End Review: Twenty-Thirty

And…I’m back.

To be fair, I just finished this book last week.  Yes, it took me that long to read the book.  Yes, there is a reason.  The reason?  I started “Twenty-Thirty” about a week before the Occupy Wall Street protests started and while the book doesn’t completely overlap with current events they are parallel: young people angry, rich getting richer, older people not really caring as long as they get their pensions, etc.

But, let’s go back and talk about Albert Brooks’ writing style.  He is brief and doesn’t spend a lot of time writing about details.  I’m someone who loves it when an author really paints a picture with his words, but Brooks doesn’t focus on this.  His focus in this work of fiction was really the big idea of where the United States is heading in regards to our economy.  It’s a bit “1984”-ish in he describes some situations which are very big brother in essence. There are also some situations where I felt like I was reading a history about pre-WWII Germany, with all the Nazism that implies, and much of what Brooks describes is actually happening right now.

If that last sentence didn’t scare the hell out of you, you need to read more books and newspapers and get your head out of your ass.

Along with keeping the situational details to a minimum, Brooks doesn’t spend a lot of time developing characters.  The story is told from well over 10 perspectives.  I never felt involved with any of the characters, although I do suppose I felt some empathy for the young woman who was left with $350,000 in medical bills after her father died from a work related injury (apparently workman’s comp doesn’t exist in the future).

Brooks does allow for some humor to be intertwined in the novel, although a lot of it self-deprecating, Jewish humor (I suppose he can get away with this since he’s Jewish). Other jokes are often related to getting erections, which I suppose he can get away with since he’s a man.

As I said in my pre-review, I was hoping Brooks wouldn’t allow this book to be a dooms-day novel and would allow some optimism to shine through.  He does just that…kinda.  The end of the book is probably the most brilliant part of the entire novel because Brooks does show the reader a “solution” but doesn’t really tell how the solution work out.  The ending is open-ended and it’s up to the reader to figure out if they think the resolution will end up good or bad (I still don’t know how I feel about it).

I’d recommend this book because it’s a good mirror of what is happening right in front of us.  Brooks’ novel helped me remove myself from what I was seeing (or not seeing) on CNN and view it from a different perspective (or 10 perspectives).  While stylistically it isn’t my cup of tea, I think it’s a book that may just help people of all ages and groups understand a different perspective.

A fiction book based on a conspiracy theory: Twenty-Thirty

TitleTwenty-Thirty: The Real Story of What Happens to America

By:  Albert Brooks

Pages: 375

Borrowed from:  Milford Memorial Library

Money saved:  $25.99

Why I chose this book:

Here’s the premise of the book: It’s 2030, and a cure for cancer has come into being.  People live longer and longer putting a financial strain on the Social Security system, there are fewer and fewer jobs because most are outsourced to other countries or done by machines, and the youth of the country are frustrated that they are working for bubkis while also paying for their elders to live longer than they naturally would.

Sound familiar?  It’s a more dramatic version of what is happening right now.  And, I can honestly admit I’m a young person that is becoming increasingly jaded with where America is going.

Hopes for the book:

I hope that there is hope in this book.  I don’t want it to be an apocalyptic book about how America is going to implode.  I hope Brooks uses this book as a kind of “The Lorax” for adults, to show what can happen if we don’t change our ways.

What’s making me eager to open the book:

Living in Iowa, I end up seeing a lot of political battles (our caucus is a big deal, or something), so I’ve actually met quite a few up and coming politicians over the years.  None have impressed me much because they all have ideas – but most of their solutions aren’t feasible or realistic.  I’m wondering what, if any, solutions Brooks shows in this work of fiction.

End Review: How to Read Like A Writer

This review will be short.

Because I didn’t finish the book.

This is my failure, not Prose’s – I’m currently spending most of my spare time looking for jobs and resume writing, so her book was a little too high brow for my current reading needs.  I would still like to read it, but it will probably be when my life is a little more settled (so, probably around December).

For the next few months, I’ll focus on reading fiction and lighter non-fiction, mostly because my real life is altogether too real and overwhelming and I’ll need some escapism.

With that all said, I’d like to take a moment to get up on my soap box and say this is a perfect example of why the library is awesome.  Had I bought this book, I’d have more or less thrown my money away and the book would be sitting on my shelf collecting dust until I was ready to read it.  With the library, I spent no money and the book is available for others to read until I get around to trying to read it again.

Who can argue with that?

A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos (via Amanda Rudd’s Blog)

Okay, this isn’t a book review, but I’ve been thinking about getting my own literary tattoo for awhile…Amanda Rudd says exactly what I’ve been thinking. Enjoy fellow book nerds/intellectual badasses!

A Permanent Relationship With Words: Literary Tattoos This is the first official post for the newly-instated "Free-For-All Fridays." It's a funny coincidence.  On Tuesday Clay talked about being "Tatted Up" on his blog EduClaytion.  Of course, his story is about receiving a few temporary tattoos from his niece, but still.  Tattoos.  Major coincidence, because I’ve planning to write a blog about tattoos all week. Let me begin by saying I don’t have any tattoos, but I am endlessly fascinated by them.  … Read More

via Amanda Rudd's Blog

A book about writing: Reading Like A Writer

Title:  Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them

By:  Francine Prose

Pages: 273

Borrowed from: Milford Memorial Library

Money saved:  $23.95

Why I chose this book:

I honestly have no background for this book – I was just wandering through the local library and saw it on the shelf.  I took a minute to read the author’s bio and she’s taught at the University of Iowa, which has the top writing program in the United States.  Sounds like she may know what she’s talking about.

Hopes for the book:

I’m hoping this book will help me to be a better critic of the books I’m reading and maybe improve my blogging skills.  I’m not sure I’m up to snuff (or ever will be) to write an entire book, but maybe she’ll show me otherwise.

What’s making me eager to open the book:

I love literature, always have.  I’m an eager reader – so if Prose can teach me how to read with an even more discerning eye, I’m all for it.

End Review: How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World

I went into this book hoping Christy would write about Katharine Hepburn, but she focused more one Audrey.  Not that this is a bad thing, I actually love Miss Audrey, I was just miffed for about the first 20 pages until I just got over it.  Overall, this is a delightful book that more or less tells the reader how to be a smart, together woman.

Christy’s voice is charming and friendly and intelligent and she uses a series of quizzes to help the reader determine her personal style and see where she is on the “Hilton-Hepburn” scale.  I was delighted to know I’m much more of a Hepburn – I’m curious, educated, fun, modest in dress (not that I’m not colorful, but I keep myself covered), and a hard worker.  My one big fault is that I swear too often, and I’m aware of this and working on trying to find better words for my thoughts.

As far as clothing – well, she lost me a bit there.  I ended up being in a 5-way tie for clothing styles so I just determined I must be an eccentric and as long as I’m covered and appropriate while being myself I should be fine.  I think Christy (and Audrey) would approve of this decision.

Christy also gives some dating advise (let him chase you, but not in a game-playing way, just don’t throw yourself at him) as well as some advise about social media (you don’t need to post every thought you have on Facebook/Twitter/MySpace).  She also attends to the issues of friendships, body-image and self-care, all things that women struggle with but are actually a bit simpler than we realize (and I finally know that I’m a Cool).

I wish I had read this book about 7 years ago – it would have saved me from a few shameful events in my early 20s, but those events have slowly but surely taught me to be what Christy calls a “Smart Girl”.  Most of her sage advice are things I already do and know.  I’d recommend this book for girls in the 12 to 20-year-old set (although, I do know a few older women who could use its advice) and plan on getting a copy for my 13-year-old niece.  She’s already starting off strong in the Hepburn department, but I’d like to keep her there.

Jordan Christy also blogs about her Hepburn-esque life at http://www.jordanchristy.com/blog/.

A personal style book: How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World

Title:  How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace

By:  Jordan Christy

Pages: 196

Borrowed from: Milford Memorial Library

Money saved:  $16.99

Why I chose this book:

Women talk all day about fashion – I don’t care about fashion. I care about personal style – figuring out who you are and letting it show in your clothing, hair, manners, etc.  I like to think of myself as a more colorful, modern Katharine Hepburn – so I chose this book mostly because it said Hepburn in the title.

Hopes for the book:

I hope that I really am a Hepburn!  G-d knows that I could not, would not, ever want to be a Hilton.  Also, I hope that there is actual style advice and not a list of crap I should buy for my wardrobe, like Nina Garcia’s books (not hating on her, but don’t give me a list, let me think for myself!).

What’s making me eager to open the book:

Not necessarily eager, but I thought it was nifty that the author’s daughter (per the author’s bio) is named Paisley.  My cat is named Paisley.  This makes me smile.

Gratuitous Kitty Photo: My Paisley

End Review: One Day

“One Day” is one of those books I was almost sad to finish because the story is so lovely and the characters so real, I couldn’t bear parting with them.

But I had to.

So, here I am trying to put into words how I felt about this book and its characters and finding it difficult because Nicholls really did an excellent job of developing characters with brilliant humor, endearing flaws, and a captivating story. The schtick of showing us the couple on just one day each year works – I was afraid it might feel disjointed and jumpy, but Nicholls makes it work. It’s honestly one of those books that novelists wish they had written, it’s clever and smart and sad and happy all at the same time.

Especially the dialogue. The conversations between the characters really drew me in, where I could almost hear them in my head. And when you read it, you wish to yourself that you and your friends talked that way, with lots of clever quips and sardonic sides (of course, my friends and I do talk this way, because we are witty and fascinating 🙂 ).

As far as the love story? Well, I had my heart-broken about seven times during the book – missed opportunities, things just not working out, Emma and Dexter (the protagonists) breaking up, etc. Even while I knew the story wasn’t over (because there were 200 pages left), I’d still worry about them and pray they’d work it out. And they do, but not in the way one might think. The ending is more along the lines of “Dear John” where the book ends but we all know the love doesn’t. Because in real, heart-breaking, amazing love; one event doesn’t end it.

Nicholls book is more than a love story, however; it dabbles with philosophy and politics and self-actualization. It’s a tragedy. Yet, with all this complexity, it’s readable and easy and enjoyable. It was after I was done reading I realized that maybe there was more to this story then just two old University mates falling for each other. No, it’s more than that. It made me think about how I am living my very own life, and when I saw how much these characters changed over 20 years, I realized how much can happen and how much people can change. It allowed me to see that life is ever-changing, that I must be grateful for what I have but know it can be fleeting. And I must understand that even when my life is at a low-point, it will pass.

And here I said I don’t like romance novels. Sounds like I do…maybe I’m more of a romantic than I thought.

A romance/smut novel: One Day

Title:  One Day

By:  David Nicholls

Pages: 435

Borrowed from: Milford Memorial Library

Money saved:  $14.95

Why I chose this book:

I don’t read a lot of romance/smut novels.  Not because I’m not romantic, on the contrary, I’m a hopeless romantic.  But life, well, life isn’t romantic so romance novels feel like giant lies to me.  Men don’t walk around with the top two buttons of their shirts undone showing off their manly chest hair and love doesn’t always conquer all. So, maybe I’m a jaded romantic, which is probably why I prefer romance/smut novels written by men.  For some reason the stories are more real to me and less fantastical.  There aren’t pirate ships and princesses, just real people with real lives who are trying to make their relationships work.  And sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.

I first discovered “One Day” when I saw the previews for the upcoming movies on TV.  I like the premise of seeing a relationship evolve over twenty years, but instead of seeing everything, you only experience one day of each year.  Little snapshots of this couple’s lives, whether they are together or not. 

Hopes for the book:

The author is a British gentleman, so I hope the book has great dialogue and is witty and smart as this is the British tradition.  I’d like some good laughs during it, but I don’t want the humor to cheapen the story.  I’m also hoping for some nice escapism, I need a lighter read for the last bit of summer.

What’s making me eager to open the book:

Well, I’m going to go see the film version on opening day (Friday, August 19th) with a friend, so I’ve got to bust ass on it so I can be disappointed and judgemental of the film. 🙂

End Review: A Place of Yes

And, she returns!  And, yes, it really did take two weeks for me to read this damn book.  Why?  Because I probably had one of the most exhausting two weeks of my post-collegiate life.

But, that being said, it was probably the perfect time to read A Place of Yes because in my exhaustion I definitely had a couple “screw this, I quit” moments with my job, my workouts, my blogs, my personal life, etc.  Each day; however, I’d read a little more of Bethenny’s book and it would strike a chord with me.

Her rules are not rocket-science by any means, in fact, I’d be willing to bet most people know these “rules” or have been told them in another way before.  What Bethenny does differently is that she puts it all on the line to show how she has applied the rules to her life.  Here are her 10 rules in order (with a brief description by me):

  1. Break the Chain (You don’t have to be your parents.)
  2. Find Your Truth (Only you know what is right and true for you, nobody else.  The hard part is figuring it out.)
  3. Act On It (Always be working towards something.)
  4. Everything’s Your Business (Do everything in you life to the best of your ability and learn, learn, learn.)
  5. All Roads Lead to Rome (If you are working and learning, you’re going to get there.  Trust the process.)
  6. Go For Yours (Give it your all to make things move faster.)
  7. Separate from the Pack (Play up your individuality and market it.)
  8. Own It (If you say it, think it, eat it, crap it, admit it.  Have personal integrity.)
  9. Come Together (The world is not a vacuum, you must get along with others to make life work.)
  10. Celebrate! (When something good happens, take the time to enjoy it.  Life is good.)

See, not groundbreaking stuff.  But, like I said, her stories about her low- and high-points are what draw the reader into the book.  For me, reading about her mistakes with men and careers as a young women, most of which were caused by “normal noise” and “money noise” (noise, Bethenny defines, is the nagging chatter in your brain that can take you from your path) really helped me realize, at 29, my life isn’t over.  The fact that her professional life really didn’t take off until her 30’s somehow made me realize I don’t have to settle because my life isn’t done!

And, I needed to hear that because in the last two weeks, among my life being crazy busy, I also turned 29.  And I cried about it.  Not because I think I’m old, but because I thought I should be in a better place in my life.  Her book helped me reframe my situation so I could remind myself that my life is really just beginning and, let’s face it, 29 is pretty young.

So, maybe I owe a quick “thank you” to Bethenny Frankel for her candidness and wit and ability to help me through my quarter-life crisis.  I’m sure I’ll still have days where I won’t want to get out of bed (and she admits she still does this too), but I now realize it’s okay.  I just have to keep on keeping on and I’ll eventually have a pretty darn good life.