Book Marks

cropped-reading_is_coolAre conservative books an embarrassment to the publishing industry? Well, considering the publishing industry thought Bristol Palin was worthy of a memoir I’d have to say it’s “Yes!” If I want to know the musings of a dumb, uneducated girl who got knocked up in a tent, I’d go to Wal-Mart or watch “Jerry Springer.”

A prequel to Gone With the Wind focusing on Mammy to be released in October. Hmm, I wonder if it will be a load of shit like the Gone With the Wind sequel Scarlett?

Mark you calendars for April 23rd. Amy Poehler will host World Book Night as honorary chairperson. Books and Amy Poehler? This is my idea of heaven!

Two of Harper Lee’s letters to be auctioned off.

Are self-help books more about self-hurt when it comes to economic strife and income inequality?

As Women’s History Month comes to close, let’s ask ourselves if we’ve read these great books written by women. Wow, I have some catching up to do. My score is embarrassing low. Yikes!




Retro Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a MockingbirdWhen I was younger I looked at classic literature the way I looked at eating my vegetables, good for me but not exactly fun. I much preferred to read my Judy Blume books and other assorted YA novels, trashy reads like VC Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic or copies of Rolling Stone, Spin and Star Hits.

Then for some reason I decided to read Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird. To Kill a Mockingbird proved to me that classics weren’t just something I had to read; classics were something I wanted to read. (And yes, I now eat my vegetables, thank you very much).

Published over 50 years ago, To Kill a Mockingbird portrays a very specific moment in time, the deep South in the era of Jim Crow and years before the Civil Rights Movement. It is also the story of a family living in a small town in Alabama, and told through the point of view of one singular little girl, Jean Louise Finch, better known as Scout.

Scout Finch lives with her brother, Jem, and their widowed father Atticus Finch, a local attorney. The Finch’s black maid, Calpurnia, is a stern yet loving presence in the Finch’s lives.

Scout navigates her small world of school, family life, her budding friendship with a boy named Dill and admonishments from her concerned elders about her unladylike ways. However, she’s also becoming aware of a bigger world around her. She and her brother are both intrigued and frightened by the town recluse Boo Radley. Is he truly as horrible as the townspeople claim? And Scout and Jem are also learning that life isn’t always fair and just.

Their father has just been assigned an insurmountable task-defending a local black man named Tom Robinson against a false rape charge. This was time when a black man could be lynched for even looking at a white woman. In the court of public opinion, Tom is guilty and should probably fry.

Tom’s accuser is Mayella Ewell. Mayella, and her violent and abusive father, Bob, are considered the town trash. Just like many of the black families in town, the Ewells are looked down upon, yet the false word of one white woman takes precedence over a black man’s innocence.

Mayella may be a liar, but she is also a victim of both her viciously cruel father and a time when potential rape victims were often treated as criminals themselves . Atticus treats her with decency while questioning her about the crime, yet is stalwart in getting out the truth and defending his client, a devoted family man. Atticus digs for the truth but is also compassionate and fair. And though Atticus knows getting a “not guilty” verdict will be incredibly difficult, he remains stalwart that this is a case worth fighting-for Tom Robinson and his family and for his own integrity as an attorney and as a father.

Scout and her brother are allowed to attend the trial, and are thoroughly drawn into the proceedings (as is the reader). Just as Scout and Jem learn that Atticus is so much more than just their father, and justice and fairness are worth fighting for. They also learn the importance of empathy, truly putting yourself in another person’s shoes. And it isn’t long before they learn that things aren’t always what they seem when they have a chance meeting with Boo Radley. These are important lessons we must all learn, and To Kill a Mockingbird conveys this with both simplicity and elegance.

What struck me while reading To Kill a Mockingbird once again is how both timeless and timely the story is. We are still dealing with many of the same issues, especially when it comes to race, in 2013 (no racism hasn’t ended because we have a black President).

What is also amazing about To Kill Mockingbird is Ms. Lee’s commendable talent as a writer. She writes with clarity, a certain richness and a lack of pretense. Not one passage rings false, and every character is fully drawn, not just the main characters. I felt as if I actually knew these people. It’s no wonder Hollywood made To Kill a Mockingbird into a notable film just years after the book’s initial release.

To Kill a Mockingbird also inspired several non-fiction books about the book and Harper Lee and the documentary by Mary McDonagh Murphy, Hey, Boo:Harper Lee and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

The famously reclusive Harper Lee only wrote one book, but what a book it is. To Kill a Mockingbird is a book to be read often and completely cherished.


Writer’s Block

Writer's Block PhotoAargh! I was hoping to have a review up today, but I’m having computer issues and some files on my thumb drive got corrupted including the one I have for this blog. When I write review I tend to start them on a MS Word document and then copy and paste them onto this blog. I don’t always write them directly on this blog. Perhaps that’s weird but that’s how I roll.

So I’m probably going to invest in a new thumb drive shortly and hopefully restore some files when I get a chance (I have some work related stuff that got messed up but thankfully I believe I have hard copies of most of it).

However, I will have some reviews up shortly. I’m working on a retro review, and I’m going to hunt for some other book reviews that I can share on this blog that I wrote a while back and might be worth a read. In fact, I’m going to look for some once I’m done with this post. And I do believe my friend is still interested in doing a guest post it’s just a matter of finding the time to write one. She works crazy hours so that responsibility comes first.

Thanks for all of your patience!

What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living with Grace and Style by Pamela Keogh

jpeg-3A few months ago, I wrote a review of Jordan Christy’s book, How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World. I found Ms. Christy’s tome to be shallow, bitchy, materialistic and judgmental, traits that the late Audrey Hepburn rarely showed. While reading Christy’s blathering, I thought to myself, “You don’t know Audrey Hepburn at all, toots.” I’ve been a huge fan of the late Audrey Hepburn for over twenty years. Not only do I love her movies, I also greatly admire her work with UNICEF. And on a shallow note, when it came to fashion and style, Audrey is primer on how to look stylish no matter your wardrobe budget.

So it was only fitting that I would be drawn to a book like Pamela Keogh’s What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living With Style and Grace. What Would Audrey Do? is a delightful combination of biography, helpful hints and analysis on a woman who was a movie star, style icon, tireless philanthropist, and wife, mother and daughter. And I must say, this book helped cleanse the stank of How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World.

What Would Audrey Do? is divided into different sections on how Audrey lived both her public and private life. You can cull wisdom on how Audrey handled dating and romance, how she managed her career and the glare of the spotlight, how she found solace in her home life and her two sons, and why giving back through UNICEF was so important to her. And you’ll also find out how the little black dress, big sunglasses, ballet flats and other classics became every woman’s wardrobe staples because of Audrey’s innate sense of style.

When it came to romance, did Audrey hang by the phone waiting for Mr. Right to call? No. She had a life and she lived it. Audrey kept her options open when it came to dating. Like a lot of us, she desired romance, marriage and family, but knew they would come in due time. She didn’t act like getting a big fat engagement ring was the most important thing in her life.

Throughout her career, Audrey made sure she stood out from the rest of the pack without being a transparent, grasping fame whore. In a time where women were supposed to be blond and buxom, Audrey was definitely memorable with her spare figure and dark hair. When it came to acting, Audrey trusted her instincts and relied on the discipline she gained from her dance lessons. She charmed the press and had no problem promoting her movies, and later UNICEF. But for the most part, she kept the press at arm’s length. And most importantly, she did not pull rank and expect people to cater to excessive whims. She treated everyone with decency and respect.

Considered one of the best-dressed women of the modern age, Audrey relied on the French couturier Hubert de Givenchy to outfit her both in her movies and in her real life. Granted most of us don’t have the money to buy haute couture, but many Audrey-like pieces like crisp white shirts, ballet flats and little black dresses can be found at most department stores and inexpensive mass merchandisers and they suit most figure types. Also, when it came to fashion, Audrey knew her body very well, and played up her assets while underplaying her flaws (not that she had that many). If something didn’t suit her, she didn’t wear it no matter how trendy it was. When it comes to fashion, the best thing we can glean from Audrey is, “do what works for you.” If you like the color yellow go for it, even if the fashion experts are saying yellow is out and red is in.

But Audrey was so much more than a movie star and fashion icon. Audrey spent the latter part of her life traveling the globe on behalf of UNICEF. Through her humanitarian efforts, she shed a light on the struggle and strife facing children in countries like Vietnam, El Salvador, Ethiopia and Somalia. Whereas some celeb philanthropic junkets seem like total PR pieces, Audrey got her hands dirty. She wrote her own speeches, researched the countries she visited and spoke to journalists in their native tongue.

However, Audrey’s life was not 100% charmed. Her father abandoned her family when she was a little girl. She nearly starved to death during World War II. She had her heart broken plenty of times, and experienced two failed marriages. She also suffered several miscarriages before she had her beloved sons Sean and Luca. Audrey was not an angel either. For one thing, she smoked nearly three packs of cigarettes a day.

Keogh, who also wrote the book Audrey Style, shows her passion for Audrey and the life she led on every page. For the most part Keogh has done a lot of exhaustive research and has interviewed the people who knew and loved Audrey best. Though I’m a true blue Audrey fan I found myself learning new things about her. For one thing, Audrey loved dark chocolate but hated garlic. She also had a great fear of getting her head dunked under water.

What Would Audrey Do? is not a perfect book. For one thing Keogh mistakenly claims that Audrey played a lesbian in the movie The Children’s Hour when she actually played a teacher accused of being a lesbian. And there is also a glaring typo on one page. I’m not sure if the typo is a mistake of Keogh’s or the publisher’s. But these quibbles are minor when it comes to learning about a true class act. If charm schools ever came back in style, What Would Audrey Do? Timeless Lessons for Living With Grace and Style would be the perfect text book.

Book Marks

lets read book markWant to write the Great American Novel? Rule #1: Be interesting!
Actually, be interesting is great advice to any writer no matter what. I wish I could have convinced a former supervisor of mine of that advice.

Let’s face it. A lot of celebrity memoirs suck. I should know. I actual read Bristol Palin’s memoir . However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are four simple ways to make celeb memoirs notable reads. Related: Lindsay Lohan  gets $1M book deal. Excuse me while I get drunk.

I’m not in favor of banning books. But Gawker may be onto something here.

Believe it or not, spring commences later this week. That may be a bit hard to believe for those of us who have made the term “polar vortex” part of our daily speech. However, we might want to think about our annual spring cleaning. And to help us with that arduous task Jolie Kerr , Hairpin’s “Ask a Clean Person” columnist has a new book out- “My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag . . . and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha.”

We are in the middle of Women’s History Month. To celebrate here is a list of 25 women authors who changed history. What are your thoughts on this list?

Bitch Magazine has a huge list of great books for young feminist readers.

And Wikipedia has an exhaustive list of notable women writers throughout history.

The Broke Diaries: The Completely True and Hilarious Misadventures of a Good Girl Gone Broke by Angela Nissel

broke diariesI wrote this book review a while ago for an ancient blog and even submitted it to an old editor of mine. It didn’t get published for some reason so I decided to dust it off, polish it up a a bit and publish it here. Enjoy!

Once upon a time I made a solid, dependable middle class income. I could easily pay my bills, rent, and other assorted necessary amenities.  I could also afford luxuries like monthly massages, nights on the town, concert tickets, and fashionable additions to my closet.

Well, those days are over. Like a lot of other fine Americans our economic downturn seriously kicked me in the butt. I gave up the luxuries and at times I spent sleepless nights wondering how I would pay my rent, food bill and keep the lights on. I could easily cry over stumbling so low, but sometimes I need to laugh. And so would Angela Nissel in her book The Broke Diaries: The Completely True and Hilarious Misadventures of a Good Girl Gone Broke.

The Broke Diaries began as an on-line web diary Nissel kept as a student majoring in medical anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. This was in the 1990s when the Internet meant dialing up AOL and blog sounded like the noise you made when you vomited. Nissel wrote down her thoughts about being broke as a way to entertain herself (and learn how to create websites). Little did she know she’d strike a chord with her readers. Some of them even offered to send her money. However, Nissel had her pride and refused to take a cent.

The Broke Diaries commences at the beginning of Nissel’s senior year. She’s making it on student loans and the laughable pay from a federal work-study job. Whereas the rich Ivy League students she studied with used “summer” as a verb, Nissel had to stretch her minuscule dollars to pay for text books and assorted living expenses.

Nissel’s stories are a laugh out loud riot, and will ring true to anyone who has tried to make Ramen Noodles into a feast. Speaking of Ramen Noodles, Nissel was so broke that she didn’t have the 35 cents to pay for a packet of every student’s favorite flavored noodles. She only had 33 cents. Sadly, the bastard behind the counter wouldn’t cover her for the extra two cents and told Nissel to never step foot into his store again.

Nissel recalls going on many bad dates just to get a meal, including with one pitiful prospect she calls “Turdboy.” She joins one her friends at the funeral of a person she never met because of the free food. She writes about arguing with the phone company over an astronomical phone bill, and the time she used her cat bowl to mix cake batter because she didn’t have enough clean bowls. She discusses the merits of big box bookstores where one can hunker in and read a book just like at the library, but without the homeless people. But she also laments the lack of quality at free entertainment events. Her description of a poetry reading is so hilarious it’s pretty much worth the price of the book.

Of course, being broke means dealing with things you’d rather not deal with like the neighborhood check cashing place. If you are using a check cashing place instead of a bank you are truly in the land of the broke. And when you’re broke, you can’t get out of town on an airplane or even Amtrak. No, the broke mode of public transportation is the Greyhound bus. In one chapter, Nissel describes a nightmare bus ride where her seat mate nearly sits on her lap and the bus driver asks the passengers directions to their destination.

However, Nissel also proves that being broke calls for some savvy survival skills like when she poses as a college professor to get free text books (complete with study aids) or the time she uses her feminine wiles to convince a utility worker to keep her power on. And I’m sure Nissel is not the only person who signed up for a credit card just so she could score a goody bag filled with toiletries.

Nissel’s writing is clever and wickedly funny but never is she self-pitying or sentimental in her prose. And though The Broke Diaries was published in 2001 it’s timelier than ever. When you’re working a low paying McJob, and re-discovering Aldi’s and dollar stores, The Broke Diaries is the perfect stimulus package for the funny bone.

Writer’s Block

Hello everyone. Happy first day of March. Can you believe March is already here? January and February just flew by. Like anybody out there I’ve been busy with life. Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’ll be celebrating it by watching the Oscars. Though I haven’t seen a lot of movies lately, I started my writing vocation by writing movie reviews and about film in general, both professionally and personally. Plus, one of my friends and I love to text each other during awards shows, so tomorrow night I’ll be on my couch texting with one of besties about the Oscar telecast. We’re both huge U2 fans so we are positively verklempt that they’ve been nominated for best original song. I hope they win. They should considering it’s my birthday-snerk.

As for this blog, I am currently immersed in a classic and I will write a review of this book for my retro review series. And I picked up a novel at my local library that piqued my interest. I also got an email from Michael Adelberg who wrote Thinking Man’s Bully. His latest literary effort Saving the Hooker is coming out March 21st. As you know, I really liked Thinking Man’s Bully so I’m looking forward to reading Saving the Hooker. Here is a glowing review. Way to go Mr. Adelberg!