Monday, December 19, 2011

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is the third in the Caster Chronicles series.  I have an admission to make- I didn't actually finish this one.  Back in September, I reviewed Beautiful Darkness, the second in the series.  As you may remember, I haven't been terribly impressed with this series, but I continued because I felt like I wanted to find out what would happen.  I've said before that I have a difficult time not finishing a book or a series.  Usually this is because I am hoping the book will get better or because I suspect that my opinion of the book is somehow wrong.  With the Caster Chronicles, the online reviews have mostly been very good.  The reviews are the reason I began it in the first place.  I have now come to the conclusion that those reviews simply were not written for me.

One of the things that I have loved about Twilight is that so many people, both young and not so young, have returned to reading.  The YA genre has exploded and for the most part I would say that is a good thing.  More books available means more people are going to be able to find a book they will enjoy.  The downside is that not all of these books are good.  Or perhaps it's just that they aren't for me. 

With Beautiful Chaos, I just couldn't read it.  The plot is so busy, there are so many characters and the writing is so cryptic that the story becomes weighed down.  It isn't that I can't follow a complicated plot line and I enjoy reading well developed characters, but with these books it feels to me as if the writers just kept throwing things in to fill up the story, not to fill it out.  I was less than 100 pages in to this book when I couldn't get beyond the feeling that reading it was a chore.  There are so many good books out there that I can't waste my time on something I'm not really enjoying. 

Am I wrong about these books?  I'm happy to hear other opinions.  Perhaps I missed something. 

Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

I just finished Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick.  It is the third in the Hush, Hush series.  You may remember back in August my review of Crescendo which was the second in the series.  I wasn't crazy about it.  I wasn't crazy about the first book and my feelings didn't really improve that much with the third.  And do you know what was really frustrating?  I thought this was the last in a trilogy.  I was wrong.  After I finished and it didn't seem like the story was complete, I did a little looking around online and discovered the fourth and final (thank goodness) installment will be released next fall.  Really?  I still have to read another one of these?  Well, of course the answer to that is no, I don't.  But I will.  There is something about me that makes it very difficult not to finish a book or series (more on that in a later post). 

This series is kind of fun.  The story focuses on fallen angels, the immortals they inhabit two weeks out of every year and the humans sometimes caught in the middle.  I can't say it has great writing and I'm not overly attached to the characters.  On the other hand, something keeps drawing me back in.  If you have been reading this series I would love to hear what you think. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Every Woman's Guide to Cycling by Selene Yeager

My husband recently started riding his bike more and even joined up with a group of cyclists we know.  He is really enjoying it and so I thought I would give it a little try.  Now, if you have any illusions that I look anything like the woman on the cover of this book, please put them away right now.  I don't look like her and my bike looks nothing like her bike.  As a matter of fact, I ride a $100 Huffy that I bought at Toys R Us about ten years ago.  Try not to be jealous. 

We live in a beautiful climate and in an area that has miles and miles of bike lanes.  Cycling is very big here and I've been wondering if it is something I would enjoy.  The only problem is that cycling is not a cheap sport to just pick up.  Running is easy because it only involves a pair of running shoes.  As I learned from this book that I borrowed from the library, Every Woman's Guide to Cycling by Selene Yeager, a cyclist needs special shoes and special pedals that clip to those shoes and special clothes and a helmet and of course a fancy bike none of which is cheap.  The good thing is that my $100 Huffy is plenty sufficient to get me started, at least enough for me to decide if I even want to pursue the sport. 

This book speaks specifically to women riders and it addresses concerns women may have.  Yeager discusses proper fit of your bike, explains issues we may have with sensitive areas sitting for long periods of time in the saddle, prepares the reader for purchasing her own new bike and she even gives safety advice.  Also included in the book are training schedules and nutrition advice.  I have been riding my Huffy and as I progress I think I will eventually purchase my own copy of this book.  I learned so much, but I know I have so much more to learn.  Bike ride anyone??

The Color of Water by James McBride

December's book club selection was The Color of Water by James McBride.  It is the story of a white, Jewish woman, raised in unhappy circumstances in the South.  As a 19-year-old young woman in the 1940s, she leaves home, moves to New York and falls in love with and marries a black man.  James McBride is the eighth child resulting from their union.  This book is an interesting look at religion, economic status, class and of course race. 

I do not care for all memoirs (as a friend of mine says, they are often too self-indulgent), but this one I enjoyed immensely.  I find it very enlightening to step into another person's shoes and attempt to understand his or her life.  This book is not new having been published in 1997, but if you haven't read it yet, you really should.  Just this week as I passed the librarian's picks shelf at my wonderful local library, I noticed a copy of this book.  I recommend it.  Our librarian recommends it.  Really you should just pick it up and read it.  Go ahead.  You won't be sorry.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot tells the story of one woman who lived only thirty-one years and yet was also made immortal.  Henrietta Lacks had a very rare form of cervical cancer in a time when very little was known about cancer or even the cells themselves.  A sample of her cancer cells were taken and became the first successfully kept alive indefinitely.  These cells (known forever after as HeLa cells) were then used in experiment after experiment until they became essential laboratory equipment.

HeLa cells made possible the testing necessary to cure polio.  HeLa cells have been used to research cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation and biological weapons and gene mapping.  HeLa cells were present on some of the earliest space flights.  It is estimated that scientists have grown twenty tons of her cells. 

While the scientific side of this story is fascinating, also of interest is the other side, the personal side of the story.  Who was Henrietta Lacks?  Did she have a family?  How did her illness effect her?  Henrietta was a black woman dying of cancer in the early 1950s.  What role did race play in her situation?  These questions and many others are also answered. 

This book comprises ten years worth of research by Ms. Skloot and so is a bit slow in some areas.  Yet, when the book ended I felt it had ended a bit too abruptly.  I enjoyed this book and learned so much, but I can't label it a page turner.  One critic said "I couldn't put it down" but for me it took a bit longer to read.  It did make me wonder if there is any of me out there somewhere being used in tests for hair dye or lawn chemicals. 

And now you're wondering about you, too, aren't you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

I just finished reading Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins and it was just as much fun as her previous novel, Anna and the French Kiss.  One of the fun things about Lola is the reappearance of Anna and St. Claire from Anna.  While they are not key characters in this novel, they aren't bit players, either.  It's fun to be updated on their lives. 

As with Anna, this book is YA, but with a perhaps more realistic view of the life of a seventeen-year-old girl.  Lola is dating an older, bad boy-type while also struggling with her feelings for the nice guy- type boy next door.  As my husband says, it is very frustrating to be the nice guy because the girls always think they want the bad boy.  Some of that frustration is illustrated here.  Why do we girls always seem to have such a fascination with the bad boy?  We can fix him?  He will want to change just for us?  He's a bad boy with a heart of gold?  Such fantasies! 

This was just the kind of fun, fluffy book I was looking for this week.  I really enjoyed it, but just a heads up for you more conservative readers:  Lola has two dads, a former addict for a birth mom, and she is no longer a virgin.  These situations are all handled rather matter-of-factly and without specific or suggestive details.  If any of that bothers you, you might prefer to read it yourself before passing it on to your teenage daughter.  Personally I am looking forward to Perkins' next book, Isla and the Happily Ever After, set to be released Fall 2012. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Quilter's Homecoming by Jennifer Chiaverini

After reading The Hunger Games series, I was in need of something a little more comforting.  The Quilter's Homecoming by Jennifer Chiaverini was just what I wanted.  This book in the Elm Creek Quilts series follows Elizabeth, Silvia's cousin, on her journey from Elm Creek Manor to her new home in California in 1925.  Elizabeth and her husband, newlyweds, embark on quite the adventure of striking out on their own toward a cattle ranch that he has purchased.  Things don't go quite as planned, but the couple endures and (spoiler!) triumphs.  The story is also interspersed with a tale that begins fifty years previous of the family that owned the ranch for generations.  The two narratives weave together beautifully and I couldn't wait to find out how it would all resolve.  I just love these books.  Have you read them yet??

Monday, October 17, 2011

Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I recently finished Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and I would have posted about it, but I couldn't stop myself from moving immediately on to Mockingjay.  So, what did I think?  Actually, that is a pretty good question.  I was riveted, that's true.  I didn't want to put it down.  I thought about it a lot when I wasn't reading it and the story line has even infiltrated my dreams.  But did I like it?  Well, not really, but maybe that is because it's not the kind of story the reader is supposed to like, exactly. 

These are such dark novels and I am frankly astounded that they are considered Young Adult literature.  At certain times, the events are downright gruesome.  I have never been a fan of distopian novels and so I admit that maybe this just isn't my thing.  Nearly every person I have talked to who has read the series has raved about it.  "These books are so good!  You have to read them!"  "The movie is coming out soon- you have to read them first!"  "Oooo...these books are amazing!"  "The best books ever written!"  But as for me, when I asked a friend if she had read them, she told me she hadn't yet but that her sister loved them and keeps telling her she just has to read them.  To that, my response was that I'm not sure I would say that.  I don't know that I could tell anyone they just have to read this series, but I would be interested in discussing it with people who have read them. 

To be honest, I was kind of a relieved to come to the end.  Too many people died, some of them I could argue should have lived.  I know no one wants to see a beloved character die.  I understand that it adds significantly to the meaning of the person's death if it is a character to whom the reader has become attached.  And yet, there were a couple of characters that just should have been allowed to live.  One of the critiques of Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer is that no one important died in the end and it wasn't realistic.  Meyer's response was that she couldn't let any of the characters who meant so much to her die.  And besides, who cares if it was unrealistic?  It was a vampire/werewolf novel- none of it was realistic.  And so I think the same could have happened at the end of Mockingjay.  I know, I'm being a baby about this, but since this blog is only reflective of my opinions, I'm okay with that. 

If you have read this series, I would love to hear your take.  If you haven't read it yet, I hope I haven't spoiled it too much.  Now I think I will go find something a little cheerier to read.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner

The book club selection for October is These is My Words by Nancy E. Turner.  Oh, my!  What a book!  When I first picked it up, I noticed the small print and was afraid it would take me a long time to finish.  When I began it, I was afraid it was going to be a slow read.  Once I was about thirty pages in I realized how wrong I was.  A historical novel written in the form of a journal, These is My Words tells of a young woman pioneer in the Arizona Territory.  Sarah Prine as portrayed in the novel is not a real woman but is loosely based on the stories handed down about the author's great-grandmother.  This book is written in such a way that it was difficult to remember that she wasn't real.  I also began to wonder if she had a giant "S" on her undershirt and a cape she kept tucked up in her bonnet.  If you like strong women characters, this is just the book for you.  There were several instances that I actually cheered out loud.  Sarah is my hero! 

I have heard there are two sequels, Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden, and that they are good.  I may continue my reading, but I haven't decided yet.  I really can't recommend this one enough.  It is one of my new favorite books!

Now please forgive me for a spoiler, (please don't continue if you haven't read this book yet!)

but I feel like I have to say I loved this book all the way until the end.  It's the end that made me angry.  I know life was hard.  I know people died, but why, oh why did it have to end the way it did?!?  I wasn't just sad- I was angry.  I may have even thrown my book down and stomped down the hall for a few minutes.  And then I decided to just ignore it.  I refuse to believe it ended the way the author wrote it and I will just make up my own ending because I can.  How is that for juvenile? 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

For over a year I have had friends tell me I just had to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  One friend even bought the series for me.  I agreed I would read it, but I just hadn't gotten to it yet.  Finally last week, I decided I would read just the first one before I had to move on to my book club book for this month.  I was right when I thought it wouldn't take me very long to read.  I was wrong when I thought I wouldn't mind waiting to read the other two books in the series.

I wasn't very far into the book before I began to question my ability to stomach the storyline.  Since I am quite possibly the last person to get into this series, I won't worry too much about spoilers, but be forewarned.  Children forced to fight to the death?  That is horrific!  And this is considered a Young Adult novel?  Well I suppose a teenager is likely to have a slightly different perspective than a mother might have, so perhaps it sits differently with them.  For me, all I could think was "Who lets this happen?"  And don't try to tell me it was the only way to avoid total destruction.  Someone would have to totally destroy me before I would stand by and let someone take away my child and make a game of his or her death.  Did you ever read "The Lottery"?  It is a short story written by Shirley Jackson in 1948 and is considered classic American literature.  The Hunger Games felt oddly similar, yet much more gruesome. 

Once I was able to continue with my reading, I was able to enjoy the adventure aspects of Katniss' ordeal, but I am still disturbed.  I know- it's a book, it's not real.  As I've mentioned before, I become very involved in what I read.  Could this ever really happen?  In what kind of world?  What events could possibly lead up to such a thing?  It is my understanding that some of these questions will be addressed in the rest of the series.  While I am thoroughly sickened, I am also very interested in knowing what will happen next.  I will read the rest of the series, mostly because I can't stop now. 

What did you think?  Were you as distressed as I was?

Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini

The ninth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series, Circle of Quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini was as much a joy to read as each of the other Elm Creek Quilts novels I have read.  In this novel, the Elm Creek Quilters are searching for new quilters to add to their group.  Each chapter is an applicant's biography and it's own fully developed story.  At the end of each chapter, I thought, "Oh, that person should get it", but of course I liked the next person just as much.  That is one thing I really like Chiaverini's novels- nearly every character is likable and flawed at the same time.  I am really enjoying this series.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

After reading The Book Thief, I was in real need of something light and fluffy and this fit the bill perfectly.  Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins is a sweet book about a young girl forced by her parents to spend her senior year of high school at a boarding school in Paris, France.  I know- poor thing, right?  Of course as a grown woman with a husband and children and responsibilities, this sounds like a wonderful opportunity and I can't help but think how much I would have loved to spend a year of high school in Paris.  However, that's the 33-year-old me speaking.  The 17-year-old me would have freaked out.  Paris?  Alone?  Away from all my friends and everything familiar?  Well that is exactly what the title character in this book thought.  As the title also indicates, it turns out to not be quite as bad as she imagined. 

This book was fun.  It was easy.  It pulled me in and kept me turning the pages.  It also made me remember our wonderful, if too short, weekend in Paris last summer and it made me want to return.  It is a Young Adult novel in the purest sense.  Adults can enjoy it.  I've read many book blogs heralding it's loveliness, but it's really just fun.  I don't think it will sweep the nation like Twilight did and I can't add it to my list of books I think every teen must read, but I will add it to my "I really liked this book and it was tons of fun" list.   Pick it up, you'll like it.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Oh, my goodness.  I have been reading and hearing about The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for a long time, but I've just now finally read it myself.  To be perfectly honest, I picked up my copy over a year ago at the used bookstore in my library and even though I had heard how wonderful it was, I wasn't in a hurry to read it.  I have so many books on my "To Read..." list that I have to pick what sounds good that day and a book about the holocaust didn't exactly sound like a fun read.  However, when it was my turn to host book club, I went with this one.  (Everyone loved it!)  And I was right, a book about a young girl's perspective of the holocaust in 1940s Germany wasn't what I would call fun, but it was brilliant. 

Zusak is an extraordinary author and The Book Thief is beautifully written.  The haunting imagery he uses brings the reader right in to the story and the characters are so well developed they feel like friends.  Even Death, the narrator of this enthralling novel, seems more like a companion and advocate than the evil Grim Reaper so often envisioned. 

I think the most shocking thing about this book, for me anyway, was that it wasn't pure fiction.  How could this have really happened?  I have a simple understanding of the holocaust that probably most publicly educated Americans have.  I've read about it, I've seen documentaries (though I admit I skipped Schindler's List because I didn't want those images in my head), but through this book, my eyes have been opened to so much more.  It is easy to lump all Germans at that time into the Nazi box, but I now see that there were many Germans who were not in agreement with Hitler and his ideas.  The fear was so strong that it was difficult for most people to stand and fight.  It is possible that they never knew that the people standing on either side of them wanted to fight, too. 

Of course, the next logical question to me is this:  What can we do to make sure nothing like it ever happens again?  We must be involved with and aware of the world around us.  We must speak up.  We must help those in need and never turn our backs. 

And now, I must get off my soap box and go read something lighter.  This was a wonderful book and one I really believe everyone should read.  Have you read it?  Tell me what you thought.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beautiful Darkness

The second book in the Caster Chronicles, Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl is another YA novel that I have been reading about on various book blogs.  I read the first book in the series, Beautiful Creatures, sometime last year.  I was not crazy about the first book.  I felt it was slow, that it rambled and that it was unnecessarily complicated.  I didn't love it, but I knew I would probably read the next one anyway because I would have to know what happened.  Since so much time had passed since I read the first one, and due to the complexity of the story, I searched online for a plot summary.  After much searching and turning up mostly what people had copied from the book jacket, I came across a blog that had hosted a weekly discussion of the book chapter by chapter.  This allowed me to catch up with the plot and also remember who each of the many characters were. 

Beginning Beautiful Darkness with the previous story in mind made this one much easier to understand.  I do believe the writing improved (although I was annoyed to no end when they began using the term "incubuses"- the plural is incubi which seems obvious to me and is easily verified on and it seemed as if all the details in the first novel were finally useful.  There is a lot of talk about how this book is so unique because it is told from a teenage male perspective and because the boy is the mortal and the girl is the one with supernatural powers.  I suppose it is different to hear a male voice in YA fiction, but I can't say that I am all that impressed by the transfer of power to the opposite gender, at least as it relates to most other YA novels with a supernatural story line. 

One of the characters I love in this book is Marian, the super awesome librarian who is far from the grey-haired bun wearing, old spinster stereotype.  She is young, beautiful and relevant.  She is also a genuine book lover:  "Marian...pulled a stack of new books out of a cardboard box, sniffing deeply."  Those of you who know me already know that I really want to be a librarian someday and this sounds exactly like something I would do.  The first library I can remember visiting was a little bitty two room space next door to the fire station in the little bitty town we lived in.  I can still vividly remember the smell of that tiny space and feel those old books.  In every library I've ever visited I've noted the lovely book smell. 

This book is full of magic and mythical characters.  It is also full of the South.  Touted as a Southern Gothic novel, obvious Southern references occupy every nook and cranny, but fortunately so do the less obvious ones.  Having grown up in the South (Texas), but not the Deep South, some of these were personally familiar and others only through other books and pop culture.  The location is almost more of a character than simply a setting.

This book captured my attention and I was unable to do much else before I finished reading it.  I should have begun my book club book this week, but I couldn't help myself.  It did only take about three days to finish it so that says something about how I was drawn into the story.  I don't know that I would necessarily recommend this book, especially to anyone beyond high school age, but I have already put myself on the library waiting list for the third book which will be released in October.  To my semi-annoyance, that won't be the final installment.  A fourth book (as yet untitled) is scheduled for release sometime in 2012.  It's not the best series I've ever read, but I will likely stick with it. 

Have you read it?  What do you think?

From Bogus to Bubbly by Scott Westerfeld

After finishing the Uglies series, I stumbled upon this book in the library's online catalog.  Bogus to Bubbly by Scott Westerfeld is a wonderful companion to the series.  When an author creates the kind of complex world that Westerfeld brought to life in Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras, he or she likely writes pages upon pages of backstory that cannot practically be included in the final work.  Bogus to Bubbly reveals much of that backstory to the lovers of the series.  How did he conceive the story?  Where does he get ideas for all the technology that is supposedly five or six hundred years in the future?  What happened to our current society in the five or six hundred years before the beginning of the series?  So much of this is explained and it is such a fun little read. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Christmas Quilt by Jennife Chiaverini

Number eight in the Elm Creek Quilts series, The Christmas Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini was not exactly what I was expecting.  I thought it would be a book about the characters I had come to know and love putting together a quilt at Christmas and in a way, it was.  Ms. Chiaverini's novels don't always follow a straight time line.  Occasionally, a novel will jump far into the past and explore the lives of the people who lived in Elm Creek generations before the current residents.  This book took the current characters and went back only a couple of years.  The time line for this book is set between the first novel and the second in the series.  It revealed some history that hadn't been discussed earlier, which I enjoyed, but I found the flashback a bit disturbing.  It was odd for me to hear a character talk about being alone when I know full well she marries in a later book or about a disagreement that seems unresolvable that I know improves.  It was rather like reading books out of order and it bothered me.  That aside, it was still a fun book, but for any of you out there who are about to begin the Elm Creek Quilts series, I would really recommend reading this book immediately following The Quilter's Apprentice.  It doesn't give anything away that is written in the later novels and it just makes a little more sense. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

I just finished reading Extras, the final book in the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld.  The first three books in the series play more like a trilogy and Extras kind of felt like...well, an extra.  It does have some of the characters from the first three books, but the main focus is on a new character, Aya.  It is also set in Asia as opposed to the North American setting of the first three books. 

Extras checks back with humanity three years after the completion of Specials.  The world has undergone another massive change and the results are mostly good.  I really enjoyed this series.  It makes one wonder what the world will really be like in five centuries and what effect our current actions are having on that future.  I think no one, or at least very few people, will argue with the notion that we are not taking very good care of our planet.  As the population grows and technology advances, it appears as though we are speeding that destruction.  The Uglies series explores what that might mean when compounded over a few hundred years.  Scary, but very interesting.

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go take out my recycling and hug a tree. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

My sweet friend Hilary from book club mentioned this book recently and said we just had to read it.  I picked it up at the library, but now I'm looking for my own copy.  Of course you can purchase it on Amazon here, but I think I'll look at the used bookstore in town first.  Not that it isn't worth the $12- it totally is.  And since I'm not worried about spoiling anything for you, I hope you won't mind if I share a few of the wonderful things I learned. 

The Four Agreements are four changes we should make in our lives to make ourselves happier. 
  • Be impeccable with your word.
  • Don't take anything personally.
  • Don't make assumptions.
  • Always do your best.
They sound like common sense suggestions, but the way Ruiz presents them makes them sound almost new.  The first, Be Impeccable with Your Word, means that we should use our words to share love.  He says we should begin with ourselves.  We can tell ourselves how much we love ourselves.  We can let go of all the judgements we bring upon ourselves.  When we stop judging ourselves, we will also stop judging the people around us.

Don't Take Anything Personally is the agreement that my friend was telling us about.  If someone says something ugly to you, it says more about that person than it does about you.  Ruiz says, "If someone gives you an opinion and says, 'Hey, you look so fat,' don't take it personally, because the truth is that this person is dealing with his or her own feelings, beliefs and opinions.  That person tried to send poison to you and if you take it personally, then you take that poison and it becomes yours.  Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators."  I LOVE that!  He also says, "You have to trust yourself and choose to believe or not to believe what someone says to you."  If someone doesn't like me and is ugly to me, it is that person's poison.  I don't have to accept it.  I don't have to blame myself for it and constantly try to fix it.  I can let it go.  How great does that feel!

The third, Don't Make Assumptions, makes so much sense.  "All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally.  Take a moment to consider the truth of this statement."  If I assume that someone ignored me or was acting hurtfully, I might take that personally.  Then I have begun an entire drama in my head that never even really existed.  If I assume I know how someone will react to something, I may act defensively and for no reason at all.  And I love this:

"We make the assumption that everyone sees life the was we do.  We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse.  This is the biggest assumption that humans make.  And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others.  Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves.  So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves."

The fourth is Always Do Your Best.  "Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less."  The best way to live your life is to always do your best.

The book goes on to offer so much good advice, so many valuable points. 

"We have the need to be accepted and to be loved by others, but we cannot accept and love ourselves.  Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves; it is why we don't accept ourselves the way we are, and why we don't accept others the way they are."

"We must forgive those we feel have wronged us, not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because we love ourselves so much we don't want to keep paying for the injustice.  Forgiveness is the only way to heal.  We can choose to forgive because we feel compassion for ourselves."

"Imagine living your life without judging others.  You can easily forgive others and let go of any judgements that you have.  You don't have the need to be right, and you don't need to make anyone else wrong.  Imagine living without fear of loving and not being loved.  You are no longer afraid to be rejected, and you don't have the need to be accepted.  You can say, 'I love you,' with no shame or justification.  You can walk in the world with your heart completely open, and not be afraid to be hurt."

"Let go of the need to defend your opinions and always be right.  Your opinion is nothing but your point of view.  It is not necessarily true. 

I love the concept of "Zoom in, Zoom out."  It is when you imagine seeing your life through a camera lens.  You can zoom in and see the details of your life, of your problems or conflicts.  You can also zoom out and see the entire city, the state, the country, the whole world as if you are looking down from space.  From that distance, suddenly our problems seem so insignificant, so short-lived.  It's like the old question, "In a hundred years will this matter?"  With this in mind, it becomes easier to let go. 

I really learned from this book.  I'm sure it's something I will want to read again and again.  Of course making the four agreements a part of my life will take practice, but I think it is already helping me.  Have you read this?  Have you tried these concepts?  I'd love to hear what you think.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick is the sequel to Hush, Hush which I read earlier this summer.  I wasn't crazy about that one, and I can't really recommend this one either.  To be honest when I first began Crescendo, I actually considered not reading it.  Hush, Hush was okay, but not great and a bit juvenile. I know that probably sounds funny coming from someone who so often reads YA.  The sequel didn't give me the impression that it was going to be much better.  I enjoyed it, I read it very quickly, I wanted to find out what would happen, but it wasn't great writing.  All that aside, I did put my name on the waiting list for the third in the series.  It's not due out until October, but there are already 59 people on the list ahead of me.  I'll get it when I get it and I'll probably be sucked back in, but I'll probably be rolling my eyes at myself the whole time.  Oh, well.  A little fluff now and then won't hurt me. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini

Seventh in the Elm Creek Quilts series, The Sugar Camp Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini is not about a blanket you take with you to summer camp.  I know I've mentioned at least six previous times how much I adore this series, but I just must say it again.  I LOVE these books.  There are so many good books out there and many that are just okay.  Not all books are worth our time, frankly, but these truly are. 

This latest installment travels back to the years just prior to the Civil War.  Dorothea Granger, raised by abolitionist parents, becomes part of the Underground Railroad.  My knowledge about the Underground Railroad is sadly limited, but from this book I learned quite a bit and I'm inspired to learn more.  You know how I feel about historical fiction (LOOOOVE IT!) and this certainly did not disappoint. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

The third installment in the Uglies series, Specials by Scott Westerfeld is a fast-paced, exciting novel.  Tally is back again and now she is very special.  If you haven't read this series yet, I highly recommend it.  I know, it's YA again, but is it my fault so much good writing is aimed at a younger crowd?  Besides, I would still like to think of myself as a Young Adult, so I enjoy it just as much as the 17-year-old sitting next to me, possibly even more. 

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen was the official book club selection for August.  This is the third book I've read by this author and can I just tell you?  I LOVE her books.  Her writing is always so fun and magical and whimsical.  Prophetic trees and books that magically appear and cakes that call to people.  It's all so wonderful- and by that I mean full of wonder.  LOVE THEM!

This book was no disappointment.  It was a very quick read- I started Saturday afternoon and I was finished by Sunday evening.  I have already recommended it to a couple of people.  I can't wait to discuss it in book club tomorrow night.  Pick it up.  I think you'll love it just like I do.  And while you're at it, pick up her other novels as well.  They are just as good!

I can't read her fourth novel!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

I heard about this book when the author was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  It sounded very interesting so I put my name on the reserve list at the library.  I finally got it last week and started it, but it was a very slow start.  I think I ended up making it about a third of the way through the book, but I just couldn't make it any further.  I suppose I could have made myself finish it, but I have a long list of books to read and time limits on some of those, so I just let it go.  I'm sure  many of you out there will find it very interesting.  If so, please comment below and tell me what you thought and maybe what you learned. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

A sweet book club friend loaned me this book.  We had discussed having Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo as an official book club selection, but I'm really glad we didn't.  While I enjoyed reading it, I don't think it would have given us enough meat to chew on during a book club discussion. 

Heaven is for Real is written by a pastor of a Wesleyan church in Imperial, Nebraska.  He is also the father of Colton Burpo, a little boy who at age four told his parents that he had been to heaven and back. 

Little Colton was just shy of his fourth birthday when a terrible illness nearly took his life.  After his surgery and recovery he began saying unusual things about Jesus and heaven.  Finally his parents were able to understand that he was trying to tell them he had been to heaven during his surgery.  He was able to describe family members he had never met and events that had occurred while he was in surgery. 

Some of the things said in the book coincided with my beliefs, some not so much.  I think it's one of those things where one has to decide for one's self.  This could be actually what Colton experienced, but I also believe it's possible he was helped a bit.  I reserve judgement.  Who am I to say a four-year-old couldn't have visited heaven and returned?  It is a short read so pick it up if you're so inclined.  I'd love to hear what you think.

The Master Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini

The sixth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series, The Master Quilter by Jennifer Chiaverini did not disappoint.  It was very fun in that it addressed what I had felt were a few loose ends from an installment a few books back.  I just love these books.  Have you read them yet?  They really make me want to quilt.  As a matter of fact, when my cousin's wife sent out a call for quilt blocks for another cousin's wife who is suffering from a severe case of terminal cancer, I was more than ready to oblige.  I have to tell you- my quilt blocks were precious!  The only guidelines were size, background color and that they should have hearts.  I'm telling you, they were adorable!  Never mind- don't take my word for it.  Just look at these!

(I appologize fort the orientation- blogger won't let me fix it.)  I really hope our cousin feels our love.  And I might not have been so ready to contribute and confident in my ability if I hadn't been reading these books.  I really love them!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

The second book in the Uglies series, Pretties by Scott Westerfeld, was very exciting!  It tells the story of what life is like for the "Pretties", the people in this futuristic society who have had all the surgery necessary to make them physically perfect.  Or are they?  They sure look perfect, but could there be more to it?  More that the eyes can't see?  It is a life of perfect skin, hair and eyes, perfect health, perfect clothes and non-stop partying.  It all seems perfect.  If you haven't read this series yet, you really should pick it up.  I can't wait for the next book!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

This was a reread in preparation for the release of the final Harry Potter film.  Since I read the series in such quick succession I felt like a refresher was a good idea.  Boy, was I right!  The final book is so complex and there is so much happening that I really needed to read it again. 

My dear friend Amy and I bought tickets to see the Deathly Hallows Double Feature and that made it even more fun.  I showed up to the theater at 2:45pm to get in line because we knew it was sold out and we really didn't want to be forced into sitting in the front row with our necks strained straight up the whole evening.  Since I was able to get there so early, we were first in line.  I hung out, chatted with the other people in line and read a book while I waited.  And you should have seen all the people dressed up.  I wish I had taken pictures- they were so fun! 

A little after 6pm, the theater manager let us go ahead and get seated.  We found awesome seats right in the middle of the theater about four rows from the top.  We sat there for about 2 minutes before we felt a strong urge to move.  A rather odoriferous group of people had sat down in front of us and we didn't want to deal with that all evening either.  We shifted down to the end of the row, and that ended up to be even better.  Sweet Amy and I were then able to chat and catch up for a few hours (and eat the yummy Chipotle burritos she had smuggled in for us) while we waited for the first film to start. 

Part 1 of The Deathly Hallows began at 9pm.  We snacked on toffee and pretzel wands that I had made.  After those credits rolled, we had an hour to stand in line for the bathroom and then it was time for Part 2!  As the lights lowered, everyone clapped.  It was a very exciting atmosphere.  I enjoyed watching with such a dedicated group of real Harry Potter fans.  We cheered together at all the right parts and we sniffled together when necessary.  The movie was over around 2:15am, I was home at 3am and asleep at 4am.  And of course, since I am the mother of two small children, I was awake at 6:30am.  Not a lot of sleep, but it was totally worth it.  We had a great time and I'm so glad I went!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Yet another book I have been reading about on the book blogs, TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by Jay Asher was captivating.  A young woman in high schools commits suicide.  A few weeks later, a boy she knew receives a box of cassette tapes in the mail.  These tapes detail the thirteen reasons why she took her own life.  The boy listening to these tapes can't stop listening and I couldn't stop reading. 

This book is filled to the brim with teenage angst and if you are not careful, it can be easy to roll your eyes and chalk it all up to youth and inexperience.  But take a minute.  Try to remember how absolutely serious everything seemed in high school.  That girl who made fun of your clothes or the boy you started a rumor about you?  Those people are probably nothing in your life now, but back then it felt like nothing could be more important.  Reading this book makes me glad to be out of that time of my life.  It also make me worry about what it will someday be like for my children.  How do I explain that "This too shall pass" is not just a ridiculous brush off.  It really does all go away.  High school is four short years and then it's over and you never have to see those people again. 

This book shows exactly how our actions can affect the people around us.  A harmless prank may not actually be so harmless.  A little teasing sometimes isn't so funny.  Along with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, I do think this should be required reading in high school.  Or maybe even middle school.  I would love to hear what you think.

Also, visit Thirteen Reasons Why Project to see the impact this book is having even beyond it's pages. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is a book that had caught my eye several months ago.  It was all over the YA book blogs and I knew I would get to it eventually.  Well, I did and I loved it.  The setting is several hundred years in the future, but the exact time isn't specified.  The world is very different.  From birth to age 16, everyone is normal.  At age 16, each person undergoes an intense operation turning them into the extreme ideal of beauty.  As a result, everyone looks very similar, but very beautiful.  Those who have had the operation are called Pretties.  The ones still waiting- Uglies. 

One of my favorite things about this book is all the commentary about how we are destroying our planet.  This new world was developed to remedy all the problems people from our time caused for the environment.  There is no more war, no more fighting and now more destruction of the Earth.  This is the first in a trilogy and I'm looking forward to reading the next book. 

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

In addition to the wonderful used book store in our library, we also have Bookman's nearby.  Bookman's is a local used book store with a bit of a funky edge.  I love going in there.  A few months ago I picked up Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.  I had read about this book on a few book blogs and I thought it would be interesting.  It is another YA novel, slightly in the vein of Twilight, but a little darker.  I didn't like it as well as Twilight, but it was a quick read and I enjoyed the story.  It has a sequel, Crescendo, and a third in the series, Silence, will be released this fall.  I'm in no hurry to rush out to purchase either of these, but I have put my name on the reserve list at the library.  It will probably be a while before I get the next one.  I'm number 64 on the list waiting for 13 copies.  It's a good thing I have so many books waiting on my shelf to be read!

The Quilter's Legacy

Book Five in the Elm Creek Quilts series is The Quilter's Legacy by Jennifer Chiaverini.  This installment follows Sylvia as she attempts to track down five quilts made by her mother.  They have been scattered all over the country and she follows any lead she can to recover them.  More historical fiction and I couldn't put it down.

The Runaway Quilt

The fourth book in the Elm Creek Quilts series is The Runaway Quilt by Jennifer Chiaverini.  I am really enjoying this series and this one contained a significant amount of historical fiction.  I LOVE historical fiction.  If you are reading these books, too, I would love to hear what you think of them.  I gave the first five to my mother for her birthday and she likes them.  My aunt also said she's been reading them for a while.  However, let me just say that one doesn't need to be in her 50s to like these books.  Try them- you really might like them.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Where She Went

Have you read If I Stay by Gayle Forman yet?  Oh you really should read that book!  It's considered Young Adult fiction, but I really enjoyed it.  Of course, you know I don't mind reading YA.  With this book I would give the warning that you might like to preview this before letting your young teenager read it.  I would say it probably falls somewhere between PG and PG-13, but that is only my assessment. 

Well, Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay.  And it did not disappoint.  Weeks ago I put my name on the reserve list at the library and waited and waited for it to be my turn.  Finally I was able to pick it up yesterday.  I started reading yesterday afternoon and finished today.  It was that good.  I felt like I was tearing through it trying to find out where the heck she went. 

This was a rather angsty story and if you've read If I Stay you won't be surprised by that.  While If I Stay was written from Mia's perspective, Where She Went was written in Adam's voice.  I very much appreciated the added dimension.  I wish I could say more, but I'd rather you just read it and tell me what you think.  I loved it!

The Cross-Country Quilters

The third in the Elm Creek Quilts series, The Cross-Country Quilters did not disappoint.  Rather than staying with the same characters, this novel follows the stories of five women who meet at quilt camp.  The original characters still play a part, but I enjoyed the bit of a spin-off.  I know books about quilts don't seem very "cool", but I really am enjoying them.  There are 17 in the series so far with another scheduled for release this fall.  We will see if I read them all, but I'm not ready to stop yet.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

This month's book club selection was Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.  Beautifully written, it is a lovely story of a difficult time in American history.  The narrative alternates between a 12-year-old boy in 1942 Seattle and the same boy, now a grown man in 1984.  In 1942, he is a Chinese boy dealing with the difficulties of being Asian following the attack on Pearl Harbour.  In 1984, he is dealing with the resurrection of all those memories.  While everyone in our book club agreed it was a wonderful book, some felt it took a little while to get into the story.  Others, myself included, were taken from the very start.  I have already hardily recommended it to others and now I recommend it to you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini

The second in the "Elm Creek Quilts" series, Round Robin by Jennifer Chiaverini continues the story of the Elm Creek Quilters as their lives each take complicated turns.  The characters took on new depth.  These books seem to be a little fluffy, but I'm really enjoying them anyway.  A little fluff is good once in a while, don't you think?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Months ago, at another fabulous book sale, I pick up this book:  Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson.  It is a rare find- a teen historical novel.  I love historical fiction and I have enjoyed the occasional teen novel.  This book caught my interest because I had previously read Speak by the same author and which I thought was lovely. 

Fever 1793 is about the outbreak of Yellow Fever that struck Philadelphia in 1793.  In three months it killed nearly 5000 people, 10% of the city's population.  At this  time, it was also the capital city of the United States.  Thousands of people fled the city to escape the disease.  This book follows the fictional, though likely typical, struggle of a 14-year-old girl named Mattie Cook.  Her mother comes down with the fever and sends her daughter away to the country.  Mattie's grandfather accompanies her, but they are abandoned on the side of the road when it is suspected he has the disease.  Many weeks later, Mattie has returned to the city and is helping others who are sick.  She sees death and sickness all around her and there is almost no food left because the farmers will not bring food into the market.  As she serves the sick day after day, she thinks, "A dying woman in a cot surrounded by strangers was sorrowful, but a dying surrounded by her children, her handiwork, the home where she worked so hard left me in tears." 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Quilter's Apprentice

Have I mentioned before how much I love our town's library?  Well, I really, really do.  And one of the things I really love about it is the library's semi-annual book sales.  A few times a year, our library has a HUGE sale.  People donate books and the library clears from it's shelves books that haven't been borrowed for a while or are damaged.  Most of the books cost three or four dollars and some of the children's books are as low as fifty cents!  It is a book lover's dream!  At a recent book sale, I picked up this gem:

The Quilter's Apprentice by Jennifer Chiaverini.  It is a fun, somewhat fluffy little book about a woman who moves to a new town and becomes friends with an elderly quilt superstar.  I wouldn't say that the writing is the very best, but it was still fun to read.  I also discovered that it is part of a series, so I have the next one reserved at the library.  I'm looking forward to reading it.  I made one quilt years ago for a friend's baby and it was adorable!  I am currently working on a dinosaur quilt for my son who will probably be too old for dinosaurs by the time I finish it.  Then I will move on to the angel quilt that I started for my daughter.  Reading this book makes me want to create something really beautiful. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

The book club selection for May is Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg.  Of course, I have seen the movie version many times, though it's been years since the last.  The film is a fairly decent representation of the book, although some events were changed and others were moved around a bit. 

I loved the little bit about Mrs. Threadgood missing eating buttermilk and cornbread:  "I like to smash it all up in my glass and eat it with a spoon, but you cain't eat in public like you can at home...can you?"  My great-grandmother used to do just that very thing, eat buttermilk and cornbread all mixed up in a  glass.  I love all the talk about good Southern food.  My grandmother used to make fried green tomatoes (though she called them green fried tomatoes) and I remember they were delicious.  I haven't had one since she passed away, but I remember them fondly. 

I'm really looking forward to our book club meeting tomorrow evening.  Christy, our host this month, has promised lots of food made with recipes right from the book.  Arteries, don't fail me now!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists

A few months ago I recommended the film "Iron Jawed Angels" about the group of suffragists who were still fighting for the vote in 1920 when the 19th Amendment finally passed.  Inspired by that film, and by how little I remembered about the suffrage movement, I borrowed this book from the library.  It has taken me a little while to get to it, but now that I've read it, I really learned so much. 

Sisters not only lists the historical facts surrounding several important suffragists, but it also explores their personal lives and the influence that had on their work.  The most interesting section for me was the chapter about Alice Paul, likely due to "Iron Jawed Angels."  I was flabbergasted by the descriptions of the treatment Paul and her compatriots endured.  The suffragists were frequently arrested for their protests and denied legal counsel. 

November 17th, 1917, was dubbed "The Night of Terror" when a large group of women were arrested and taken to a workhouse in Virginia.  The superintendent threatened his prisoners with his walking stick, threw them down stairs, dragged them by their hair, and threatened sexual assault and straitjackets.  One woman vomited all night from a concussion.  In protest, the women began a hunger strike and were force fed via tubes shoved up their noses and down their throats.  All this was less than 100 years ago here in our own country.  Can you believe such a thing?  And were these terrorists threatening to murder thousands of innocent people?  No, they were women who peacefully protested not being allowed a voice in their own government.  Scary, isn't it? 

In 1920, women were finally granted the right to vote.  And what difference did this new constituency make in the history of our country?  Suddenly the concerns of women gained a higher priority.  In 1921, an act was established providing federal funding for doctors and public health nurses offering preventive health care to pregnant women and new mothers.  In 1922, women were granted equal citizenship with men until which a woman marrying a foreign national lost her American citizenship while the same was not true for men marrying non-citizens.  And in 1924, a child-labor law was sent for ratification. 

When women are given power, political or otherwise, they help themselves, each other and their children.  Women can be very powerful, we just have to stand up and speak out.  Women have had the right to vote in this country for less than a century and our rights can be taken away if we don't make good use of them.  Are you registered to vote?  Are your sisters?  Mothers?  Daughters?  Friends?  Register to vote today and utilize the right for which so many women have fought.  We can make a difference in this world. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Firefly Lane

This past summer, while we were in France, my book club carried on without me.  Can you imagine?  I was hoping to be able to keep up, but the one English bookshop in Cannes was sorely lacking.  One of the books that I missed was Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.  After reading Winter Garden, I couldn't wait to catch up with this one. 

The story is about two teenage girls who meet in 1974 and their lifelong friendship.  Together they survive high school, college, births and deaths, marriage and long distance moves.  My favorite line from the book:  One of the girls, speaking of her mother, says, "She thinks eighteen-year-old boys are dangerous.  She calls them penises with hands and feet.  Now tell me that isn't lame."  Actually, I thought it was rather brilliant, but how do you convince a sixteen-year-old girl of that?

Ah, Retrospect, how wise you are. 

I read this book very quickly- a couple of days at the beach was just what I needed.  It held my attention and I really enjoyed following along with their lives.  Friendship can be such a powerful thing.  And a friendship that has lasted your entire life?  That is truly special.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

The official book club selection for April was Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson.  First, can we start with the cover?  I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but I just love the front of this book.  If you look closely enough, you see it is two coats and two hats hanging on a stand, but it's just such a sweet photo. 

Major Pettigrew is an older gentleman and a widower.  His unlikely friendship with a local shop owner and widow, Jasmina Ali, turns into more than he had ever expected.  Jasmina is such a wonderful character.  I loved her quick-witted replies and strength.  When the Major's obnoxious son makes a comment about Mrs. Ali being the Major's "lady friend," Jasmina responds with "I refuse to be referred to by a term so oily with double entendre.  I prefer 'lover.'"  And who couldn't love her? 

This was a lovely book and I truly enjoyed it.  Of course, I'm beginning to discover that I am a bit of an anglophile.  I love all things British- the accents, the manner of speech, the propriety.  I love it all. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Never Let Me Go

Yesterday I finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Just a few hours later I was watching the film version.  I have to tell you this book took me a little longer to read than I expected.  The story line was interesting.  The concept was a little frightening.  [Beware!  Spoilers will soon follow!]  I liked it, but it seemed to ramble. 

It's written in the voice of Kathy H., a young woman who is a carer.  The way she tells her story is very stream-of-consciousness.  She gets started telling one thing, then goes back to explain, then heads down another path before finally getting back to her original point.  I'm sure that was what the author intended, but it just didn't really work for me.  It was too easy for me to become distracted. 

She also tells the story in such a way that it's impossible to know exactly what is going on until halfway through the book.  In the 1950s, scientific breakthroughs led to cloning.  Those clones were used as donors in order to cure cancer, heart disease and motor-neuron disease.  The donors are created, kept healthy and allowed to mature into young adults.  They then begin donating their vital organs to keep other people alive, improving life-expectancy to over 100 years.  Kathy's story focuses on herself and two friends from the school in which they were raised.  As I said before, it's a frightening concept.  One can only hope that ethics regulations can keep something like this from actually happening. 

It was almost a distopian novel, so I can't really say I enjoyed reading it, but it was interesting.  Children created and raised for the sole purpose of donating their body parts so that other people can live longer, healthier lives.  It's an awful thought.  At the end of the film, Kathy says, "I wonder if we're really so much different from the people we save.  Do any of us really feel like we've had enough time?"  It does cause the reader to contemplate his or her own mortality. 

If you read it, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Full Frontal Feminism

Over the last several weeks I have been reading this book:  Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti.  After watching "Iron Jawed Angels", I wanted to do a little research myself.  I found a few books about the suffragists and I also came across this book by Valenti.  I had seen it before and it was on my "To Read" list so I thought this would be perfect timing. 

The cover says "A YOUNG WOMAN'S GUIDE TO WHY FEMINISM MATTERS", and I would consider that a fair description.  This book was aimed at a reader who is younger, single and without children, most likely in her late teens and early 20s.  However, I still felt I learned a lot.  In fact, I wish I had read this as a younger woman.  It's never too late to learn anything.

Valenti is often irreverent and rather potty-mouthed, but it totally works.  I loved her chapter "Feminists Do It Better (and Other Sex Tips)".  These are our bodies and we should be the ones deciding what we do with them.  In an aside, she adds that "In Mississippi you can buy a gun with no background check, but vibrators are outlawed."  How absolutely insane is that?  I remember back when we lived in Texas, a woman was arrested for daring to host a "Passion Party".  About that Valenti says "Apparently, in Texas you can sell vibrators, but only if you sell them as 'novelties' or 'gag gifts.'  Selling them in any way that admits their actual role in sex is the illegal part."  Seems a little backwards to me.

She also writes about how pop culture has become "pornified" and is focused on telling us that our only value is in our ability to be sexy.  If we don't accept that, we're prudes.  If we do and embrace it, we're sluts.  Subheadings is this chapter include "Be a Virgin...But Be Sexy"and "Be Available...But Unattainable".  I love that she calls out all that crazy stuff. 

She discusses violence against women.  "The South Carolina House Judiciary Committee voted in 2005 to make cockfighting a felony, but tabled a bill that would have done the same for domestic violence."  Now doesn't that make you want to say "What the F...?"  You can understand her ''colorful language."

As you might expect, she has a chapter about reproductive rights.  It doesn't get more feminine (and feminist) than having babies or not having babies.  A frightening statistic she lists:  "Only one in five women knows about emergency contraception, and one-third of those women confuse EC with RU-486, the abortion pill."  These are our bodies and we have a responsibility to understand and care for them.

Valenti's goal is to educate young women of our rights and our responsibilities.  We must understand what is going on the in world around us and we must be involved.  It is vital that we vote and make our voices heard.  Our grandmothers fought for our rights, we are obligated to use them.  I hope you'll give this book a read and share it with someone. 

Here are a few links listed in this book that I found very interesting: