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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Twenty Boy Summer

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Just when I thought I was more than ready for fall and its chilly temperatures, pumpkin spice lattes and sweaters-and-tights, Twenty Boy Summer has made me just a bit nostalgic for summer.

Anna and Frankie are best friends who share almost everything. Everything except one secret about Matt, Frankie's brother. Matt and Anna have fallen for each other, and he wants to be the one to break the news to Frankie. However, Matt unexpectedly dies before he can do that--leaving his family in emotional turmoil and Anna facing the question of whether to share her feelings for him with Frankie.

Fast forward one year. Anna still hasn't filled in her best friend as the girls head to the beach with Frankie's slightly dysfunctional family. Frankie's mission: Interact with at least 20 boys in the hopes of helping Anna shed her "albatross" {virginity}. Anna's mission: Help Frankie and her family grieve while hiding her own grief.

Twenty Boy Summer is somewhat typical young adult chick lit with fashion, boys, clueless parents and pop culture references. Ockler does a great job of showing how the characters deal (and don't deal) with grief, but there was potential to go deeper and further explore this side of the story. I wondered if that would lessen the appeal for young adults, though.

Meanwhile, I was a bit surprised by the careless attitude Frankie and Anna had toward sex in general and their virginity in particular. Both girls treated it as if it was no big deal and as if whatever decision they made would have little, if any, emotional impact. I'm not trying to sound preachy, but they were only 16--huge decisions for 16 year-olds to be making. I just didn't get the sense that they recognized that, and that seemed unrealistic to me.

Otherwise, though, the book was excellent. Ockler tackles issues like grief and family relationships that so many young adults face without making the overall tone of the novel too heavy. You'll find well-written characters and an engaging story that might leave you nostalgic for summer as well.

Favorite quotes...

Weeping is different from crying. It takes your whole body to weep, and when it's over, you feel like you don't have any bones left to hold you up.

Since Matt's death, the earth has made more than one full trip around the sun--plenty of time to be Over It, according to the official books and therapists and school counselors that tried to talk to me about my "caretaker" role in Frankie's life. But Frankie isn't over it. I'm not over it.

When someone you love dies, people ask you how you're doing, but they don't really want to know. They seek affirmation that you're OK, that you appreciate their concern, that life goes on and so can they. Secretly they wonder when the statute of limitations on asking expires (it's three months, by the way. Written or unwritten, that's about all the time it takes for people to forget the one thing that you never will).

It happened and it was impossible and beautiful and then it ended before it even really began, leaving nothing behind but secrets and broken hearts.

When I almost topple the board, he gently grabs my arm to balance me, and I have to look away, pretending he's my overweight, middle-aged, female gym teacher giving me a swimming lesson.

I certainly can't endure the kind of impossible embarrassment required during the ditching of one's albatross with someone I might actually like.

The whole idea of losing one's virginity is kind of ridiculous. To lose something implies carelessness. A mistake that you can fix simply by recovering the lost object, like your cell phone or your glasses. Virginity is more like shedding something than losing it.

Why does it have to be so special? Frankie says the first time isn't special. It's a minor inconvenience, an act no more significant than going to the dentist...The next time--and all subsequent next times--can be special, but not the first.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Roastbeef's Promise

Roastbeef's Promise by David Jerome

Roastbeef (so nicknamed for the amount of that dish he could put away as a kid) hits the road to fulfill his dad's dying wish of having his ashes sprinkled in each state (well, each of the 48 contiguous states). Sound too dark to be funny? Don't let the premise scare you.

This novel is laugh-out-loud, side-hurting, bladder-squeezing funny. Roastbeef runs into car trouble, money trouble and family trouble during his 18 months or so on the road and is forced to "depend on the kindness of strangers." Of course, along the way, he learns many lessons about the good and bad sides of states and of humanity as well. (And I might've picked up a thrifty tip or two.)

The stories he relates are so bizarrely interesting that I had trouble believing David Jerome just invented them (who could make up some of this stuff?), so I was somewhat relieved to see that the novel is loosely based on Jerome's own travel experiences.

I did find myself wishing he had included a soundtrack where a different song would accompany each chapter. If you want to build your own playlist to listen to while you read, I suggest No Particular Place to Go, A Good Run of Bad Luck and, of course, quintessential traveling songs like Truckin' and Ramblin' Man.

That's the only thing that could make this tale of honoring a father's quirky last wish any better. The characters are all over the place but great fun--from frat boys to cowboys, from a crazed temp boss to an undercover lesbian, many, many hitchhikers and even a few bikers. Each "drop site" is highly anticipated and well-described, and you'll be itching to see what he says about your state.

I'll get you started on his observation about mine:
I noticed that Texans seize every opportunity to show their fierce independence, even decorating their sewer caps with the Lone Star symbol.
I must admit--this is totally true.

For further delight, check out these two sites:

Other Favorite quotes...

I knew the news was coming, but there's something different between knowing that death is imminent and the cold, hard, smack-in-the-face reality of it.

I tossed and turned all night in the noisy sweatbox, all the time thinking that a smelly, naked foreigner was sleeping on top of me.

He had a...laugh...that sounded exactly like Dad's...Every time he laughed, I had this strange feeling of simultaneous joy and sorrow. I took a seat on the couch behind the man and closed my eyes and tried to imagine I was home watching television with Dad. I never said a word to the man or even looked him in the face, but for a tear-filled half hour in a travel center in North Dakota, I had my dad back.

The bus took us south on Highway 71 through towns called Butler, Lamar and Jasper. All three names sounded to me like characters on the TV show Fat Albert.

I was greeted at the stadium's entrance by a large bronze statue of Bear Bryant, a man who could have run for Governor of Alabama against God and won in a landslide.

I liked the recycling spirit of these Carolina folk. Why throw your tree leaves away when you can make a hat out of them? Why throw away a perfectly good car hood when the town needs a speed-limit sign?

Just because there's some snow on the roof don't be thinkin' there's no fire in the fireplace.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Simple Life of List-Making

I just finished two lovely books that I'm not going to review but that I will recommend:

Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James and
The Man Who Made Lists by Joshua Kendall

The Man Who Made Lists takes a look at Peter Mark Roget. Roget as in the Thesaurus. Fascinating man! Not only did he obsessively make lists of words (and categorize and organize them), he was also a brilliant doctor, scientist and intelligent design proponent. He persevered through several family tragedies and, ultimately, produced one of the all-time great Reference books.

I still remember opening the giant Roget's Thesaurus in my tiny Mars Hill Bible School library in second grade. I was bored and, thus, antsy in class (imagine that), so my teacher sent me to the library and told me to "research" something that interested me. Well, words interested me, and I pored over the thesaurus every chance I got. Good times. :)

Simplify Your Life was interesting because I have already adopted many of the 100 practices she recommends. Thanks to my husband going to grad school and us becoming seminarians, we have been forced to downsize. We now drive one car, live in a smaller place, have given up cable and magazine subscriptions--all suggestions St. James advocates. We also consciously have made the decision to eat healthier--sticking with lots of fruits and veggies, not much meat, lots of water, that sort of thing. And our life is, surprisingly, better in a lot of ways! (And I just thought this picture was simply beautiful.)

A few things I haven't gotten behind yet that she encourages: journaling (my blogs have apparently taken the place of my journals), totally giving up tv-watching (we still rent and watch shows online), giving up high heels (what?!?!) and buying in bulk. I make one trip/week to my Kroger, which is about a block from where we live, and when I say we downsized to a smaller place, I'm not exaggerating--our apartment is teensy. So I just can't convince myself that saving 10 cents on toilet paper is worth the effort of going to another store and making room for storage. Anyone got any thoughts or tips on this practice?

How have you simplified your life? Or is that even a goal for you?

Wearing Wednesdays #2

What am I wearing this Wednesday?

Dark red nail polish and a classic white button-down shirt.

Nail polish usually doesn't work for me. I run around too much to keep it nice or let it dry. But Jason and I had a movie marathon on Sunday (Monsters vs. Aliens and Land of the Lost), so I took advantage of the sit-still time to paint my nails this kind of berry-wine shade that always makes me think of autumn. I've had to do a few touch-ups this week, but it's mostly been OK. Is this the secret to having nice, lovely nails? Any nail painters out there have other tips?

Meanwhile, I love my two white button-down shirts, but I always have to wear something under them because they're so thin. Anyone else have this issue? Suggestions?

Happy Wednesday, everyone! (And I know this idea is kind of is taking your own picture...but it's fun! Join along!)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This and That

Thought I'd show you what we've been up to for the past week or so with a few random pictures that haven't made their way onto the blog...until now...

Eating lunch outside because the weather has been so nice...

Looking at this...

Can you see the turtles? We think there are three living in the pond...

Finishing my Woman to Woman Ministry class...

Getting a new (to us) lampshade...

Jason trying to defeat the impossible puzzle, as my niece calls it...

And me trying to convince Jason that we need another puppy. This one's taken...

Hope your week is off to a good start!

Job Searching With Your Helpful Librarians

I am about halfway done with two very good books--The Man Who Made Lists by Joshua Kendall and Roastbeef's Promise by David Jerome. I'll be reviewing Roastbeef's Promise soon. Preview: A son takes his father's ashes on a cross-country tour. Surprisingly funny.

Until then...

Dallas librarians are helping many in the job search. {Well of course they are; don't be ridiculous.} ;)

And so is the brilliant Rachel Singer Gordon

If you're still looking, here's an online career fair

And a well-recommended site to help you librarians with programming

On the ironic side of life, it looks as if the American Psychological Association forgot to consult its editor when publishing its style manual. Oops.

Hope your weekly reading is off to a good start! I'll have that review soon. Let's say by Saturday. :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

FTC Shutting Down Blogger Freebies?

Well, well, well...the FTC is concerned about bloggers getting free stuff then writing about it. As if just because we get something for free we're going to lie and say it's great even if we don't like it. So they're going to attempt to regulate all of these Internet freebies.

I predict this will be about as successful as the SEC trying to ban fans from using Twitter, Facebook and Flickr during games.

Why wait until December 1? Here's my disclosure now (and, FTC people, consider this a blanket disclosure because I'm only doing it once).

Companies send me books.
For free. No payment except the free books.
I write reviews of them--honest reviews--both good and bad.
The end.

Thoughts on this? Fellow reviewers--will this change any of your practices?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The Korean student association here at SWBTS is kind enough to feed the entire campus once a year with a delicious mix of noodles, rice, kimchi (one of my all-time favorite foods) and bulgogi, which is basically Korean barbecue. And it's soooo good. I always have to break my mostly vegetarian diet for this stuff.

Sidenote: it's pronounced bull-go-gee (with a hard g as in "golly"), and the rhythm of it reminds me of that scene in There's Something About Mary where Matt Dillon is lying about the villagers calling him "Kintuntee," and Magda, entranced, leans forward and says "Kintuntee."

Always makes me giggle.

Anyway, usually it's outside, but we held it at the student center this year because it was raining. I didn't get any great shots, but these were still kind of fun...

These don't do justice to the size of the crowd. The place was PACKED...

Sweet family...

This kid cracked me up...kept swinging out over the stairs. The dad finally caught on. :)

Poor balloon-headed kid...

My sweet lunch companions...sorry about the glare...

We ate in the basement to escape the crowds, which was nice...but a little creepy...

Now I'm hungry for some kimchi!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blockbuster Books, Funnies and Not-So-Funnies

I walked into our neighborhood Blockbuster last week and noticed that they are now selling books. I suppose they're all movie tie-ins or inspirations, but it still seemed...odd. Of course, I'm a compartmentalized kind of person. Thoughts? Perhaps this will be next?

Yes, President Obama won the Nobel Prize...but what about the Ig Noble awards? I think this might be my husband's kind of research!

This picture gave me another giggle.

Not making me giggle, meanwhile, is the news that Emory libraries are cutting 29 positions. On the flip side, I was intrigued with the idea of consolidating service desks into a "one-stop information center." Thoughts on this? Too much like Wal-Mart, or would it actually provide better service?

More magazines are also shutting down...

An article extolling Google Books, which I love-love-love...

And one on Edith Wharton and Paris, a city which I did not love when I visited more than 10 years ago. I'd be willing to give it another shot if someone wants to send me, though. :)

Finally, a follow-up to the report about the class differences between Facebook and MySpace users. I am intrigued by this idea!

I'm also intrigued by the books I'm currently reading, but I'm taking my time and savoring them...thus making rather slow progress. We'll chat again later this week, though. Hope yours is off to a good start!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Church Pics

We are officially at a new church now, and we like it a lot. :)

Meanwhile, here are a few pics of said church...

And one random pic of a ladies' event I went to there recently...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What Am I Wearing on Wednesday

I totally took this idea from Brooke (who took it from someone else, I think, so it's OK, right?) and thought I'd show you what I'm wearing this Wednesday.

I'm not exactly trendy, so I'm not just showing off my fashion (or lack thereof). This is actually the first time I've done the whole scarf-as-an-accessory-and-not-just-for-warmth thing, so I've been a little self-conscious about it. It sort of bothers me in the same way that turtlenecks did when I was a kid. But I love turtlenecks now, so I might get used to this, right? It's super-cute on other people, but I'm just not sure it's for me.

Oui? Non? Further thoughts?


So I finished Omerta by Mario Puzo, and I didn't want to do a full book review because I just didn't enjoy it as much as I did The Godfather and The Sicilian, both of which made me swoon. And kind of made me want to be Italian. And perhaps in the Mafia. Not really. OK, maybe a little.

Anyway, Omerta still had some good quotes, so I wanted to pass those along.

Vincenzo Zeno was a man of honor, who all his life had been loved for his fair and impartial judgment, his help to those in need and his implacable punishment of those who dared to oppose his will...Don Zeno was the last of the true Mafia chiefs, having all his life observed the old traditions. He extracted a tariff on all business, but never on drugs or prostitution. And never did a poor man come to his house for money and go away empty-handed. He corrected the injustices of the law--the highest judge in Sicily could make his ruling, but if you had right on your side, Don Zeno would veto that judgment with his own force of will, and arms.

Never dribble when you can pass. Never quit when you're 20 points down in the last quarter. And never go out with a woman who owns more than one cat.

She was absolutely opposed to the death penalty...Killing was killing and would set us all back to cannibalism or worse.

He had prudently retired to play the stock market, where he was pleasantly surprised that he could steal as much money with no risk of legal punishment whatsoever.

Truly Mafioso. She has a warm heart but a cold mind.

Now I think I might have to check out The Godfather for this weekend.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Finding Grace

Finding Grace by Donna VanLiere

There's a point in everybody's life when the wheels come off; for me they came off...and I found myself stranded in the desert, wandering around in the dust of broken dreams.

Donna VanLiere's broken dreams brought her to a point in life where she was facing a lot of ungrace.

Ungrace pulsates in our workplaces, our communities and in the media and tells us that regardless of what has happened we must do better, look better and make ourselves better. But to love and accept someone regardless of their flaws and failures is a breath of hope in a harsh, finger-wagging world...That's grace.

She poignantly and transparently deals with sexual abuse she faced as a child (I was a cynic before I entered kindergarten), infertility, adoption and just the stuff of life without ever becoming too heavy or overly emotional.

Her faith is obviously strong, but she is quick to let the reader know that it's not always easy to maintain when your life circumstances are difficult. Her thoughts on faith were my favorites...

We assume that if we have a "dignified" job, obey the law, stay out of jail and pay our taxes on time that we're entitled to some small corner of happiness. We believe that if we're kind to clerks and waitresses, throw a few dollars to the homeless and back a worthy cause that God, like some mystical omniscient Santa, will keep the presents coming.

I wanted something like "CliffsNotes" faith that would give me all the answers without the work.

Take a step. Isn't faith a trip through the day without a map? And doesn't a genuine faith naturally spring from getting to know God better, and doesn't that happen with each step?

This book was beautifully written, and I think I would have enjoyed it whatever my life circumstances. But I think it really spoke to me right now because I know four couples who are adopting internationally and several others dealing with infertility. She helped me better understand what they are going through, and I hope I can help them find a little more grace in their situations. She has already helped me find grace in mine.

Other favorite quotes...

I knew so many people who tolerated their jobs...I figured we were all in this together, working OK jobs with an OK salary, just hobbling along as best we could on this OK journey.

A thin line separates joy and sorrow.

No matter what you're going through you can be assured of advice from stupid people.

Our culture views pain as something that should at least be minimized if not obliterated altogether. We admit we feel bad, but we want instant elimination of any traces of suffering. We tend to live in a happiness-centered society, and if we're not truly happy then something must be terribly wrong and off-balance. We like to reduce life down to something we can manage and feel God should not only defer to our plan but fully cooperate with it.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Overlapping Info

I love it when random readings overlap each other. I've been reading Cold Sassy Tree for book club this week (LOVE it!), and they kept talking about guano in relation to farming. It wasn't integral to the story, so I was lazy and didn't look it up even though I had no idea what it meant.

This morning, I was reading my daily encyclopedia entry (yes, I'm that much of a nerd). Today I was reading about Peru, where, apparently, they have large deposits of guano, or bird droppings, which makes a good fertilizer. Thus, the connection with Georgia farming in Cold Sassy Tree.

Happy Saturday. :)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Follow Friday

Follow Friday is a thing that goes around on Twitter, and this week, I'm bringing it to the blog.

I've had the pleasure of discovering some great new blogs in the last few weeks (some just new to me), so here are my recommendations...

Frugal in Fort Worth (frugal author)
If you live in the DFW area, and you're poor like we are or just a cheapskate ;), this is the site for you! She offers great suggestions for free or almost-free stuff to do, gives you coupons and highlights fun things in the area that I otherwise wouldn't know about.

Our Eyes Opened (Tesney)
Tesney is a friend from college, and she and her family are adopting a little guy from Eastern Europe. They have started an incredible journey! Most posts will also leave you laughing.

Playing Grown Up (Brooke)
This is such a lovely, creative and inspiring blog! I met Brooke briefly when I lived in Tuscaloosa, and we have a few mutual friends. She worked (works?) for my favorite coffee shop there, Heritage House. Oh, Heritage House, how I miss your yummy brews. Anyway, check her out--she's fabulous!

Unlocking Femininity (various authors)
This is a site started by five female seminary students and is about what it means to be a godly woman. Disclaimer: I don't agree with everything they say, especially the gender stereotyping (women have a more "tender, sensitive heart" than men for example. Um, have they met my husband and me? No? Oh. OK.). However, they write well and make some excellent points (the post on Carrie Prejean? Loved. it.). And who says you have to agree with everything you read? There's something to be said for entertaining viewpoints that are different from your own.

So there are my suggestions. Enjoy, and have a happy weekend!

Mentoring, Penmanship, Banned Books and More

Very close to finishing three books this weekend! I have so enjoyed Saving Grace, Omerta and Cold Sassy Tree (I had not even heard of this one, but it is fabulous!)...but I'll just be doing a review on Saving Grace. Goal: Monday.


Do you have a mentor? I am so fortunate to have had my Aunt Ruth as my mentor for many years now. If you're a librarian and looking for one or want to be one, ALA wants to help you get connected.

I don't know about you, but my penmanship seems to be getting worse the older I get. Could it be technology to blame?

Did you celebrate Banned Books Week? I totally missed it...but I'd love to hear what you did!

This is what the Gadsden (Al.) PL did to celebrate...

Chicago's take on the changing face of library science

Another take on a similar issue

And one more--this one about {cringe} weeding

Hooray! The Philly Free Library is free from closing!

And I'm guessing this article about the menace of public libraries is full of sarcasm...

A list of newspaper archives

Yet another career networking site?

If you haven't networked with me yet, find me on Twitter and Facebook!

Read from the beginning...