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MOAM Book Club

It’s that time of year again….the “have-you-read-any-good-books” season.

And, yes, as a matter of fact, I have! Not as many as I’d like – magazines and falling asleep mid-page can do that to a girl. As can watching a bunch of losers being batted into a pool by a mechanical arm. Or seeing how long a slew of idiots can stand being hung from the ceiling in their underwear….. But hey, that’s summer TV. Which is why I’m talkin’ bout books. Even if you’re not a huge reader, in summertime it’s hard to resist the lure of the page. After all, how many times can you go see The Hangover?

OK don’t answer that. But when you’ve had your fill of Mr Chow and the boys, and you’ve admitted that Bruno was boring and that you actually liked The Proposal, then it’s library time. Besides, 500 Days of Summer isn’t out yet…..

Here’s a small list to get you through the rest of the season…..Or at least a couple of weeks…

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill – I actually read this one last summer. Maybe I blogged about it back then too. Whatev. It’s worth a double take because it’s awesome and devastating and impossible to put down – or forget. It’s historical fiction at its most brutal – and most stunning. One of those books you read in two days. And you cry. And you discuss with everyone else who’s read it. And rave about it to those who haven’t. And then they buy it. And read it in two days. And cry. And discuss…And so on. Required reading.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway is another one. Historical fiction? Check. Well written? Check. Read in a weekend? Check. Brutal? Devastating? Brilliant? Check, check and check. Part character study, part thriller, part morality lesson, it’s a love letter to a city torn apart during our lifetime… as we watched it on the news.

If you like deep and brooding, then The Outcast by Sadie Jones is for you. Set in 1950’s England, join our anti-hero on his hellish journey to prison and back. Innocence lost. Troubled times. Terrible crimes. Or maybe not. Like our main man, you’ll find yourself heartbroken as you look for love beneath the darkness. There’s something familiar about this book, whether in the telling, or the tale, but in a good way. Think Ian McEwan….

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell isn’t the most brilliant book of all time, but it’s extremely readable. A young woman learns she is the only surviving relative of an aunt she never knew existed – a woman who didn’t play by the rules, who was ahead of her time. While it’s tempting to simply file this away under “women’s fiction”, it’s much more than that…
And it’s by the woman who wrote After You’d Gone, so how bad can it be? (If you haven’t read that one, grab some kleenex and start)

Is this more like a winter reading list? Is it getting too heavy for you? Had enough of the depressing stuff?

Sunnier times can be found in I Love You Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. The author was one of the writers on The Simpsons and Beavis and Butthead. Need I say more? The book opens with the class Valedictorian giving his graduation speech… and announcing his love for the most popular girl in school. School’s out, so wat’s he got to lose, right?? With snappy dialogue and genius coming-of-age moments, it’s no big surprise that this one’s coming soon to a theater near you. The book’s hi-larious. The movie? Who knows…

The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is more of a conversation piece than a thumping good read. Those who like Mr. Gladwell, like him a lot. And no wonder. He dissects pop culture and makes you feel like a smartypants as he articulates things you never knew that you knew (does that make sense?) This is great for idle party chatter. Or dates.

10 Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer had all the gals talking last year. Except me who had to wait for the paperback version. Again, “women’s fiction” to be sure, but resonated with, erm, some people as it’s about a group of moms who ditch their promising careers to stay home with their kids. Of course, one day they “wake up” to find their kids at school and themselves… erm… lost in their own mundane lives. If that sounds at all familiar, then give it a whirl, if only for the “hey! I-know-her/she’s-me” moments.

Last, but by no means least, make sure Bitter Sweets by Roopa Farooki is in your cottage bag. This one’s an intricate, inter-generational story about an Indian family. A family whose very foundations are laid on lies and deceit. These folks aren’t grifters exactly, more like “spicers”, whose stretching of the truth will catch up with them, eventually. This one’s a fun, clever, soap-opera of a novel. Perfect for summer. Or any time.

Enjoy……

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

al;ways a good blog this reading list! I have had the Book of Negroes next to my bed for months. I also want to read every other one on thelist. Of course I never get to read as I am too busy seeing the Hangover twice! I feel my 10 year nap will not only be related to kids, but to reading as well. I need a vacation just to read!

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July 10, 2009   No Comments

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Coloroso for Dummies

SPOILER ALERT: THIS BLOG IS ABOUT PARENTING. NO RANTS, JUST RAVES….

For real.

But if you’re still interested, read on. If not, a bientot….

Now, where was I? Aaaah yes. The trials and tribulations of parenting. The love. The joy. The pain….in the ass. It ain’t easy so I take any help I can get. And then I discard what I don’t need. Or want. I’ve read loads of books, been to a handful of courses. Some last several weeks, others a few hours. I pick ‘n mix and hope against hope that something someone said somewhere will stick by the time I get home. And that I’ll remember what it was and whether it worked. “Siblings Without Rivalry” is an awesome book. Ditto “How to Tame your Spirited Child”. Alyson.ca is good news. And Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s not bad.

And then there’s Babs. (Can I call her Babs?). Talk about a maven!!! Parent. Teacher. Author. Genocide expert. Ex-nun. Comedian.

OK, she’s not officially a comedian but she’s hilarious so I’m taking liberties. It’s my blog.

Last night was different. Different from the other gurus. Different than all other nights. Free coffee and two-bite brownies aside, it was amazing. It was Barbara Coloroso talking about everything from bullying to Rwanda to sibling rivalry. She was smart. She was funny. She was inspiring. I’m not one to prosthelytize – well, perhaps I am (Magic Bullet…American Idol…Piller’s Turkey Bites… oops did I really admit that? Moving on…) – but she was brilliant. I left her lecture feeling moved, energized, and confident. And tempted to shanghai her back to my house to hang out with me ‘n mine for a week or three.

But since that’s illegal, and undoubtedly expensive, I shall humbly attempt to paraphrase some of her better thoughts. Yes, I took notes. And it’s a good thing too. I’ve been asked to pass them on. Yes, the people have asked. And while there are no perfect answers, there are some damn good tips to help find them…

* Tattling vs. Telling…Tattling gets somebody INTO trouble. Telling gets someone OUT OF trouble. When in doubt, discuss.

*Bribes and Rewards are THE SAME THING. We’ve become a nation of gold-star earners. Doing The Right Thing shouldn’t be something that you get paid for. It’s something you just DO. It feels good because it is good. And that’s reward enough.

*Natural consequences: if it’s not life-threatening, or moral threatening, let it happen.

*Discipline. Don’t punish. Punishment doesn’t work – it sends ’em underground. Discipline is learning.

*Think in terms of US, OURS & ENOUGH….rather than me, mine and more.

*Teach your children HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

* Save the “no” for when you really mean it. Alternatives include “later”, “let me think about it/give me a minute” and (my fave) “convince me”. There is a time for “no” – used sparingly it’ll actually mean something. “No.” It’s a complete sentence.

*Don’t tell your kids what they already know.

*Mistakes happen. Own it, fix it, learn from it. And move on. Give your kids ways to problem solve while leaving their dignity in tact. And it doesn’t have to hurt.

*1,2,3…timeout. Doesn’t work. However, time out to fix a problem does, whether in a rocker, a room, or a lap. The goal is to calm everyone down and to let your child figure out a solution. Or to teach them how to fix what needs fixing.

*Teasing vs. Taunting: Teasing is two-sided, between friends, and gets both people laughing. Taunting is one-sided, laughing AT someone.

*”I’m sorry” doesn’t make something right. Instead, try fixing it and making sure it doesn’t happen again. Heal with the person you’ve hurt.

* Discpline doesn’t work for the under-3 crowd. Instead try one of her 3 D’s: Distract. Disorient. Disengage.

* Mean what you say and say what you mean.

* Conflict is inevitable. Don’t punish. Don’t rescue. Most of the time kids can sort stuff out on their own. And when they can’t, step in as a backbone, not an enforcer. Or enabler.

* Helping out is not a job. Chores are not paid for. Money is for saving, spending, or giving to others. Not for being a responsible citizen of a household.

* You can’t control someone else’s will.

There. I don’t need to write all this out 99 more times to make it stay in my head….Do I?! I was hoping just this once would get it to stick. Maybe it will. And maybe it won’t. But here’s hoping.

Good luck fellow freaks…..

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

wow! You did get a lot out of it…and took GREAT notes! Thanks for the synopsis, friend. Had I not been there myself, I would now feel that I had been there. I got her book from a friend earlier today…can share with you once I am done.

Good bloggin’ sister!

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November 11, 2008   1 Comment

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MOAM Book Club

It’s official – summer has begun with a bang: a clap of thunder and a barrage of hailstones.

Woo hoo!

School’s out, the livin’ is easy, and it’s complaining time (see: outside your window all afternoon if you’re local ). Too hot. Not hot. Road works. Traffic. Smog. Air con. And the list goes on. To go away or stay put isn’t the question but rather, can you afford it? And do you need to? Or should you just wait for winter?

TV of course is a non-issue – nothing’s on. I don’t know about the rest of you but, soundtrack aside, Swingtown ain’t doin’ it for me. Movies are a crap-shoot: ie. most are crap. Unless you’re in the 13-19 boy demo. And I am not. Before y’all get up in arms, I know there are exceptions, but the traditional summer blockbuster usually sucks. Unless you’re in cottage country or at a drive-in, in which case it matters not what you see – only that you’re seeing something at all.

Which is why every mag, paper and website puts out its annual summer reading list. And MOAM is no exception (erm…except that it’s not annual…)

And so, without further ado, I bring you the Mother of All Mavens All-Season Book Club: reviews short ‘n sweet of some books that deserve it. (In no particular order)

THEN WE CAME TO THE END by Joshua Ferris. This book is hi-larious. Especially if you’ve ever worked in an office – and who hasn’t at one point or another? It’s not the most brilliantly plotted novel, but it’s one of the most brilliantly observed. You’ll laugh out loud. A lot. The it’s-true-it’s-funny-cuz-it’s-true laughs. Are there any better kind?

THE EVERY BOY by Dana Shapiro. Author is a film guy so no suprise that this baby’s coming soon to a theatre near you. Or at least that’s the plan. This one’s a black comedy about 15-yr old Henry. And his many issues. You know the type – thinks he’s a freaky geek, but is actually just smart ‘n funny. In a dark and ultimately tragic way. Ok, his life’s more than little f&cked up. But look where he comes from… Grab this one quick – it’s sure to be better than the movie, as good books almost always are. And it’s short too.

Speaking of short, ON CHESIL BEACH by Ian McEwan is a one-dayer. Seriously. A weekend, max. I am a huge Ian McEwan fan and will read anything he writes, so I have to include this. Is it his best? Erm…no. Does it come close? Maybe not. But it’s Ian McEwan. And you can read it in one sitting, so why not?

RUN by Ann Patchett. Did anyone read The Magician’s Assistant? And Bel Canto? If not – lucky you, you can read ’em now. They’re awesome. If you have, then this book may already be on your radar. While not quite as good as Bel Canto, I still rank it. Family drama, secrets kept and exposed….And no, it’s not at all cheesy. It’s a fast and furious read, appropos of its title. The fact that I happened to buy it in large print by mistake made it an even faster read but still…

A SHORT HISTORY OF TRACTORS IN UKRAINIAN by Marina Lewycka. Strange title, strange book. Oddly compelling. Elderly widower falls for big-boobed gold-digger from the old country. Daughters can’t deal. Q-u-i-r-k-y. Loved it.

ARLINGTON PARK by Rachel Cusk. Set in an affluent suburb of London, where the smart, capable, men go to work and the smart capable women…. Well, let’s just say some of us may have over identified with some of these characters. Not me, of course. At least not with all of them anyway… (And if you like this one, you may also like THE TORONTONIANS by Phyllis Brett Young. Published in 1960, set in the 50’s. Not quite as good, but resonant and modern, with a lot more smoking.)

THE BOOK THIEF – by Markus Zusak. This is one of my favourites of the faves. It’s WW II. Death is everywhere. It’s even the narrator. It is. The story of a young girl and her family – the ones that were lost, the ones that were found, and the ones that found her. Sad, smart, funny – it’s even got doodles. What more could you ask for?

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRIDGE by Mary Lawson. Again, if you haven’t read her first book, Crow Lake, you should. And if you did, you’ll like this one too. A little bleak, a little depressing, a little tragic. Totally compelling. Canadiana to be sure, but in the best possible way.

THE ABSTINENCE TEACHER – Tom Perrotta. Funny + timely+ clever, clever, clever? It’s gotta be Tom Perrotta. And it is – very Tom Perrotta. Whatever he’s writing about, he gets it. he just does. So who wouldn’t want to come along for the ride?

So there you have it. No plot outlines, no spoilers, no hard covers. Just some damn good reads. Winter, spring, summer, or fall.

Posted by Mother of all Mavens at 1:58 PM

2 comments:

Anonymous said…

love it! Waiting for the Absitence Teacher (hint!!!!) and have wanted to read the Tractors one for months! Now for sure i will do it.

I always said reveiws were your thang.

3:53 PM

Leigh said…

May I add to your list

Breath by Tim Winton

On my top ten book list of all time. From the Telegraph:

“Breath, [Winton’s] ninth novel and the long-awaited follow-up to the acclaimed Dirt Music, is both a love letter to the sea and a moving coming-of-age story set in the 1960s among Australia’s burgeoning surfing community.

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June 23, 2008   No Comments

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There Ain’t No Flies on Us – Just Our Walls

I have this book I read to my kids – Thelonius Monster’s Sky High Fly Pie. It’s a rhyming one, funny and clever and illustrated by the guy who does stuff for The New Yorker. It starts off with this guy, Thelonius Monster, swallowing a fly – and deciding a fly would taste grand in a pie. Etc. And there’s this one line in it that I can’t get out of my head: “and now for the flies”.

‘Cuz we’ve still got ’em. Sewer flies. Still here. Only now they’re bigger and, it seems more resilient. Maybe it’s because we know what they are (and where they come from), but somehow they’re getting harder to kill. Before, when they were just flies, we’d slap the wall and they’d be dead. We’d bat at them mid-air, they’d drop to their deaths. Now, we whack ’em. And guess what? They take a licking and keep on ticking.

I’m beside myself.

I’ve called the exterminators who tried to reassure me, telling not to panic….yet. I asked them when I could start to panic, and they said it takes a couple of weeks for them to die off. Now, I’m no scientist, but if they live for a day and their breeding grounds are gone – how can they still survive? It’s Darwinism at it’s purest form. A true survival of the fittest, ‘cuz these mofos are big and bad and refusing to go gently into that good night.

We say goodnight, and their party starts.

Sickening.

So while my basement continues to lie fallow, the flies frolic. The insurance-approved demo team wasted no time in ripping it out (my basement, that is). All of it – floors are a mess of concrete and nails. The asbestos (yup) is gone so at least we’re no longer the house in the plastic bubble. The walls don’t touch the floor. No euphemism – it just means the walls hang there, not touching the floors. My garage is packed up – most of it upside down. All my kids’ toys, in boxes, upside down in bigger boxes surrounded by enormous, near-impossible-to-move furniture.

And we wait. And wait. And wait. For the big rebuild. And yes, we’ll probably look back and laugh. But that’s of no comfort to me now. Even my baby tells everyone our basement is broken. My Big Boy tells people they can only come to play with him if it’s nice outside because we have no toys in our house. And tho’ it’s not killing them, it ain’t making them stronger either. This is no character building exercise. This is a bloody nightmare.

And so we play outside. Except when it’s cold. Then we watch TV. And we read. And we keep coming back to that book, and that line:”and now for the flies”. Which prompts someone to look around. And spy a fly. And try to kill it. Tiny corpses litter our walls. And the cycle starts again.

“And now for the flies”.

I was told not to panic. So I asked when I could panic. The exterminator laughed and said a few weeks. That makes it June 1st. One week. Then I can really panic. So I’m trying to hold off and just rant a little until then.

And now for the flies.

Perhaps they’ll die.

2 comments:

Anonymous said…

IT WILL GET BETTER.. THAT I CAN PROMISE YOU LADY

10:51 PM
My name is Andrew DiPalma and I’m the Social Media contact for Nina Sutton, author of “The Chic Mom’s Guide To Feeling Fabulous.” I’m contacting you about the book as we’d love to have you review if for your site (We LOVE your blog by the way!). “The Chic Guide” is extremely synergistic with everything you stand for – fashion, beauty, fitness, finance, romance, and organization tips – and takes a practical approach to how women can feel fabulous after the stork has arrived…and beyond! You can visit Nina’s personal blog about the book at http://thechicmomsguide.blogspot.com/

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May 24, 2008   No Comments

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Oprah Move Over

Yes, I have hobbies other than television.

Yes, I am literate. Ahem. Quite, thank you.

Yes, I have taken to giving away my books.

And yes, I’ve ended up buying books I’ve read before.

What does all this mean? Why should you give a rat’s ass? I’ll tell you why. Because, at long last, I am giving the people what they want: the eagerly awaited, long anticipated, not imitated: MOAM BOOK CLUB.

I don’t know why I wrote “not imitated”. Book clubs are a dime a dozen. And many of you may have even read some of these winners. But not all of ’em. Besides, this is my answer to the oft asked “read any good books lately?”.

The answer, a resounding YES.

So here, in no particular order, are my top picks for the past year. Give or take a couple of months. Most have been out for a while, ‘cuz I like to wait for paperback. Not just because I’m cheap, but also, who wants to lug a hardcover book around? They’re heavy, they’re not great in bed, and they only look good on your bookshelves if you give a shit. And, as someone who’s taken to giving my books away, I don’t. So….

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. We need to talk about this book. We need to talk about Lionel Shriver (aside: she’s a woman. Lionel. That’s right.). She’s also a genius. This is a chilling, twisted book about a high-school shooter. Told by the kid’s mother. Those who are parents will be looking for signs of sociopathic tendencies in their own children. Those who are not will wonder if they should dare procreate. Kids these days…

A WOMAN IN BERLIN. An anonymous writer shares her memoirs from the fall of Berlin after the 2nd World War. It was, essentially, a rape-fest. This book was banned in Germany and only republished after the writer died. It’s brutal. And it’s excellent.

MAPS FOR LOST LOVERS. Nadeem Aslam. Set in a community of immigrants from the subcontinent who have moved to England in search of a better life. Culture clashes. East meets West. Old vs. new. Communities on fire. Oh, and loves lost too. Not as melodramatic as I’m making it sound.

A BLADE OF GRASS. Lewis de Soto. Ditto. But this time it’s White woman+ Black woman + unnamed Southern African country. Don’t worry, it’s NOT Cold Mountain. Way better. Way smarter. Way sadder.

CROSSING CALIFORNIA. I haven’t forgotten you, boys. Adam Langer’s spot on and hilarious coming-of-age novel set in the Chicago of the 70’s. Especially funny if you lived it. And even funnier if if you had older sibs (or friends with older sibs) who did. You’ll laugh out loud. You will.

Books on Film:
LITTLE CHLDREN. Tom Perrotta. Bored suburban mom takes up with bored suburban dad. And that’s just the start. Movie version is coming soon. Very very soon. read it first so you can discuss which is better.

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS. Augusten Bourrough’s hilarious account of his wild ‘n crazy childhood. One of those truth-is-stranger-fiction books. Way stranger. And way better.

Finally, my two faves of the past year:

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer.

THE HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Krauss.

Where to begin? I don’t want to ruin them in any way. STUNNING. I read them back to back, GENIUS x 2, and they’ve become more or less one un-f&cking-believable book in my head. AWESOME in every sense of the word. Even better, I just learned that these two extremely young and incredibly brilliant writers are a couple. A COUPLE!!! Is it an urban myth? A simple rumour? Does it matter? Read these two babies and imagine that the authors are in love. How could either find anyone better?!

So there you go. I haven’t bothered with the ones that didn’t come close to the hype. Or the real duds. Nor shall I. Between the life, the kids and the TV, who has time for a bad book? And yeah, I don’t doubt that for every book I’ve listed, someone has many more I’ve missed. Sorry, kids. My blog, my books. That said, I’m always looking for the next best thing and of course all suggestions are most welcome….

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October 9, 2006   No Comments

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