Dessert for Your Brain- May Reviews

This month I read quite a bit- I needed a distraction from my everyday life and books are my source of escape. Why deal with your reality and the things that you don't have control over (like realtors, end of the school year madness, a sick puppy, etc...) when you don't have to? Reading is so much healthier (and cheaper) than drugs or alcohol (I think a bottle of tequila costs about as much as a hardback book). This month I am pleased to say that I read quite a few good books. You know what else is really good? Dessert.

The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognani
Dessert: Molten Lava Cake
This book i
s fantastic and fun on the surface, but once you take a moment to reflect, it's a much richer, meaningful novel (you know, like the inner fudge). Sebastian, a teenager who has lived with his eccentric grandmother and has been sheltered from the outside world (they live in a glass dome, for crap's sake), meets Jared, a boy with a heart transplant, and slowly learns what music, friendship, and the outside world are about. Humorous, smart, and a tad sentimental.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Dessert: 7-layer Bars

I received this early-release copy from Amazon Vine and really liked it, although not quite as much as some of Patchett's other novels. This book is a layered novel full of great characters and an interesting plot, describing the journey a pharmacologist makes into the Amazon to obtain information about a dead colleague. My only criticism is that the science behind the novel is a bit sketchy, but that's just me. I am really excited to see her read next month in Santa Monica.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
Dessert: A bowl of Rice Krispy Treats Cereal
This novel is about the decline of the newspaper industry (soon they will be extinct, just like my beloved Rice Krispy Treat Cereal- rumor has it they're back, but I can't find them) and how this in turn affects the people involved. Told through the different perspectives of the staff at a failing p
aper in Rome, Rachman evokes a feeling of nostalgia, but also the need to be flexible as the world changes.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Dessert: Chocolate Chip Cookies

This timeless classic was a novel I read with all my classes at the end of the year- between reading it with them and for lesson planning purposes I think I read it five times this last month. For those who have never read it, it's a science fiction story warning us not to become apathetic and mentally lazy. Just don't see the movie...

Home Land by Sam Lipsyte
Dessert: Bubble gum ice cream

I really love ice cream, and I try to like all flavors. Unfortunately, one that I don't love is bubble gum ice cream, because of the stupid chewy chunks that the good parts. This is exactly like Home Land; the premise, a man writing his high school reunion newsletter with updates, is decent. Unfortunately, there's quite a bit of "gum" spread throughout that takes away from quirky ideas and good intentions. Lispyte is often shocking or obnoxious for no point (I'm fine with both as long as there is a good reason), did nothing to add to the "slacker" genre that was popular when this novel was published, and didn't do much to make me want to keep reading.

Fatelessness by Imre Kertesk, translated by Tim Wilkinson

Dessert: Apple Pie
Apple pie is a difficult dish to make if you have to peel the apples and make the crust from
scratch, although, for a dessert, I like to think it's a little nutritious. This is the same with Pulitzer Prize winning Fatelessness- it's a difficult story to read, as it's about a teenager surviving Nazi concentration camps. It was a little tough to get into, and at times I did wonder on the quality of the translation, but as a whole it was a really good, and important, book. I in fact did not choose it, as it was May's book club selection- I am glad I read it, though, showing that sometimes it's good to try something you may not normally choose.

We'll see how many I read next month... Any other good ones from May?

An Ex-Elementary Teacher

I have officially completed the last day of my first year teaching high school English (grades 10-12) and yearbook (I taught elementary for four years prior), and I have to say I like the older kids a lot more. This year wasn't exactly easy- I've been called a bitch, dealt with a depressing amount of apathy, had to explain to several teenage boys what sexual harassment is (there's a line, gentlemen, and I'm on the other side of it), spent weekends editing yearbook pages, and learned that assigning lots of work means then having to grade a lot of work.

But, personally, I feel a greater sense of reward after working with these older kids now at the end of the year. I helped many pass the high school exit exam, have been told by a few students that before my class they had never actually finished a book before (this may be ass-kissing, but I don't care), and have actually been thanked in candy bars for writing letters of recommendations. Don't misunderstand me- elementary teachers give kids so much, and help them in so many ways but for me, personally, I feel like I made more of a difference this year.

Teaching high school also fits my personality better. I'm not a super-nurturing, maternal person, so when ten-year-old Erica came to me crying because little Juan threw a pencil at him and called him a wiener I wanted to laugh or tell her to throw it back. Or, when Jesse felt the need for a bandaid because of his 0.22 mm of blood on his arm I told him he might actually need it amputated (okay I only did that once, and the kid thought it was funny). I don't do crying, whining, puke, or tattling. Glitter, paint, and singing are not things I find fun. Patiently explaining that a paragraph is different from a sentence is something I struggle with. And I really don't care if your mom wrote a note excusing your lack of homework- try doing that to the credit card companies when you can't pay your bills later in life. So yeah, working with older kids is easier for me. They understand sarcasm, borderline appreciate my humor, and know that they need to leave the classroom if something gross is about to come out of their bodies. Oh kids, it's not you- it's me. Mrs. S is just not a patient lady.

Next year I'm set to keep teaching yearbook and mainly sophomore English, so I'm excited. But for now, I'm looking forward to the summer (well, after six days of training).

A New Reading Companion

Last night was Chomsky Mumford Darwin's (just Chomsky for short) first night and I stayed up late while he got acclimated. As a large chocolate lab I doubt he'll be able to do this for long:

And for what he really looks like:

Jackpot/The Anti-eReader

A few weeks ago I went to the Los Angeles Book Festival at the other school, and went in halfsies on The Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer with my husband. For those unfamiliar with this literary prodigy, he wrote Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and his nonfiction supposedly diet-changing book Eating Animals (I won't read it for fear I'll eliminate one of my dietary staples, chicken). He supposedly received an unprecedented $500,000 advance for his first novel, has worked on several smaller projects, spoken at various political events, and married fellow author Nicole Krauss- basically, he's an up-and-coming literary God (and he is fully aware of his status, from what I have heard... no one said deities are modest). I'm a fan, in case you couldn't tell. Anyway, being such a fan and feeling a little ashamed of not knowing he had a new book out, I agreed to pay the hefty (for a paperback) $40 price after noticing that it was pretty hard to get on Amazon (thank you iPhone ap). Then, we opened it up and saw this:

Foer, working with the English company Visual Editions (I'll devote a post to them someday soon- they're just that awesome), took the novel The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, and created a new story by cutting out words. To be honest, I'm still not quite sure what either book is about, and I don't really care. The innovation and craftsmanship behind this book is amazing and I'm still a little apprehensive about actually reading it, just because I don't want it to tear.

I would have loved this book no matter what, but it gets even better ("But wait, there's more!" Yes, I know I'm starting to sound like an infomercial). It turns out our novel is
a first edition and is already pretty hard to get a hold of (these aren't exactly books that can be mass-produced). Currently, this particular book is going for about $300 on ebay, not that we'd sell it. And after I start stalking Foer and convince him to sign it, I'm sure the value will increase.

In this day and age it seems that the future of the book is unfortunately in the ereader. Foer's project is quite the opposite- there's no way that something like this could ever successfully carry over into a digital format. Visual Editions focuses on allowing the industry to evolve without changing the ability to be truly tactile. So, in a month where Oprah's everywhere and Amazon's releasing depressing data on the stupid Kindle, I'll take this as a glimmer of hope.

Peace Out, Oprah!

I've made it no secret that I hate Oprah- I think she's annoying, self-serving and obnoxious. I have mixed feelings about her infamous book club, as it does help sell books and get people to read, but also demonstrates her power to stir the masses. I just read an interesting article by Hillary Kelly on the New Republic's site that says a lot of the things I've thought over the years. To quickly sum up "our" thoughts, Oprah's Book Club should retire along with her because:

1. She doesn't even pick the books.
2. She force feeds the readers the main ideas, both on the show and on her website- one of the best parts of reading is figuring things out on your own! Kelly says that Oprah has been "bottling an experience and selling it on daytime television."
3.Recommendations should come from more creative, grassroots places that have their heart, not their pocketbooks in the right place (Goodreads, blogs, book groups, college classes, etc...)
4. I really hate hesitating to buy a book because that damn "O" is on the cover.

While I have to give Oprah credit for the empire she's created, I don't have to like her one bit. Unfortunately, I'm sure we haven't heard the last of her- she doesn't seem like one to stay out the limelight for long.

So You're Going to Be Reading By the Water, Eh?

I really wish that when people say they want a good "beach read" they'd tell the truth: they want something easy (and by "beach" they may mean pool, the patio, or the air conditioned living room). I suppose the whole concept of slacking can be traced back to the days of being out of school and rebelling against the concept of partaking in anything mentally taxing from June to August (not me, you lazy good-for-nothings). So, I figured I'd indulge this silly little concept and give you a slightly pumped up list- just because you're wearing less fabric does not mean you need to think any less. And remember, sunscreen, boys and girls. Reapply every two hours, a shot glass amount per person (not the same one you're using for tequila, though).

If you're feeling a little nostalgic for summer required reading days, revisit The Handmaid's Tale by Margret Atwood. It's a great story about near future where there's a clear class system, as well as frightening fertility issues (also related Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro). While you're at it, give Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road a try. When published in 1932 it was extremely controversial given its dabbling in race, sex, and the economy- it can be quite offensive and blatantly sexual at times, so buyer be warned (I read this for college, not high school, by the way. And finally, for those that like a good play, read Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, an amusing play about nineteenth century marriage and women's rights.

For those looking for some contemporary literature (in regards to publishing date, not subject matter), I'd check out Ann Patchett's The Patron Saint of Liars, a novel about a home for unwed, young pregnant mothers, or maybe Saturday by Ian McEwan, the story of a man who's life changes after a car accident. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby is a humorous novel about a washed up musician, or maybe The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill, for a female coming-of-age novel centering on a girl torn between two very different parts of her family.

For something a little more challenging, but not necessarily terribly difficult, try Big Machine by Victor Luvalle, a science fiction story that combines superb writing, ethics, the imortance of knowledge, and the paranormal (I'm not a sci-fi fan, either). Tropic of Orange by Karen Tei Yamashita is a novel I had to read two or three times in college (I met Yamashita once, too, and she's so smart, yet humble), and always enjoyed, given that it mixes Los Angeles issues with science and great characters. You could also delve into Pulitzer Prize winning Empire Falls by Richard Russo, a book that focuses on small time living through the construction of great characters.

"But Christine, I generally read crap. You know, books with shoes, silhouettes, and handbags on the cover. What about meeeeee?"

All right you chic-lit whiners, I've got you covered too. Just a little jump, that's all I ask. To lessen the pain start with one of the original chic-lit novels, Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding (but stop there, don't read any more of her books). It's funny, is easy, but has some heart to it. Then, take a deep breath and try Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, and maybe The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank (relax, it's not an introduction to wildlife skills). Then, when you've started introducing some quality into your diet of books about single, desperate women, try to go one step further and read something different, but not hard or painful. Perhaps The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Marc Haddon or even Room by Emma Donoghue.

This summer I'll be reading A Visit From the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan, Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas, Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis, finally finishing Underworld by Don Delillo, and hopefully much more.

Now if only Southern California would lose the clouds and heat up a few more degrees...

Maybe the World Really is Ending

I'm not going to dignify this with a great deal of my precious time, so I took a screenshot, labeled the file "dammit," and slapped it up. Maybe the rapture really is upon us (does anyone have a specific time, by the way? I'd like to get a pedicure first).

xoxo, Christine

Those who know me can attest that I find a certain joy in writing strongly worded letters to people or companies who piss me off. I'm not always the most articulate person verbally, especially when I'm angry, but can somehow always express myself through words. When I sit down to write my heart doesn't pound quite so hard, I don't have to concentrate on not bursting in to tears (if applicable), and the option to storm off or hang up doesn't exist. The written form of communication gives me much more control and flexibility.

Writing the strongly worded letter also gives me time, something that you don't always have in face-to-face combat. Insults can be perfected, profanity can be appropriately placed, and suggestions of violence can be viciously crafted. And then the delete button can be fully utilized. In place of a furious mess that once existed, a sarcastic, witty, biting bit of prose can be sent instead (for example, change "your customer service representative is a bitch and seems to have something shoved up her ass" to "your customer service representative was extremely disrespectful and made me wonder if discussing my billing concerns wasn't her primary priority, as your pre-recorded holding message suggests").

Take today, for example. Yesterday, my high school yearbook staff handed out our annual book, which turned out quite well considering the circumstances (new adviser, huge staff of 40 inexperienced kids, lack of equipment, etc...). I braced myself for student backlash, but received none (my kids said that one a scale of 1 to 10, one being horrible, ten being amazing, the student consensus was a 7.5). I received several complimentary emails from staff members and even a thank you card from a club. By third period today I was relieved and borderline pleas
ed (I'm okay with the bitching that is inevitably going on behind my back). And then I received a forwarded email from the principal from a colleague with a very, very petty complaint that I won't relay for privacy issues (see, I'm professional). The boss-woman was somewhat amused, and my ASB director defended my honor via an impassioned phone call. I sat down to write a response to the upset colleague and, of course, went through the drafting process. In the end, I accepted responsibility for the silly little mistake but still pointed out our efforts. I must admit my original response was not pretty.

Today I obviously had to tone it down more than usual- I see this person at staff meetings, and, more importantly, our email is monitored by the district. AT&T, Dell, the apartment leasing office, my ex-podiatrist, an ex-boyfriend, Quest Diagnostics, Enterprise, the teacher's union, ex-Governor Schwarzenegger (for th
e state budget, not for boinging the maid), and Planter's (why the hell did they discontinue Cheez Balls?) have not been so lucky. I enjoy writing harsh letters and relish any opportunity to do so. It's cathartic, it makes me feel in control, and I like to see it as a creative outlet.

I occasionally write the nice, complimentary ones too. A few months ago a nice guy from Sports Chalet carried a 100-pound spin bike to my car in the heat and then stood around while I looked in the owner's manual to figure out how to put the seats down. But I've got to be honest- it really isn't as fun as the harsh ones.

So, if you ever need someone to come up with some professional, yet snotty, zingers, please don't hesitate to ask.

And if you expect me to continue to purchase items from your company, I really suggest you bring back those cheesy balls of goodness, Planter's. Last I checked it's just bad business to remove successful products from your line, not to mention disrespectful to my taste buds. Seriously, who the hell doesn't like balls?


For a Good Cause

Tearing, ripping, creasing, or deforming books is something I usually frown at. Yet sometimes there are exceptions. Did I mention the fact that we had an unexpected meeting today?

Unfortunately, I'm guessing the powers that be would frown on this, something about no alcohol, tobacco, or firearms on public school campuses.

Scrapbooker I Am Not

This girl is not a scrapbooker- I do not have the patience to cut out paper, choose stickers, or stencil anything (nor do I have the urge to blow wads of cash at Michael's). I do, however, like having something a little more than just a basic "stick it in the slot" photo album for pictures that are slightly more interesting that the ones featuring my dog. I experimented with different companies, including Kodak and Shutterfly, and was frustrated with my lack of control (story of my life). I wanted to put different backgrounds on different pages, choose my own layouts, and change the fonts. You know, without buying paper for thirty cents a sheet, and printing things out on my computer to glue on.

Right before I went to Italy in 2009, I noticed Facebook posts th
at someone I went to high school kept writing- apparently her husband ran a company that specialized in photo books. I, of course, cynic that I am, ignored them thinking it was someone pushing the family business. Luckily I checked Mixbook out, discovering that it gave me the flexibility I needed without being expensive (please note, they are not paying me, giving me free products, or even aware that I am writing this). You have complete control over every aspect of the process, including the background patterns, fonts, layouts (templates or free form), pre-made graphics (I think you scrapbookers would call them "stickers"), cover, and page length. The program is extremely easy to use and the finished product is of good quality. Books start at $6.99 for a small paperback, up to $49.99 for a huge coffee table size.

Why the hell is she posting this? I just finished my New York trip book and, face it, it's the closest thing I'll get to publishing a book right now. Plus, it's either this or laun

A few screenshots from my Italy Book:

And a few from the New York one I just finished:

Gary Shteyngart is Pretty Damn Cool


Someone once called me a Gary Shteyngart groupie, and as I fought the LA traffic at 6:30 pm on a weeknight to get to his reading at the LA Central Library I had to agree, at least to some degree. I've read, and loved, his three novels, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan, and, his most recent, Super Sad True Love Story. I'd sneak into his class if I was ever near Columbia, and, obviously, I'm willing to drive over 120 miles round trip to hear him read. In the literary world, this is being a groupie. So be it.

The reading was at the Los Angeles Central Library in the downtown area and was put on by the ALOUD program, which I've confessed my love for before. They do an outstanding job putting on programs, many free, featuring amazing authors like Isabel Allende, Michael Cunningham, and Ian McEwan. It's always great to be around fellow readers, and I love seeing the diverse crowd they always attract.

This particular reading proved to be quite humorous, not surprising given the fact that Shteyngart's books make me literally laugh out loud, something most novels fail to do. He read his excerpt expertly, complete with Russian accents- you could tell by the tattered papers he held that he done this a time or two (surprisingly some authors don't appear natural when reading their own writing). He then proceeded to converse with ALOUD's Justin Veach, whose quirkiness matched the author's well. They spent a sizable portion of the hour discussing the future of literature and the physicality of the book (death to eReaders). His comments on the importance of reading matched those of Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451- books make you think, and the ability to stop and start them allows you the leisure to do so. Shteyngart expressed concern about the speed at which the world is moving and how difficult it is to write relevant novels. A novel can take several months or even years to write- when it's published any "current" events that it mentions or focuses on are already old news. Not to mention the fact that people aren't reading as much as they used to- the general population works hard, all day, and it's much easier to turn on Mad Men and feel intellectual, rather than tackling Tolstoy an hour before bed. His frustration is obvious without being depressing or even pessimistic; his next projects include writing his memoirs (so he can unload his immigrant baggage), then a pilot for HBO (I guess I may have to start watching TV), and then perhaps a new novel.

Another reason why I love the ALOUD crowd: old and young alike chuckled at his frequent references of the fictitious store in his novel, "Juicy Pussy," his suggestions that people start using the acronym JBF ("just butt fucking you") at work produced loud laughter, and no one heckled him when he threw in a subtle zinger at our previous president.

I'm eager to see how Shteyngart's future endeavors pan out. And no, I didn't throw my bra on stage.

Super Sad True Love Story trailer:

No, this isn't how he usually talks (and yes, James Franco took his class).

I Don't Get It

So, my ultimate goal in life is to quit my job and be a full time book blogger (you know, because there's such a market for that). While I'm guessing I won't be quitting my day job any time soon (or ever), I'm always looking for ways to get more readers, so I finally sucked it up.

I joined Twitter.

Yup, after years of declaring that I don't get it (I still don't) and thinking that it was slightly lame, I set up shop today after my lovely friend/colleague/fellow blogger Joanna was nice enough to give me a tutorial this morning at breakfast. On the right there's a little widget that will help you follow if that's your thing.

What you won't read on the BookishlyB feed:
- What I ate for breakfast (please, you already know, cereal)
- How much I hate laundry
- That I'm on my way to the dry cleaner's
- A weather report
- The super cute thing my dog just did

What you will Be bombarded with:
- Book news
- Blog updates
- Thoughts about books
- What I'm currently reading

We'll see how this goes. I'm still quite confused and really want to call it twatting, not tweeting.

Brainwashing the Youngins

My students are finishing up Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury this week and I gave them an assignment with some drawing components. I was very amused, and pleased. The brainwashing is working (I love The Bible by: God, which is a text discussed in the story).

We'll let not knowing how to spell "awesome" slide. Oh, and to the one above, Charlotte's Web and Harry Potter are better than A Walk to Remember. But still, you've got the rest somewhat accurate.

The Gay Penguin Book

I'm just going to warn everyone ahead of time, I'm quite liberal and this may be a controversial post to some. If so, you might want to just go ahead and skip it and check back tomorrow (I was going to link Sarah Palin's website, but then decided that I really didn't want to give her any extra traffic). If you keep reading, thanks, but please remember that this is my soapbox.

So, yesterday was Mother's Day, a holiday meant to recognize our moms and all that they do (and my mom is great, let's just get that out of the way). But really, what makes a mom? Is it someone who contributes half of her DNA? Gives birth to you? Cares for you? Is a biological mom the same as an adoptive mom? Does the crack-whore who feeds her kids cookies for dinner deserve the same recognition as Susie Homemaker who maker her bread from scratch and starts planning birthday parties six months in advance? They both contributed the same biologically, yet we can all agree the annoying bitch in the minivan is probably higher up on the mommy totem pole that the woman in the five-inch platforms with her boobs hanging out. So, is what makes a mom the ability to care and nurture?

Enter the book in question- And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Pater Parnell, a children's picture book that I lovingly like to call the Gay Penguin Book. This text is a true story about two male penguins in the Central Park Zoo that prefer the company of each other, rather than that of the ladies. A zookeeper gives them a spare egg from a couple that had previously failed with more than one, and they care for it like all the heterosexual couples. They name it Tango and live happily ever after.

Of course when the book was published in 2005 conservatives went apeshit. The backlash continues, though, as last month the American Library Association named it the most controversial book of the year (it received the most amount of ban requests). Here's where it gets sticky.

Should it be in school libraries and in school curriculums? Unfortunately, probably not. Parents don't have much control over what their children choose during weekly library times, and if they don't want their kids to read it they should not. Teachers don't have the time to inspect all their students' books to comply with individual parental preferences. So fine, leave it out of the schools.

But I do believe it should be in regular public libraries, as those are ones that families generally visit together- parents or caregivers have much more control over what their kids check out there (or at least they should make the effort to). If someone wants to use this book as a way to teach their kids about different types of families it should be available for them to do so.

So, back to my point about Mother's Day- would you rather see a kid grow up with two dads that love them, or a mom and dad that plop them in front of the TV with Happy Meals day after day? I know that there is an argument for the importance of a female mother and a male father, but as someone who has been fatherless for almost half of my life, I have survived and thrived. It can be done. And there's the Bible argument. While I'd prefer not to go there right now, I don't think God mentions iPods, not even in the New Testament. And please tell me who doesn't do work on the Sabbath or covet their neighbor's crap once in awhile.

A mom and a dad, a mom and a mom, a dad and a dad, or just one of either- it's all about love, stability, and care. The family structure is changing and traditional doesn't always mean better. Kids need to be exposed to things early so that they become tolerant, open-minded adults. I'm not saying you have to teach your child the logistics of homosexuality (although this could be done if you happen to have two Ken dolls), but I really don't feel it's necessary to expose children to bigotry and hate.

I'm sure Tango grew up to be a very well-adjusted penguin.

Fun For the Whole Family

I am buying this book for my unborn children, every baby shower I go to from now on (hopefully not many because I hate them more than I hate eating out of Styrofoam with metal utensils), and probably several family members for Christmas.

Defensive Much?

First of all, I had a gift card, so get off my ass. Yes, I fell off the wagon, no I don't need an intervention, we all make mistakes. Sheesh. I totally have my problem under control. I know when to stop, just let me handle it.

I bought more books.

My Fix:

Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Perter Harnell: The gay penguin book. There's a point, and there will be a post.

When the Kiling's Done by T.C. Boyle: I love T.C. and heard him describe his research on this book last year at a reading. I'm really interested in this growing trend of environmental fiction right now.

Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain: I was actually interested when I heard about the HBO miniseries starring Kate Winslet that I didn't watch. Basically, a 1940s housewife gone crazy.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: Had to give the newest Pulitzer Prize winner a shot!

Home Land by Sam Lipsyte: In honor of my ten-year high school reunion this year (my attendance is TBD) I figured I'd give this one a try.

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale: A monkey's memoir. Need I say more? If so, it's supposed to be witty, emotional, and well-written.

Changing My Mind- Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith: I haven't read an essay collection since college, so I figured Smith's would be a good place to start.

Reading in the Brain- The New Science of How We Read by Stanislas Dehaene: Supposedly combines two of my favorite things: the biology and reading.

As always, don't expect reviews anytime soon...

My name is Christine and I'm a bookoholic. And I don't give a crap.

My Attempt at Objectivity

Over the weekend I went to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books at the other school (USC). It was a tough decision, given the fact that the festival's original site was also my alma mater, UCLA. For those that aren't around here, USC and UCLA are across town rivals. But, I love books, was already going to be out that direction, and had a husband willing to go, so I sucked it up. And now I'll do my best to remain objective.

- The parking was ridiculously confusing and crowded
- The concessions were mainly in the extremely crowded student dining area
- The booths were way too spread out
- In past years there were lots of stations and even people walking around selling water and lemonade. Not this year.
- It was just a little lackluster- the normal spirit wasn't there (cough, cough, biased, cough)
- It wasn't UCLA
- It was really warm (if they're rich enough to snatch the festival away, then they should be rich enough to control the weather, dammit)

Good Enough
- There were quite a few people wearing UCLA gear (including me)
- There were lots of vendors (about the same as past years)
- There was a huge truck that had FREE Ben and Jerry's! Unfortunately, I didn't get any because I wasn't willing to stand in the Disneyland-like lines (there should have been an express line for people willing to pay)
- There were some technological upgrades as far as signage and stages
- There will still books and authors
- There were a lot of families. I love seeing the kids at events like these (even though they get in my way and moms always stop their huge strollers right in front of me for some reason)- I think it's awesome to expose them, no matter how young, to culture and academia (even if it is USC)
- We manage to pick up a really awesome book that I'll blog about later (this would have happened at UCLA too, though, since the vendor always attends)

All in all it was decent, but it would have been better at UCLA.