Monthly Archives: July 2013

Book Club

Mmmmm books. I read some mighty fine ones the past week and a half or so.

First up, I got V is for Vengeance out of the library, and even though I wasn’t sure where I left off exactly in Sue Grafton’s alphabet mystery series, I think I actually got it right. Anyway, the book is another wonderful segment of the Kinsey Millhone series. Grafton purposefully keeps her protagonist in the ’80s, so she does all her sleuthing and crime solving using index cards, landline phones, answering machines, and good old shoe leather and persistence… and without the aid of the internet or fancy gadgets. Unless you count lock picks as fancy, because she definitely uses those. Kinsey is one of those protagonists I love because she runs everyday even though she hates it, drinks bad wine, swears more than is considered lady like, has an old man for a neighbor who bakes her delicious things, tends to be a little hermit-like, and she’s got killer instincts. Basically, put me in the eighties and we’d almost be the same person.

Next up, I’ve been perusing Jessica Alba’s The Honest Life, about using ecologically safe household products and eating organic (plus other topics). I completely judged this book by its cover and had no idea how good it’d be. Let me say it: it’s good. It’s very realistic and simple to understand, and doesn’t make you feel bad if you don’t eat 100% organic, 100% of the time. It’s mostly a book about educating yourself on the products you use everyday, in a very personal way, and how their ingredients can affect you and your family, and how to make realistic changes to your lifestyle to be healthier. It’s worth a read.

I know anyone who’s ever considered writing has probably heard of Anne Lamott, and maybe even read Bird by Bird. I’d never read any of her actual fiction until this week though. Imperfect Birds was awesome. It’s one of those books that makes me wonder how somebody could be so talented to write about everyday life in such an intricate, non-boring way. I read it in two days. That being said, it doesn’t have a plot that propels you along at that pace, but it doesn’t encourage you to take breaks either.

I also started Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. A few months ago I devoured and became enamored with the original Persepolis. I’m about halfway in, and my only gripe is that so far Marjane Satrapi has only recapped what occurred in the first book. So I’ve been wondering if this is going anywhere, or what the deal is. I’m sure I’ll finish it within the next week and decide if it’s worth a glance or not.

What are you guys reading this week?

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Detours

I’ve been listening to a lot of Marina and the Diamonds lately, and in particular loving this acoustic version of “Lies”.

Here’s a non-fiction essay writing contest for any writers out there, via LUMINA.

In the same vein, the formidable Joyce Carol Oates offers some of her personal writing tips for aspiring writers.

Rolling Stone has been receiving a lot of criticism for choosing to put alleged Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on its cover. That being said, I think most people should get past the cover and read the article written by Janet Reitman attempting to uncover how he went from just any other young man to the target of a national man hunt. It’s a bit long, but definitely a good read.

I tend to love reading Jessica Brookman’s site NOT ✻ OTHERWISE, and sometimes I go back and read this post. She’s a baller. My favorite parts:

“Fact: You can have any lifestyle you want if you bear the cost of what it takes to get there.” 

“Nearly. I am alive. Very much so. More importantly, I am me. More than ever. I’m guessing there are easier ways to learn who the fuck you are but there’s nothing quicker than fire.”

The Trephine’s Once more, with feeling lays out all her reasons for getting married, for a second time, and all the thoughts and logic relating to that decision. So comprehensive, and witty.

“I let the cake lady explain the entire ordering process to me, because I didn’t have the heart to tell her she had made my last one eleven years ago. ‘But it was delicious!’ I’m sure I would add hastily. ‘I mean, clearly it was, because you earned my repeat business! Ha ha ha ha ha!’ (Seriously, she makes the best cake in town. What was I supposed to do?)”

Book Club

Ahoy! I’ve been getting lots of reading time this week, so let’s dive in, shall we?

I first read Mary Karr’s name through another author and book I loved – Koren Zailckas’ Smashed was a book I’d heard about, ignored, and then picked up on a whim, and after reading the first page standing in a Barnes and Noble, bought, inhaled and re-read a few times throughout college. Zailckas referenced Karr as a literary mentor, and years later I decided to – finally – check out Karr’s third memoir, Lit, about her own struggle with alcohol abuse. Which is how I ended up spending the past week reading her first memoir, The Liars’ Club, about growing up in the tough community of Leechfield, Texas, a town known for manufacturing Agent Orange. Mainly, I was intrigued by Karr’s references in Lit to the times her mother came close to killing her and her sister with a butcher knife or shooting a former paramour and her extensive substance abuse and instability. Karr’s childhood is at times mouth-open-unbelievable and her writing is compelling and straightforward and sometimes downright humorous. Despite having read Lit, The Liars’ Club doesn’t really cover the same material as that book so there wasn’t much repetition. It’s definitely a book I recommend, and it’d probably be a good idea to start with The Liars’ Club first and then work through Karr’s other memoirs (the second is Cherry, which I haven’t gotten to yet). Here are some of my favorite tidbits, and I promise they’re not spoiling anything:

“When Lecia and I finally figured out how to pronounce the magic word on the diet-pill label – methamphetamine – we used it in a jump-rope rhyme:

Meth-am-pheta-mean,

Diet pills will make you scream.

Meth-am-pheta-mean

Keep you fighting, keep you lean.”

“Even if I got whipped after, a bite left a mark that’d stay with a person. That summer, I bit to draw blood seven or eight times. But the time I took a good chunk out of Rickey Carter’s shoulder ultimately led to events that cinched my reputation as the worst kid on the block.”

“Another time, we were racing some kids bareback – Lecia on a borrowed roan named George – when a nasty little tar heel hurled a garter snake at that horse, who reared and toppled over on Lecia, snapping her collarbone. Under the yoke of Lecia’s white blouse, the bone poked the skin as if to piece it. But when we found Mother sipping a vodka Gibson at the cowboy bar, she just offered Lecia some baby aspirin from her purse. Doctors would no doubt screw it up, she said. She didn’t think that bone could be set anyway, and would we like some cherry Cokes, to which we said no thanks. I can still see Lecia’s face – pale and tearless, with a streak of amber clay along her jaw – when it dawned on her that nobody was fixing to take up the cause of that busted bone.”

Once I finished with The Liars’ Club, I started another book I had picked up the day previous on a whim (sense a theme yet?) called The Grift by Debra Ginsberg. Sometimes I find it hard to get hooked into books that are based on the supernatural or completely unreal situations, but I ended up reading The Grift in a day. It starts out with the main character Marina being told by a psychic that she has the gift of clairvoyance, which then turns into Marina’s drug addicted mother using her daughter to scam people for money. Marina gets good at telling people what they want to hear, and turns her non-existence psychic abilities into a full-time adult gig. The book takes some mysterious turns and the book’s other characters’ lives start to interweave into a pattern that doesn’t get fully revealed until the end. I credit Ginsberg with taking a far out plot line and making it grounded and entertaining, and creating a main character who’s so relatable. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a little bit of magic, mystery or a fun read.

And in a completely different direction, I’ve been perusing Lonely Planet’s Alaska guidebook. Just for fun, and in hopes that I can make it there later this summer to visit a good friend.

Have you read anything by Mary Karr, Koren Zailckas or Debra Ginsberg? If so, what did you think? What other books have you been reading lately? Any recommendations?