Saturday, January 24, 2009

Everything Nice

Mike Edwards is tough for a girl. Actually, she's tough for a guy, at least that's what her ex-boyfriend said when he left their shared apartment last year. Post-break-up, Mike's only friend is her good buddy Gunther, an Australian news reporter stationed in New York City. She's never had women friends, and she's mainly interested in men for quick flings, nothing serious. In fact, the less emotionally involved she can be with the world, the better.
Work was going great, until it wasn't. Mike knows she's a good writer, but when her mentor gets fired, Mike is asked to leave the ad agency and she quickly finds that she can't get hired again - anywhere. Her reputation - as icy, unfriendly and argumentative - precedes her. At 30, Mike is moving back in with her father, who has unexpectedly started dating after being a widow for 25 years. She is trying to avoid confronting some big issues from childhood, avoid her dad's new girlfriend, avoid her changing relationship with Gunther, and avoid getting a new job since no one wants her anyway. Her life has completely fallen apart.
Just when things couldn't get any worse, she gets talked into substitute teaching in a "Life Skills" class at a private girls school. A room full of seventh graders is not what Mike needed to get her life back on track. With embroidery and baking on the syllabus, Mike is even more clueless than her students. Mike knows nothing of sugar, spice and everything nice, because that's not what this woman is made of!

I loved this book. I was expecting something totally different, but Mike's gruff, tough, almost bitter personality really grew on me as I read her story. It was inevitable that she would change and grow as a character, because she is really miserable early on in the story, but her journey from sarcastic, cruel and blunt to...something nicer...was a great read!
312 pages.

Monday, January 05, 2009

In Defense of Food

The new book from Michael Pollan is just what I was looking for as I start trying to determine what kind of foods will be best for the baby. With his seven word mantra "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Pollan is out to reverse effects of the Western diet by encouraging people to make good choices based on common sense and quality instead of the modern mayhem of nutritionalism, packaging and marketing.

While I don't always expect non-fiction reading to be entertaining, several parts of this book made me laugh out loud, including an explanation of qualified health claims on processed food packaging. Pollan explains that many of these claims are sketchy to begin with and the disclaimers in tiny print are even more confusing for consumers. As an example, he offers this scenario for the future: ""No doubt we can look forward to a qualified health claim for high fructose corn syrup, a tablespoon of which probably does contribute to your health, as long as it replaces a comparable amount of --say--poison-- in your diet and doesn't increase the total number of calories you eat in a day."

6.5 hours of listening

I also read the delightful "The Wayward Debutante" by Sarah Elliott, a regency romance paperback with a broken spine so I could one-hand read while feeding/rocking the baby. 294 pages.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Burnout and boyproof

I know, cheery titles for the new year. But I indulged in some reading, so I am happy about that, even if my choices were weird.

Burnout written by Rebecca Donner, illustrated by Inaki Miranda
After her dad leaves them, Danni and her mom move from the city to a remote Oregon logging town. Her mom moves in with an alcoholic bar owner, and suddenly Danni is sharing a room with her cute soon-to-be-stepbrother, the brooding and mysterious Haskell. The environmental terrorists are sabotaging the logging operations to save the forests, but many of the jobs in the region depending on the lumber mills. Her mom's boyfriend is increasinly violent, and Haskell is sneaking out the window in the middle of the night with a backpack. What will Danni be willing to sacrifice to have a real family again? And will the sacrifices be worth it?
The black and white drawings of Danni, Haskell and the forest backdrop in this graphic novel really bring this quick-paced adventure to life for the reader!

147 pages. graphic novel

Boy Proof by Cecil Castellucci
203 pages
I came to this novel from Castellucci's graphic novel Plain Janes, which I loved.

Victoria is known as Egg because she always dresses like the main character in her favorite post-apocalypic movie. Egg is boy proof. She doesn't need anyone, because she is smart and focused and driven. She is invisible to boys, even the geeks in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Club at her Hollywood school. She is obsessed with movies. Her mom is a formerly famous actress looking for a comeback and her dad makes special effects makeup and props for big-time movies.
When Max Carter arrives at her school, Egg is shocked to find a boy as smart and witty as she is. Max immediately makes friends with everyone at school, although he pays special attention to a beautiful and silly girl named Nelly. Soon Egg actually feels lonely instead of just being a loner, especially after she keeps a secret about some movie gossip and alienates the few friends she had. As graduation approaches, unexpected encounters with some of her favorite movie stars may just change everything...