Thursday, December 31, 2009

Slut! by Leora Tanenbaum

iconiconI ran across this book — Slut! Growing Up Female with a Bad Repuation, by Leora Tanenbaum — while I was babysitting a couple of weekends ago. What woman wouldn't be able to resist a book with such an arresting title? I read half the book there, and then checked it out to finish it.

First of all, the book is written in a very readable style. It read very quickly and easily for nonfiction, yet it wasn't watered down by any means. It was well-researched and informative, yet incredibly compelling.

I think it's the women's stories about how they were labeled as sluts that make the book so addicting. Tanenbaum intersperses the first-person accounts with well-researched passages, using a dual approach of individual stories and research in order to make each point. It's a very effective approach, and keeps you interested in the book until then end.

Another thing that makes this book so compelling was the ability to relate to many of these stories. I was sexually active as a teen, and although I never had it as bad as some of these women, I certainly suffered some grief thanks to the sexual double standard.

One of the sections in this book that was most striking to me was the part that talks about the fallacy of romance. Tanenbaum talks about how young girls are taught, via romance novels and other forms of media, that sex is based on love and romance. She also offers research that demonstrates the girls who are taught that love and sex are (or ought to be) the same thing, are the ones who are the most co-dependent, and suffer through the worst breakups. On the other hand, she argues, girls who are taught that it's okay to feel desire, and even to act on it if you are safe about it, tend to be more independent and move on the easiest after a breakup.

It's interesting, because basically Tanenbaum is pointing out that society's chief way of trying to protect our daughters — telling them it's okay to sleep with a guy if you love them — actually reinforces the romance trap, and makes girls more likely to get hurt. (i.e., If they take birth control or carry condoms, they are planning for sex, which makes it seem unromantic and skanky... So they have unsafe sex instead of admitting that they have actually thought about or wanted or planned for sex.)

I think this is an important book on two levels: 1) to help women come to terms with the sexual double standard they faced when they were growing up, and 2) to encourage parents and future parents think about what they plan on telling their daughters about sex.

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

iconiconI actually finished this book on Christmas Day. I started out reading it a couple of weeks ago, and then was interrupted when another book (Slut!, which I'll blog about next) caught my eye. I read half of the other book while babysitting, returned to A Wedding in December, and then checked Slut! out at the library in order to finish it.

My mom recommended A Wedding in December to me, and while I found it interesting and enjoyable, I had more than a few of those moments when you say, "Okay, now how much do I have left?" and wish that you could finish it a little faster. It's a good story, and I do love Anita Shreve, but it's far from one of my favorites of her books. (I liked The Pilot's Wifeicon and Sea Glassicon
the best.)

Of course, accounting for differences in people's tastes, I can easily see how this might be someone else's favorite. Shreve does a beautiful job of weaving together, comparing and contrasting, the stories of all the different friends' lives in this reunion story. There are parallels, and there are stark differences — both from one another, and from who they were versus who they are now. I also like how she incorporates 9/11 into the story by comparing and contrasting everyone's reactions — the reunion takes place not long afterward, so it is natural that it would be a topic at the forefront of everyone's mind.

In other words, I think whether you like this book will have a lot to do with personal taste. I liked it but didn't love it, but I could totally see how someone else would.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

iconiconI actually finished Joyce Maynard's Labor Day a couple of weeks ago, but with Christmas coming up and everything else going on, I didn't have time to blog about it then.

I had heard about this book somewhere, I think on NPR, but it took so long to get it from the library that by that time I'd forgotten where. When I flipped through it initially, I was admittedly skeptical as to whether I'd like it. But I had a chance to read it almost right away, so read it I did.

I was pleasantly surprised: Labor Day is an incredibly engrossing book. One of the quotes on the cover compares it to Atonement, and I have to say I agree. It feels like a more modern story, but it has some similar themes: love, betrayal, and coming of age. The characters are equally as interesting, in some ways more so, as they are never quite what you expect.

This is one of those books that you shouldn't judge from your first impressions. The cover isn't very exciting, and flipping through the pages the story might seem a bit dull, but don't believe it for a minute!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

iconiconEdit 3/30/2011: The illustrated edition I own is no longer available on BN.com.  Instead I've linked to an inexpensive paperback copy.  If you would prefer the ebook, you can download it for free from Project Gutenberg.

With Christmas approaching, I decided a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to read something in the spirit of the season. I usually read something sentimental to my childhood or my literary development every year around this time (a couple of years ago it was the Chronicles of Narnia, and last year it was supposed to be Lord of the Rings, though I didn't actually get to it until several months later).

As a kid, I can remember frequently watching this movie version of A Christmas Carolicon, but I don't actually remember ever reading the book. Still, I have vague memories of seeing the book on our bookshelves and even in my room, so I think I must have at some point.

I bought my own copy of the book last year when I happened to see it at Barnes & Noble. It is the exact same copy that is displayed in the Amazon link, and it is a beautifully illustrated edition that I would highly recommend to anyone who loves beautiful books. The illustrations make it a lovely copy for families with children, but even if you don't have kids, I promise you will love this book.

Anyway, A Christmas Carol is actually a fairly fast read; an adult can probably finish it in a couple of nights pretty easily, and if you read a chapter a night, you could read it to a child in under a week. It's a great book to read as Christmas approaches.

The book has been in the news lately: My favorite writer's newsletter, WritersWeekly.com, ran a story on how A Christmas Carol was self-published (which I didn't know), and the New York Times did a blog post on how the original manuscript shows the evolution of the story to its final published form.

When I was a kid, my dad used to read "The Night Before Christmas" to us every Christmas Eve. Well, I can definitely see this particular book becoming a part of my family's traditions someday. It was nice to reread it — I just can't believe it has taken me so many years!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Horse Crazy: Women and the Horses They Love

iconiconI had totally forgotten I had this book, Horse Crazy by A. Bronwyn Llewellyn, until just a week or two ago. I was going through my stack of books to read, looking for something that appealed to my mood at the time, when I found it. It wasn't what I was looking for right then, but I came back to it soon enough!

This is a great little book, full of short anecdotes about women and their horses. It's the kind of book that would make a great gift for a horsewoman. At around 200 pages, it's also a fast, enjoyable read.

What is especially nice about the book is the variety of stories. Some are about losing horses, others about finding horses. Sometimes the stories take place when the women are just kids, while others take place when they are adults. It's a great collection of stories that demonstrates that, no matter how different horsewomen seem from one another, we have one unifying factor that holds us together: We all love our horses!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

iconiconI'm a big fan of Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code, so I was pretty excited for his newest book, The Lost Symbol. My timing was perfect: I started reading it right after my husband and I watched the movie Angels and Demonsicon for the first time.

As with the other two books, The Lost Symbol was amazingly well researched. It never ceases to amaze me how he comes up with all this stuff. I mean, he creates puzzles and comes up with answers to incredibly old mysteries that actually sound plausible. And he does all that while crafting a well-written story.

I often find that with these books, I get even more out of it the second time I read it. So I'll put my copy away for a while, and come back to it in six months or a year. Maybe by that time they'll even have an illustrated edition — I have first printings of the illustrated editions of both earlier books, so I'd love to have this one in a similar edition to complete my set!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

iconiconA friend and colleague sent me an advance reading copy of Hush, Hush a little while back, after she had read and reviewed it. I finally started it one evening toward the end of November — and hardly stopped reading until I'd finished the book, later that night.

If you enjoyed Twilight, I'm pretty sure you will like Hush, Hush. It's a similar idea — mortal teenage girl falls for immortal guy — and Becca Fitzpatrick carries the story in a very similar style as Stephanie Meyer, with a similar narrative pace and lots of sexual tension to keep you turning the pages!

Interestingly, there is a different ending (just the very last page) in the advance reading copy than the final published edition. I've read both and I have to say I like the ARC version better! If you read the published version, you'll have to tell me — without seeing the ARC version, what did you think of the ending?