Body Bells??

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I will wake up and think I have a great idea for a book, or a good line I want to use on the blog, or a necessary change in my book, and this is why I always keep a notebook and pen by my bed. Although, it would probably serve me better somewhere else because these ideas are always zany and never make sense to me the next day.

Body bells: Um….I’m really not completely sure what this means. I think I know what I meant, and I vaguely remember the dream that inspired it, but to be honest, at best it’s a weak metaphor for the feeling you have when you’re in love. At worst it’s complete codswallop. “Body bells” was scribbled in handwriting that didn’t even look like mine and underlined about 10 times in my notebook when I woke up the next day. Apparently, sleepy Girl on the Contrary thought it was a brilliant idea.

Mmmbop as a metaphor for binge eating: No clue why I wrote this down. No clue where it came from. I’m beginning to get scared about what I’m actually doing when I think I’m sleeping.

Bejiggity: I’ve used this word before in many different instances so I can’t be sure how I wanted it to be used in this case. Fun word though.

Does her shoe size make her a bitch?????: This really had 5 question marks in my notebook. I have some vague memory of waking up suddenly and writing this down but I can’t recall the context or the logic behind it. It is an interesting question. I think next time my girlfriends are raging about another girl, I will ask this question, if they begin to fawn over what a genius I am, I’ll know I’m on to something, if they look at me quizzically (as per usual), I’ll know they’re probably going to steal my question to impress their other friends.

Alliteration: I definitely didn’t make this up, but I’m completely baffled as to how I wanted to use it in my writing. I really do love alliteration. Maybe I just wanted to write it down to remind myself to appreciate it more and tell alliteration how much I love it on a daily basis.

Give peace a piece of pizza: Well, clearly, that one is self-explanatory.

Yahtzee! She said disparagingly : I don’t even care what this means, I just can’t believe I wrote the word “disparagingly” when I was half asleep.

I really don’t know whether to be very concerned for my well-being or very proud of my obviously genius unconscious mind. Does anyone else write in their sleep? Is this a thing?

Proofreading

Proofreading

As many of you know, I’m writing a book. It’s my first real dedicated effort in completing a book- I’ve written about 3 that didn’t make it to “The End.”, but this one is going the distance people! And I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get home and write and ideas are flowing. (Do ideas flow? People say that but I would say they pop. The ideas are popping out of me….yeah, I like that better. Or maybe bursting? Or exploding? Or raging? I don’t know, I can work that out later) Anyway, I’m writing a book. And my friends and family have been incredibly supportive. Especially Grammy. As evidenced in this exchange we had over lunch.

Grammy: What have you been up to? 

Me: Writing a lot. 

Grammy: That’s wonderful! If you need help proofreading just let me know. 

Me: Ok.

Grammy: Hey! I’m an excellent proofreader! I even used to proofread all the letters the handicapped children wrote when I worked at the hospital. 

Me: Are you saying that reading and proofing my book is going to be similar to reading and proofing the writings of a severely handicapped child? 

Grammy: I was good at it!

Me: You dodged my question a bit there. 

Grammy: Well…….(long insulting pause). What are you working on next?

Me: A book about you.

Grammy: Oh really!! (Claps hands)

Me: Yes. And it’s going to be hilarious. And maybe this conversation will be in it. 

Grammy: Well, I can proofread that too!

Me: No way. You will just black out all the parts that you think make you look bad. 

Grammy: Well……(another very long pause). I just wanted to help. (Insert pouty face)

Me: More rolls anyone? 

Oh Grammy. In her defense, she is an excellent speller. In fact, she frequently will spell words out to you just to prove she knows how to spell them. But, I just can’t get past the fact that she says “umble” instead of “humble” and “massatusetts” instead of “massachusetts” or that she emphasizes the “tos” when she asks for “cheetos” because then all I can think about are gnarly cheese covered people toes, and that’s gross. What I might do, just to appease her, is send her a dummy copy of my book that maybe has lots of spelling errors and also sometimes pictures instead of words and also lots of inappropriate sexual references. That would probably hold her over while my actual book is being proofread by people who don’t compare my writing to that of a severely handicapped child. Also, it will give me lots of ammunition for my Grammy book. I may be an evil genius.

A Year In Books

Ok, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I read the entire Hunger Games trilogy in about 48 hours, but I loved each book so much I am giving each its own week on A Year In Books. So there. Also, I’ll try and be careful but I might let some spoilers slip so read with caution.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the first book in the trilogy and introduces us to Katniss Everdeen, unassuming heroine and total kick-ass chick. The books is set in post-America, which is to say, America after a series of major wars and massive destruction. The country is split into 13 districts and a Capital, and the Capital is the controlling force behind everything that happens in the districts. At some point before the book begins, the 13 districts rebelled against the Capital and the Capital won the war by effectively nuking the hell out of district 13, all the other districts fell in short order and now there are only 12 districts and a Capital. To punish the districts for the rebellion, the Capital institutes the Hunger Games in which every district has to submit one boy and one girl “tribute” to come to the Capital and fight to the death with the other “tributes” in an arena. Think young gladiators with technology and you will get a pretty good picture of the Hunger Games. Ok. So that’s what you need to know.

Katniss’s younger sister is chosen for the Hunger Games and Katniss chooses to volunteer herself in her sisters place. Also, you should know Katniss is one strong female lead. She can hunt, provide for her family, knows a bit about medicines, and is killer with a bow and arrow. She also has a keen sense of fairness and though she may seem tough, has a lot of compassion, especially for underdogs. The male chosen from her district is Peeta Mellark, someone who Katniss has complicated feelings for. Thus begins an incredible and page-turning journey.

I’m not going to tell you what happens. I want to. But I’m not going to. Because I think you should read these books. I started The Hunger Games at about midnight last Friday and couldn’t put it down so I stayed up until 4am to finish it. (I know, I’m a wild woman). Then, I had to read the next book, Catching Fire, and when I finished that I immediately started the final book Mockingjay. I was completely engrossed in these books. I loved the action and suspense of them and Collins took some chances with storyline that I appreciated. I had a difficult time predicting exactly what would happen next or how things were going to resolve themselves. Collins could be accused of using the standard love triangle plot, and indeed there is a love triangle, but it didn’t seem as cliche as others I’ve read and I quite liked those bits anyway. More than anything, I am so thankful Collins created such a strong woman as a central character. Its been quite some time since I read a book of this genre where the female lead is so independent, capable, strong, and powerful, but not without heart and emotion. We need more female characters like Katniss Everdeen. Lots more.

The Hunger Games was an amazing read and even when I finished it, I couldn’t quite stop thinking about it. That is one of the highest recommendations I could give to a book. I suggest you read this trilogy immediately, especially since they are making a movie of it due to release in 2012. Some of the most compelling and addicting books I have read since Harry Potter. Sure, I spent an entire weekend doing nothing but reading this trilogy, but trust me, it was a weekend well spent.

What are you guys reading this week??

A Year In Books.

Very Valentine

Last week, I read Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani, who also wrote Lucia, Lucia. It was recommended by my Mom as a “light read”, which after all the heavy stuff I usually read, I kind of needed.

She was right, it was a light read but a good one at that. I had a bit of trouble getting into the story at first but once I did, I was very engrossed in it. The main character Valentine, is going through a lot of change throughout the book and I could very easily relate to it from one single gal to another. I like Valentine, she’s ballsy. She ends a long relationship in order to pursue something she loves- shoemaking, the family business. She helps her Grandmother run the family business and in the process becomes an apprentice, learning to make shoes. She also finds herself a new chef boyfriend and goes to Italy. It all seemed to be heading to one of those “She saves the business, gets the guy, and lives happily ever after” endings, but it didn’t end that way. Not exactly. And I have to say, I liked the book all the more for that. She does save her families business, and indeed she seems very happy at the ending, but it’s her Grandmother who ends up being the one to fall in love and live happily ever after. And I think that’s awesome. Valentine comes into her own in this book but it isn’t all centered on a man and falling in love. It’s about her and her journey.

I love it when women write books like this. When everything doesn’t center on Prince Charming and a wedding. I mean, I like those books too, but I just think it’s amazing when women write about the many different kinds of happily ever after we can have. This book was very well written and I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a good story.

What are you guys reading??

Why We Blog.

Why We Blog

Sometimes, blogging punches you in the face. Hard. And sometimes it lifts you up on a cloud of cotton candy while unicorns play hit songs from the 90’s and angels pour you glasses of champagne. Sometimes, I spend hours writing and rewriting a blog trying to make it hilarious and relatable. I think to myself “You’ve done it this time old girl. This post is the bees knees. Brava!” (Also, I’m frequently wearing a top hat while I say that.) And then…nothing. No one comments, no one “likes” it, no one cares. And I have to wonder why I even blogged in the first place. I mean, what’s the point for blog’s sake! If hardly anyone reads it, why bother writing it at all?

Why bother writing it at all? Why bother writing it at all? (She shrills incredulously at herself for asking that question). I’ll tell you why.  I blog because even when I’m disappointed that no one reads something I was proud of writing- I’m still proud I wrote it. It’s still something I created. It’s like, I gave birth to a really ugly baby that no one wants to be around because they are so uncomfortable about how ugly the baby is, but that doesn’t mean I love it any less. Even if I’m the only one who thinks I’m hilarious and witty but also has a social conscious who is also really kind to old people and makes delicious latkes, well…I lost track of what I was saying. Those latkes are really good. Oh yes, even if I am the only one who thinks those things about myself and my writing, well, hells bells, at least I have that. And also my Mom reads this blog and tells me she really likes it and that I’m hilarious and witty and have a social conscious and that I’m nice to old people but she’s never tried my latkes- so there. My Mom and I are really proud of the kind of writer I am. And that’s not pathetic because I’m an adult and adults are allowed to use their Mothers for justification. If this were a playground that argument would have been lame. But it’s not. So…yeah.

When I started this blog, I had no idea what I wanted my “voice” to be. I also had no idea how discouraging blogging could be. And also, I didn’t know how thrilling and fulfilling (if it’s rhymes it’s true) blogging could be. Basically, there was a lot, like, a LOT, I didn’t know. But, now I know. And sure, there is still a lot more for me to learn about writing, but hey, I’ll learn it. Because even when blogging is literally punching the shiz out of my face and spitting on my soul with contempt, I still really love doing it, and I still really love what I write.

To sum up what I’m trying to say, I’ll just quote a few inspirational pop song lyrics. Blogging, you are the wind beneath my wings, with you, I believe I can fly, you raise me up, and I can’t help falling in love with you.

(Even when you make me cry because no one thinks I’m funny and then I start laughing at how ridiculous I am and write a blog about it no one else thinks is funny. Huh. I’m starting to see the cyclical nature of our relationship….)

A Year In Books

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Last week I read One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. Now it may come as a surprise that I had never read this book before. But if that shocked you then you are really going to be blown away by the fact I’ve never seen the movie either. (Patiently waits for heads to explode and regenerate)

It’s true. I’m not sure how I missed either of them, but I did. So, I read the book this week. It was a birthday gift from my Aunt and Uncle (Holla!) And I am so glad they gave it to me. There were times when I wasn’t sure how much I liked it. There were times when I couldn’t put it down. I think that’s probably the sign of a good book. The characters were certainly very powerful and masterfully written. Very layered. Also, I think the fact that Kesey was working in a psychiatry ward and participating in LSD trials himself, makes this book amazing. I can definitely see where the LSD came into play. I love the metaphors and though I know they are relating to the oppressiveness of the 1950’s- I think they are applicable at any time for anyone who feels oppressed by anything. Broad sweeping it definitely covers one of my favorite expressions “The tyranny of the present”. I didn’t like the theme of women as castrators or that fact that the oppression of women at the time was barely, if at all, touched upon. Although, seeing as how Kesey was a man I can understand why it would be difficult to see the woman’s point of view. I just mean that women were sent to insane asylums for a lot less and treated quite poorly in this same time period. Womanhood was challenged and oppressed just as much as manhood was. I’m just sayin.

All that aside, the overwhelming the fact that humor was shown as a powerful weapon was dead on for me. Fighting injustice, fighting tyranny, with humor, well, those are all things I’m very interested in. Sure, it may not always work. Sure, it may never work. But there is still something very powerful about combatting pain and injury and oppression with humor. It’s why Kurt Vonnegut wrote books, it’s why people  like John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are so successful, it’s why political cartoons are given such weight worldwide. Laugher is strength people. Laughter is strength.

“Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.”

What have you been reading?

A Year In Books

Last week I actually read two books. So, I’m pretty sure that means I’m brilliant and also confirms I’m literate for those who were in doubt (you know who you are). I couldn’t decide which one to review and I felt like reviewing them both would just be shoving it in your faces how brilliant I am and make you feel bad about yourself. And I don’t want to do that. I care about you. So, I flipped a coin. But then I felt like the loser of the coin toss would feel like I didn’t love it very much and the winner of the coin toss would become really unbearably cocky. Why is life so difficult? Why does my extraordinary genius cause me so much pain? So, then I decided that I would review them both but only use 10 words for each. That seemed fair to the books and also it isn’t like I’m shoving my brilliance in  your face because, how arrogant can 10 words be? And also, you can say to yourself, “That Girl on the Contrary thinks she’s so smart but she can’t even string these words together coherently. She’s barely literate. So what if she read two books? She probably didn’t even read them but actually listened to audio-books. ” (FYI- I did actually read them. And I thought we covered at the beginning of this post that my literacy wasn’t in question. Why do you keep bringing it up? Sheesh. It hurts my feelings.)

The Gathering Storm by Bodie and Brock Thoene. Christian. Historical. Fiction. Compelling. Historically accurate. Mystical. Curious. Sweet. Love.

The Gathering Storm

Bossypants by Tina Fey. Hilarious. Interesting. Empowering. Inspiring. Love. Her. Comedy. Realistic. Intelligent. Laugh.

Bossypants

So, there you have it. 10 words per book. No showing off. I promise I am literate so stop accusing me of not being literate.

What are you reading?

A Year In Books

Child 44

Last week was a fiction week and I chose Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. Usually, I’m not a huge fan of thrillers- they are certainly entertaining but not usually thought-provoking or particularly artistic. And yet, Child 44 surprised me. I really enjoyed the exploration of paranoia and crime in Soviet-era Russia. And I thought basing the novels crimes on the real-life crimes of famous Ukrainian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo was incredibly interesting.

It was a very exciting read but also very disturbing. This wasn’t the type of book you read before bed at night. The characters were well developed and apparently this book is the first in a series so I would surmise that at least two of the main characters get deeper. For me what was lacking in this novel was comic relief. Even in some of the most depressing books I’ve read there is some sarcastic comment or absurd joke that lightens the mood, if only for a moment. And with the whole world of Soviet-era satires to work with, I can’t really understand missing out on making some attempt at humor. It was a very heavy read. A good read, to be sure, but very very dark. And don’t get me wrong, I like dark. I just think a little dark humor wouldn’t have been remiss.

One thing I really responded to in this novel was the main character of Leo. But what I responded to wasn’t the character of Leo per say, it was that I didn’t  like him very much. Sure, he has some change of heart about working for the secret police. But that comes later. When he is introduced, he is a faithful drone of efficiency and ignorant heartlessness. I didn’t like him a bit. I still don’t really like him. But I love that I don’t like him. That’s interesting and unique and it made me want to keep reading.

I enjoyed this book but I have to say I don’t feel particularly strong about it in any way with the exception of Leo. I just think it takes a brave and interesting writer to create a character that people might not actually like but want to keep reading about. I will probably read the subsequent novels in the series but they aren’t at the top of my list.

What have you been reading???

A Year In Books

Sisters In The Resistance

Last week my non-fiction choice was Sisters In The Resistance by Margaret Collins Weitz. It’s the true story of the French women who fought in the Resistance against the German occupiers. I’ve heard many stories about the French Resistance but this was the first really comprehensive view of women’s role in it. And let me tell you something, these women weren’t slacking when it came to taking on the Germans clandestinely. Their participation was central to the Resistance despite their place as second class citizens in French culture. In fact, women of the time had the same legal status as criminals, the mentally insane, and minors. Nice, France. Oh, but that’s not all. Women in France didn’t even have the right to vote until after the war. But despite this, French women choose to fight, choose to rebel against the German occupation of France, and they did this quite successfully. These women were masterful writers, secret-keepers, and spies. They did everything asked of them and more. They risked their lives daily and often. So little is known about them because of several reasons, the first being the secretive nature of the Resistance, the second being the rampant gender discrimination of the time. Very few women have been honored by France as pivotal Resistance fighters- even today. The women who survived the war simply went back to their previous lives and very rarely, if ever, discussed their role in the Resistance. These women were absolutely stunning examples of strength, the type of strength you rarely see these days.

This book was also a very balanced view of the Resistance in general. I’m used to hearing about the glory of the Resistance in it’s fight against the oppression of the Germans. Sure, that’s true. But it’s also true that their was rampant anti-semitism in the Resistance and that very few groups made any effort whatsoever to save French Jews from deportation and concentration camps. We know about the complicit, nay even enthusiastic, participation of the Vichy government in the genocide of millions of Jews, but the truth is, the French in general, even in the Resistance, made very little effort to save any Jews.

Nt only was anti-semitism prevalent in the Resistance but sexism was as well. Despite their major role, no women held positions of power in the Resistance. Very few women were allowed to participate in military maneuvers and even when they showed military prowess they were excluded. Such was the story of the female explosives expert who parachuted into France and was greeted with “Oh. But she’s a baby.” Needless to say, no matter their skill, women were not valued by many in the Resistance, despite how vital they were in it’s successes.

The up-side of the sexism of the time was that the occupying Germans also under-valued women in the Resistance. They frequently let women “take their time” before arresting them so they would “look their best”, this allowed women Resistance fighters the time to destroy countless documents and even in some instances to escape completely. Women would also use their fashion sense and good-looks to distract German soldiers and gestapo while Resistance maneuvers were taking place. Not that this was the women’s favorite part to play in the Resistance but it was an effective one considering the way women were viewed at the time.

This book was powerful, emotional, and illuminating. It was the first view I’ve ever had of women in the Resistance and I was in awe of how brilliant these women were and how large their role in the Resistance was. Very highly recommended. Although, I kept thinking of the song “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves” the whole time.

What’cha reading???

If it’s your first time here on a Monday, A Year In Books is my New Year’s Resolution to read a new book every week. So far, so good people. I’m going actually keep my resolution this year!

A Year In Books

While Mortals Sleep

For several years, I have boasted about having read everything ever published by Kurt Vonnegut. Last week, I found another collection of short stories that was published posthumously that I had never read. Touche Mr. Vonnegut, you have taught me an important lesson on braggadocio. Well played.

So- my choice for last week was that very collection, While Mortals Sleep. It was everything I expect in a Kurt Vonnegut book and more. In fact, I have to say this is my favorite collection of his short stories. Every time I read one of his stories I can almost feel him smirking at me through the words. No one writes like that anymore. Every story is delivered with a smirk and a moral- if you will (or if you won’t, it really doesn’t make any difference to me). What I mean to say is, these are certainly stories with morals/messages, they just  might not be what you expect. They aren’t preachy or chastising, they are just observations meant to inform. Even if it is a little biting.

The introduction to this was written by Dave Eggers- another writer I greatly admire and enjoy. He makes some great observations about Vonnegut and his style of writing and comes to the same conclusion I do, which is, Kurt Vonnegut  cared a great deal about the human condition and he didn’t give a damn if his writing was politically correct- he cared that much. God bless him. Vonnegut once described his effort at improving the human condition through writing as “throwing cream pies” (particularly his effort to protest the Vietnam war). Maybe he felt it was ineffectual, but gee if that man didn’t throw more cream pies than any other writer of his time or ours. He kept throwing them, time and again. I certainly hope I can throw a pie or two like Mr. Vonnegut.

Of course, you know I loved this collection of stories. Read it immediately- or I will throw a cream pie in your face.