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required reading September 13, 2008

Posted by vMonster in Books.
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Currently reading:

Paint it Black by Janet Fitch

On my list:
Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own by Doreen Orion

It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music by Amanda Petrusich

Party of One: The Loner’s Manifesto by Anneli Rufus

City Dog by Alison Pace

Live a Little by Kim Green

Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott

Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters

& more to come…always in a book. šŸ™‚

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Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns March 19, 2008

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J. California Cooper’s Wild Stars is a worthy collection of cautionary, life-inspired short stories. Cooper delicately bridges the gap between wisdom and coming off as too preachy. The story titles are lyrical, but best of all is her introduction to the book, chanting the beauty of the good. However, most of the stories end abruptly with little closure. Nonetheless, Cooper’s stories urge us to maintain strong moral fiber in our choices of love and life, and show the simple pain of a lonely heart afflicted many realistic but often dramatized, “worst-case” dilemmas. A worthwhile, simply-written book to be treasured.

Broken Colors March 8, 2008

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Broken Colors by Michele Zackheim chronicles the remarkable life and art of Sophie Marks. Raised in rural England by her artist grandparents, Sophie is inclined to follow her own bohemian existence. When World War II strikes its catastrophic devastation upon the Midlands, and her own young life, Sophie loses all she knows. While she is forever scarred from those wounds and other tragedies, she finds constant new ways to make herself shine with resilience, most importantly through her painting. She finds love and many years of romantic fulfillment in a sculptor named Luca Bondi, but when their relationship crumbles, Sophie must yet again find a new direction for herself. In the end, Sophie comes full circle, proving that perhaps it is never too late.

Zackheim accurately captures the essence of painting and art processes through words. She tells the story quietly, with beautiful but unpretentious language, and the story tugs at the heart. The emotions ring true and the story sweeps across Sophie’s whole life, from young womanhood into her eighties. Woven with bits of history, beautiful descriptive fragments of Europe–from the Midlands of England, to Paris, to Italy, the American Southwest and back again, Zackheim paints a sentimental and vibrant story.

Any creative spirit will appreciate this book. Broken Colors is rich with life pleasures and sumptuous language. Inspiring quotes from famous artists punctuate between chapters, and Zackheim’s style is consistent and solid. It’s an intense book, in both content and wording, a book to be savored and enjoyed. Just as in real life, passion is sometimes juxtaposed with anguish, and devastation with constant hope.

Statements February 17, 2008

Posted by vMonster in Books.
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Finally, I read it! This would have been a fantastic beach read, if only I hadn’t been camped out in my apartment in a snowstorm in the middle of winter…

“She was too busy to keep a diary…luckily, American Express kept one for her.” So quips a headline atop this deliciously fluffy (another reviewer called it “the M&Ms of the memoir world”) read. Amy Borkowsky humorously remembers 12 years of a twentysomething, single, career-woman’s life in Manhattan as she goes through her credit card statements. From the habitual (Starbucks,* Chinese takeout) to the romantic (getaways, gifts, dinners out) and the practical (a bells-and-whistles stereo system, quest for the perfect sofa) and exorbitant (ski lessons, airline tickets), only a gifted writer can transform the mundane and depressing (read: bills) into such a delightfully amusing account. Maybe gimmicky, and even corny at times (like the last page), but you just can’t stop reading.

This excerpt is from a chapter called The Tarot of Leg Hair (really!), and I found it to be somewhat accurate in defining any single woman’s romantic situation:

Hair growth on legs of a quarter-to a half-inch = not dating anyone.
Hair growth greater than half an inch = will take trip in near future, to waxing salon.
Smooth, hairless legs = dating someone or has doctor’s appointment.
Slight stubble (eighth-inch of less) = has boyfriend but he’s out of town.
One leg smooth and other stubbly = working crazy hours, ran out of shaving gel.
Both legs shaved from knees down only = had blind date from computer, wore pants.
Hairless legs with cuts = rushed through shave for booty call.

Entertaining as it is, it’s stunningly true how much we (single women, maybe everyone?) can learn about our prior selves by looking through our own statements. Our habits, major events, disasters and necessities all seem to be neatly portrayed on a monthly basis. You’d be surprised what you can learn–and remember–about yourself, and the events and circumstances that surround your purchasing history.

*Ironically, there was a reference to the whole Tall=Small thing discussed in the previous entry.

Desire January 31, 2008

Posted by vMonster in Books, Poetry.
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(A collection of poems) by Alma Luz Villanueva


Like many of my “favorite things” I’ve discovered in my life, I found this book by accident, purely on instinct. I’m drawn to the word Desire, and in that small bookstore on that particular Sunday, it was the book that found its way into my hands, and later, my heart.

Alma Luz Villanueva is a celebrated Chicana writer and poet. Racial niche aside, the appeal of Villanueva’s writing is that it transcends race, gender, perhaps even time. It rushes into emotion and even deeper into the most primal of human conditions and subjects: Lust, sex, birth, pain, ritual, death. Her references to nature are a grounding point, reminding us all (often through her references to motherhood) that we are a part of something much bigger than our individual selves. Her way with words is nothing short of riveting. She is brazen, forthright, and cuts boldly into what matters most in life, and manages to make it beautiful.

Villanueva uses pretty language, but she doesn’t shy away from grit. Dirty imagery of life’s more unpleasant facets only make her poems more real. She crosses from personal to political, to back again, including a poem she sent to President Clinton (circa 1994). There is a series of poems to her bird, Mango, but they are not about a bird or for a bird; rather they are about life, and the universe told to Mango; her singing, inspiring companion. Powerful and feminine, Villanueva’s writer’s voice begs to be heard. Desire is less of a collection of works as it is a love letter to the world, one that is definitely worth holding onto.

It would be unfair to sing Villanueva’s praises without exemplifying at least a taste of her beautiful work. If I had to choose a favorite, this one resonated with me the highest.

The Lover.

What is the difference
between sexuality and sensuality,

we discuss oh so
calmly…I spin

on the words
sexuality sensuality

as though they were
worlds, civilizations

I’ve been studying:
“Sexuality is located in

the genitals,” I say…
“an energy that keeps

us hungry, hunting,
stalking. Sexuality seizes,

tames, conquers, gloats
and howls with victory,

and we are all proof of this
momentary victory, the trophy.”

I pause
and continue:

“Sensuality. Rose petals, thick
grass, deep water, fragrant neck,

newborn-in-the arms, suckling
milk and light, lover’s lips, tender

tongues, frying onions, luscious
sauce simmering, to be poured over

meat slid from bone,
done, perfect, surrendered,

cooked, for, your, pleasure,
the perpetual sound of the sea,

aching, longing, roaring, singing,
singing, roaring, longing, aching,

the never ever ending
delight, no trophies,

delight, no proof;
I give my children back

to their lives, their senses,
their most private and secret

dreams, where we conquer worlds
and then wisely relinquish them

in order to praise the Lover
(delight),

worlds without ever
ending,” I murmur

as I watch summer strobing
and oh so slowly

enter the irresistible coolness
on the 26th of June.

Candy Girl January 20, 2008

Posted by vMonster in Books, Culture.
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(a memoir) by Diablo Cody

I was instantly lured to Diablo Cody’s finely-drawn memoir of a year in the flesh trades. A career-girl copy typist at an ad agency, Cody just moved to Minneapolis to be with her uber-sexy (and unwaveringly supportive) Internet boyfriend. On utter impulse, she’s suddenly participating in the most unlikely career of all for a woman like her: Stripping. Starting off as a sort of cheap thrill/experiment, Cody is hardly the tautly tan, artificially-enhanced, platinum haired vixen stereotype commonly associated with titty bars. Rather, she’s an intellectual, brazen, self-professed nerd. She pursues her new “career” with voracity, struggling and taking everything in, undergoing a sort of metamorphosis as she goes. Cody is boldly descriptive of her own so-called shortcomings.

The book is startling yet lighthearted, Cody’s sardonic wit and creative writing style keeps you turning the page. Between the jaw-dropping, raunchy and real observations about the night-to-night encounters of stripperdom, the book is drenched with insight on life as well. (Be prepared to define the terms tip rail, porn shui and jack-shack upon completion, not to mention the “lucrative” business end of the scheme, and how hard it really is to bank major “clams.”) Surely to some women, the idea of peeling buck naked for men we’re likely to otherwise avoid would be less than savory a notion. Not having been abused, neglected, or addicted, even she wasn’t quite sure why she got into stripping. Boredom? Discontent? Why else would anyone impulsively choose to chase something so fiercely?

Cody shines as a bright star in the decidedly melancholy gloom of the shabby adult entertainment industry. The book is an eye-opening, compelling (perhaps repelling?) experience in and of itself. It won’t be like anything else you’ve ever read, that’s a guarantee you can definitely bank on. Highly recommend.

Chasing Down The Dawn December 2, 2007

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I’ve always been a big fan of Jewel’s music and lyrics, so it’s no surprise I fell in love with this book. Breaking free of the constraints of timelines or even stanzas, Jewel’s writing ebbs and flows freely with purity and amazing insight. It is fascinating to read about the often difficult life she had growing up in Alaska, her family life, and her struggles as an aspiring songwriter-musician…when she was younger, and now, as a successful starlet. She teaches us that as our lives change, problems and situations come along, but it’s how one confronts the issues–and how one nurtures one’s own spirit–that truly counts.

Jewel’s constant self-awareness and willingness are evident in every word. Jewel paints ordinary-seeming vignettes with a startling poignancy…embellished with description in just the right way. It’s an amazing book for introspection and reflection regardless of one’s occupation, or how old this book happens to be (published in 2000). Only more proof positive that the written word transcends time and bridges the gap between all of mankind. Jewel is a true inspiration.

true statements August 23, 2007

Posted by vMonster in Books.
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Whilst perusing an old Reader’s Digest during my receptionist duty at work, I came across this interesting book:

True Tales of Life, Love, and Credit Card Bills

Statements by Amy Borkowsky, in which the author retells ten years of her life through an archive of credit card statements.Ā In a world of done-beforeĀ chick lit, this book breaks boundaries and isĀ prized with rave reviews by readers atĀ amazon.com (where you can find excerpts, and purchase the book, as I have).Ā A witty, smart, peek into a single-woman’s lifestyle, this is a book we’re absolutely stoked to dig into.