Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mean Girls, 80s Style

I recently received a book care package from a fellow Madwomen that contained a rare, hilarious find called The Aqua-Net Hair Diaries.  It's a collection of related short-stories / essays by Jennifer Nivens that are an autobiographical account of her times in high school in small-town Indiana in the 1980s.

Nivens' writing style is a true gift.  She's hilarious, yet subtle.  When reading it, I feel as if I am back in my own high school, navigating the mean girls, the drama geeks, the gorgeous senior boys, the unfairness of life in general, and the angst of being stuck in between being a child and being a real person.  The theory that led her to write her story was that all high schools (at least suburban or small time high schools), whether in 1980s or today, are essentially the same, as are the experiences of the students.  So far, she has convinced me, as her stories have dredged up some long-forgotten memories of my own high school days and my friends there that have made me simultaneously cringe, laugh out loud, and, just a little bit, long to go back.

- Dani

Monday, November 19, 2012

High Hopes

Lately I've been awfully lazy about reading. Nothing has appealed...until today. I read a recommendation for Justin Cronin's The Passage, including the following details: dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction, 600 pages, and first in a series. An online search gave me access to the first chapter, and a trip to B&N later, I was hooked!

I'm two and a half chapters in and I can't figure out this book. It opens with the abandonment of a young girl by her mother who has lost all hope of being able to provide for her. According to the blurb on the back this girl, who I last saw on the doorstep of a convent in Memphis at the end of chapter one, will be the protagonist. Chapter two brought me on a scientific expedition to Bolivia, with overtones of vampires, while chapter three promises a gritty legal drama, complete with death row inmate and FBI agent. Quite frankly, I'm not sure what to make of the plot yet, but I'm pretty engaged and I've got great expectations for the next 580 pages! I'll keep you all posted...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

High School Throwback

In anticipation of the movie coming out, I recently re-read The Great Gatsby.  This was the first time I had picked up the book since being required to read it in the 10th grade, at which time I came away with only a mediocre opinion of it.  I can remember not really understanding what all the fuss was about.  On this go, I enjoyed the novel much more.  Perhaps I needed to spend a few lost years of my own in NYC in order to understand the true beauty of the book.  The experience has set me raiding the boxes in my closet to find some other classics read in high school that perhaps will be more appreciated at this time.  I started East of Eden yesterday!

What are some of your favorite classics? 


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Drowning Ruth

My literary life has suffered lately due to a lack of time and book recommendations. No one I know has read anything worth recommending to me, and as my two month old daughter has me trapped in the house most of the time due to her severe hatred of the car, I haven't made it to the store. I keep telling myself I need to get over my severe hatred of ereaders, but I can never quite bring myself to jump into the electronic book world.
Fortunately, the last time Dani visited she left me a copy of Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwarz. Part historical fiction, part psychological thriller, the book explores relationships between sisters, mothers and daughters, and close female friends. Although men appear on the periphery of the story, it's primarily a female world (but not in an overtly feminist way). Although I found the main character fairly despicable, her life included just enough tragedy to make her sympathetic as well. And I truly enjoyed the way the author varied the narrative voice by chapter. All in all, a satisfying read!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

One year later...

Wow! Hard to believe it has been exactly one year since any of us have posted! It has been a busy year, to be jobs, new cities, new babies...For me, at least, there hasn't been a whole lot of time for reading. And the books that i have read haven't been all that memorable! In fact, I'm having trouble recalling most of the titles. I think they've mostly consisted of some fairly generic historical romances.
One book that sticks out as worth mentioning is Divergent, along with its sequel, Insurgent. The series is slightly reminiscent of the Hunger Games, with its dystopian plot and strong-willed, fearless, but romantically inept heroine. However, there were enough original plot lines to keep me engaged, and I read each book in under forty-eight hours. So...yeah...I'd say it's worth picking up a copy, especially if you're a Hunger Games fan.
Cant wait to hear what the rest of The Madwomen have been reading!
Rebecca DeWinter

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Stolen Life

Last week I finished Jaycee Dugard's A Stolen Life, an autobiographical tale of her kidnapping at age 11 and subsequent 18 year captivity. It was a disturbing book, of course, filled with true stories of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. So much of it reminded me of Room, except in this case, all the stories were true. It left me with a lot of questions about her captors and the justice system, particularly: Why was a man who had previously been convicted of multiple sexual offenses on minors, including a previous kidnapping, who was sentenced to a fifty year sentence, out on parole after 11 years? It also raised a lot of questions about substance abuse and the oversight of doctors' diagnosing and prescribing for mental illness, and not following their patients' closely or with any regularity.

Another aspect of the account that intrigued me was how it was written and published within two years of her finally gaining her freedom. While reading it, the book seemed very jumbled and confused, which I assume is because Ms. Dugard's memories and emotions associated with all of the events that happened to her are similarly jumbled and confused. I cannot imagine she has been able to process all 18 years of abuse, and that came across in the story. The end of the book is also reserved to her therapy process, in which, to me, she sounds falsely happy and bright. It seemed to me that no matter how fortunate she is to be rebuilding her life with her family, the process must be harder and more intense than she describes. It made me feel like the book was given a happy ending for the sake of its readers, when I really cannot imagine the long term emotional affects of her captivity have all been solved. I don't think that the level trauma she experienced can be cured, which is how it came across in the book. Certainly it can be mitigated, processed, and coped with, but the 180 she pulls from being traumatized and developmentally stunted upon release from captivity to being completely functional in just 2 years seems as though she is glossing over the long term affects of her trauma. Perhaps she is using this positive outlook as a coping mechanism. If she tells herself she is happy and emotionally healthy, she IS happy and emotionally healthy. Or maybe her therapist is truly performing miracles with her. Or maybe Ms. Dugard is a particularly resilient individual. It's certainly not for me to judge her experience. However, I wish that I had gotten more details about the recovery process in the book so that I could better understand how her healing process went. From my perspective, it doesn't sound as though she is being completely honest with the readers, and worse, it doesn't sound as though she is being completely honest with herself. I hope that in her recovery process she will be able to better process the negative emotions that arise, and not feel the need to always paint a bright and happy picture.

Obviously this book brings up a lot of questions and emotions in the reader. While I was unsatisfied with the ending and the rushed and confused quality of the book, I definitely would recommend it to any of the Madwomen - as long as they are up for a dark and disturbing read.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

It has been almost two months, but I still haven't recovered from finishing A Dance With Dragons. I know, I know, most of you are sick of hearing it right now, but I really do love the Song of Ice and Fire series. And since it's going to be at least another two to five years before the next one comes out, I'm kind of at a loss for how to fill the hole in my reading life left by these books. I wander aimlessly around Barnes & Noble, picking up and then just as quickly re-shelving possible replacements, and leaving with only a magazine or two for company. I surf listlessly without making a purchase. I feel a little like I've been dumped. George R.R. Martin is not my boyfriend anymore!

However, just as the scorned ex-girlfriend eventually recovers and hits the bars in search of a new and better man, I hit Barnes & Noble this past weekend with one mission: to find my rebound relationship. I swore up and down I would not leave the store without a book to read. After staring longingly at the Game of Thrones display, placed in the center of the entryway by some heartless B&N employee who clearly wanted to torture me, I began prowling the fiction shelves. Nothing. I circled back to the display. I was convinced. There wasn't a single book in the entire store worth reading if it wasn't set in Westeros. Mr. DeWinter sighed and left me for the nonfiction section. I wandered along behind him like a lost duckling. After about fifteen minutes of haphazardly radiating between George R.R. Martin and random shelves, I could tell Mr. DeWinter had about had enough. So I promised to make my last, desperate attempt to find something, so we could move on to our Five Guys lunch.

And the middle of the shelves...there they stood like the kind-of-cute guy at the end of the bar at last call...the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. And at that moment, in a somewhat resigned manner, I knew they would be mine (mostly because they were of approximately the same size, heft, and binding as the Song of Ice and Fire books...pathetic, I know...and because there were at least four of them, so if I do like them, they'll keep me distracted for awhile).

And so, I brought my new boyfriend (err...books...) home with me. While not as good as my last boyfriend, they make a pretty decent rebound. A quick summary: While on a second honeymoon to Scotland with her husband whom she hasn't seen in about seven years due to WWII, Claire falls through some kind of portal in a fairy ring, and lands in the middle of a Jacobean rebellion in 18th century Scotland. Torn between her old life and the new one (of course there's a new and much more interesting man in the 18th century) Claire must decide where to spend her future.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for historical fiction, and the hint of fantasy and magic doesn't hurt either. Like most rebound relationships, this one may not be destined to last very long, as I'm not sure how Diana Gabaldon is going to keep up the plot for more than one or two books. But for now, it's distracting and enjoyable enough to get my mind off of GRRM (at least for a little while.)