Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Finger Lickin' Fifteen

I love Janet Evanovitch. I was skeptical when my mom tried to talk me into reading her stuff. Surely she couldn't be as funny as my mom said right? I should have remembered the last time she was so adamant about me reading something, it was 10 years ago when she was trying to convince me to give Harry Potter a try! (Remember back when the entire world didn't know who Harry Potter was?!?! People thought I was odd for reading a kids book while in high school. I wasn't being nerdy, I was being trendy!)
Anyway, I tried out the Stephanie Plum series and LOVE them. My mom's entire office reads them. They really are hilarious. Like literally laugh out loud, make your husband give you really odd looks kinda hilarious. But they sound kind of stupid when you try to explain it to someone else. Just give one a try. I don't care who you are, you'll laugh. And if you don't, well, I wouldn't want to be friends with you.
So what are they about? Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. Who's afraid of guns and usually keeps hers unloaded in a cookie jar. And who has a tendency to attract car bombs and nut jobs. She lives in Jersey and has a cast of surrounding characters who are definately Jersey through and through. She's got a crazy grandma who steals the show, and who definately isn't afraid to pack heat and enjoys trips to the funeral home for viewings. One of her coworkers and best friends is Lulu, a gigantic former prostitute who eats buckets of chicken and wears very little clothing. And she's torn between two men, cop Joe Morelli who has a bad boy streak despite his job and Ranger, a kick-butt bounty hunter/security company owner with an even bigger bad boy streak. I highly recommend you check them out.
Oh, and Stephanie eats a Tastycake in every book. Tastycake started in Philadelphia, so I made sure to get some when I was there a few weeks ago. They are appropriately named. Yum! I wish I had one right now. They taste homemade instead of all processed. They're basically Hostess treats, but even better. I'm drooling a little. They look like crap though. The boxes look so generic and they looked all squished and not good, but I am so glad I eat them anyway. Crumbly awesome goodness.

The Rosetti Letter

I picked up The Rosetti Letter by Christi Phillips at the OKC library book sale earlier this year. It's sort of like the Da Vinci Code, only not as intriguing or controversial. The bare bones of the story is the same, but you won't feel like you're about to be struck down by lightening while reading it! Unfortunately, you won't be as entertained either. It does have a good story though, it's just not a can't put it down till I'm done kind of read like Brown's stuff. It's about a woman pursuing her PhD in history. She's working on her dissertation and goes to Venice as a baby-sitter/companion for a 14-year-old really spoiled girl. She uses that time to conduct research for her dissertation and to spy on a professor who is about to publish a book on the same topic. Her dissertation centers around Alessandra Rossetti and her role in the Spanish Conspiracy, and half of the book is told through her perspective during the 1600s. Although the conspiracy is real, Rossetti and some of the other characters and events from the past are not. Although she wasn't real, she was still interesting to read about and Phillips including a lot details about what life would be like in Venice during that time. I thought the details about being a courtesan were wrong though. She kept defining courtesan as a high society prostitute, but that's not exactly right. I did check on that and the word was used a little differently in Italy than in England, but it seemed in Italy it still really just referred to a mistress of a high-powered man, not an actual prostitute. That bugged me. But I liked the main character and still somehow enjoyed teh story despite the flaws, and if you like Dan Brown type of historical mysteries that are more conspiracy theory than fact, you'd probably like this too.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Banned Book Appreciation

In honor of Banned Book Week, I thought I'd ask if you have any favorite books that made the list?

Two that immediately jumped out at me are 1984 and Brave New World. Ironic huh? I love both of those. I also enjoy The Great Gatsby, sitting at the number one spot on the list. That surprises me. It's not that bad, and it's considered by many to be the greatest American novel. Then there's Heart of Darkness, which helped me pass my AP English exam. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Thank you Mrs. Richardson for suggesting that book to me during my junior year in high school. She was one of my favorite teachers, and I loved the book. She was excellent with recommendations. I've read it several times, and her other recommendation to me, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, is one of my all-time favorite books. I ended up writing a paper on both of them in college actually. Back to the list. The Call of the Wild. As my professor for my American Novel class at UCO said about 295 times, Buck's a dog! A dog. What's there to ban? He's a dog.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Tauntings of The Invisible Man

So I've mentioned before that The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is one of the three books I have started and not finished. (I talk about the third one here if you're curious.) Although I am trying to continue with my new-found acceptance of not finishing a crappy book, I have also intended to go back and read The Invisible Man. This has not been at the top of my priority list though, I must admit, but seeing all the buzz about the best of the National Book Award winners is making me feel guilty. I was contemplating pulling it out this weekend, when I read about Saturday kicking off National Banned Books week. And there it was, glaring at me from the list. So I may just have to give it a shot this week. They had a full list of the most frequently banned/challenged classics. It's a list of the top 100 books of the 20th century, with the ones that have been challenged/banned in bold. Where would you guess most of the challenges to come from? Check out this map of challenges. Is it those crazy Bible belt people? Nope. Almost all of the challenges come from somewhere along the east coast. There's also a big concentration around Wisconsin/Michigan/Chicago. Perhaps this is partly because the Bible belt schools aren't as likely to put pro-homosexual books in the kids section in the first place, but there are also a lot of challenges on the coast due to racial and homosexual slang terms. The conservatives are challenges And Tango Makes Three. The liberals are challenging Huck Finn. Really? And we're the ones who are trying to censor everything? Grrr.
Anyway, look for some appreciation for banned books this next week! And maybe go to the library and check one out for yourself!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Big Over Easy

A few years ago Ryan and I went to San Francisco because I had an American Marketing Association conference there. While there, we visited the City Lights bookstore, which is definately the most interesting bookstore I've ever been too. Not the best, (that would be Powell's in Portland, OR. It's an entire city block long and has over a million books in stock.) It was started by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who published Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl. Ginsberg and Jack Keroac were frequent visitors. It's interesting because the basement is all alternative literature. They had an entire section devoted to anarchy. It's definately the only bookstore I've been to that had that! You could definately find books there you can't find anywhere else. While there I bought a b//9+-9999999999999999999999 - Optimus Prime (my cat) says hello - While there I bought a book called The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. It was one of the more interesting books I've ever read, so it was a fitting choice. This post is about another one of his books, but if you haven't read anything of his I would start with The Eyre Affair so I wanted to talk about it a little first. It is odd, and I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. It's about a woman, Thursday Next, who can travel into books. Book characters are real, and can travel into the real world in exchange programs. It takes place in 1985, but it's an alternative history where England and Russia are still fighting the Crimean War, and England is controlled by the Goliath Corporation. Thursday is a literary detective, and is chasing a criminal mastermind through the pages of Jane Eyre. This starts a four-part series of novels about Thursday. To enjoy the books, I think it helps to be familiar with major literary works since various characters pop up, such as Mrs. Havisham, Thursday's sort-of mentor. You also have to be able to set aside reality and accept the odd little world they live in. It's an odd mix of reality and the fantastical. Fforde's writing is also odd. I'm not even sure how to describe his style, just that it's not quite like anything else I've ever read. I can see how it would bug some people though. I know I'm probably not making this sound great, but it's because I really love these books and realize they aren't for everyone, and I don't want to overly praise them and then someone read them and hate them. I absolutely love them though! I love that the books are eccentric. I love that they feature wonderful characters from other books I've read, which is something I like so much I even did that in the novel I started while in college (and should really finish someday). But, the book I just read is The Big Over Easy. It's the first in a series of Nursery Crimes - as in nursery rhyme crimes. Jack Spratt is the head detective of the Nursery Crimes unit. This book focuses on the death of Humpty Dumpty. Was it suicide? Was it murder? What could be more awesome than investigating the potential murder of Humpty Dumpty? It's very tongue-in-cheek, but it's hilarious and intriguing, and different. I can't wait to get the rest of the books in this series.

Distant Heart

Distant Heart by Tracey Bateman is the second in her Westward Hearts series that started with Defiant Heart. The characters are still on the Oregon Trail, but this book takes place primarily from the perspective on Toni, a reformed prostitute. It's interesting that I read it at the same time as The Art of Mending because it's about redemption and forgiveness as well. Toni doesn't think she deserves a good man because of her past. Many of the other travellers avoid her or actively degrade her. She has to learn to forgive herself and realize that God has washed her clean and made her pure again, and of course deserving of love. This honestly followed the exact same formula as Defiant Heart. There's even a kidnapping in both. But, you can't expect a lot more than that with these types of books, and it was a great book for reading in the hotel room at night when I was too tired to read something else. It's also refreshing to read Christian romance once in a while because it's not all about sex like secular romances usually are. They have to get a little more creative, and it's nice that the couples don't meet and fall into bed three seconds later. And Bateman manages to avoid the utter cheesiness is that is most Christian romance books, so I have to give her credit for that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Art of Mending

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg is a book about family and if you can ever really know other person. It's about secrets in a family, that even siblings are unaware of. It's about how siblings can be raised in the same house, and have completed different perspectives on their upbringing. It's also about forgiveness, and moving past your past. While reading it, I actually didn't like it that much. I didn't like most of the characters, so it was hard to connect with them. But, when I finished everything, I did end up with a favorable opinion. I'm not sure how that happened. I think that by the end you better understand the characters, so looking back you like them a little more. I also liked some of the things it made me think about, and the fact that it made me think at all. It made me think about how I might describe my childhood differently from my brother. It might be think about memories that are seared into my mind, but that others who were there don't remember. For instance, I vividly remembering sitting on my grandparents' back porch eating McDonald's for breakfast one morning and my brother accidentally threw a butter packet at my Grandpa. It hit him in the forehead and opened a little, and stuck there. I clearly remember this moment. But, when my Grandpa passed away I shared this story with my family and no one else remembers it! I was shocked! I bet Pap (my Grandpa) would have remembered, but no one else did! Odd.

One of the other things I liked about the book is that it addressed some of the fundamental differences in men and women, something liberals are usually loathe to admit, and from some of the other books of Berg's that I've read about, I would have put her in that category. But she talks about how women are, obviously, biologically wired to have children. That makes women generally more nurturing than men, who naturally took on the hunting and gathering responsibilities since the women had to tend to the children. She addressed how this played into the differences in the siblings, with the brother checking out of the emotional aspects and trying to just fix things rather than comfort his sister. It also played into the main character's relationship with her husband, and some of the actions she takes. It wasn't a huge part of the novel, but it was so surprising to read something modern that went that direction that it stuck out.

I've read that this isn't one of her best novels, even in her own opinion, so since I still liked it I think I'll try out a few of other books.

Daily Dozen

This isn't like my usual posts, but I wanted to write about it and this is my blog so I can do what I want to. :) A few weeks ago in one of my leadership groups at work we learned about John Maxwell's Daily Dozen. He has a list of 12 things he makes sure to do each day. I thought it was a neat idea at the time, but didn't do anything about it. Yesterday I was reading my friend and coworker's blog, and she wrote about how she created a Daily Dozen for her job. Reading her list inspired me to create my own list. See, at least this did come from something I read, even if it wasn't a book!
For now, I've created a list that mixes both personal and work-related items. I may end up splitting it into two full lists, but this is what I'm going to go with for now. I think for right now, the main point of this exercise for me was to give me items that I can check off a list everyday that make me realize I am moving forward toward something. One thing I've had to adjust to since becoming a manager a year ago is that a lot of what I do at work isn't stuff you put on a project list and check off. And I have to remember that things like taking franchisee calls and helping them are the main purpose of my job, not something that's interupting me from my project list. This list helps put some of those items in a list format, which makes it easier for me to see them as something that fits within a bigger picture.
Here's my Daily Dozen:
Spend time in the Word and in prayer.
Purposefully do something nice for Ryan.
Help a coworker.
Help a franchisee/staff member.
Read something for fun.
Read something about marketing.
Read something about leadership.
Manage my finances wisely.
Complete all items on my to-do list or reprioritize for the next day.
Write something for fun.
Make progress on long-term goals.
Lead well.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty

I ordered this book for work because a lot of our franchisees read it when the economy started tanking. I had read it a few months ago, but recently skimmed the whole thing to help for an article I was writing at work. I realized I didn't write about it here because it was a book for work, but why does that matter? I still read it. The book is geared toward business owners and executives, and I can definately see why it interested so many of our franchisees. For one thing, it's only 125 pages long, so it's not the drone on forever kind of tome that business books usually are. It offers practical advice, something else that's often missing. It provides overal suggestions for leading during times of crisis, then has specific chapters for CEOs/business unit heads, sales and marketing, CFOs, operations, research and development, the supply chain, supporting your staff, and the board of directors. It made it easy to read just the first chapter overview, then the chapter that most applies to your situation.

For the article I wrote, I pulled out his six essential leadership traits: honesty and credibility, the ability to inspire, real-time connection with reality, realism tempered with optimism, managing with intensity, and boldness in building for the future. Most of those are good leadership traits during any time, so I focused in primarily on the real-time connection with reality and realism tempered with optimism. Those are two items I'm trying to focus on myself as well. The first one means to be more connected with the people on the ground level. It takes too long for the information to get put into a database, sent up the chain, analyzed by the execs, then filtered back down to middle management. You have to connect directly with those people actually interacting with your customers to know what's going on right now. And you have to look at week-to-week comparisons, not year-to-year or quarter-to-quarter (of course I'd already learned that from Sasser!). In my own job, I've tried to stay connected with our franchisees to hear from them directly if things are starting to change in their markets, how things are going, what they're seeing. One of them recently had six direct hire orders in one week, so things seem to be turning around!
The other one I focused on was realism tempered with optimism. This is one I personally struggled with during the late spring and summer, when things were a bit crazy at work. How do you share bad news about sales numbers, layoffs, and pay cuts without scaring everyone? You want them to know the truth, and to be prepared, and to be able to know the facts so they can make changes, but you don't want everyone to panic and starting looking to jump ship. It's also hard when you don't necessarily agree with decisions that are being made to be able to convey that message with optimism to employees. You don't want to be dishonest and make it sound like you agree with the decision, but you don't want to be negative either. I usually try to deal with this by sharing as much information as possible in an unbiased way, and when it's clear I don't agree with something to at least try to explain why the decision was made and how it might not be what I would do, focus on the merit in that decision.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Put Your Dream to the Test

Okay Linda, here's one for you! My former boss gave everyone in our department this book before she left to became the Chief Operating Officer for GiANT Impact, John Maxwell's company. How cool is that by the way? I was telling someone that the other day and she was so impressed that I worked from someone who has such a fancy job now! Anyway, the book was Put Your Dream to the Test by John Maxwell. One of my employees asked me to do a book study with her on it during our weekly one-on-one meetings. Ashlie's such a good employee. :) We actually finished up a while ago, but I realized I hadn't written about it.
The book has 10 questions to ask yourself about your dream for your life. It helps you determine if your dream is really your dream, if it's big enough, if it's really what you want to do, if you can realistically achieve it, and more. It was great to go through it with an employee. It brought us closer together and, hopefully, showed her that I care about her dreams and her as a person, not just her as an employee. It also forced me to talk about my own dreams, which wasn't easy for me. I had to figure out what my dream was for one thing! And no, I'm not going to share it with you yet. I'm still struggling with it, and although the book was extremely helpful in helping me determine what I need to do if that is my dream, and helped me believe that this is probably my dream, I'm still not sure so I'm going to keep it quiet for now. Sorry for the tease! That's not what's important anyway. The book is what's important in this case, and it was a great book. I don't like a lot of business books (despite part of my job being to select books that are part of our campaigns - I only pick ones I like!), I did enjoy this book. It's not really a business book anyway - it's a self-help book (not that I normally like those either). I do recommend it if you have a dream, but you don't think you can achieve it or aren't sure how to. It did help Ryan and I get focused back on our finances. We've always been pretty good with our money, so we had loosened up a little this past year, but this helped me see how financial security is a big part of my dream and how I need to be even better, focusing on getting the house paid off and being able to live on one salary. (Not that either one of us is quitting our jobs! It's just that all the layoffs and things scared us - what would we do if one of us lost our job? What changes would we have to make? What can we do now so we don't have to panic if that happened? One of us could get seriously sick or injured, and while we have good insurance, would it really cover what we make now? That sort of thing.) Anyway, it helped me see how that fits into my bigger picture for my life instead of just being about money.

The Phantom Tollbooth

I re-read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster yesterday. I actually didn't really care for this book when I was younger, but I went through a phase where I didn't like fantastical books, so I thought I might have read it during that "try to be a grown up and stop reciting the entire script of Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz" phase. My aunt still tells me she has no need to see either movie because of me. Anyway, I actually only partly liked it this time too. I loved the idea of it, and the theme of it, but I didn't actually love it. I didn't care about Milo. The characters, although some of them are fun and absurd, really aren't that memorable. It was all about plot, which was told in a rather choppy manner. We went here and did this and then went here and did this and... I can see why I didn't like it as a child. I missed his points because I didn't care about the characters, so I didn't pay that much attention. I did the same thing yesterday. What's interesting is the short story I wrote in a creative writing class in college that I keep meaning to turn into a novel is written along the same themes. I should love this book. But I don't. After submitting that short story to my writing group in that class, they and the professor all encouraged me to keep going with it. And I did, creating a book-length outline and massive amounts of character notes. But five years later it's still just that. I feel like Juster took something like that outline and just slapped a few transitions and bits of dialogue in and called it a day. Forget the character aspects. Maybe because my writing process is different the same way my reading process is different. For example, Ryan cares primarily about plot. That's why he's not a big reader. He can get plot more efficiently from a movie, and can control the plot to some extent in many video games, so he prefers those. But I care primarily about character. I read about a great character doing a bunch of nothing. Which is why Ryan can't understand why I love Jane Austen and books like I Capture the Castle - they're primarily about character, then plot. I write the same way. A character pops in my head first, then I find something for them to do. You can tell when an author does it the other way - comes up with a plot and then creates someone to do it. I prefer the first way. Like with the novel I should be writing instead of blogging about - those character notes came first, then the outline. I probably did 30 different character development exercises. Answered hundreds of questions like: What's in her purse? What's her favorite food? What three things would she want if stuck on a deserted island? What does she smell like? What do her hands look like? Details that will never end up in a book, but that help flesh out the character and make them as real as possible. You can always tell the authors whose characters live in their heads and take on a life of their own versus those who simply make a character the way the author wants. Maybe this post has inspired me to get back to Charlotte and the Queen from my attempt at a novel. They both still live in my head even though I haven't written in a while. Maybe I should finally get them out and give them freedom and de-clutter my head a bit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Looks to Die For

Looks to Die For by Janice Kaplan is a light-hearted murder mystery, an odd but rather common combination these days. A woman sets out to clear her husband's name in a murder case, set in Beverly Hills. Again, it was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours, but nothing spectacular. It was a good mystery that I didn't solve by the end, although it was a bit convoluted. I don't have a lot to say becuase I don't want to give anything away, so I'll leave this one short and sweet.

The Woman Who Walked into Doors

I'm usually a compulsive finisher of books. Once I start reading, I can't stop. It may take me months to finish a book that I'm not enjoying, but I will finish it. This compulsion doesn't carry over into other parts of my life. I can start and stop projects, cleaning house, and doing laundry with ease. I have no problem turning off a movie part way through. But I can't seem to stop with books. I mentioned this in my post about The Wizard's Daughter. The book was awful, but I powered through. Then read this article, In Praise of Books Half-Read. And I decided to stop the madness. I had started a book called The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle. It is one of the books covered in The Reading Group. It's about a woman who is beaten by her husband. When I picked it up, I was excited to note a quote from J.K. Rowling on the cover: "The most remarkable book...I do think he's a genius." Wrong wrong wrong. He's an idiot who can't write worth crap. I could make myself finish this trash, or I could enjoy reading The Phantom Tollbooth. I'm choosing to give up my compulsion and stop reading this book. Doyle clearly is incapable of writing from a woman's perspective. I cannot believe any woman could read this and think he did a good job, although Rowling apparently does. I've never met a woman who talked this the narrator, or thought like her. She sounds like a man trying to write like a woman, not like an actual woman. It's also written in a stream of consciousness style, which I hate anyway, but he uses it very ineffectively. He seems to write that way because it requires less effort and is an excuse for sloppy writing and story development. In the 40 pages I read, most of the focus is on the woman thinking back to being in school. She seems to blame everything on the fact that she was put into the second to lowest class in secondary school. She had no chance after that. She became tough and hardened and the teacher was terrible so she didn't learn anything and she gave a boy a hand job during class. Which is really disgusting and is when I decided to give up on this one. I imagine if I continued, I would eventually see her being beat by her husband (I know that happens from the book club book), but would see how it is all the school system's fault. Perhaps if I were British this book would make more sense to me, but it was just terrible.

Defiant Heart

Defiant Heart is by Tracey Bateman, author of the trilogy that started with Catch a Rising Star. I had picked it up at the library after reading the first book in that series, but hadn't read it yet. I liked it a lot better than the the last two books in her previous trilogy. This one is set in 1850 on the Oregon Trail. A young girl and her two siblings are trapped as indentured servants who run away and join a group of wagons going west. It reminded me of playing Oregon Trail. Will they be able to ford the river? Should you pay for the ferry? Should you stop in town and buy overpriced goods? But, it also had a good story. Nothing deep or revolutionary, just a simple story that took only a few hours to read. It was a nice way to spend a labor day morning. I'm going to have to get back to reading less fluff though. When things got stressful and dramatic at work, I stopped reading anything but fluff because there was enough drama going on at work. But things have calmed down now and I should go back to meatier reading. Although I am traveling the next two weeks, so it might not be until after then that I actually read something of substance. We'll see.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Why Are We Still Reading Dickens?

I read this article titled "Why Are We Still Reading Dickens?" recently and thought I'd share, especially since it mentions one of the books I just read. I agree with his basic answer that we read because it teaches us to think, although any number of books can do that. But Dickens is one of those authors that does help us understand why we are how we are. I like that. I also think it's impressive that Picoult manages to do that as well. Her books should be studied in literature programs, although they get flack for being popular. Well, Dickens was unbelievably popular during his time. Does that mean he's not literary or worth reading? Both authors are excellent at the psychological aspects of writing. They take you into their characters heads. Dickens managed this well before the advent of modern psychology or psychoanalysis. As I mentioned about Picoult, Dickens makes his characters understandable, even they ones you don't necessarily agree with or support their actions, like Mr. Micawber or Mrs. Jellyby or Harold Skimpole. But I think the article missed something. We still read Dickens because he is entertaining. He knows how to tell a good story. He makes you laugh, he makes you cry, he makes you feel. His stories bring you enjoyment. That helps him stand the test of time.

Handle with Care

I was very excited to have a new book by Jodi Picoult to read while Ryan was out of town. Last Sunday I sat down with Handle with Care and didn't come up for air until I was done. I love that about her books. I just can't stop reading until I'm done. Everything else falls away. Her stories and characters are just so engrossing. You know these people, you're there in the story. Even when you don't particularly like a character, she writes in such a way that you understand why they're acting a certain way, so you can't exactly dislike them.

The other day at work, we were talking about our strengths. One of my coworkers strengths is empathy. I made a comment about how empathy is definitely one of my weaknesses, and how I've actually scored a zero in mercy on some of those church tests that test your strengths. One of my employees said she didn't think that was true, and pointed out instances where I have been empathetic. That got me thinking, and I do think I've improved in that area over the years. It's still a weakness (one that, sadly, I'm actually proud of), but I'm not nearly as bad as I used to be. I honestly think I owe a big part of that to Picoult. As I mentioned, she writes in such a way that you understand her character's actions, even when you disagree with them. I'm not very good at understanding why someone would do something that's not what I would do, because clearly whatever I would do is right. :) But you can't do that with her books. Everything is a shade of gray in her stories. No one is strictly right, no one is strictly wrong. I usually operate in very clear black and white, so it's interesting to take on this other perception.

For instance, in Handle with Care I did not agree with the mom's actions. Her child is born with a disability that could have been caught earlier during the pregnancy when she could have had an abortion. She sues for wrongful birth, even though she privately says that she wouldn't have had the abortion, she just needs the money to care for her daughter. What she did was wrong. But, in being inside her head, you understand that she's not a bad person. She honestly believes she's doing what's best for her child, that this will allow her to get her better care. You can't hate, or even dislike, someone for that.

The story is told through the mom, the dad, the older sister to the disable girl,the OBGYN (who's also the mom's best friend) and the lawyer. I think these diverse viewpoints is what helps Picoult create a world that's gray and layered. You'll feel strongly one direction, and then read the next section with someone who has the opposite opinion and be swayed that way. My opinions are usually so steadfast that this is odd and enchanting to me that she's able to get me to do this.

The story in this case also focuses on how the older sister is affected by the lawsuit. She develops an eating disorder and starts cutting herself, two things I have never understood. Again, Picoult gets inside that character's head and makes those things more understandable.

Although I love the book overall, I will agree with a lot of other readers in saying I don't like the ending. It didn't feel right. I'm not going to say the exact ending, but it felt like she was trying to recreate the shock at the end of My Sister's Keeper, but not do the exact same ending. Oddly, this book could have very easily have ending on a high note, unusual for a Picoult book, that would have been more surprising and more fulfilling. I felt like she was just trying to shock you or play with your emotions with the ending she chose. Also, I know she's the author and created the characters, but it just didn't feel right. It didn't fit with the rest of the book.

Jane Austen in Scarsdale

Jane Austen in Scarsdale by Paula Marantz Cohen is a modern telling of Austen's Persuasion. It's set in a snobby area of New York and the main character is a high school guidance counselor helping kids get into college. The rest of the story is basically Persuasion. Overall, it was a nice, fluffy little book. However, I think the story was a little difficult to translate into modern times. Anne Elliot in Persuasion was persuading by her family to stop seeing the man she loved because he was not of their position in society and was poor. Eventually, their positions are reversed. It's understandable that a young woman in the early 1800s would be persuaded by her family not to marry someone below her station. It's not as understandable in today's society. It makes her rather unlikeable. Because I like Persuasion, I gave her the benefit of the doubt in that area, but then she was a spineless loser in another area. She let someone temporarily move into her apartment while she was living with her grandmother while she recovered from a stroke. When it's time for her to move back home, she generously gave the other girl three weeks notice to find another place (which she was supposed to be doing all along because the situation was temporary). The girl refuses to leave and Anne barely reacts! Rather than calling her landlord or the police, she hires a lawyer and doesn't seem to know how long it will take to get it sorted out. Really? I'd be getting that taken care of that day, forget the notice time to move out. But still, overall it was a nice little read, and the parts about the college application processs was interesting and sad. And the grandmother in the story, who is a wise and wonderful character, watches General Hospital. Gotta love that!

Here are a few interesting quotes:

"I think we're leaning toward St. John's, the Great Books college in Maryland. Did you know they read the Greeks during the freshman year?" This struck me as odd, because she's discussed all of these high-brow, Ivy league schools, and then notes this as an oddity. It is so strange to me that most schools don't require this. OBU did. We read the Illiad and the Odyssey, and plays by Sophocles, Aristophanes, Euripides, and Aeschylus, all in one semester of freshman year. It's appalling that so many schools, even liberal arts colleges, don't require this. I am so thankful that I went to OBU. Great program, great professors, great environment, great U.S. News and World Report rankings, plus I met my husband there.

"Your grandmother is such a classy lady. She's even rubbing off on me. She told me to stop wearing so much eye shadow and to get rid of all my designer logos." I loved that. I seem to be one of the few people that thinks wearing designer logos is tacky. The only reason to own a Louis Vouitton purse is show off the fact that you spent a ridiculus amount of money on it. It's stupid.

"[W]here do you want to put these books? Don't you think we should give them away since you already read them?" "She can't understand that books don't get used up. I've tried to explain that they aren't like clothes or furniture - that we keep them because we might want to read them again." "And because they remind us of how we felt when we read them." Very few people understand my obsession for owning books. Why buy them when I can get them from the library? Or at least sell them back when you're done. But I enjoy seeing them, and like Anne says, being reminded of how I felt when I read them. Passing by them is like seeing an old friend. I have been using the library recently for books I wouldn't normally buy, or that I would end up selling back, but I will always want to purchase books that I would want to revisit.