I somehow missed this book when it first came out. My daughter recommended it, so thank you Michelle. Actually I guess I would have to thank JK Rowling, as she wrote that other little coming-of-age story, (well more than one story, that became a series of popular films, which stars Emma Watson as one of those main characters from that story, who stars in the film adaptation of Perks, thus sparking my daughter’s interest, I’m sure.
Anyway, back to this book. I really liked it, even if it is a coming-of-age book modeled after Catcher in the Rye. I liked Catcher in the Rye, but I wasn’t crazy about it. I didn’t like it as much as others expected me (or everyone, really) to like it. But I really liked The Perks of Being a Wallflower. While both Holden and Charlie are those awkward teenagers so many can relate to, Holden was a bit too whiny for me while Charlie just accepted things.
There is a lot to like about the book…the books that are mentioned that Charlie must read, the music that Charlie uses to make great mix tapes (which is another reason that I like this book because mix tapes required a lot more work and effort than making playlists today), the TV shows, the movies, and all that is (was) cool about being a teenager back then. Yes, granted Perks has a cult following because of much of these things, many of which have their own cult following, such as Catcher in the Rye, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Oh…and great quotes like this one:
“So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
Coolness (or should it be hipness?) aside, what makes this book good is that Chbosky really captures teenage angst, depression, curiosity, and social adjustments. The writing is excellent: crisp, clean and captures Charlie’s voice very well. A lot of issues are packed into this tightly written book. The characterizations are spot on: realistic teenage characters with all the typical teenage dynamics and drama. Let’s not forget the humor, either. This story is packed with dry, biting and dark humor.
So, yes, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I hope to be pleasantly surprised by the movie, too.
“Wild” is a journey within a journey about a woman who seeks to find herself by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Reeling from grief over her mother’s death, unable to forgive herself for her excessive indulgences that lead to her divorce, the loss of closeness from her family, unable to complete her undergraduate degree, and a chance encounter with a book called “The Pacific Crest Trail” lead her on journey to cover 1,100 miles of the PCT on a solo hike. She is underprepared for this hike but continuously pushes through to reach her goal, making most readers believe they, too, could take such a journey.
On my bucket list is to hike that other trail…the Appalachian Trail, so I could relate to this book in many ways. However, I will be old when I eventually hike the AT, wishing I had done it when I was Cheryl’s age when she did the PCT. There were many things she did that I could easily see myself doing as well, especially being underprepared for what exactly is involved with such a huge undertaking. It also confirmed for me why I would love to do something like this…all the interesting people you meet along the way.
I also like that she did this on her own and highlights both the advantages and disadvantages of being a solo female hiker. The story is engaging and a quick read. Oh–and the sex is better in this book than in 50 Shades.
I’ll end this with some of my favorite lines in the book:
“I think it’s neat you do what you want. Not enough chicks do that, if you ask me–just tell society and their expectations to go fuck themselves. If more women did that, we’d be better off.”
Gillian Flynn creates complex characters and delves into their thoughts and interactions. Her writing is smart and complex, making you examine the twists and turns and willing you to determine what the conclusion is, yet doesn’t leave you feeling disappointed when the conclusion is not as you may have expected.
She presents Libby as the victim, the child spared when her mother and sisters are brutally murdered. Being the only witness, she must testify against her brother, putting him in jail for these horrible crimes. This is a victim we should easily feel sorry for, yet Flynn adds another layer to Libby’s character making her a victim that you at times like and dislike.
Flynn’s tale examines people’s assumptions, intentions, motives, actions, and their consequences. This is a tightly wound thriller that will not disappoint.
Flynn carries her smart writing right through to her entertaining acknowledgements. I love this line, in reference to her husband: “What do I say to a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off?”
There’s been a lot of talk lately about Sex and Power or Sex and Control. Okay, maybe there’s just a lot of talk about sex again. Much of this seems to be due to the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I can’t seem to go anywhere without this story being discussed in some way. In the bookstore, online with Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr, at the grocery store, on the radio, in the news. I must confess, I have not read much of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, so I cannot really provide a compelling review of it, nor do I want to. I did pick up the book in Barnes & Noble and read a few pages, which really was enough for me (and no, not because I was on the verge of orgasm). I found it to be poorly written, lacking substance, and even the sex wasn’t that good. But I’ll get back to Fifty Shades of Grey in a bit.
Sex and Power. Sex and Control. Humans have been talking about these for a very long time. What I am surprised by is that the conversations really haven’t changed much. Last weekend I saw the movie Hysteria, a cheeky look at the invention of the vibrator, which was developed in the 19th century. Yes, the 1800s. The vibrator was invented, in part, to relieve physicians of the tedious task of bringing women to ‘paroxysm‘ to cure hysteria. Hysteria was, in essence, a means of classifying women’s desire for sexual pleasure as a pathology. Diagnoses of hysteria increased during the 19th century during the same time that women’s sexuality was being greatly repressed. During this time, women were not supposed to have pleasure from sex, so this medical treatment of massaging the clitoris had nothing to do with providing women pleasure in a sexual way and was merely a medical treatment. Thus, women’s sexual needs (and wants) were symptoms of an illness. Soon a home version of the vibrator was available and advertised in catalogs, but it was not advertised as sexual device, so women who were using them in that way, were doing so in veiled secrecy. During the early part of 1900s, these advertisements disappeared, in part because early pornographic films depicted the vibrator as a sex tool. Egads, we can’t have that. Sex and Power. Sex and Control.
What about sexual education? Education and knowledge empowers people, therefore sex education should empower people in matters of their own sexuality. In many studies, proper sex education is often cited as an effective means of understanding sexual and reproductive health, reducing unwanted pregnancies, preventing STDs, improving self esteem, etc. Even though the evidence supports that talking about sexuality helps improve various aspects of sexuality, the very word tends to cause negative reactions in people. For example, if we provide sex education and make people more knowledgeable and comfortable with their own sexuality, it would lead to people having more sex. Egads, we can’t have that. Sex and Power. Sex and Control.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexuality as follows:
Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.
That last sentence is certainly where sexuality can get very tricky. It is where much of these shades of grey occurs when we look at Sex and Power, Sex and Control.
In recent political activity and news, much is being done again to repress sexuality and not just for women. There are ongoing debates over: gay marriage, abortion, funding for Planned Parenthood, abstinence-only sex education (or any sex education), ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, sexual orientation, sexual preference, what one can or cannot do in the bedroom, whether sexual health and/or reproductive health should be included in healthcare coverage (i.e. the Viagra versus contraceptives debate), or saying ‘vagina’ during legislative debates. These are all more about Power and Control than they are about Sex, but in all these cases, it is about exerting Power or Control over one’s Sex or one’s Sexuality. Power and Sex. Control and Sex.
And yes, even poorly written erotica is in this mix as well. Much is being said about the lure of BDSM and what this means for today’s woman. Women have been fighting for equality all this time and now it would appear, we don’t want it after all, but would rather submit ourselves to the power of another. Submission and domination by definition are, after all, about power and control, so therefore, that conclusion should logically follow. Yet, true BDSM relationships are just like other good sexual relationships in that they are all about equality. And trust. And communication. Things that are often very much out of balance with relationships based on Power and Control. Additionally, in BDSM, these are sexual roles that people assume and are not their permanent states of being. Sex and Power. Sex and Control.
Perhaps what is really behind this latest uproar is the fact that women are yet again trying to exert control over their sexuality. They are enjoying pornography (not only in reading fan fiction gone wild, but also viewing it online according to Internet statistics). They are being more open about wanting to explore their sexuality and their sexual needs and wants. People are wondering, debating, and are concerned about why women are suddenly turning to this ‘mommy porn’ for some sexual exploration and understanding. These discussions are no different than the discussions that occurred when men were obsessed with Playboy or watching videos of other men getting blowjobs. Oh wait…those discussions didn’t really happen because men are supposed to enjoy sex and appreciate their own sexuality. Let’s look again at part of the WHO definition of sexuality: “Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed.” Even though women are no longer being diagnosed with hysteria, people are going hysterical because women are yet again trying to experience or express their sexuality. Egads, we can’t have that. Sex and Power. Sex and Control.
Now, it would be easily understood if it were only a matter of female sexuality versus male sexuality, but it isn’t. Granted, men have done their fair share of repressing female sexuality, but women aren’t completely innocent either. Several women who are now obsessed with and absolutely love these Fifty Shades stories are also the same women who would judge or cast a disdainful look at a woman who has shared she owns a vibrator or enjoys bondage or likes rough sex now and then. Both sexes have long accepted that men enjoy sex, have sexual fantasies, and sometimes act on those fantasies, but both sexes have also shown some discomfort with women feeling and doing the same.
Only when women truly appreciate and own their female sexuality AND when there is total acceptance of everyone’s sexuality will there be true sexual equality. Until then, there will be questions of as well as confusion over Sex and Power and Sex and Control. Fortunately, until we have true sexual equality, we can still escape into our stories, our pictures, our videos, our fantasies.
It’s How I Run…
June 6 is National Running Day so I thought I would do a long overdue post on running. Here are some general running tips from me. Keep in mind, these may not work for everyone, but they are some things that help me with running.
The Two Most Important Things You’ll Need for Running
The nice thing about running is that you really don’t need to a lot of gear. There certainly is a lot of gear you can get for running, but you don’t necessarily need it all. One thing you should definitely invest in is a good pair of running shoes. Your cool looking Converse are just not going to cut it. Not only should you go out and buy a good pair of running shoes, you should buy them at a place that knows something about running. They will check out your feet, ask you questions, look at your shoes (yes, please take your current sneakers, walking shoes, running shoes, etc. with you–they really don’t mind the smell). We’re fortunate in the Lehigh Valley as we have two great stores (Aardvark and The Finish Line) that will get you in the right pair of running shoes. Asics have worked the best for me because I have narrow feet and a high arch, but each runner is different, so you’ll want to get shoes that are good for your feet. Trust me–you’ll enjoy running much more if you’re running in shoes that are right for you than those that look the coolest (besides, companies try to make all their shoes look cool anyway).
Women have to invest in a second important item if you decide to take up running and that is a good, high impact sports bra. Ladies–you need to protect your girls. Each breast can ‘travel’ several inches with each stride you take. Without a good sports bra, your breasts can travel 1/10 – 1/4 of a mile for each mile you run. And by travel, I mean up and down, left to right, side to side, crazy eight. If you’re running to look good, you don’t want your breasts to start looking bad after a few workouts. So take care of them! Invest in a very good sports bra. You wouldn’t think of wearing a sports bra as a sexy come-on in the bedroom, so don’t wear your sexy bras when running. There are many good bras out there, but this is another area where it is a good idea to get properly fitted for your bra. I prefer Moving Comfort bras, but there are other good ones out there as well by Champion, Lululemon, Asics, Saucony, etc.
Other Running Gear
Your running shoes, and for women, a good sports bra, are the two key things you need for running. Everything else is bonus and can make your run more enjoyable. Other gear I like includes good wicking clothing, such as running shorts, tops, running pants, jacket, socks, etc. I also love my Spibelt, sold at good running stores where you’ll be buying your sneakers. The Spibelt is a little small personal item belt that can stretch to fit as much or as little as you like in. I generally have my phone, ID, and key in there, but you can also stick in some protein packs or other fuel/energy gels you may want on your run. I like to carry my phone with me because I have decided not to invest in one of those fancy running watches. I use an app on my phone to track my distance, time, speed, etc. The exercise app I prefer is called RunKeeper and allows you to integrate with all your favorite social networking sites. You can also program in certain workouts to help keep you on track (pun intended). I do wear a running watch (a good old Timex Ironman) that serves me well.
This may come as a shock to many, but not everyone loves to run. They may want to get in shape, but running, well, it seems like too much work to them. So what are some ways to get motivated and stay motivated to run? One of the best ways to stay motivated is to run with others. It is much harder to quit running after 5 minutes if you are running with someone else, especially if you have a bit of a competitive streak in you. Again, here in the Lehigh Valley we are fortunate to have some great groups to help you get into running or to find others to run with. For women, there is an organization called First Strides that works on progressive routines to help you build up to run a 5K race. You’ll get to work with some very awesome mentors (like me!) and meet other women trying to improve their running. For men, women (and even kids) we have the Lehigh Valley Road Runners, which has group runs, races, and a kids series.
Running on your own? I like listening to a good playlist when I run solo. Some nights I need a bit more heavy metal, other nights it’s dance music, now and then rock&roll/alternative will do the trick. Pick music that is going to motivate you and keep you going.
Here’s what I ran to tonight:
- Say Hey (I Love You) – Michael Franti & Spearhead
- Let’s Get It Started – Black Eyed Peas
- Let It Rock – Kevin Rudolf & Lil Wayne
- Club Can’t Handle Me – Flo Rida
- Sexy Bitch – David Guetta w/Akon
- Can’t Stop – Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Titanium – David Guetta w/Sia
- Sexy Back – Justin Timberlake
- Good Feeling – Flo Rida
- Wild Ones – Flo Rida
- Lose Yourself – Eminem
For me, personally, listening to a book does not work, but for other it may make the time go by quickly. I also can’t do country music–that would make me run in front of a bus, which is probably not a good idea.
The important thing is to just start running. Start small. Don’t start wanting to do a marathon. Start with 10 minutes and build from there. Before you know it you’ll be running much further than you ever thought you could.
So Happy National Running Day! Go out and get high–a runner’s high, that is!
Last week I gave you DailyLit, a service that sends you bit of a book to your email, the only place we tend to spend a lot of time reading. This week, I will keep with my reading theme. With the amount of information we consume each and every day through reading, there still seems to be so much to read. Because of this, many people are often looking for ways to improve their reading speed.
The deluge of online and electronic texts did not create this need for reading faster. There have long been speed reading programs such as the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics, as well as speed reading tips. There have also been many web-based programs to help you improve your reading speed, such as ZapReader and Spreeder. Readfa.st is my personal favorite, it highlights the text and greys out the surrounding text (compared to some other services that either show one word or sentence at a time), you can adjust the text size or the background color, it scores you and makes it easy to adjust your speed, and you can install a bookmarklet to easily pull text into readfa.st.
To get a quick overview of how it works, check out their video then head over to Readfa.st and give it a try:
I like to read, it’s true. Many people assume that is why I became a librarian. Many people also assume, that as a librarian, I get to read books all the time. I do read a lot, but since becoming a librarian, I certainly don’t read as many books as I would like to. What I do read a lot of is email. DailyLit offers a way to combine the things you want to read with the thing you spend a lot of time reading already. Now you can read books an email at a time in three easy steps: find a book, enter your email, subscribe. You can determine what time you want to receive your installment.
I’ve been wanting to re-read Anna Karenina for a while now. I’ve started to a few times, but I never have enough time to get through it. Now I can schedule my readings an email at a time. The emails are kept short and only take 2-5 minutes to read. For example, Anna Karenina will come to you in 423 easy to read installments. War and Peace (another classic I need to read one of these days) will come to you in 663 easy installments.
At a library I used to work in, I used to grab a book before I got on the elevator because this particular elevator was prone to breaking down. With DailyLit, I don’t need to grab a book because I can read it on my phone. If you want to read more than one installment, you can just request the next one. I use Gmail, too, so I can label my emails and easily retrieve my books as well. Stuck in traffic? Waiting in line at the grocery store? In a never ending meeting?
Another plus is that it is completely free. The only negative (minor one) is that it does not have the selection of an Amazon or a Barnes&Noble, but it has enough offerings to keep you reading for a while. Especially in the classics. Perhaps now I can actually read all those classic novels that everyone expects me to have read already!