit the body of his cousin, not possess it. It was, in part, a longing – common enough among the inventors of heroes – to be someone else; to be more than the result of two hundred regimens and scenarios and self-improvement campaigns that always ran afoul of his perennial inability to locate an actual self to be improved. Joe Kavalier had an air of competence, of faith in his own abilities, that Sammy, by means of constant effort over the whole of his life, had finally only learned how to fake.”

There is a great mix of true and invented history here. We visit with great authors and artists, and New York City of the 1940s is so detailed that it almost becomes a character itself through Joe and Sammy’s eyes.  When I read Chabon’s work, I can always tell that he has done an immense amount of research, even when he cheekily writes, “I have tried to respect history and geography wherever doing so served my purposes as a novelist, but wherever it did not I have, cheerfully or with regret, ignored them.”

Despite the 600 plus pages, this book maintains the readers’ interest for the most part. It starts to lag towards the end when one of the characters enlists in the army and ends up somewhere far, far away from New York City.  This section of the book just doesn’t really seem to fit into the rest of the story. While the segment is entertaining, it didn’t add anything to the story arc as a whole.

This is a serious book. It’s a novel to savor, not one to breeze through. That being said, this is a wonderful book with excellent writing and characters who you will love through all of their failings and triumphs. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's Monday and the little man is 4!


Good morning, intrepid bibliophiles! How was your weekend? Ours was busy and good. My bestest bud since high school came to visit on Thursday night. That's why there was no post on Friday. Sorry friends! I was quite busy having much needed time with my friend. She lives all the way in Maryland. This is unacceptable. She should move back to NJ pronto.

Then on Sunday, it was David's birthday! After church, there was lots of cleaning and cooking for the party. We have large families on both sides, so we had a good crowd.  I can't believe the little guy is four! (Many unoriginal yet poignant thoughts about the passing of time and children growing up...)

Now about those books....

Read This Week:

The Matisse Stories
By A.S. Byatt

Currently Reading:

The Marriage Plot
By Jeffrey Eugenides

Up Next:

The Dovekeepers
By Alice Hoffman


The Grief of Others
By Leah Hager Cohen

On the schedule for tomorrow? My review of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. What are you reading this week? Let me know in the comments. Thanks, friends, and have a wonderful day!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November Wrapup

Christmas music? Check. Christmas tree up? Check. Apple Cider and festive coffee creamer in the fridge? Check. December is here, ladies and gents. But before we drink all of the eggnog, let's look back fondly at November, shall we?

Books Reviewed: 8

Books Reviewed with David: 3

Lindsey's Favorite of the Month: The Night Circus

David's Favorite of the Month: Wednesday is Spaghetti Day

So what was your favorite November read? What are you looking forward to reading in December? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesdays with David: Happy Birthday, Monster!

Happy Birthday, Monster!
By Scott Beck
Abrams Books for Young Readers 2007
From our lovely local library

The Story: Ben the monster is throwing a surprise birthday party for his friend Doris the dragon. He invites all of the usual gang - you know, the vampire, the mummy, the skeleton, the alien, the ghost, and the robot. The juxtaposition of the usual (Ben brushing his teeth and flossing in the morning) with the unusual (the ghost has some difficulty eating the party nuts...when you don't have a body, snacks seem to fall right out). 


Mama opines: This book has a sort of comic book feel to it. The illustrations are in panels, four to a page and there are words in bubbles to be found throughout. I picked this book up because we have a birthday boy in the house this week and it was a fun read. It would also be great for Halloween with all of the monster characters. Yay for an inventive plot and a book that has monsters and aliens without being dark or violent. This is a sweet book about friendship, even when your friends are a little different.


Thoughts from David: Well,  the robot cleans the floor. I like it because it’s almost my birthday and it’s Doris’ birthday too! She was a dragon! DRAGON! (runs around room roaring) Remember she blows fire?

What is your favorite part? The robot is my favorite!  When they get to do stuff, like the piƱata and dancing…..


Happy Wednesday from the almost four year old! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: Girls in White Dresses

Girls in White Dresses
By Jennifer Close
Alfred A. Knopf August 2011
292 pages 



Girls in White Dresses revolves around the wedding years. Do you know what I mean by that? If you do, you are likely in your twenties just like the protagonists in this novel, Lauren, Mary, and Isabella. During this time in your life, you spend a lot of time attending bridal showers and then weddings and then baby showers. This season of life elicits many different reactions – jealousy, boredom, anger, drunkenness, the desire to beat a bridezilla over the head with her bouquet…

Isabella is frustrated to be working under a woman who is younger than her and puzzled as to why friends set her up with truly bizarre men. Lauren wonders what to do with herself during the days when her friends work and she waits to work the dinner shift at the bar/restaurant with that sleazy bartender she definitely should not sleep with again. Mary is finishing law school, and wondering if school and then her job will leave her any time to spend with her friends or to date.

“No one had told her it would feel like this. She’d gotten so much advice about her first year at a law firm, but no one had ever said, “You will be constantly afraid.” And that’s what she was. She was afraid that someone would come to her with work to do, and she was afraid that no one would come to her with work to do. She was scared that she was missing something in her research. She went over each assignment she was given, and then she was terrified that they would all think she was slow. Whenever someone said ‘case law’ or ‘document review,’ her first instinct was to hide under her desk.
Sometimes, just as she was finishing up one project, feeling like she’d accomplished one thing, someone would come to her office to give her a new task. She was sure she was failing.”

I could refer to this novel as smart chick-lit, but does anyone even call it chick-lit anymore? The good news – this book is easy to read. Breeze through it in a weekend afternoon sort of easy to read. The other good news? If you are somewhere between the ages of 22 and 32 and of the female gender, you will likely find yourself nodding your head in recognition many, many times throughout this book. Ms. Close has written a really good debut and I’m excited to see what she will do next.

The only complaint I have is that while the novel is anchored by Mary, Lauren, and Isabella, the chapters often revolve around their friends. It sometimes takes a while to figure out who this person is and which girl or girls she is friends with, and by the time you have figured these things out, the character will show up in the book no more.

This leads to a sort of jumble in your head of names and situations, which is ok. I don’t think this is the sort of book you read over and over again, whilst referring to your favorite character. Instead, this book confirms the desperate hope that you are not alone in this bizarre adventure known as your 20s. This book is a really good quick read - the women are all relatable as they look for their dream job (or any job), the love of their life (or just a stinking date!) and try to hold on to their friendships as they are pulled in a million different directions. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Monday - Hooray?


How was the weekend, everyone? Lots of turkey and pumpkin pie leftovers? Setting up Christmas trees? This weekend, we helped decorate at my parent's house, but we have not done our place yet (sad face). We are getting ready for the little man's fourth birthday this weekend, which should be lovely...if we don't ship him off to Siberia before then. (I have great hope for the age of four - the end of three seems to be rather wild and insolent.) 

This week, I finished reading:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
By Michael Chabon


Girls in White Dresses
By Jennifer Close

Here are the posts from this week:

Here are the books coming up this week (yay!):

The Marriage Plot
By Jeffrey Eugenides

The Matisse Stories
By A.S. Byatt 

Tomorrow, I shall tell you all about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or maybe it will be Girls in White Dresses. We will see which one gets written first! Until then, please avail yourself of the most excellent comment button, and tell me what you are reading, what you have been up to, and any other interesting things I should know. Happy Monday! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Snippets: Half the Sky

This Thanksgiving week, I have been listening to Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. It has been really flooring me, to the point that I have to stop listening for a while to take in everything I have just heard.


On this day when people in this country waited in lines miles long to get a good deal on a new flat screen TV, we need the reminder that there are more people in forced labor and sex slavery today than there were people enslaved at the height of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. While college students enjoy sleeping in today, we need the reminder that many children in the world do not have the opportunity to attend any school ever. While we gather with our families and neighbors this weekend, we need the reminder that honor killings and rape as warfare are still happening in our world.

Can I ask a favor of you, readers? As you start your holiday shopping, would you consider giving a gift to someone you don't know? Would you check out one of these organizations and think about giving them a very basic privilege that we take for granted? In the midst of the craziness our economy and Occupy Wall Street, it's easy to forget that the 99% of us here in the US (even those of us who are careful each month to make sure that ends meet), are some of the wealthiest in the world.

These are some resources I find really awesome. Would you think about it? Let me know if you gave a gift to someone through one of these organizations - I want to hear all about it.

World Vision (I love this one because they have an entire gift catalog. You can choose to give malaria nets to children in Africa, clean water to a rural village, or a small business loan so that a mother can support her children.)

Love 146 is working to end child sex slavery through prevention and aftercare. You can donate directly or order one of their nifty T-shirts.

The Half the Sky website will direct you to a ton of resources to to help women in the areas of education, preventing violence against women, stopping sex trafficking, maternal health and economic improvement.



Have an amazing weekend, friends. I will be back next week with lots of books reviews, promise!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Readers,
May your day be filled with family and friends, pumpkin pie (my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner!), and an excellent book.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Love,
Literary Lindsey

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wednesdays with David: Elves for a Day

I have to apologize, friends. I know that standard decorum dictates that I should not start talking Christmas-like stuff until Friday. But when we went to Disney, it was already decorated for Christmas and they played Christmas music...so we are already sort of there. We beg your forgiveness.

Still here?

Awesome.

Without further ado, here we have Mickey and Santa in one charming book.


Elves for a Day
Mickey and Friends Visit Santa's Workshop
By Joanne Barkan
1993 The Walt Disney Company
(A note - Amazon and the inside cover inform me that this book was made exclusively for Disney store. It might make finding it a little interesting, but I know you are up for the challenge!)

The Story: Donald makes bad choices, such as taking his friends for a leisurely airplane ride in a blizzard, getting lost, and running out of gas. Thankfully, the intrepid group is found by one elf named Jitters who whisks them away to Santa's workshop. The elves are way behind (slackers) and if they can't finish all of the toys in the next few hours, the jolly man is calling off Christmas. Our heroes rise to the occasion and Christmas is saved! Hooray. 

Mama opines: Predictable? Of course. Cute? Yup. The best thing about this book is finding the little Disney touches scattered throughout the book. Keep an eye out especially in Santa's workshop. Homages to many Disney movies can be seen. Also, yay for Christmas and Christmas stories.

Thoughts from David: I love when the plane crashes (quite mildly, the mama must add) and when they see Santa Claus.
What is your favorite part? I love them all!


Happy Reading, friends and have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Before I Go to Sleep

Before I Go To Sleep
By S.J. Watson
Harper June 2011


Christine wakes up with no memory of the past twenty-five years. She doesn’t know the man sleeping next to her or where she is. Each morning, her husband Ben has to explain to her who he is and that she has had a terrible accident that resulted in seemingly permanent amnesia. Christine discovers that she has been seeing a doctor behind her husband’s back and keeping a journal to help her remember the details of her life. When her journal and her husband’s story don’t match, she has to discover the truth. But how can you know the truth when you forget everything as soon as you go to sleep?

This was a great read. I was hooked from the beginning when Christine opens her journal to find the words “Don’t Trust Ben.” The whole premise is terrifying. Could you imagine waking up each morning with no memory of the last 25 years? How do you know who is telling you the truth or what the truth is to begin with? Watson shows a great deal of talent in his debut novel. The suspense holds from first page to resolution.  I found his reflections on memory and perception to be spot-on as well.

“I feel like I am going mad. Everything is fluid, everything shifts. I think one thing, and then, a moment later, the opposite. I believe everything my husband says, and then I believe nothing. I trust him and then I don’t. Nothing feels real, everything invented. Even myself.
I wish I knew one thing for certain. One single thing that I have not had to be told, about which I do not need to be reminded.”  

With many suspense books, I find myself with an unsettled feeling at the end. I enjoy reading them, but often finish them feeling unsatisfied. This was not the case with Before I Go to Sleep. I appreciated that Watson concluded the novel, but not neatly. After all, if this is representative of real life, who knows what could happen the day after the book ends? This is a captivating thriller that you don’t want to miss. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Monday and it's almost Thanksgiving!


How was your weekend? We had a Thanksgiving dinner with the church youth group and co. on Friday night. Then we spent the rest of the weekend reading, catching up on TV, taking a nap or two, and making up lots of boxes for Operation Christmas Child

This week, I read:
Before I Go to Sleep
Before I Go to Sleep
By S.J. Watson

Posts from this past week:

I am currently reading:
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
By Michael Chabon

I'm going to start listening to:

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into
Opportunity for Women Worldwide
By Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

On the schedule for tomorrow? A review of Before I Go to Sleep. See you then! And don't forget to leave me a comment and tell me what you are reading this week. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some of this and a little of that

So we went to Disney World. We got back on Tuesday. It was lovely and we had so much fun. It was one of those vacations where you fall into bed exhausted, but so happy. Good on the vacation front, not so much on the reading one. I am about 200 pages into The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I am enjoying it so much, but it's an intricate book. It's not something you can just breeze through, especially at the tune of 600 plus pages.

Now we are back home and trying to catch up on loads of laundry and phone calls and picking up with our crazy lives. I finally found the missing CD for the audio book I have been listening to on and off (it was in one of David's DVD cases...don't you love when you put something somewhere that makes sense at the time and no sense at all after the fact?). The bad news is that I have no more renewals of Exit the Actress. So it's back to the library with that one. That's sort of sad for me. I hate not finishing books, but it just wasn't holding my interest. That struck me as strange because I studied theatre in college. I know all about Nell Gwyn and she is fascinating! Maybe it's the listening to it that isn't working. A lot of people really enjoyed this book. So for now, I'm letting it go, but I think I will try to pick it up in print in the future.

This weekend, the hubs is hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner for the youth group at our church. Other than that, I hope to get lots of reading done, avoid catching David's cold, and come back with a shiny book review for you at the beginning of next week.

Have a lovely weekend, ladies and gents!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: The Midwife's Confession


The Midwife’s Confession
By Diane Chamberlain
Mira 2011


When Noelle commits suicide, her best friends Tara and Emerson are shocked. The women are left with only a mysterious note in which Noelle apologizes to a woman named Anna for something that is left unwritten. Tara and Emerson dig into Noelle’s past, interviewing the women she worked with as a midwife, determined to find out what dark secret caused her to take her own life.

Meh. Is that an appropriate reaction to a book? I was interested enough to continue reading, but that may have been in part because I was leaving to go on vacation and wanted to finish the book before I left. I could figure out what the big secret was fairly early on. Then there was another plot twist, which I also saw coming. The characters just didn’t really hold my interest. I actually had to check a few times if the current chapter was from Tara or Emerson’s point of view.

While Ms. Chamberlain does occasionally have some good insight into grief, it always seems to just be skimming the surface. Tara is dealing with losing Noelle in addition to losing her husband the previous March. When she realizes that her husband’s message is still on the answering machine, “I stared at the phone in my hand for a moment, then started to cry, hugging the phone to my heart. I sat on the stool next to the kitchen island and sobbed so hard my tears pooled on the granite. I’d thought I was done with this part of the grief – this sucking-down, soul-searing pain – but apparently not.”

So this book was ok for me. I didn’t hate it, but I probably won’t pick up another book by this author. There were so many places to go with the topics introduced within the novel – grieving, the relationship between mother and child, the extent to which we really know each other, the experience of childbirth - but it feels like a cursory effort throughout. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wednesdays with David: Our Apologies

We regret to inform you that, due to post-Disney exhaustion and the start of a nasty cold, David has declined to comment on any of the books we have been reading this morning while snuggling on the couch.

Please come back next week - we promise to have a great children's book review for you! And coming up tomorrow, The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review: Sister


Sister
By Rosamund Lupton
Crown Publishers 2010


Beatrice’s sister Tess has gone missing again. Bee is not particularly worried – Tess has done crazy things like this before. Instead, she is ready to give her baby sister an older sister reprimand about taking care of herself and her baby. But when Bee arrives in London, she discovers that her sister has been murdered. When the police rule it a suicide, she knows that it cannot be true. She starts to investigate on her own, barging into the house of her sister’s older lover, questioning the fellow student who was in love with her, and researching the medical study that her sister took part in so she could save her baby.

The reader knows from the beginning something bad has happened to Tess. Bee is actually writing to Tess, telling her what has happened since the moment that their mother called and said that Tess was missing. It is obvious from reading this story that Ms. Lupton is a sister. Her insight into that relationship is nuanced. Bee is certain she really knows her sister, the things she would or would not do. Her sister’s death instigates the first moment when she is unsure of just how strong their bond was.

“Facts of exploding shrapnel were ripping our relationship apart. You didn’t tell me when your baby died. You were depressed, but you hadn’t turned to me. I knew every painting you were working on, every friend, even the book you were reading and the name of your cat. (Pudding – I’d remembered the next day.) I knew the minutiae of your life. But I didn’t know the big stuff. I didn’t know you.”

This novel manages to be an intriguing mystery, a look at the morality of medical practices, and a lovely tribute to the relationship that sisters share. Oh, and have I mentioned the crazy twist ending? Yes, that too. This is a strong debut novel and a good mystery.