Sunday, January 29, 2012

A New Obsession...

The first obsession that I can recall was reading.  Reading any and everything.  Comic books, novels, magazines.  Even cookbooks.

Next came a typewriter.  As the years rolled on, I fell in love with video games.  Then a word processor.  Then...computers.   I've always loved to type; writing in longhand seems to stifle my creativity.  Besides, when my hand starts to cramp up, my words become very hard to read.  It isn't fun.  But typing is fun, and always will be for me.  I'm a fast typist, and every now and then I sample a few online typing tests.

But now, just as I'm in the midst of prepping another book recommend and writing a kid's book, my attention has been stolen by the newest online obsession:  Pinterest.

It's fun.  I'll admit it now.  But once you start putting things on your boards, you won't come up for air.  Trust me on this one.  You'll forget your family, your favorite t.v. shows.  You'll even forget that you should have been at work two hours ago.

I did open a board for Book Hog's recommended reads.  Each caption is short and to the point.  Having the cover of the book on display is a definite plus.  And I'm sure that publishers will be very happy to see their books out there for the world to see.   Especially books that have either been largely ignored, out-of-print, or rather obscure.

We've discovered a new world, folks.

Pinterest's world.  And we just live in it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

'The Bird Sisters'

A lot has been written about the newest literary novels.  Some say they are elegant, some say they are sensitive and uplifting.  I say that as long as the author doesn't use many big words, and doesn't go overboard with the adjectives, I'll be a happy reader.

Sometimes, too much goes too far.  I've found that paragraphs that run on and on tell me nothing.  Perhaps that's why I'm a fan of Hemingway.  The man used simple words, wrote concise sentences, yet wasn't afraid to wow us with a couple of well-placed adjectives.  In other words, the man didn't go overboard.  

I've searched for novels that are simple and well-written.  And, yes, elegant.  'The Bird Sisters', by Rebecca Rasmussen, is just that.  Of course, she's a great student of the 'Show, Don't Tell' school, and for that, I am grateful.  

The story begins in a very simple way:  Two elderly sisters, Twiss and Milly, live in the home in which they spent their childhoods.  They take care of birds that have been injured, and at the same time, care for the people who bring the birds to their door.  The story then falls back to the Summer of 1947, when the sisters were adolescents.  You learn what shaped their world, and what actually reinforced their devotion.  Their golf-pro father is hurt in an accident, their mother finally accepts the fact that the family will always have to struggle to survive.  But it is the appearance of cousin Bett that truly sets the ball rolling.  

Bett is unusual, and in that I mean you aren't really sure of her motives.  Will she use any means to escape her life back home?  Or is she just an innocent pawn?  And Twiss.  Twiss, the tomboy, the naturalist.  She is independent, yet hungry for attention.  Milly, the beauty, the one who has a chance at a better, more secure life.  What she eventually does will stun you.

The sisters are devoted to one another, and once you learn why they have stayed together through the years, you will understand the reason.

Yes, this is elegantly written, yet does maintain an edge.  Ms. Rasmussen gave me a chance to escape into other lives and actually feel empathy for each action her characters take. 

'The Bird Sisters' is worth your time, and I'm eager to read her second offering.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

'Drop Dead Healthy'

I've been a fan of A. J. Jacobs ever since I read his first book, 'The Know-It-All', his one-year expedition into the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  It was funny, interesting, and I learned quite a bit.  His next book, 'The Year of Living Biblically', is another one-year journey into living every rule in the Bible...literally.  Although his beard was rather unsettling (I pitied his wife), I learned a lot from that book, also.  And then came 'My Life as an Experiment', yet another year-long attempt to improve his life in many ways.  The internet dating episode was very, very funny.

'Drop Dead Healthy' is his newest book, and, as with the previous three, this one was very enlightening.  It is his year-long quest to improve his health, from every aspect, every organ, every method.  He covers diets, running, holistic medicine, vegetarianism, sex, sleep, the brain, appendages (the chapter on hands is remarkable).  You name it, he tries it.  Not only does he shed pounds (his concave chest must be thanking him), but he learns to respect his body and mind.

I feel sorry for his wife, Julie.  She and their children had to live with the insanity.  But the end result was a husband and father who not only became fit and more aware of his body, he grew more sensitive to the world around him.  The passages regarding his grandfather were especially heartwarming.

Mr. Jacobs opened my eyes to our nation's health controversies and the ways we can prevent many a medical catastrophe.  We need to practice preventive care, eat right, exercise (his use of the treadmill while using his laptop computer made a huge difference in his well-being), and become more focused on our bodies, minds, and spirits.

But I still feel sorry for Julie...

'Drop Dead Healthy' will be released by Simon & Schuster in April 2012.  A. J. Jacobs is an editor-at-large for Esquire magazine, and a contributor to NPR.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This is dangerous, people, and Congress must hear from us!  Please click on the link and support the strike!  Knowledge is a powerful thing.

We are striking against censorship!  Although Book Hog is just a little blog, I join with other sites in the general black out.

Monday, January 9, 2012

'The Gilded Age'

"The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth"
                -Ecclesiastes 7:4

Like many Americans, I've become hooked on the BBC series, 'Downton Abbey'.  Although it is reminiscent of another BBC classic, 'Upstairs Downstairs', it is a fantastic chronicle of privileged life in pre-WW1 England.  And that brings to mind Edith Wharton, and how much I love her novels.  She skewered 19th century society so thoroughly as only one who has lived it can.  Although I loved 'The House of Mirth', Lily Bart's ultimate demise distressed me.  But that was that time; that was how upper-crust society functioned in the late 1800's-early 1900's.

But times have changed.  Or have they?

Claire McMillan's new novel, 'Gilded Age', is not so much a reworking of Wharton's famous novel, but more of a contemporary satire of love gained, love lost, and the ultimate end.  It is a story of society's demands; once you reach the top, you can only fall back down.  And Ellie Hart has done it all.  She has survived an infamous divorce and a stint in rehab, and is now back in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.  Of all the characters in this novel, I love Ellie the most.  She is brash, out-of-control...but I expected more from her.  But then, this is a reworking of 'The House of Mirth', and we all know how that ended.

I did not feel sorry for the other characters; I felt rather...set apart from them.  Marry for money and security?  Ha! Money and society's approval equals happiness?  I don't think so.  But I applaud Ms. McMillan's well-written story.  It makes me appreciate how far women have come; how we don't need to 'marry for money' in order to survive.  We can start our own businesses, use our own brains.  We can live alone and like it.  But I enjoyed reading 'Gilded Age'.  It was well-written, but the narrator did not earn my sympathy.  But perhaps she wasn't supposed to earn it.  

For one who has no money and societal 'approval', I was rather amused to read about the chronicles of a contemporary woman who was considered a 'nobody' without marriage, money, and prestige.  The novel is pure entertainment, although the ending was expected, as in Ms. Wharton's much-heralded novel.

Poor wealthy women.  Poor wealthy men.  Boo-hoo.

I'm crying in my champagne.

Claire McMillan's wonderful novel will be released in June 2012.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

'The Magician King'

I'm a sucker for all things magical.  I read the first Harry Potter novel in one sitting, and I love the 'Pern' series by the late, great Anne McCaffrey.  I'll read any fantasy novel that helps me escape from the stress of everyday living.

When I first picked up 'The Magicians' by Lev Grossman, I was ready to escape.  But Mr. Grossman had a trick up his sleeve.  As I read his very-adult novel, I thought it a cross between 'Less Than Zero' and 'Harry Potter'.  It was snarky, it was edgy.  But it had magic, and I really enjoyed it.

So, I was very eager to read the next in the series, 'The Magician King'.  The main characters are now living in luxury in their beloved kingdom of Fillory, but something is lacking.  Quentin, one of Fillory's kings, is getting restless...

It wasn't as edgy as the first (although it did retain a bit of snarkiness), but it was much more mystical.  There is a quest.  There is a hero/heroine.  There are fantastical creatures.

But the quest is much more than it claims to be.  It goes so much deeper; into love and being a whole person.  Pursuing your dreams and becoming who you are meant to be.  

The latter part of the novel tells Julia's story, a prominent figure from the first book, and her quest to find the ultimate magic.  She finds much more...which plays out very well in the end.

The ending was not 'cut-and-dried'.  It was unexpected, which opened the door for another story.  This novel could have been so much more, and I'm hoping that Mr. Grossman will do better with the third book (please let there be a third!).

So, read 'The Magicians' and enjoy the Gen X attitude.  And then read 'The Magician King' and hope the author is a bit more successful with the next.

Mr. Grossman, I'm not giving up on you.  Just don't forget to include the snarkiness.

Monday, January 2, 2012

'The Possibility of You'

As adoption has reached beyond the U.S. borders, and records that were previously sealed are now opened, many people who have discovered that they are adopted are now writing sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting stories of their experiences.

Although 'The Possibility of You', by Pamela Redmond, is pure fiction, it could almost read like a memoir.  Written with great sensitivity and intelligence, her story centers on the choices of three women living in three different eras.  Bridget's story is set in 1916, and the choice she makes changes the lives of those she loves.  Billie, living in 1976, is faced with a dilemma that affects Cait, who lives in the present day.

Part mystery, part revelation, 'Possibility...' exposes the risks that each woman takes, the heartbreaking choices that they cannot avoid.  They are all searching for their own identities, and when their stories converge, you will be stunned.

Ms. Redmond is an accomplished author, having written for many publications, and writes a column for Glamour magazine.  But this, her most sensitive novel, was one I could not put aside.  I wanted to solve the mystery; I wanted to know how each woman related to the other.  And I was not disappointed.

I strongly urge you to add this one to your reading group book list because it will promote not only many discussions, but maybe a heated argument or two.

I, myself, cannot stop talking about it.

'The Possibility of You' will be released in February 2012 by Simon & Schuster