Book Marks

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Check out this teachers Harry Potter-themed classroom!

Top 10 notable passages from Hillary Clinton’s book What Happened?

Jon “Mad Men” Hamm will be the voice of Boba Fett in Star Wars audio book.

Here are the 40 nominees of the National Book Awards 2017!

Ken Burns upcoming documentary The Vietnam War also has a companion book.

The original Charlie Bucket from Roald Dahl’s was originally going to be black.

Ugh, bed bugs found at a Racine, WI library.

Exhibition lets people peek into the world of Terry Pratchett.

Excellent middle school and YA books to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Thirteen lessons learned from a book tour.

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Book Review:Record Collecting for Girls by Courtney E Smith

Sometimes I have to remind myself not to take things so literally. When picked up Ms. Smith’s book, I truly thought it would be about collecting records (or musical downloads considering it’s the 21st century), with intelligent and knowledgeable essays about various musical genres, musicians, singers, songwriters and how they can affect you as a woman and a lover of music.

After reading Record Collecting for girls, I now realize why we are told “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

On paper Smith seems like the coolest girl in the universe. She honed her love of music while in college. For nearly a decade she was the music programmer and manager of label relations at MTV. She chose videos for 20 of MTV’s musical platforms. Reading about her tenure and her multitude of accomplishments truly excited me as a reader…and to be honest, kind of intimidated me.

But Smith’s time with MTV was the only thing that impressed me as I kept on reading and discovered her experience with music has all of the depth of a 12 inch extended re-mix of Duran Duran’s classic song “Hungry Like the Wolf.” I was hoping for a younger version of one of my favorite music journalists Lisa Robinson. Sadly, Smith is just another “Becky,” more boy crazy than a true connoisseur of music.

Record Collecting for Girls is more of a memoir of Smith’s various boyfriends; for the most part music is secondary. After a while, I started thinking, “Okay, I get it, Courtney. Guys think you’re hot. Now will you please write more on why music is such an important part of your life?”

For someone who spends a lot of time discussing her boyfriends, Smith has all the charm of a constantly skipping vinyl record while teaching us on the difference between “groupies” and “wives.” And she wastes no time ripping apart one of the most famous groupies of all time, the lovely Pamela Des Barres (who was married to rocker Michael Des Barres for quite a long time). To Smith, Des Barres is nothing but an airheaded twit who allowed herself be exploited by rock and roll greats. To Miss Pamela’s credit, she is quite forthcoming when it comes to the good, the bad and ugly of being a woman and a fan in the world of rock and roll. She doesn’t sugarcoat anything. She’s also a vastly superior writer to Smith. Smith’s derision towards other female rock fans is truly “mean girl.”

When it comes to women who play music, most of her wasted ink is on both the Bangles and the Go-Gos. There is nearly zilch on other lady music luminaries like Debbie Harry, Patty Smith, Stevie Nicks, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, Carol King, Annie Lennox, Joan Jett, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Nina Simone or Janis Joplin. Other bands with a strong female presence like Heart, Sonic Youth, The Talking Heads, The Runaways, The Velvet Underground or The Breeders also don’t get much of a mention. Also pretty much ignored? Tori Amos, Liz Phair, Jewel, Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morrisette and any band related to the Riot Grrrl era.

Smith also ignores the positive female icons of hip hop like Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Missy Elliott, Salt n’ Pepa, and TLC.

As for well-known female millennial artists like Taylor Swift, Kesha, Katy Perry, Rihanna, or Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj or Janelle Monae? Forget about it.

Smith does go on forever when it comes to Madonna, but who hasn’t? And she does have a love for the Pussycat Dolls. I won’t hold that against her; for there is a place in my heart for both Bananarama and the Spice Girls.

Now what about the men of rock and roll? Smith has a particular dislike for the Smiths because guys who like the Smiths also are fans of serial killers. Gee, I’m not exactly a fan of someone who spells Morrissey’s first name wrong. It’s Steven, not Stephen.

And FYI Courtney. It’s Berry Gordy, not Barry Gordy and it’s “Jennifer Juniper,” not “Jennifer Jupiter.”

Now that I’ve written that sentence I am several IQ points stupider. Or should I say “stupiter?”

Her chapter on The Beatles vs. The Stones hardly breaks new ground. And her chapter on the various songs couples choose as “our song,” break up songs, and songs for making out won’t keep Rob Sheffield up at night.

There are some highlights. She provides lists of songs at the end of each chapter that might help you pick out new music to listen to and she writes well when writing about some of her favorite artists, which include REM, Fiona Apple, Elvis Costello, Stevie Nicks, and Sleater-Kinney.

But other than those few crumbs, Record Collecting for Girls is a waste of time. Smith’s writing is both hollow and pretentious. You’re better off reading High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, or at least renting the John Cusack movie of the same name.

Book Club: A Few Thoughts on Hygge

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Here is my friend Jen Locke’s idea of hygge. Enjoy!

“Ooh! I think swimming, hiking/nature, reading, being alone…being around animals (including but not limited to my pets), Jerry (of course… Most of the time, haha) and sleeping. I really can’t tell you how much I love sleeping. 😁😴
It’s my house were cleaner, decorating would bring me joy… 😆

Book Review: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

I think one of the first reasons why I became a feminist is because of Gloria Steinem. To be honest, it wasn’t due to her tireless work on behalf of women’s rights, committed activism towards other causes, and her exceptional writing. It was because I thought she was so pretty with her long streaked hair, her mini-skirts and her trendy aviator sunglasses.

You’ll have to forgive me…I was around seven years old at the time.

Of course, I’m now a grown woman and my love and admiration for Steinem goes beyond her looks. She is so much more than a fashionable feminist (yes, we do exist). So I was overjoyed when my friend Nora gave me a copy of Steinem’s latest book My Life on the Road. I thoroughly adore Steinem’s past books like Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions and Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem. And I’ve been reading Ms. Magazine since middle school. To this day my nickname for Steinem is “Cool Auntie.”

Living a life on the road as an activist, speaker and writer came naturally to Steinem. Her father was a traveling salesman so it’s in her DNA. As a young woman Steinem spent time studying in India. Her career as a journalist had her traveling all over interviewing and covering all kinds of topics whether it be going undercover as a Playboy Bunny or interviewing the likes of Cesar Chavez. Always an activist Steinem was drawn to feminism, acting tirelessly for the rights for women whether it be access to their reproductive rights or issues they may face in the workplace. She helped create Ms. Magazine and has been a dominating force of feminism for decades, not only inspiring women around her own age but also inspiring women young enough to be her daughters and granddaughters.

“Wandering Organizer” is just one way Steinem defines herself and to me this book proves just that. Her life on the road has influenced her in a multitude of ways, especially in the world of politics. She also admits how being a wandering organizer has influenced her physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. And her travels makes for one hell of a read.

Steinem was at the 1963 March on Washington when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream Speech.” She worked on the behalf of farm workers. She campaigned for Geraldine Ferraro in 1984.She was also a big supporter of Hillary Clinton in both 2008 and 2016.

She’s worked along with activists Florynce Kennedy, Dolores Heurta, and Wilma Mankiller. She admits her relationship with Betty Friedan was less than cordial. She joined forces with Generation X feminists like Amy Richards. And now millennial feminists are discovering Steinem and her work. Now in her 80s, Gloria is still traveling, writing and speaking.

Every essay is written in a down-to-earth, yet moving way. She is a powerful voice but one that never seems intimidating. She fully admits things weren’t always rosy on her travels. She dealt with a lot of backlash, especially from the radical right, but kept on fighting on the behalf of not just women, but society as a whole.

I found all her essays fascinating, turning each page as Steinem went on her amazing journey. Her life on the road would make for one hell of a movie. One chapter of My Life on The Road would make for one hell of the movie.

This novel is an impressive and mind blowing account of the people, places and things Steinem encountered on her travels. At times I felt like I needed an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of it all. I feel fortunate to have learned more about this brave and inspirational woman. As with Steinem’s other books My Life on the Road is a must-read for all feminists, one to be visited again and again.

Book Club: A Few Thoughts on Hygge

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Several days ago I asked for my readers’ definition of hygge the Danish concept of happiness, joy and contentment. Here are my friend Tari’s thoughts.

 

“My kids, while sometimes a source of worry and frustration, make me laugh harder than anyone else in my life. I love going to the movies, usually alone so I can really lose myself in the story (except superhero movies, we all go together for those). Singalongs, quotealongs, pub trivia. The symphony makes me cry every time, but in the best of ways. Looking at art, whether in a museum, gallery, or on the street. Really good, creative food. Clean sheets. My purring cat. Meeting people I respect, both in and out of the public eye. Writing, of course – something I can’t not do. Delicious wine. Having a car – something I did NOT have for 3 years. A beautiful fragrance. A flattering outfit. Having a good hair day. When I know the answer to something nobody else does. Someone noticing when I work hard on something. When it’s 70 degrees outside. A clean kitchen. Comfy shoes and fuzzy slippers. Yoga pants. My Xmas tree that I leave up all year.”

Book Reviews: Dating Tips for the Unemployed by Iris Smyles

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I don’t know what I was looking for when I found Smyles book in the fiction section of my local library. Perhaps what I was looking for was a story about a woman’s difficulty navigating the world of love and romance while also being out of a job, something I bet a lot of us can relate to. Dating and trying to the find the “right one” or at least the “right one at this particular time because I want to get laid or at least not spend a Saturday night on the couch with a remote in one hand and a pint of store brand of mint chocolate chip mint ice cream in the other” while out of work can be quite a conundrum. It can also make for one heck of a book. Alas, not this book.

At first, Dating Tips for the Unemployed looked promising. Its book jacket provided a lot positive comments and Smyles’ author photo showed an attractive woman in a fetching retro look. And speaking of retro, throughout the book featured old school ads found in the back of magazines ages ago.

Smyles can be an entertaining writer, at times filled with wit and whimsy, and at other times, moribund and melancholic. But as Dating Tips for the Unemployed went on (and on, and on, and on), I found Smyles writing style and her story tiresome.

Dating Tips for the most part reads more like a memoir than a novel. First off, the main character is named Iris Smyles. Gee, I guess coming up with a different name was too difficult for Smyles.

For someone unemployed Iris has it pretty easy. There are no stories of trying to get unemployment, updating one’s resume, navigating the on-line obstacle courses of job searches, bad interviews, rejection letters…or worse, no feedback at all. There are no stories of trying to stretch a dollar until it screams, living on Ramen noodles, crying over wondering how you’re going to pay the rent and bills, and thinking you hit the lottery when you find a five dollar bill in a pocket of your blue jeans.

In fact, this book makes unemployment sound like a grand adventure of dating a lot of guys, travels to Greece, and fun nights on the town and goofy tales of family antics. Sure, this pretty much explains what it’s like to be out of work for most people…only not.

But apparently Iris lives in a different world than most of us. She appears to be fully supported by mommy and daddy even though she’s well into her thirties (Smyles was born in 1978). She travels to her family’s country of origin, which is Greece (gee, when I’m down on my luck I can barely afford a tasty gyro from Apollo Café on Brady Street) and men can’t help but be drawn to her. Most of Dating Tips for the Unemployed is devoted to Smyles’ endless cycle of boyfriends that for the most part are never fully fleshed out to be compelling or interesting. Even the sex is a total snooze fest. I’ve written grocery lists that were more erotic.

I think for the most part, Smyles is self-absorbed but not exactly self-aware, a trait that wears pretty thin after someone gets past the age of 25. She tries to come across as quirky and different, but is just another flavorless manic pixie dream girl like a piece of chewed Juicy Fruit gum that’s been on your bed post for a couple of days.

And no I’m not being a jealous hater. She’s very fortunate to have supportive parents and yes, she is quite attractive. I can figure out why men are drawn to her. But after a while, she’s just another boring #privilgedwhitewoman, nothing new under the sun. She’s more Elizabeth Gilbert than Dorothy Parker.

In the end, Smyles book was one I should have ignored and left on the library shelf. If I want to read about a young woman dealing with being out of work and out of money, I’ll re-read The Broke Diaries by Angela Nissel. And when it comes to a woman and her collection of paramours, you can’t go wrong with Pamela Des Barres’ I’m With the Band.

Book Marks

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Book Riot offers some tips on how to hold an old-school library soiree!

Who says indie book stores are dead? Not these former Barnes and Noble workers.

In her latest memoir What Happened, Hillary Clinton calls Trump a “creep.”

Louise “y’all just jealous” Linton’s so-called memoir is a #loadofcrap.

Crush alert!!!! The Handmaid’s tale made Joseph Fiennes a bigger feminist!

Girls Write Now share highlights from their awards show.

Got questions about race and writing? Roxane Gay has answers.

A new memoir about the late Nora Ephron? Yes, I’ll definitely have what she’s having!!!!

Another funny lady we lost too soon, Erma Bombeck, on writing humor.

Speaking of funny dead ladies, Dorothy Parker was a friend of the NAACP.

 

Book Club: What’s Your Definition of Hygge?

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As you all know I recently reviewed Meik Wiking’s Book “The Little Book of Hygge.” I really enjoyed this book and it’s really inspired me to think about what people, places and things bring me hygge (or as I called it in my review #niceties). So my lovely readers I would like to know this. What people, places and things fill you with hygge, niceties, joy, happiness, etc. You can email me at thebookself@yahoo.com. You can use your name or a pseudonym. I’ll publish your answers as I receive them

Thank you so much. I look forward to your responses.

 

 

Book Review: Little Book of Hygge-Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

2016 was an immensely difficult year for me and so many others. And as 2017 rolls along I still feel a certain sadness personally, professionally and politically. And I’m not the only one. So it was truly a blessing to find Meik Wiking’s book The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.

Hygge (pronounced “hue-guh”) is the concept of happiness, fulfillment, well-being, and contentment. Denmark is considered one of the happiest countries in the world, and Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen so needless to say, he knows what he is talking about.

And just what is hygge to Wiking and many of his fellow Danes? Well, a lot of it has to do with warmth and light, which is not surprising considering it can get pretty cold and dark in Denmark. Danes love their fireplaces and wearing comfy bulky sweaters. They also have a love of soft lighting from well-placed lamps and burning candles. Only the candles Danes prefer are unscented.

Danes also find hygge in togetherness, whether it’s with their families, friends or just their communities as a whole. Just connecting with a loving soul via actual human contact (not social media) can fill a Dane with contentment and joy.

One way Danes connect with through food and drink. Having tea or coffee with a cherished loved one is a great way to inspire hygge, and so is throwing a dinner party or having a potluck with friends. In The Little Book of Hygge Wiking generously shares some beloved recipes, which as a total foodie I can’t wait to try out. And I now for myself, one way I connect with others is through my love of baking (my sugar mint cookies should be declared a national treasure).

Here are few thing the Danes feel are hygge:

  • Holidays like Christmas
  • Board Games
  • Music
  • Books
  • Sundays
  • Pets
  • Television
  • Parties
  • Plants
  • Sports

I must say I agree with a lot of things on that list. I love to listen to music, and I often use it as a healing balm when I’m feeling a bit down. It’s no secret I love books (or else I wouldn’t have this blog). I love Sundays. I start off my Sundays watching one of my favorite TV programs CBS Sunday Morning, and then I head off to my church First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, where I am not only treated to a wonderful service, I also connect with a like-minded community. I adore my fur baby, Pokey Jones whose purrs and unconditional love fill me with hygge.

Other countries have their own concepts and words for hygge. Canadians call it hominess. In Norway it is called koselig. German’s call their concept of hygge (yes, Germans want to be happy, too) gemutlichkeit. What would I call hygge as an American? Well, I call it niceties.

Hygge is practiced all year around and Wiking mentions hygge for each Month. January is a great month for having movie nights. In March, you can have theme nights; my theme for the month of March? My birthday, of course! May is a great time for a week-end getaway to a cabin or maybe a lovely bed and breakfast place. Summer picnics are ideal in the month of July. Wiking inspires us to have soup cook-offs in November.

Hygge doesn’t have to be costly. Often they are free or very inexpensive. Wiking suggests making your own “Hygge Emergency Kit.” His suggestions for such a kit include candles, chocolate, your favorite tea, books, a collection of treasured hand-written letters, warm woolen sweaters, a notebook and pen, and music.

In the past few days I have been feeling sad with the state of our world and some personal issues I’m dealing with. But reading about hygge reminded me to think of good things that filled me with happiness and joy. The eclipse filled me with hygge, reminding how inspiring the galaxy can be and how one moment can fill the world with joy and wonderment. This morning I woke up to find a text and an IM from two friends, which lifted my spirits. I’m currently reading some good books. I made a fabulous meal last night. Heck, even a decent night’s sleep helped me feel hygge.

I truly loved The little Book of Hygge and am so grateful for Meik Wiking. This book and its ideas will inspire me for quite a long time. We should all feel and practice hygge.