The Best of Both Worlds

booksebooks Development is a natural part of any civilization, but I think most people accept that the past few decades have blown the other millenia out of the water.  I swear, I blink and my cell phone grows another set of eyes.

However, I’m also hearing observations about trends in reverse – call it part of the back-to-basics movement.  I think it’s already in full force with our overt concern for the environment.  Line-drying, not drying machines; cooking at home vs. eating at Applebee’s; stay-cations vs. vacations.  And it crosses over into family values and education – I’m hearing a lot of calls for tough love, rather than cosseting.  (And in the meantime, our grandparents slap their foreheads and think, “Duh.”)  The recession undoubtedly played a big part; history shows that generally, in tough times, people get nostalgic and want to do what their gramps did, politically, socially, and economically.

And culturally, what did gramps do?  Well, for one thing, he listened to the radio, and if he could afford it, he listened to LPs.  A decade ago, CDs were in, cassettes were out, and LPs were absolutely dead.  Now the music aficionados are pumping their fists in the air, because LPs are Cool with a capital C.  They’re no longer relegated to secondhand and niche music stores – HMV, the biggest Canadian music chain store, carries a significant section of LPs, and artists like Radiohead and Coldplay release new albums on those crazy 33 ½” vinyls.

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Reading in Times of Trouble

steam_and_sorcery Like many people around the world, I am deeply affected by what is happening in Japan. My heart goes out the Japanese people, and I admire the steadfastness and determination, not to mention great courage with which they deal with the terrible situation they find themselves in.

At the same time, I am deeply disturbed by what is going on in Fukushima. I am old enough to remember watching, as a child, the news about the partial nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island, near Harrisburg, in 1979. When the reactor at Chernobyl blew up on April 26, 1986, I was sitting in my parents’ garden, studying for my high school exams that were scheduled in early May. It was an extremely warm late April that year. We all spent hours outside in the sunshine, not knowing yet (rumors – from Finland mostly – about a radioactive cloud were very vague) what was going on above our heads. We went inside when it started to rain, when the radioactive particles came down. We later threw away all the fruit that had been growing during this rain.
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When TSTL Works

audrey_hepburn Over the years here, we’ve said quite a bit about the TSTL(Too Stupid To Live) nutter, one of the heroines we love to hate. And I have long been among those who have hated them most fervently and vocally. The mere letters of this acronym bring to mind so many rage ridden reading moments it’s hard to think of them without boiling blood. My favorite TSTL moment to hate remains the moment in Elizabeth Adler’s Sailing to Capri when Daisy, who had been told by Sir Robert to trust noone but Harry begins to trust everyone around her except Harry – with whom she cleverly verbally spars throughout the rest of the book. Which brings to mind other moments, like when Tristan, Duke of Shelbourn, agrees to the most ridiculous idea ever proposed in Regency bride hunting — a sort of The Bachelor style situation in which he was dating/courting an entire room full of women at once. For that I almost threw Vicky Dreiling’s How to Marry a Duke against the wall. Yet last night, on my millionth or so watching of the movie Charade with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, I realized that there are moments when TSTL lends itself quite well to romance.

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The Hardback Dilemma

hardback bookThere are very few books out there I will buy in hardback. Hardbacks have several severe disadvantages, mainly:

  • They are big, and don’t fit into my handbag.
  • They are heavy, and I don’t like to carry them in my handbag or have my arms tire when I hold them for a longer time.
  • They take up more space on my shelves than they need to.
  • They are expensive.

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What About All Those Eagerly Awaited Books?

Each month, the AAR staff post their picks of soon-to-be-released books that we’re excited about. These are not necessarily books we’ll read for review, but they may be new releases from much-loved authors or books that simply sounded intriguing when we heard about them. I cannot speak for everyone, but I know some picks end up being everything I hoped for, while others…weren’t. And, since life tends to be a little hectic here in the Cat Palace, a few of my picks are sitting in the TBR bookcase.

I got curious and started looking back over last year’s books and here is what I found:

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Summer Reading Programs

summerWhen I was a kid the highlight of my summer was always the summer reading program.  Yes, my family went on vacation.  Often to really cool places.  Yes, I did things with friends.  But around April I anxiously awaited the unveiling of that years theme.

Would we be doing a Reading Roundup (cowboy theme)?  A Calling All Knights (Medieval theme)?  What would be the prizes?  I was never concerned about the number of books required.  Whether it was the 20 needed to get the elementary school top prize or the 40 needed for the junior high prize, I knew I could breeze through them.  Entire afternoons and evenings were passed in the happy daze of reading everything from Alcott’s Eight Cousins to The Secret Sign by Gladys Malvern or Knight’s Fee by Rosemary Sutcliffe.  If I miss anything about not having three months off every year it is this – the pleasure to simply spend eight hours a day indulging in my favorite past time.

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Why I Read Romance Novels

renoir20I’ll be the first to admit that I have a propensity towards criticism and pessimism.  Take romance novels, for example – I could go on for hours about the general Decline and Fall of the Romance Civilization.  But you know what?  I still read romance novels.  I still love them.  And I still defend them to the death, despite all the weird looks I know I get from my friends.  (Yes, LKY, I’m looking at you.)

I’m tired of whinging, and while I’m in the mood, I want to focus on the positive.  With that in mind, here are the top five reasons I read – and love – romance novels:

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Enjoying the Spoils

skip_to_end I flip to the end of books all the time but especially when things are getting exciting. It’s counter-intuitive I’ve been told, to leave the action and head straight for the denouement but I do this all the time, almost every time. Fight scene in progress? Lemme quickly flip a couple pages on to see who dies. Love triangle developing? The last page should clear things up. Who the heck dunit? Be spoiled my friend, and let that last page reveal all.

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Stargirl: Introducing Myself to Romance, Part II

stargirl A few weeks ago, I blogged about how I discovered romance in the exquisite pages of Gail Carson Levine’s classic children’s novel, Ella Enchanted. A few years later came a different book that showed me another side of life and love.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli tells the story of a new girl in a small Arizona high school, a girl who confounds everyone by being just who she wants to be and doing just what she wants to do, and the boy who falls in love with her in the face of scorn from his classmates. Leo, the narrator, is a typical teenage boy who, like everyone else, is at first puzzled and curious when Stargirl shows up, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to strangers on her ukulele, wearing strange outfits, congratulating random people for their large and small achievements, and just being nice to everyone. The students, as high schoolers often are, are fickle. While Stargirl and Leo fall for each other, the student body swings from adoration to open hostility, and Leo is faced with the choice: her or them.

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Your Qualifications, Ma’am?

book wormI admit it: I am a Malcolm Gladwell fan girl. I don’t stalk his blog or anything, but I’ve read all his books – two of them twice – and found them all fascinating. I recently reread Outliers: The Story of Success, and was giving some thought to the notion of expertise. If you haven’t read it, or aren’t familiar with the idea, the whole book discusses at length the idea that in order to be an expert at anything at all, you need to put in ten thousand hours of work. Talent is important, but mostly because it fuels hard work.

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