Monday, January 25, 2010

Priorities Please?????

Reading People magazine cover to cover has been one of my Friday night rituals for a few years now. It signifies to me that my work week is over, and now I can ease into my weekend with some great reading material. People do not believe me when I tell them that my favorite part of reading the magazine is not the latest celebrity info, but the "real" people stories.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010...where were you when you heard that a 7.0 earthquake hit one of the poorest countries on Earth? Perhaps you don't remember. Would you be able to tell me where you were when you heard that the legend that was Michael Jackson passed away? It is amazing to me how much we value celebrity in this country. Nowhere does this prove my point more than the last two issues of my favorite magazine.

To be fair to People, since the earthquake happened on a Tuesday, I was pretty sure that it would not make it to print in just two short days. However, I was absolutely repulsed by what I saw on the cover when I opened my mailbox that Friday. This was not the week to see a tell-all about some reality show "star" that was so addicted to plastic surgery that she had 10 procedures in 1 day (grand total: $30,000).

So repulsed that I did not even read the issue, I looked forward to getting my next issue, sure that People would write about Haiti in a way that they deserved. 200,000 most likely dead. Mass graves with not even the dignity of a funeral service. Some will never be identified or found. Some amazing survival stories and reunions. In the February 1, 2010 issue of my favorite magazine, the earthquake gets the top eighth of the cover. People is telling its readers that Jennifer Aniston's "fun, flirty, and forty!" life is more important this week. How else do you explain the cover?

I am disgusted about the value placed on celebrity in this country. We are to blame. The sad truth is that People is only printing what will sell.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Friday Night Knitting Club (Kate Jacobs)

Knitting is not just your grandmother's animal anymore. Over the course of the past few years, it seems like more and more people are taking up this hobby. Not only do they end up with a one-of-a-kind scarf (or if they are really good, a sweater), they can also relieve some stress in the process. Knitters say that there is something in the click of the needles that calms them down. I tried an "Absolute Beginner's Knitting Class", and unfortunately, I was the only one that did not leave the first class with a square. My perfectionist tendencies told me to never go back. Boy, do I admire knitters.

The Friday Night Knitting Club
is very character-driven. Jacobs takes her time in letting the reader get to know Georgia Walker, the owner of the knitting store "Walker and Daughter", who the plotline revolves around. Along the way, we meet Dakota, Georgia's daughter; James, the love of her life; Anita, her mentor; Cat, her longlost friend; and many others. Following the women of the "Club" as they begin to form friendships is both heartwarming and sad. I found myself most drawn to Gran, Georgia's beloved Scottish grandmother, and her no-nonsense wisdom.

If you hated the movie Steel Magnolias, you will hate this book. For some, the sweetness will be like nails on a chalkboard. However, if you are looking for something that will both warm your heart and break it, this is it.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)

I am fascinated by the unprecedented moneymaker that is Dan Brown. Not having had a book released since the wildly popular "The DaVinci Code", his fans preordered "The Lost Symbol" months in advance. From the unputdownable (I made that one up) "Angels and Demons" to the piece of junk "Digital Fortress", there is one thing that can be said for Dan Brown...he knows what will sell.

"The Lost Symbol" again pits Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks on the big screen) with the girl of the month...this time, Katherine Solomon, a Noetic scientist. This book tells you more than you ever wanted to know about Noetics, apparently the science of moving mass with the mind. The backdrop is not the Vatican anymore; it is another city with much symbolism, our nation's capital. All Brown books have a villain in need of a vacation...this time, a heavily tattooed man who is a master of disguises. Langdon unwillingly, through Katherine's brother, Peter, gets involved in searching for the same item the villain is searching for...hence the name of the book, "The Lost Symbol". Along the way, we learn about the fascinating history of the Masons.

If I was not very clear in my plot synopsis, I sincerely apologize. That is because the reader never really knows what is being searched for or what is really going on until the last few pages. I found myself, at times, not able to put the book down, but at other times, desperately wanting the book to be finished. That really should not be surprising to me, as some national publications rated this book one of the worst of 2009. I did not think it should have been there, but I also do not think it was one of the best. Therefore, I will put it right in the middle.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings (Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, etc.)

The "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books have been around for a long time now. I used to read them religiously but stopped for some unexplained reason. When I saw this new edition, "Count Your Blessings", I knew that it was time to pick them up again.

The premise could not be simpler. As with all of the "Chicken Soup" books, these are 2 or 3 page stories to read when you get up in the morning, before bed, while you are waiting to pick up your kids from school, or one of the other millions of obligations you have. These stories simply make you feel good about the American spirit. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will certainly count your blessings.

I found these stories really put things in perspective when I would complain about traffic, that I spilled coffee on my shirt, or that the TV was on the brink. At least I have my family, my friends, a job, and my health. The story of "Nathalie's Lessons" put absolutely everything in my life in a light and made me incredibly thankful. This book is a gift. Read it, and then give it to someone you love.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Nanny Returns (Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus)

It has been a few years since The Nanny Diaries first burst into the forefront. Not only did it become a #1 New York Times bestseller, but it was also made into a mediocre movie. It was only a matter of time before the media hounds would come begging for a sequel. Nanny Returns is a pretty good one, if not very far-fetched.

Nan (A.K.A. Nanny) Hutchinson has been living abroad with her husband for many years. They return to New York, having bought a fixer-upper. Nan tries to make a name for herself in her new consulting business by taking a job as a faculty liason in an ultra-private school. With all of this going on at once, Nan's husband, Ryan, decides that this is the perfect time to start a family.

In the middle of the night, Nan gets a visit from Grayer, the now teenage son of the dreaded Mr. and Mrs. X. from her past. He and his brother need help, plain and simple. This starts a chain of events that Nan promised herself she would never do again...get involved with the "X" family.

While Nanny Returns is enjoyable, there are too many plotlines to follow, and therefore, too many plotlines that McLaughlin and Kraus do not wrap up (my biggest pet peeve). I found myself questioning the plausibility of this story as well. Mr. and Mrs. X see their sons as too much of a burden, so Nan offers to adopt them. Seriously? Read this for escape, but don't worry if you can't make sense of things. Neither could I.