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I read because I must. It's like breathing to me. And I love talking about books. But I'm also an Arsenal fan, a wine drinker, a music lover and weirdly obsessed with pop culture. I mostly blog about books, but sometimes about things I'm thinking or doing. When I'm not on the blog, I'm scoping deals for a professional services company, hanging out with friends, or seeing some live theater.

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Meredith Schorr Re-Release: A State of Jane

Posted on 15 Feb 2017 In: Reading

Today, in celebration of the re-release of Meredith Schorr’s books, I’m pleased to share A State of Jane. You can read my review and see links to get the book yourself at the bottom of this post.

Enjoy!

Meet Jane Frank. It’s been a year since her last (and only) long term relationship, and with reality looming large in the form of the LSAT, Jane decides it’s been far too long since she’s been kissed and that she’s ready to meet the man of her dreams. Meredith Schorr’s A State of Jane takes us through Jane’s adventures in dating. As she grows more frustrated with the online dating scene and the way men tend to flake out for no reason, Jane decides to take her friend Andrew’s advice about dating, and this is where our story really takes off.

Much the way she did in Just Friends With Benefits, Meredith Schorr gives us an all-too-recognizable heroine. OK, I’ve never gotten up to some of Jane’s antics, but there have been times when I’ve certainly wanted to. Certainly, navigating the dating terrain is not easy, and Schorr captures that feeling of “I don’t know why it went wrong” so perfectly. Of course, as interested but objective observers in Jane’s life, we can see the mistakes she’s making… which makes an interesting point about not being able to discern our own dating foibles, but I digress.

I confess that at times I got really frustrated with Jane. I can’t explain too much of why here, or else it would spoil the story, so I’ll say this about it: I didn’t like the way Jane treated people sometimes. For a few pages there, I frankly didn’t like Jane. However, Jane’s behavior is an integral part of her journey and she had to go through this stage to grow into her true self. That being said, I still wanted to shake her, and which made me again appreciate the authenticity of the friendships Meredith includes in her stories.

We tell our friends we want them to be honest with us. But sometimes, when they are, no matter how lovingly the message is delivered, we just don’t want to hear it. So in A State of Jane I thought the confrontations between Jane and her friends and the conflicts in their relationships were portrayed authentically. It is often the people we love the most who are also the people we hurt the most.

And the final thing I really liked about A State of Jane is the way that it ends. No spoilers here, but I felt the ending was perfect.

Chick lit fans- and fans of Just Friends With Benefits– will really enjoy A State of Jane.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Get your copy:

Amazon

B&N

iBooks

Kobo

 

Marching

Posted on 23 Jan 2017 In: Doing

I marched in the Women’s March in Washington, DC. I was part of the more than one million  people who marched around the world on Saturday.  That March that left me speechless and exhausted on Saturday, and full of emotion and gratitude that I had been a part of it on Sunday.

The March that wasn’t about  protesting or being a sore loser, but instead being a citizen concerned about the agenda of  the new administration.

I have been told the march is stupid, that the President says America belongs to the people and I shouldn’t be protesting; that because the President is calling for unity, I am being divisive by disagreeing with him and voicing that disagreement. That it is only people not in agreement with the President who are causing a divide…but you’ll still pray for me.

I marched because I watched the man who is now President mock a disabled man on television- and who is trying to gaslight me into thinking I didn’t see him do it.  A man who has never apologized for making fun of someone.

I marched because I heard the man who is now President boast about “grabbing women by the pussy” – that is sexual assault.

I marched because too many people are more upset that women have taken back the word pussy than they are that the man who is now President boasted about grabbing women by the pussy, and dismissed it as  “locker room talk.”

I marched because the man who is now President deflects from real issues by tweeting nonsense and snark every time he gets his feelings hurt.

I marched because the man who is now President actually wants us to believe in “alternative facts”.  Alternative facts, my friends, are LIES.

I marched because calling for unity as you’re crowing that walls will be built and whole groups of people may be forced to register, is lip service, and not a true call for unity.

I marched because the man who is now President does not believe in science, does not believe in Climate Change.

I marched because the man who is now President brags more about Russia, where the march wasn’t even legal, than he does his own country.

I marched because the man who is now President questioned the legitimacy of the previous President for years, yet refuses to acknowledge that Russia attempted to influence our election.

I marched because I question the motivations of the people the man who is now President is appointing.

I marched because Black Lives Matter.

I marched because I don’t believe that immigrants and LBGTQ people are second class citizens.

I marched because the last time people were registered in large measure, millions of people died and the  United States put our own people in camps.  I refuse to allow that to happen again.

I’ve read that  by marching, we’ve destroyed everything that women have worked for. That we are marching to be noticed, and not for women’s rights.  That we’re vulgar, nasty, two-faced bigots because we use the President’s words to criticize him.

I marched because too many other women are missing the point.

I marched because I believe my doctors and I are best qualified to decide what happens to my body.

I marched because accessible and affordable healthcare are women’s rights, and human rights.  So, yes, women are concerned when our government wants to defund Planned Parenthood- which provides low cost health care to innumerable women each year.  For women who live in areas where traditional medical care is not easily accessible, Planned Parenthood may be their only real option.

I marched because when the new 115th Congress began working on Day 1 to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they did so with no plan to replace it.  Despite me being employed full time, I am not eligible for insurance through my employer- the ACA is the best place for me to see Healthcare options and get coverage. And now I’m very concerned what happens if I get sick, or get into an accident.  This is for me, this is for the MILLIONS who will be uninsured with the repeal of the ACA.  When uninsured people get a little sick, going to the doctor isn’t always financially feasible. And sometimes that “little sickness” turns into a bigger, more expensive illness. And with no insurance, everyone else bears the burden of the cost.

Of course, we want to criticize Trump for his words.

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.”

“I did try and fuck her. She was married.”

“Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

We tell our children their bodies are their own and no one has the right to touch them without their consent, then we elect a man who brags about it. That’s is what is vulgar about this.

The ultimate definition of privilege is thinking a problem doesn’t exist because it doesn’t affect you.  This isn’t wanting attention, this is wanting the status to be quo for everyone regardless of gender, geography, or economics when it comes to body autonomy and healthcare.

I marched because the only way I could have more privilege is if I were male, and it’s my duty to work to help others have the same opportunities and privilege I do.

I marched because I’m a citizen of this country, and I have the right to make my voice heard.  I marched because the current administration is pushing an agenda at odds with my beliefs, and I can sit down and watch it happen, or I can stand up and say “this is not OK”.  It’s easy to be complacent. It’s right to speak out.

.  

I’ve read the comments where you call marchers “feminazis” who are  a disgrace to intelligent women.

Gloria Steinem, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Smith College; a Doctorate of Human Justice from Simmons College.  She’s a feminist, sure, but she’s not unintelligent.She spoke and inspired at the Women’s March in DC.

Cecile Richards, a graduate of Brown University. A Feminist, but not unintelligent.

Van Jones, who spoke so eloquently of love- a Feminist, and not unintelligent.

Michael Moore, brilliant at inspiring people to action. A Feminist, and not unintelligent. He gave us concrete steps to take to continue to make our voices heard.

Angela Davis, multiple degrees, most definitely a Feminist, and not unintelligent.

Sophie Cruz, only six years old and a far more eloquent speaker than most people I know.  A young  Feminist, indeed. But not unintelligent.

All of these speakers and more gave positive, inspiring speeches to the crowds. Crowds that stretched from 3rd to 17th along Independence and down side streets, swelling far further than anticipated in DC and around the world.

I know artists, attorneys, nannies, teachers, writers, doctors, homemakers, executives, grant writers, lobbyists,  office workers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, friends, partners,  spouses, and single people who marched in different cities all over the US.  All Feminists. All intelligent people.  All exercising their rights, even their duties as concerned citizens.  And there is  absolutely no disgrace in that.

Hidden Figures

Posted on 10 Jan 2017 In: Reading

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It’s another collaboration with Stephen Brown  of Silver Screen Capture. I read the book, we both saw the movie. I’m reviewing the book, he’s reviewing the film, and we both answered a few questions.

If you haven’t heard of Hidden Figures yet, you will. The film is getting tons of buzz- more than the book did, I think, when it was released in the fall of 2016. In fact, if I recall correctly, the film rights were optioned before the book was even finished.

I’m writing the first part of this review before I see the film. Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly, tells an important story: the story of the women of color who performed critical mathematical computations that not only ensured a technological aviation superiority in WW2 and beyond, but also put our astronauts safely in space- and more importantly, safely home.

In an era where these women could not even use the same restrooms as their female counterparts, where they could not sit anywhere they wanted to in the Langley cafeteria, where they were in any and all definable ways second class citizens, they directly influenced the course of American history.  And until now, most of us had no idea about it.

From the minute I found out Hidden Figures existed, I wanted to read the book and promptly ordered it.  I really wanted to love it, the same way I want to love the film.  But I’ll be  honest, getting to love the book was a tedious process.  Until about halfway through the book, I just wasn’t connecting with it.  I was reading about these women, and was impressed with their intelligence and gumption, but I didn’t feel like I was seeing much of them.  The best comparison/contrast  I can come up with TheAstronaut Wives Club, set in the same general timeframe, about the women behind the Mercury and Apollo astronauts.  With The Astronaut Wives Club, I felt a warmth and humanity about the women, like I was really getting a glimpse of who they were.  That  same feeling, for me, is missing from Hidden Figures until about halfway through the book.  The turning point for me came when we began to delve more deeply into Katherine Goble Johnson.   For some reason, at that point, I began to connect more with all of the women and their story.   From there, I was engaged in the story and at the end, felt the book was a solid enjoyment that I highly recommend.

I saw the film Hidden Figures. And I did love it.  I freely admit I nearly teared up at the end. The film did precisely what I expected it to do- make you root for Dorothy, Mary, Katherine, and the other ladies from the first moment of the film.  It humanized them in a way the book took longer to do.  But like most film adaptations, it missed nuances and backstory you get in the book, so I highly encourage you to read the book and see the movie.

Because this is an important story- important for so many reasons.  It’s important because so many girls are still taught that to be smart and to be good at math are unattainable or undesirable things.  It’s important because we still have a long way to go with full equality and respect between the races. We may no longer have institutionalized, legal discrimination, but, to paraphrase Dr. Horrible,  the status is not quo with respect to race and ethnicity in this country. It’s important because we are living in a country where an appalling  number of people deny or doubt science.  We live in a country where the national desire to achieve scientific advancement and a sense of pride in our scientific achievement just isn’t there any more.

The surest way to combat ignorance is to read. Read things that teach you about other people and cultures. Read things that show true courage and heroics.  Read things that show this courage and heroics in everyday people who challenged themselves and convention.

This, this is how we more forward.  And this is why you need to read Hidden Figures.

Here’s the Q and A with me (TBF)  and Stephen from Silver Screen Capture (SSC)

Question: What made this an important story to tell?

TBF: It’s an unknown or unrecognized part of history that celebrates minority women for major achievements, despite so many odds being stacked against them. It makes science and math heroic activities performed by smart women.

SSC: The film is even more groundbreaking than its makers may have even known, what with glass ceilings, bathroom controversies and stereotypes still plaguing Modern America. The real-life characters were presented in a reverent, almost saintly portrayal. I almost wish the chronicle of their struggles had been a bit more visceral. These women were true trailblazers.

Question: What key points made it an effective tale to read or enjoy in the movie theatre?

TBF: For me, reading the book, it was the reminders of segregation and that the women had to do so much more than white men to be seen as credible, even approaching equal. And the reminder that a success and advancement for any of these women was a victory for African-Americans as a whole- they were fighting for themselves and their community.

SSC: The film valued sentimentality over genuine suspense. I found it approached the characters at surface level from a bit of a safe distance. But there are so few movies presenting such positive portrayals of women or African-American women that one can look past wishes that it would be a little less color-by-numbers.

Question: What characters fared the best in the translation?

TBF: Katherine Johnson the best, I think. But really all three main characters- Dorothy, Mary and Katherine. The movie gave them a more vibrant personality that may not have always translated on the page, but all three were drawn true to the core aspects of the women in the book.

SSC: Octavia Spencer’s Dorothy, in her bootstraps quest to become a supervisor, had the most satisfying story arch.

Question: How did the author/director bring history to life?

TBF: The importance of the NACA and NASA missions- what it took to advance our fleet of aircrafts for military purposes, of course. But then the most important part was the effort to keep our astronauts safe. I’ve always loved stories of our first astronauts and the courage they must have had to take on something so new. But until now, I hadn’t really thought about all the effort and work it took behind the scenes, and Hidden Figures really explores that aspect.

SSC: The actresses were superb, but I feel the director could have provided meatier material. We know going in that it’s a rather untold story, yet I’m still not sure I got in the veins of the characters to truly understand their verve and passion. Movies like this can have a slightly wax museum quality about them. I loved the story and even applauded at the end along with my fellow late-night theater-goers.

 

On Hitler’s Mountain

Posted on 2 Jan 2017 In: Reading

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On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood is my first completed read of 2017. In Irmgard Hunt’s memoir, she recounts growing up under Hitler. She tries to understand how ordinary German people succumbed to Nazi rule, and understand the legacy of the Third Reich so that it never happens again.

As I was reading this book, I found myself underlining so many passages. While I don’t think we are on the cusp of another Holocaust, there are certain parallels in the rhetoric of the Nazis and our current climate.

The ground rules in a German family were the same as in the German state: Punish independence, rebellion against orders, and speaking up; instead, foster unquestioning obedience, submission, orderliness, and hard work.” (15).  If you have read or studied much about some fundamental evangelicalism (Quiverfull, patriarchy), then you will see the parallels here with the idea of unquestioning, unwavering obedience.

Hunt takes to task the general passivity of the German people, including her own family.  She highlights how conditions in Post-World-War 1 Germany set the foundation for Hitler’s ascension to power and how he enthralled supporters.  “But Mutti (mother) said that they were deeply alarmed by the local newspaper headlines of daily violence in the streets of big cities and the chaos that might lead to another Bolshevik revolution or worse, all out civil war (19).”

Further, she talks about how her parents’ generation were “easy prey” for Hitler.  “After years of being made to feel like beggars and scum, they lent an eager ear to the man who told them that Germany was not only a worthy nation, but a superior one  (emphasis mine). Anyone who promised economic stability would capture the nation’s mind and soul as well. Of all the Weimar politicians, only Hitler understood fully that playing up patriotism and making false promises to every interest group wold garner a following. And most important, perhaps, he realized that instilling fear of a vaguely defined enemy- the “conspirators of world Jewry”- would bring suspicious and traumatized people, including my own mother and father, to his side (emphasis mine, 29).”

As I read these passages, I was struck by the alarming similarities to language being used today.  It made me recognize even more the importance of ensuring we learn from history and do not repeat it- that we hold each other accountable.

Hunt acknowledges that ordinary Germans did not really know about the mass killings by the Nazi party until the very end and aftermath of the war.  But they were inundated with only Nazi propaganda. Early on, people understood that to speak against the furher was tantamount to treason. Still, Hunt recognizes that all Germans of that era bear some culpability in the actions of the Holocaust, even when they knew nothing about it. Complacency and passivity and silence are as destructive as committing the acts.

Hunt recalls how she was torn between Nazi indoctrination- looking forward to joining the Hitler Youth, for example-and the reality she saw around her. There was never enough food to eat, though the Nazi officers living above the village on the mountain, had plenty.  Her own mother seemed to still love the Fatherland, but as the war dragged on and on, began to become jaded.  While Hitler and his henchmen encouraged women to be active in the war effort, as well as keepers of the home, Hunt’s mother resisted as much as she could.

Outside recalling the horrors of the Third Reich, Hunt also movingly recounts the lean times during and after the War. She also explores how one’s moral code can shift a bit when survival is at play.    And, she tells the story of the mundane, every day activiites during war time. Children are still children, parents and children still have conflict.  It is a glimpse into a very ordinary life in an extraordinary time.

For anyone with an interest in history and who likes personal memoirs, you must consider reading this book. If you are at all concerned about the rhetoric being spouted today in this country, I urge you to read On Hitler’s Mountain.

Everyone Loves You Back

Posted on 27 Dec 2016 In: Reading

screenshot96 Did you ever listen to Click and Clack, of NPR’s Car Talk? Then Everyone Loves You Back has an immediate hook for you. Author Louie Cronin was a producer for Car Talk. And this is her debut novel.

From the Amazon summary:
Sex. Wine. Jazz. Existential dread.

Meet Bob, a sarcastic radio technician who has enough on his plate trying to navigate his forties without his Cambridge neighborhood becoming overrun by urban treehuggers and uppity intellectuals in tracksuits. Between a love triangle, a rapidly shrinking job market, and the looming threat of finally growing up, Bob is forced to dig deep―man―and figure out not just what he wants, but who he is. Change hits hard when you live in the past.

Louie Cronin’s breakthrough novel is a coming-of-middle-age story that pays homage to the everyday.

I loved  Car Talk, and learning about Cronin’s connection to the show, and that she was writing about radio, is what made me want to read the book.

And so, with a glass of wine beside me and a soundtrack of Yo Yo Ma, Mozart,  Bach, and Dead Can Dance, I sat down the night after Christmas and read the whole thing.  Overall, I really enjoyed it.  The prose is smart, and while I didn’t laugh out loud, I did find myself smiling- sometimes wryly- more than once.

I liked that the characters were full on adults.  Living in a city that is subject to the same types of development as in this story I could certainly identify with that part of the plot.In fact, Cambridge is as much a character as any of the people. I liked seeing some of the behind the scenes of the radio world.

The characters were entertaining, and drawn out enough that you understand their connection to the story.  I actually thought a few of them would be a fun group at a dinner party.  Some of the neighbors would certainly give you good stories to share with friends. There were four “B” names in the story- all men- so you did have to pay a bit of attention to keep all of them straight.

Without giving much context here, no spoiling, I thought that Bob’s complacence rang true. Most of us have had  time in our life where it is easier to stay the course than it is to make a major change; where starting something new can be almost too daunting.  And I completely understood Bob’s indignation when a secret with one character is revealed. No more on that so you won’t get spoiled. I also understood why his neighbors so got to Bob, although I think there are times where he let that work against him.

Riff was a delightful character- he’s at the point where really, he has few f’s left to give, and doesn’t mind letting that be known.

This is a highly recommend for me, and I look forward to more from Louie Cronin.

 

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