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trinny and susannahBook 28: “Trinny and Susannah: What you wear can change your life” By Trinny Woodall and Susannah Cnstantine (2005) 264 pages; Started and finished on June 19.

More inspiring than the home organization book that I read last week, this one is also full of stuff that I already know. But its much more enjoyable to look at the good and bad pictures of Trinny and Susannah and be reminded that no matter how cute and fabulous you are, or how many flaws your body may have (plenty, if you are a normal person), or even if you have gained weight due to current or recent pregnancy, wearing clothes and accessories that suit you can make a huge difference. If you don’t already know this– ie, if you always think you look like crap– then you should get this book, or any of the others by these two Brits who started the “What not to Wear” franchise. They are very smart when it comes to this topic of looking good. And if you think looking good doesn’t matter–or that you can’t look as good as they do in the “after” pics– you are probably wrong. Yes, I got through this book in a day because its full of pictures (and large text) but it was way more satisfying and empowering than flipping a fashion magazine, and more fun, too.

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summernakedswimparties_lead“The Summer of Naked Swim Parties” by Jessica Anya Blau (2008); 294 pages

Started reading December 15, Finished reading December 21.

OK, So I admit it- I read two young-adult (YA) fiction books in back-to-back weeks. I couldn’t help myself.  I was so excited to finish Twilight before my movie date with some girlfriends, and the same week, my good friend Shana  insisted that I read this novel ASAP. So I caved. And it wasn’t bad, although it was very, very YA. (But more on that in a minute…)

Shana lives in Baltimore and I live in Alabama, but it just so happens that she and her husband came to meet me and Josh and Ben at my parents’ house in Florida…. so since we are vacationing together right this minute, I’m going to take advantage of the situation and present my first-ever guest blogger…

RR: So Shay, how would you describe this book in two sentences?

SA: Its about a young girl’s coming-of-age, and discovering about her body, while looking at everyone else’s body. And discovering boys.

RR: Might I point out, that those other bodies were mostly her parents friends, which was kind of weird, very 1970’s, and way racier than most of the YA fiction I was reading at age 14.

SA: I recommended this book to a old lady at the Pikesville library and then cautiously told her son that it was really dirty.

RR: So did she get it?

SA: It wasn’t available but her son said “Don’t worry she can handle it.”

RR: Well, maybe she’ll get it next time. Didn’t you think these 14-year olds were having more sex than most people do in college?

SA: Yes. It makes good reading. Sex sells.

RR: I was kind of expecting chick lit by the title (which is not good- I hate it when a book has a title that makes it too embarrassing to carry around and read in public) and then from the blurbs on the back I changed my mind and thought it might actually be decent literature– but it was sort of somewhere in the middle. Definitely not trashy chick-lit, but…

SA: She intellectualizes growing up in Southern California in the 1970s.

RR: That she did. And she can write. But I found the main character to be pretty annoying at first, then the whole thing got very depressing (although incredibly true-to-life) but it really all came together at the end.

SA: I’d like to add that Jessica Anya Blau is Jewish and lives in Baltimore and teaches at Hopkins.

RR: I think we should be friends with her.

SA: Of course.

RR: I have one more problem with the book. The shoes on the cover don’t look like 1970’s shoes. Who picked out that photo?

what-they-always-tell-us2

“what they always tell us” By Martin Wilson (2008); 288 pages

Started reading Nov 15, finished reading Nov 20

My friend Joanna went to the local book signing for this new young adult novel and lent me her copy afterward. I’m glad she did– it was perfect for a less-than-a-week-read, and I don’t think I would have known about it otherwise. Joanna attended Central High here in Tuscaloosa with the author, and that’s where the story takes place. As with lots of first-time novelists, the story seems to be at least somewhat autobiographical. Which of course has led me to ask Joanna every time I see her if she knows how much of the story is true. She doesn’t know, but thats OK. I liked the book anyway.

The story is about two brothers and the year that follows the younger one’s sort-of suicide attempt. Although I found that brother to be a more fleshed-out character — not surprising, since he’s the one who seems to be Martin Wilson — in general the book is well-written and feels very authentically high school, circa early 90’s. (I don’t remember anyone ever actually mentioning that it’s the early 90’s, but there is a conspicuous lack of electronic communication and cell phone use; that and I know what year the author graduated.) The descriptions of life in Tuscaloosa are very authentic–which is fun if you live here. You too can pick out all the familiar locations and the very thinly veiled identities of some local characters!

Anyway, the novel is less grim than you’d think, given the almost-suicide with which it begins. About a quarter of the way through things start to change directions– at which point I thought: “Oh, now I see where this is going…” I must not have read the inside jacket too closely because it clearly mentions that “…[Alex is] surprised to find more than just a supportive teammate in his brother’s friend Nathen”. So there you go– one of the major plotlines. Sorry to give it away, but I guess it’s not much of a spoiler if it’s a detail mentioned right on the inside cover?

A friend invited me to do a “virtual book club”, which is kind of like a book chain letter, except you send one person a paperback that you’ve already read, and depending how many people are good with the follow-through, you should then soon get some books (as many as 36—but only if you have really diligent friends) sent to you. And since I’m doing this public reading project, I thought it could be interesting to not only do the virtual book club, but also report all the details here. I can only share with the first six people to contact me– At least for this first go-round–so email me or comment here if you want to participate. Then also email me your mailing address. And watch the books come flying in! If you are the 7th or later person to email me, I will suggest you as a participant to one of the first six. So you will probably still get to play. A request (but not requirement) of your participation is that you write in to the comment section here about what books you’ve received. I’ll attempt to read every single book I get in the mail and write about them here… If that isn’t enough incentive, I don’t know what is.

I promise I will be back very soon with a new post – I am pages away from finishing my current book.

So come back soon to read about what I’ve been up to! And the lessons I’ve learned from picking a non-fast read the same time that I am working on a big voter-registration project….

So I have my first official blog-follower!

My friend Elizabeth and I have similar tastes. We both crave Ruan Thai at least twice a week, we both like moving around furniture, and we agree that Nancy Botwin is the style icon of the 21st century. It’s become a running joke that Elizabeth likes to frequently follow my lead… When we all started getting cel phones, Elizabeth knew she didn’t need to research what type to buy, it was just easier to get the same exact one that I had bought the previous week. Same for her digital camera. Same for her car. And, same profession. (OK, kidding on that one–we do have the same job, but we became architects before we met, and she beat me to it by a few years. Nonetheless, it’s pretty funny having a close friend with the same job and the same vehicle. see left. can you spot the (very small) difference?)

Anyway, Elizabeth has precious 18 month-old twins and her own business designing really great things and is in all rather busy– but she would still like to be reading more than just her weekly dose of the tabloids. But alas. Boggle, Jon Stewart, crosswords, and the conventions await. However… Elizabeth has told me that as long as she doesn’t have to pick what’s next on her reading list, as long as I just hand her a book, she will read whatever I give her. In her mind, the choosing and the getting takes as much effort as the reading itself. Given the dedicated way she pursues a book, this is not surprising: First she goes to the library in search of a book. When they don’t have what she wants, she goes to B&N. And when they don’t have it, then she orders it there. And then goes to pick it up a few days later. Which means three trips across town for one book. I am much lazier- I just read whatever is within reach of wherever I am when I finish the previous week’s material.

While Elizabeth isn’t going to be reading all 50 of the books on my list, she has promised that whatever I hand her is what she will read next. (Feel free to join Elizabeth in the vicarious book challenge–although unless you live down the street or come to GirlsLunch every week, you’re own your own with the procurement of the actual book.) I’m even going to help her out a bit: In order to make sure that everything she reads for the next year is straight from the blog, if you give her a must-read, expect that I will read it too. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a novel called “Morality Tale” recommended by Elizabeth’s sister Carrie.

Anyway, we didn’t exactly get this new program off to a great start: On Sunday I brought the Obama book into Elizabeth’s house and then through some confusion involving Ben and Josh, the book somehow ended up back in my car again when brunch was over. Which of course I didn’t notice until we got home. In this case, the matching cars cannot be blamed– I was entirely at fault for entrusting a 3-year-old as courier.

PS I am happy to report that Elizabeth got a new camera that so far exceeds the fabulousness of my own, I have a fit of jealousy every time I see it.

So I just went to see what would happen if I googled 50 books. Would my blog pop up? Um, No. But guess what did– about a thousand other blogs with. the. same. exact. idea. I swear that I hadn’t seen any of them before starting this one, but some even have the same name! Apparently lots of other people have taken on a similar challenge — LiveJournal even runs a site for everyone to keep up together, or something like that. Although I feel a bit deflated because I thought I originated the idea, overall the fact that all these people are reading so much is pretty cool. And I’m happy that I have one more resource for book lists… But a word of warning: I almost lost an hour looking at all of the book-blog stuff online, which is almost as bad as losing it to TV. So with that, I’m off to continue with Book 6, “Foreskin’s Lament”…

PS I just told my sister this story, and her response- “That’s just like in Knocked Up when the guys found out about Mr. Skin.” So, so true.

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