Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I know, I know. I'm terrible. Well, we're terrible, I guess. I haven't written in forever, and neither has Jewel. Guess what? Life happens, and you can get caught up in it. Don't think that I haven't been reading, because I've been reading a ton of books. I just haven't been blogging about them. Which I know is lame. So I apologize, dear readers (if you exist!)

I just wanted to say quick that I'm still alive, I still know how to read, and I apologize for how bad I've been about blogging. So stay tuned, because I will get back on it. I got some new, great books at a Youth Ministry conference that I was at this weekend, so expect to be stoked by those reads.

Until next time, don't stop believing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

It’s been awhile, my friends, and I’m sorry for that. I have been so busy reading that I have not been very busy sharing my thoughts with all of you on my literary conquests. I have read three more books in the last few weeks, and have mixed reviews. The first two that I read were good, but nothing to write home (or a whole blog) about. Jewel says that I have to at least mention them so you guys don’t think I’m lying about reading them. Okay, fine, I will. There were This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, and The Reading Group by Elizabeth Noble. They were both standard fiction books – somewhat heavy themes, but stirred in with a lot of fluff. Oddly enough, they both had themes of crazy dysfunctional families. A theme that I know well, and have been dealing with lately.  Not on a huge scale, but big enough that I think about selling some of my family members more than one time a week. But like I said in the blog before this, don’t we ALL have a crazy sibling? (Looks around as she is the only one who raises her hand…) Awkward…

Anyways – this brings me to the book that I finished last night. As I have said before, I am a sucker for a good memoir. That tends to be first place I go when looking for a good book. I love people’s first-hand accounts of their lives. I think it’s because it gives me a glimpse into something new and different – maybe something that I wish to accomplish, or something that I want to know about but obviously won’t/don’t want to/can’t experience it.

So this last book that I got the chance to read, Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, was a perfect read. It is all about David’s son’s downward descent into the crazy world of meth. He started as a well-behaved, bright young boy, and quickly becomes a completely different person, ensnared by the evils of drugs. I haven’t had a lot of experience with drugs. I haven’t even done any (smoking pot included), and none of my close friends have fallen into their traps. But I do know people who have had drug problems in the past, and have since changed their lives for the better. This book was a crushing book – it was extremely well written, and was infused with facts about addictions and the drugs themselves. There was no fluff in this book. It was all pure emotion – the love of a father for his son is a very raw, beautiful thing. I cannot wait to be a mother. And even when I read books like this, I can’t wait. I know that sounds strange – but reading about the love that the parents have for their child even through the craziest points in their lives, makes me realize how much I am yearning to be a mom and to be filled with that reverential awe for my child.

As I said before, drugs are a foreign territory to me. But one thing that struck a chord with me in this book is what Nic’s drug problems and disease did to his family – mainly his younger siblings. He would take off, and not show up to important things, and stole money from his little brother’s piggy bank. The kids knew what was happening with him, but they didn’t fully know the extent. But it was a scary and confusing thing for them to live through. I know how this is – I did the same thing with my brother. But with my brother, I don’t think it was drugs (still am not sure) – it was mainly violence and a rage and anger that he could not keep in check. It was getting kicked out of my house constantly, and smoking after saying how much he hated smoking, and hitting my mom and dad, and even scalding my dog. It was this erratic behavior that I could not fully wrap my mind around that was incomprehensible for a little girl – so reading this book, my heart ached for Jasper and Daisy, Nic’s younger siblings. I had been there to an extent. I had lain awake at night crying because I wasn’t sure where he was, and wanting him to come home and to be nice to my family. I hid things that were special to me in case they got broken or stolen. I was afraid to trust him when he seemed like he was in a good mood because I didn’t know how long it would last.

My brother has grown by leaps and bounds. He still makes decisions that I don’t like, but all family members do that. I’m not longer afraid of his anger. But like dealing with people with drug addictions, I am sure, it’s still eggshell city sometimes. I am always afraid that the old Aaron will come back – and sometimes shades of him do, but never like it used to be.

I highly recommend reading this book. David’s son, Nic (the one who the book is about) has a book called Tweak that I am planning on checking out soon. I want to see the story from his angle.

I am in the middle of three others books too… Hahaha… I’m out of control! So that’s what, 9 books now since September 1? Not bad, Mandy, no bad! Only 43 to go! -Mandy

Amazing book. Read it now.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dear Diary,

It’s been a long time since I’ve written.  Just a quick update- my crush talked to me the other day!  He told me that my shirt wasn’t ugly today!  It was so so awesome!  He even looked me in the eyes as he said it!  My life is complete.

Wait, I just realized something.  This is not my diary.  Oh my gosh.  My life is ruined.  I don’t have a delete button on this thing. 


Anyways, I know I haven’t written on here in awhile either.  I apologize.  I’m just pretty important, and my life is pretty busy.  Actually, you must know that I’m kidding here, but in reality, I have been pretty busy, and this blog did take a backseat, and now I come humbly back.  Since I last wrote, I have read two books, and am halfway through my third.  See, I have been super-stressed, and my way to escape is to read.  It’s definitely been a help in these last few weeks. 

The two books I read have both been sequels- “the Girl Who Played with Fire” by Stieg Larsson (sequel to “the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins (sequel to “the Hunger Games”).  “The Girl Who Played with Fire” was okay.  I really don’t want to spend time talking about it though.  But “Catching Fire” was pretty amazing.  But truthfully, I don’t really feel inspired to talk about it either. 

One thing that did come to mind during reading both of them though, was the idea of a sequel.  It made me think about my life, and if my life was a book, where the writing would stop and then start again as a sequel.  Would my life be parceled into different times of schooling?  Would it be when I survived hard struggles?  Or has my sequel even begun yet?  Will it be when I find the love of my life?  When I have kids?  Will my life be an entire series of books (ala Anne of Green Gables, aka the best series of all time?).

If I had to split my life into two books, I don’t know where the divide would be.  It’s quite possible that it would be between high school and college.  I feel like I experienced a lot in my younger life, but it was in college and after that I pulled the knowledge from those life experiences and was able to become a more complete person.  But then, that just sounds like one book.

In a lot of ways, I feel like I’m still waiting for my sequel to start.  I’ve put so much work into my life, finding my way and becoming the person that I think people want me to be, expect me to be, and I am waiting, and waiting, and hoping for something to start.  I just don’t know what.  When does life start?  How do you start a new chapter…or more importantly, start a sequel?  Hopefully I will have lots of time in my life, and lots of experiences to fill lots of books.  But for now, I will just settle with trying to remember to write new blog entries…

Thank you all for being part of the book of my life.  <3

Sunday, October 3, 2010


See, I have this friend. Her name is Jewel. You may have heard of her. No, not the singer - Jewel, my best friend. She was supporting me in my library adventure the day that she issued this challenge to me, and she grabbed a book and handed it to me and walked away. It was a book that I had already seen the movie for a - movie that I loved. And guess what Jewel says? "The book is way better."

Hmm... I'll be the judge of that! Okay, I was honestly expecting it to be better. It usually is, as we well know.

The book? The one that turned out to be book #5?

In Her Shoes, by Jennifer Weiner.

If you don't know the premise, I will give you the super quick synopsis: A slightly frumpy girl and a super gorgeous girl are sisters. Their mother died when they were young, and the frumpy one is constantly taking care of the beautiful sister. And she doesn't have very good self esteem, but she's got a great life. And her sister seems to be constantly messing up... Throw in some shoes, some dogs, some men, and wackiness ensues. Read the book to find out more.. or the movie if you are lame. :P Actually, they are both good.

This book really made me think about my brother and myself. My brother Aaron is 6 years older than me, and to say that we are different is an understatement. We chose totally different paths in life, have done different things, achieved different milestones. It's shocking when my friends meet him to know that we are related, because we are like oil and vinegar. So the relationship between the sisters, Maggie and Rose, in this book really hit me.

My brother and I are so different, yet so alike in the sense that we know exactly what buttons to push to piss the other off (as most siblings do.) There is no person in the world that can get me as fired up as my brother. He brings out a side of me that I hate sometimes - he is the only person that I can remember full out screaming out in my lifetime. And not just sibling banter - worse. Terrible, mean, things. Not unwarranted, but still, terrible. I can still feel myself in that moment, thinking that I hated who I was right then and pissed at him for bringing me to that level.

But just like Maggie and Rose, who go through a terrible fight in this book and go their seperate ways for awhile, I have the weirdest soft spot for this crazy brother of mine. And I know that in a heartbeat he would be there for me, because he constantly has. Okay, so maybe his way of making me feel better is asking me if I want to sell drugs to make friends, or telling me that he will have someone killed. But still - when he really means it, he really means it. He has had a really hard year - my whole family has had a weird year. And my brother is still standing, which is impressive. Sometimes when it feels like I am about to watch him crumple, he pulls himself out of the mess. Just like Maggie in this book... I watch how Rose, the older sister, takes care of Maggie so well and I think about my brother and I, even though I am the younger one. I make fun of him, and roll my eyes at him, and don't approve of his decisions, but I do love him.

I think that we all have people in our lives that we will have that soft spot for no matter what... We all have someone, be it a family member or a friend that no matter what happens, and no matter how many times we say to ourselves "if he threatens to put me in a bucket one more time, I'm outta here (no? just me?)", we stick around. Maybe it's because we have a great neice and two great nephews in the mix. Maybe it's because we know that no matter what, we both care. And maybe it's because we're not so different when it boils down to it. Maybe it's because we are both doing the best that we can for ourselves and for each other, and we can both respect that without always agreeing with it.

So this book? A+.

I also read another one, called the Magicians, which I loved at first but then got stupid. I stumbled through it so I wouldn't be a quitter. And now I'm on to book #7.

Good recommendation, Jewel. :)

Anyone have anymore recommendations for me? Anyone? Anyone?

It's a trick. You can't click to look inside. I jacked this picture from Amazon. oops!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Book four DOWN! Whoo! I feel so accomplished. Although I am halfway through two other books as well. But this next book I picked up and read pretty quickly - it was an easy read. It's called Sima's Undergarments for Women. It's a book about a Jewish woman who runs a lingerie store out of the basement of her house, and it's quite popular. She seems to have this intuition for what women want and need in the way of underwear, and everyone who comes into her little shop loves her. A woman in her early 20's comes in one day, and Sima is quite taken with her. Not in that way, guys... Get your minds out of the gutter. She is mesmerized by this young lady, who starts to work at the shop for Sima.

Throughout the story, we find that Sima could never have children. She had tried throughout much of her marriage, had endured test after test, and found that her fallopian tubes were scarred from a disease. After all of the testing, she decided that she didn't even want to adopt. She was bitter, and upset about not being able to be a mother. And her marriage, although still going after many, many years was strained because of it. So Sime puts all of her efforts and affections into Timna, the new girl from Israel.

It was a really, really good book. At first, I could not tell where it was going when it would heavily describe the fascination that Sima had with Timna. It was getting a little weird for my liking, until it suddenly started to dawn on me, as we learned more about Sima's past and her inability to have children.

What a scary, scary thought.

Being totally honest with you, I have always feared this as well. Not so much the scientific inability to have a child, but missing the opportunity to be a mom. I was at a wedding once with a friend, and I said "Man, I so want to be married and have a baby." And that friend, who had known we really well for years, was shocked to hear me say that. My own father once told me that he had to drop me from his insurance when I was 23 - 23 or married, whichever came first, to which he responded with "which I don't know if I ever see happening for you." After my sharp reaction, he backtracked to say that I was just so independent, and he didn't see me settling down for anyone else but myself. I understood what he was trying to say, but having him voice one of my biggest fears in the Staples parking lot hurt me to the core.

I have not always had the greatest self esteem. And some days it waxes and wains - I think that most people can sympathize with this, especially women. I have days when I look in the mirror upstairs and feel great, and by the time I catch a glimpse of myself in the car window I've decided that I look and feel terrible. I hate that about myself, and I try hard to not let it get ahold of me when it comes. I try to shake it off, and think about the things that I truly love about myself.

So Sima's story, of not being able to have a baby, haunted me. I don't worry that I won't be able to physically have a baby, but I do fear that I will never have the chance to be a mother. And that would kill me. I know plenty of people who don't have kids, and they are amazing people, and they are doing just fine. But I know that some of them would have preferred to have children, but situations arose or didn't arise that made it not come to fruition. But I so much want to be a mother. I spend time with my cousin, who is an amazing mom, and even on her craziest days where she is drinking a glass of wine with me, I am jealous of her being a mom. I am jealous of all of the little things - of the "I love you's" and the pictures, and the silly days, and the playing games just because her kids want to spend time with her. I have always had a heart for children, that's undeniable. But I can't wait until I go the next step and those children that I am working with and spending time with, and playing with and being super silly with are my OWN.

So I understand Sima's longing for a child of her own, even though our circumstances are much different and she is much older. I just hope that one day I can look at my child and see that the longing wasn't permanent - that it all came in good time. And I know that it will if I just trust in the good of the world and the awesomeness of God and what he wants for me.

So Sima, I toast you. For making sure that women have bras that fit them and that they love, and for being so strong in the face of something that would otherwise cripple others. Even though I know you are a fictional character, I think you're amazing -- and I wish that this book was longer.

Until next time, everyone.... Thanks for listening to my blubbering. -Mandy

PS: I think I have kept true to my no emoticon challenge, Jewel. Do I get a gold star????

Two bra cups up. Wait, that sounds wrong.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

So when Jewel and I started this blog, we discussed a few simple rules that we have already laid out a few of. One of the other rules was that every blog must be inspired by a book in some way. So far we have chosen to discuss the books that we have read, and that's all well and good... But for now, I have decided to branch out and bust out of the mold. Mold is gross anyways.

I want to talk about nostalgia. I have a problem with this every single fall. And right now, I am reading a really good book that is making it worse. It's called The Magicians, and it's like Harry Potter for grown-ups. Now, I know that I've been out of school for awhile now, because I'm an old troll. And I also know the biggest difference in myself and this book that I am reading is that I did not attend a magical unversity. And I don't mean that in a wrongly placed adjective way - literally, a magical university. This what what goes on in this book. And even though I'm that far removed from the subject matter (I can't bend light or move through walls), it still makes me miss school.

There is something about books that is so incredibly magical. You can be transported to another world, be a different person, learn about new things, all within your grasp. How awesome! There is a reason that I re-read a few of my favorite books over and over again. It's the comfort of slipping back into that place that you are so weirdly comfortable with for never actually going there. When you're sad or lonely, a great book can be just the right fix for it. This all sounds so dorky, but I know that anyone reading this who loves to read will feel the same way.

I could spend hours (and I used to) at coffee shops doing stuff online and reading books. I wish that I had more time in my day/week/life to do all of the reading that I want to do. This is not my way of saying that I'm mad that Jewel is beating me at the challenge (I'M NOT, OKAY?). This is my way of saying that if I had it my way, I would read for a living and do nothing but blog for you guys. Even if you don't want to read it.

The weird point that I am tying to make is this - today, it suddenly hit me that taking time to read is something that I cherish and love to do. And it conjures up (see? maybe I DID go to a magical university) all sorts of great emotions. I have a hard time putting down a book when I really love it. But then when I'm done, I'm sad that it's over. IT'S A CATCH-22! Which reminds me, I should read that book.... I never have.

Books that I want to read? Thanks for asking. Feel free to let me know if they are worth checking out...

The Red Tent
Three Cups of Tea
Great Expectations
The Great Gatsby (I know, I've never read it.)
A Brave New World (already read it, but I want to re-read it.)
Crazy Love
Velvet Elvis
Room: A Novel

Any other suggestions?

Until next time, friends... Thanks for reading. If you did. -Mandy

Monday, September 20, 2010

One and a half days was all it took for me to finish my next book.  Yes, it was an easy read, but mainly it was because I couldn’t put it down!  The fourth book in my challenge was “the Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins.  Working at the library, the book kept passing through and I thought- it must be good!  If all the kids are reading it, I better get up on my game, yo!  (No, I don’t really talk like that.  Most of the time anyways.)   I like to be able to relate to my student workers, and throw out questions when I interview people like, if you had to choose, would you be Team Edward or Team Jacob, and then always tell them they chose wrong. 

“The Hunger Games” is a young adult (ahem, don’t say it…) novel about a sixteen year old girl alive in post-apocalyptic North America.  There are 12 (mainly poor) districts around a cruel and rich capitol, who keeps revolts at bay by the hunger games.  Every year, a lottery is used to choose one boy and one girl from each district to come together and fight to the death. 

Now, Mandy would tell you that I am obsessed with Nazis.  (Don’t worry, there is a logical progression here- go with me.)  It’s true that my concentration in my history degree from college was in WWII, and Nazism, but it is not because I am (as Mark calls me) “Cruel Jewel.”  The truth is that violence and war, and how people react in and to it, fascinates me.  What happens to a community when war is around them, and what happens to a child when they grow up seeing it everyday, thinking it is normal?  There is a book that was part of my reading for a class called “Neighbors” by Jan Gross, and it examines the role of the Polish people who murdered their neighbors when given the opportunity (terrible summation- you should read it sometime though if you can stomach it).  Throughout history lessons, the Germans have been blamed for the extermination of millions of Jews in WWII, but Gross discusses the roles of neighbors who killed also.  Where does the blame of violence lay?  Is it in the hands of people who actually murder, or also the people who watch and do nothing? 

The reason I discuss this is that one description of “the Hunger Games” briefly mentioned Suzanne Collins’ focus on war and violence, the effect on children, and a small comparison to Nazism.  The book is for young adults but it does explore these ideas in a mature way, and makes you question what you want the main character to do.  Do you want her to kill her fellow competitors?  Is it okay when it is the only way for her to survive?  Would you have survived the hunger games?

I know I would not have survived.  Mainly because I can’t run for more than about a minute before giving up.  But also because I have never seen any side of me that could fight like that.  Sometimes I wonder what young people joining the military feel about that.  Do they realize that they may have to kill someone to save their own life?  I can’t imagine.  So, yes, I highly recommend this book.  I am anxiously awaiting my copy of the second of the series.  And yes, Mandy, you knew I would have to talk about Nazis sooner or later!