life, craft, kids, crap…

Category Archives: Books

I obviously haven’t been blogging much lately. I have been reading a lot. I wanted to share a few great ones with you.

First off, the hot pink cover and rather sassy title of this book stood out on the library shelves. If you ever watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie when you were growing up, then you’ll definitely need to read Confessions of a Prairie B*#&h by Alison Arngrim. Yup, it’s Nellie’s memoir!

Dude, this book was so good that I read it in 2 days. In addition to her very interesting family history, you also hear about how she got into show business, all kinds of crazy behind-the-scenes stuff, and some downright hilarious stories. Apparently Alison and Melissa Gilbert (a.k.a. Laura Ingalls) were actually really great friends. They were in the grocery store together one time and the customers tried to save “Laura” from mean old “Nellie.” And then there was the time that a school thought it would be a good time to have Nellie & Mrs. Oleson come in costume and the schoolgirls tried to beat her up….! (Apparently there were a lot of people who couldn’t separate fictional tv from reality when it came to that show….)

This isn’t just a memoir of showbiz life. It also tells of the trauma and abuse that she suffered in her family and how she chose to survive. As an adult she got involved with a group called PROTECT that lobbied to change some pretty dreadful laws. As late as 2002, when the organization began, the punishment for someone who molested a relative was barely a slap on the wrist. If a person molested a child outside of their family, there were strict laws. But, if it was a relative, sometimes jail time wasn’t even considered. Alison spoke before state legislatures to help strengthen all laws and increase consequences for anyone who perpetrated abuse against children. (Bravo, Ms. Arngrim!)

As you can tell from the title and the preceding paragraph, this isn’t a book for you to get your 8 year old to read. But, I found it fascinating and a good read. I give it a solid 4 stars.

I also have been rereading more of my Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Whimsey Mysteries. I just love ‘em. If you are looking to get started with the series, you can always pick up a collection of short stories. Or, start with the first book, Whose Body?

I actually discovered this series by accident at a small used bookstore in Turkey. This overstuffed and badly organized shop had a teency English-language used section and I found book #2 there for 3 lira.  Clouds of Witness is full of great character development and an interesting story. Sayers knew how to write a mystery that keeps the ending a surprise. If you like mysteries, British novels, or 1930’s-era stories, then this book would be good for you.

According to my rating system, 5 stars are only given to books that I would own and read over and over. Since I do own this book and I like it enough to cart it back across the ocean & through several moves with me and I have actually read it through several times, then this book not only deserves a long run-on sentence of description, but also definitely earns 5 stars.

What have you been reading lately?

 


One of my all-time favorite authors is Fannie Flagg. Dude, just from her name alone you know she’s awesome. She writes these hilarious and involved stories with multiple plots twisting and turning through a small town or group of people. Never heard of her? Yes you have: she wrote Fried Green Tomatoes (both the book & the screenplay). When I find an author whose style I like I’ll read every thing they’ve written and about two years ago, I finished the Flagg canon of work. I was sooooo sad.

Last week I was running through the grown-up book section of the library trying to find something decent before my kids annihilated one of the book displays and THERE IT WAS…. a new Fannie Flagg book!! You better believe I snatched that sucker up.

Two days after picking it up, I had it done. Who needs sleep when you have a good book? And this didn’t disappoint. I Still Dream About You is the story of a people-pleasing former Miss Alabama who must learn to stand up for herself and allow herself to live. The trouble: she’s ready to end it all. But, her very elaborate plot to simply disappear keeps getting postponed by her need to fulfill one or another obligation. Mix this in with her two co-workers: a woman who apprehended a would-be mugger with a hot fudge sundae and an elderly lady who will wear only purple and dyes her hair lavender. Then, add Birmingham culture and idiosyncrasies. Finally, toss in a 100 year-old mystery, a terrible villian in high-heels and gaudy business suits, and a 3 foot tall real estate wizard named Hazel Wisenknott. The plot is unexpected and really quite funny. But, it’s not a fluffy read. It’s not silly drivel that someone slapped together with a few jokes. The comedy and energy in the book is just masterful.

Do you need a good read? Any of Fannie Flagg’s books are high on my recommended list!

 


We began boxing up books months ago. The apartment was rather cramped & we were ready to clear out anything we could. So, rereading favorites was out of the picture and there never seemed to be any time to go to the library. Since I usually decide to start reading a book on a whim and without prior planning, I never could think to borrow one from a friend. Instead, I’d just root around the house until I found something I bought at a yard sale to sell in my online vintage shop or a random book I found at the campus swap shop. Sometimes I’d even read Raylo’s books. It’s a good thing we moved and unpacked stuff & found the library before I was forced to start reading his textbooks.

So, it’s been an eclectic journey this year. A few books were surprisingly great! One in particular was quite disappointing. Here’s some thoughts for you…

The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash

by Dave Urbanski

Have you noticed that a lot of people are naming their little boys Cash nowadays? I just can’t get over this. It’s like naming your kid Quarter or Dollar. Or maybe it’s like naming him Buck. (A thousand apologies to any of you who have named your kid Cash, Quarter, Dollar, or Buck.) The name sounds nice, but it’s Money…. I digress. This is supposed to be about this book, not baby-naming trends.

This is one of Raylo’s books I mooched to read. It is a biography of Johnny Cash with a focus on his spiritual journey. (That’s why the subtitle is “The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash,” see?) The content was very interesting & I’m glad I read the book since our new home town is about an hour from where he grew up. But, as someone with an English degree and as a former writer/editor, I am a bit of a snob about the writing form & style. I don’t profess to be perfect or even great in my own writing and I have certainly never written a book myself, but the style of this book just didn’t jive with me. The text got in the way of the content. So, I can only give this book 1.5 stars.

Shortly after moving here I noticed the big flashy sign outside the big college convocation center concert hall thingy. They had COMING SOON! Then, they flashed all of the names of upcoming concerts. It went something like this: COMING SOON! Keith Urban! COMING SOON! Disney on Ice! COMING SOON! Johnny Cash!

Apparently some people called and corrected them. Since Mr. Cash passed on to the big concert in the sky in 2003, unless he is planning on a second coming, he will not be playing at this concert. The next day it read COMING SOON! Johnny Cash TRIBUTE concert!

You could audibly hear the groans of agony & disappointment from Cash fans county-wide.

*******

I Lost Everything in the Postnatal Depression

by Erma Bombeck

The next book I read came from some unknown location. Seriously. I don’t know where it came from. The Swap Shop? A yard sale? I was unpacking the first of the book boxes & wanted something new to read. This was the first thing I saw.

Erma Bombeck was a pretty big deal humorist in the 70s and 80s. She had a big newspaper column & I remember several of my female family members had her books when I was a wee little tyke. She is funny and has a true way with words. But, this book on mothering and housewifery had so many relevant-to-1970-references that this oh-so-modern-Mama had a hard time getting the jokes. So, this book just gets 2 stars.

I did feel like I was reading a big of cultural archaeology. It was interesting & still worth my time, but I think I’ll return the book to wherever it came from. But, where did it come from….?????

*******

How Do You Spank a Porcupine?

by Ronald Rood

Oh, how I miss the Swap Shop at the campus where we lived! The nondescript building at the back of campus held all of the stuff people didn’t need or want anymore. You could drop anything off and pick anything up you needed — for free. I found all kinds of awesome crap there! And, you could tell when one of the professors had just been by because there would be nice crap available. There was one professor we would SwapStalk. If we saw her pulling into the shop, we’d run for it. Her daughter was outgrowing the princess phase & ours were entering it — she was a gold mine. If you see something princess in our house today it’s likely that we got it by SwapStalking this prof.

Another digression….

So, this book came from the Swap Shop. I got it out of boredom. It was actually quite entertaining! A rural New England family finds an orphaned porcupine and decides to raise it. Educational, informative, funny…. and I’ll now have quite a few more random facts in my arsenal of Useless and Random Facts to Pull Out and Use to Annoy Other People. (Example: Porcupines can’t shoot their quills. Quills are actually thick, sharp hairs. Porcupines can’t see worth diddly-squat. I could go on for hours, people, HOURS.)

My only beef: It ends too abruptly. It’s like Mr. Rood got tired, looked at the clock, and said, “Oh! It’s midnight! I should go to bed…. Ok, THE END.” That bugged me, so I only give it a 3.

*****

So, there’s 3 of the most random books I’ve ever read. Tomorrow is Library Story Day with the kiddies. I really hope they are happy and willing to let Mama go find her a book to read. Otherwise this will become The Year of the Random WhatTheCrap Book List.


Sooo…. it’s almost May. And I’m finally posting my book goals for the year.

Remember how a long time ago I used to read a lot of books? And then I had a kid? And moved back to the States where English-speaking TV and movies were readily available? And discovered Hulu? And had another kid? And started a bidniz?

So…. this year’s goal seems sooooo wimpy: just 15 piddly little books. I’ve only read 2 books so far this year and for the life of me I can’t remember the second one. (So it must have been earth-shattering.) I think 13 more books in 8 1/2 months while also moving to another state is a pretty good goal.

Here’s the thing: I’m stuck. I need some good book ideas! I am in quite the reading rut. I also don’t want to check out any more books from the library. There isn’t a branch near me or near anywhere I tend to go. So, we check out a lovely stack of books and then it takes us 9 months to return them. The overdue fees are larger than our rent. (Ok, that may be a tiny exaggeration….)

So, here’s today’s interactive portion of the blog! Tell me a book you think I should read or tell me a goal you have for reading this year. (And, tell me what that last book was that I read. It’s really bugging me that I can’t remember it. I mean, I’ve only read 2 this year for Pete’s sake! Sigh…..)


“What’s this book Mama got from the library? Have a New Kid by Friday? Hmmm…. I need to check this out.”

“You can’t be reading this for me? Right, Mama? I’m the perfect little one. I never throw a fit because I want a cookie. Unless really necessary, you know…”

“Hah! You must have checked this out to deal with Big Sissie Beanie! She’s had you on the run lately, hasn’t she? Fun times! Well, for us, anyway…”

“I like this book, Mama! But, I have a feeling if I could actually read, I wouldn’t like it at all…. because it’s going to take away our fun, isn’t it? Oh, Beanie, aren’t you worried?”

“Don’t bug me, kid. I’m making my Christmas list.”

 

Parents out there, I’m loving the book Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman! I like the two kids I have, but I don’t like the attitude and disobedience that’s cropping up. I don’t like having every day a battle. I heard about this book and found it at the library. It looks long, but most of the book is actually a topical appendix on a variety of subjects. The main portion of the book is only about 1/3 of it. Short chapters detail new changes in parenting for each day of the week. I read it in one night. (I’m ready for new behaviors!) The next morning, instead of being late somewhere and having to say “put on your shoes put on your shoes put on your shoes why don’t you have your shoes on come here and let me comb your hair no I said come here don’t run away again stop squirming I am going to comb your hair now put on your shoes,” we got dressed calmly and were EARLY.

Some people are convinced that mab being early is a sure sign of the coming apocalypse.

So…. whether your kid is 2 or 12, read this book if you want some wisdom. Short and funny. And it works.

My buddy Jenna asked me to start rating my book list in the sidebar. I think I can do that. For now, I’ll do a rating of 1 – 5. Here’s the breakdown:

0 = This stinks so bad I won’t even rate it. Only worth using as a coaster.

1 = I didn’t like it.

2 = I finished it because I can’t stand not to finish a book, but I won’t read it again and won’t recommend it to anyone.

3 = Nice book.

4 = Yeah, this was good. I’m glad I read it. I’ll recommend it to others.

5 = When I am queen of the world, I will require all of my subjects to read this book.

 

So, for the first rating….. Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman….. 4!


I am rather encouraged about my book goal for the year. We’re not quite halfway through the year and I’m up to 11 books. Woo-hoo! This has been good for this reader’s soul.

My latest finish is a book called Keeper & Kid by Edward Hardy. Overall, this was a good read. However, the subject matter was a bit too close to home for me to find it funny.

I won’t tell you anything that you wouldn’t read on the dust jacket…. Basically a guy who is happy with his life just as it is finds everything falling apart when he suddenly has full custody of a kid he never knew he had. He goes from carefree life to BAM three-year old world.

So, chaos and life-changing happens as both of these guys have to grow up a little. The tough thing for me: the parts that were supposed to be funny weren’t. I’m sure they’re funny to other people, but Bean is almost 3. This was like reading about my worst days as a parent — not exactly escape literature!

His son, Leo, is described pretty acurately. I can see many 3 year olds going through the same life changes pulling the stunts he pulls. In fact, just recently Spider Woman’s 4 year old son started pooping everywhere because he had no other ways to show his apprehension about moving away. He pooped behind the clothes in the thrift store. He peed on his carpet. He also pooped outside my door. Not anyone else’s door. Not his own door. My door. (Gosh, what have I done to him?!?) Don’t worry… he’s moved through that phase.

Anyway, I digress. If you are a parent of a toddler, I’d wait to read this until the time that your kid threw a falling-on-the-ground-screaming-fit because you took off her pillowcase becomes funny and  no longer causes instant knots to form in your back. Still cringing over the crayon scribble mural your little one added to your wall? Nope. Not time for you to read this. Have a newborn baby? I wouldn’t read it, either. It’ll scare the pants off you. You’ll stay up late at night wondering if your kid will do some of the same things when he’s older.

But, if you don’t have kids or you have older kids, I’d say this is a worthy read. It gave me insight into the life of a self-centered man learning to be selfless. This is a process parenthood will do to anyone. Most people get 9 months to prepare and they head into it slowly. In the main character’s case, he had a severe case of parenthood culture shock.

In Short: Read it if you don’t have kids or have older kids. Don’t read it if you have toddlers or can’t stand the repeated use of the F word.


I started keeping a book list a few years ago because I wanted to keep track of what I’d read. I wanted to see patterns and be able to have something to jog my memory about a certain storyline or even a time of my life. Pretty quickly I set a goal for myself. A crazy goal of 40 books in one year.

And I did it. That’s nutty.

It was the year I was pregnant with Bean. In that year we had an international flight back to the States to visit family, lots of traveling around, and the international flight back overseas where we were living. I also was delivering in a city 6 hours from where we lived, so we moved to the Big City a month before my due date to wait. I didn’t know tons of people, it was stinkin hot (over 100 with no A/C!), and I was as big as a whale. So, in all of those things — I read. I didn’t realize the delicious privilege of reading without interruption or a small, but noisy alarm clock who would wake up early and demand to be fed. Forty books wasn’t hard for that time of my life. (Ok, plus…. quite a few of them were short enough for a hugely pregnant woman confined to the house in front of 3 fans and with a glass of iced something to read in a day or so.)

Then, we began the nomadic year. We moved back to the States, hopped from city to city and house to house, and finally settled here in New Orleans. And, I was pregnant again. I hoped to read 25 books. I barely made it! Then, for 2009, I set my goal at 18. For the second year in a row, I ignored my family and friends all day on New Year’s Eve as I devoured a book (or finished pieces of several books) to put me over my goal. Whew! I’m sticking with 18 books again this year. Sure, the kids are a teency bit less high-maintenance, but I have other babies I’m working on. (Nope, not pregnant! I’m talking about my new bidniz I’m working on…. I’ve got my state and federal paperwork in order and just have to plan a day to head over to the city/parish offices to finish up. Yay!) 

But, this year, I’ve noticed that I’m not choosing books the same way. In 2007, I literally read whatever I could find. We lived in a small town that had no English-language bookstores. So, we traded books, ordered Amazon books, and had friends ship in books. I was not picky. I got back and glutted myself on books I discovered at the library (Oh, wonderful library!) or books I bought on the bargain racks at B&N. This year, however, I’ve been a bit too metabiblial. (That means I think too much about my books. I made it up. I got a degree in English, so I’m qualified to do that.)

I wonder about what I’ll put on my list and what people will think of me. I’ve read quite a bit of puffy frou-frou books this year — partly because they’re around and partly because at the end of a day spent wiping up poop, I like a bit of puffy frou-frou. So, instead of worrying about random people coming to my blog and judging me or categorizing me for my book list, I’m going to try to go back to reading what I want whenever I want. So, there! (That was only directed to the judgey people. If you’re not judgey, please ignore my petty, elementary schoolish “So there!” And, yes, it was accompanied by my tongue stuck out.)

I’ve also decided that I want my list to be more of a list. So, periodically I’ll start sharing about books I read. Not today… this post is long enough. But, in the next few days, I’ll tell you about the tomes that have been taking up space on my nightstand. Some have been good, some great, some  just okay. I would also love to hear more from y’all about books that you’ve enjoyed. I’m running through my stack of “To Read” and need to add to the pile. Want to see what types of books I enjoy? Browse through the book lists. And let me know if you have any thoughts on any of them. Unless your thoughts are judgey. Because if they are, I’ll just stick my tongue out at you. So there!



%d bloggers like this: