Monthly Archives: April 2009

2009 Pulitzer winners

The New York Times posted the 2009 Pulitzer winners today.

April 20, 2009

2009 Pulitzer Prizes for Letters, Drama and Music

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced on Monday. Following are the winners in Letters, Drama and Music.

FICTION: “Olive Kitteridge,” by Elizabeth Strout
A collection of 13 short stories set in small-town Maine that packs a cumulative emotional wallop, bound together by polished prose and by Olive, the title character, blunt, flawed and fascinating.

Finalists “The Plague of Doves” by Louise Erdrich, a haunting novel that explores racial discord, loss of land and changing fortunes in a corner of North Dakota where Native Americans and whites share a tangled history; and “All Souls” by Christine Schutt, a memorable novel that focuses on the senior class at an exclusive all-girl Manhattan prep school where a beloved student battles a rare cancer, fiercely honest, carefully observed and subtly rendered.

DRAMA: “Ruined,” by Lynn Nottage
A searing drama set in chaotic Congo that compels audiences to face the horror of wartime rape and brutality while still finding affirmation of life and hope amid hopelessness.

Finalists “Becky Shaw,” by Gina Gionfriddo, a jarring comedy that examines family and romantic relationships with a lacerating wit while eschewing easy answers and pat resolutions; and “In the Heights,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes, a robust musical about struggling Latino immigrants in New York City today that celebrates the virtues of sacrifice, family solidarity and gritty optimism.

HISTORY: “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” by Annette Gordon-Reed
A painstaking exploration of a sprawling multi-generation slave family that casts provocative new light on the relationship between Sally Hemings and her master, Thomas Jefferson.

Finalists “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War,” by Drew Gilpin Faust, a deeply researched, gracefully written examination of how a divided nation struggled to comprehend the meaning and practical consequences of unprecedented human carnage; and “The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s,” by G. Calvin Mackenzie and Robert Weisbrot, an elegantly written account of a brief period in American history that left a profoundly altered national landscape.

BIOGRAPHY: “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House,” Jon Meacham
An unflinching portrait of a not always admirable democrat but a pivotal president, written with an agile prose that brings the Jackson saga to life.

Finalists “Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” by H.W. Brands, a richly textured and highly readable exploration of the inner Roosevelt, presented with analytical acuity and flashes of originality; and “The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century,” by Steve Coll, an epic tale extending far beyond Osama Bin Laden and the calamity of 9/11, rooted in meticulous research and written with an urgency, clarity and flair that entertains as easily as it educates.

POETRY: “The Shadow of Sirius,” by W. S. Merwin
A collection of luminous, often tender poems that focus on the profound power of memory.

Finalists “Watching the Spring Festival,” by Frank Bidart, a book of lyric poems that evinces compassion for the human condition as it explores the constraints that limit the possibility of people changing the course of their lives; and “What Love Comes To: New & Selected Poems,” by Ruth Stone, a collection of poems that give rich drama to ordinary experience, deepening our sense of what it means to be human.

GENERAL NONFICTION: “Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II,” by Douglas A. Blackmon
A precise and eloquent work that examines a deliberate system of racial suppression and that rescues a multitude of atrocities from virtual obscurity.

Finalists “Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age,” by Arthur Herman, an authoritative, deeply researched book that achieves an extraordinary balance in weighing two mighty protagonists against each other; and “The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe,” by William I. Hitchcock, a heavily documented exploration of the overlooked suffering of noncombatants in the victory over Nazi Germany, written with the dash of a novelist and the authority of a scholar.

MUSIC: “Double Sextet,” by Steve Reich
Premiered March 26, 2008 in Richmond, Va.
A major work that displays an ability to channel an initial burst of energy into a large-scale musical event, built with masterful control and consistently intriguing to the ear.

Finalists Also nominated as finalists in this category were: “7 Etudes for Solo Piano,” by Don Byron, premiered on March 15, 2008 at Hallwall’s Contemporary Art Center, Buffalo, N.Y., a deft set of studies that display rhythmic inventiveness and irresistible energy, charm and wit; and “Brion,” by Harold Meltzer, premiered on April 23, 2008 at Merkin Hall, New York City, a sonic portrait of a cemetery in northern Italy painted with the touch of a watercolorist and marked by an episodic structure and vivid playfulness that offer a graceful, sensual and contemplative experience.

Teaser Tuesday (4/28/09)

TEASER TUESDAYS hosted my MizB asks you to:
# Grab your current read.
# Let the book fall open to a random page.
# Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
# You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
# Please avoid spoilers!

My 2 “Teaser” Sentences for today:

For those unacquainted with scienfitic inquiry, it might seem ghoulish to express anticipation at the prospect of cutting open one’s coworker, but for us the dissection was as natural as conversation. The professor had made it widely known that not only would he instruct that an autopsy be conducted on him after death, but that he intended , as he was failing, to predict what the anatomist would find and expected the eventual results to be matched against his prognostication.

From Anatomy of Deception by Lawrence Goldstone

The Anatomy of Deception Cover

The Smart Cookies Guide to Making More Dough – Review

The Smart Cookies Guide to Making More Dough is a guide for young, independent women with a tendency to over shop and not pay attention to their finances. A group of five friends gathered to form a money group, where they were brutally honest about themselves in terms of their financial standings; debts, savings, income, etc. Although the group seems to be pretty diverse, they are for the most part single, or dating with no kids, and live the Sex and the City lifestyle of shopping at expensive stores to keep up the appearance of wealth and glitz. It took me a while to get into this book, to be honest. Once I realized who the target audience was, I was better able to analyze their tips and tricks for saving money, investing in stocks and just coming to terms that women have to take financial responsibility and accountability.

The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough: How Five Young Women Got Smart, Formed a Money Group, and Took Control of Their Finances CoverThe organization of the book is hard to follow, especially if you are looking for a structured plan of action. This isn’t a book you can pick up and say “In week one, I’ll do this.” The group tends to jump around with their path. They’ll have you create a spending plan early on in the book, but towards the later half, they’ll actually mention the most relevant elements that go into a spending plan. Each chapter had its own focus, and within each chapter, each of the five woman wrote a little blurb about their experience in this situation and how they got out of it. The book is also a bit repetitive, which is a shame, because there is a lot of useful and important information that I feel got lost in the jumble. There were also a lot of topics that I wish they had expanded on instead of just glossing over.

The very last few chapters actually felt like a financial self-help book when they started discussing stocks, investments, savings plans and even real estate purchases. There are a lot of good facts sprinkled through the book about financial awareness, and the secret fees and fines from credit companies.  For my situation, the first half of the book was the most relevant. Sitting down and looking through 3 months worth of bills, bank statements and investments. There is a worksheet included  for all this information to really see where the money goes each month. Later on in the book there is another worksheet for planning the actual budget, the spending plan. This was an especially useful tool, particularly for women who can’t seem to keep their credit cards at bay. The tip I thought was the most useful was to designate a special fund called “fun money” each week. The women would set up a certain amount to take out from the bank each week, and this would be the cap for all non-necessity purchases; such as shoes, accessories, manicures, etc. I’ve been trying to do something like that for a while, but it never quite worked. Taking out the money in cash and keeping it in an envelope is a great way to really be aware of what you are saving and on what you are spending that money.

The ladies do emphasis that saving money does not mean forgoing all your favorite stores and restaurants. When you’ve learned to be in control of your spending habits and can be confident that you can actually afford that purchase, then they encourage you to buy those jeans, or whatever the case may be. In addition to the worksheets, there are also a number of inexpensive alternatives for hanging out with friends, and co-workers.

As I said above, this book is primarily geared towards women in their late 20′s, early 30s who are mostly single and are shopaholics. This book can also be used for women recently divorced and just coming into a world of financial responsibility and awareness. If you’ve never actually been in control of your finances before, this book will certainly be the encouragement needed to pull out that paperwork and get a plan in action. There is even a section in the back that gives advice on starting your own money group, but you can still continue individually. A money group acts as a support group, someone to call when you needed to be talked out of an expensive purchase or to share ideas with.

This is book 2 for my Dewey Decimal Challenge for the 300s century. The call number for this book is: 332.024 Smart

FINAL GRADE: B

The Smart Cookies Guide to Making More Dough
w/ Jean Barrett
Delacorte Press, 2008
ISBN 9780385342445
211 pages

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Awesome finds at the Library

One thing I LOVE about browsing through the library shelves are the serendipitous encounters with some really creative and amazing children’s books. Take for example these two:

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas

This book is short, its funny and very colorful. A great read kid for kids 3 and under, but even adults will get a kick out of the humor.

Monique Felix concept book series
This series is just wonderfully done and the illustrations are amazing. This series is a wordless story of one little mouse (drawn to look 3D) eating his way through a piece of paper to reveal a fantastic illustration at the very end. There is a series for colors, (pictured below) the numbers, the alphabet, the plane, the train, etc.  I’m seriously considering ordering these books online because the pictures are so pretty.

Weekly Word Round-Up

A new weekly feature I’m going to try really hard to maintain (I have a bad track record with these things I know, I know), is basically a summary of all the new words I’ve learned during the week. Words from books, magazines, TV, music, etc.

I started something like this in high school. I kept a journal of words that I had to look up from certain musicians. I was debating starting a Sunny dictionary (pending copyright infringement laws) of all the words Sunny Baudelaire says throughout the entire Series of Unfortunate Events books. I’d still like to keep to a Sunny dictionary (just for myself I guess).

So, this weekly theme is my next compromise.

But first a question:

How do you like to look up a word’s meaning?

a. Guess from the sentence context

b. Look up in an online dictionary

c. Look up in a traditional dictionary

d. Phone a friend

The words

* Fetid — Stinking

* Gauche — Lacking social experience or grace

* Edematous — effusion of serous fluid into the interstices of cells in tissue spaces or into body cavities.

* Pleura — a delicate serous membrane investing each lung in mammals and folded back as a lining of the corresponding side of the thorax.

The Addict – Review

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The Addict by Michael Stein
Age: Adult
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir

The Addict, by Michael Stein gives an insiders look at the life of an internist in the big city, I believe Philadelphia, although the city wasn’t mentioned in the book. Michael Stein has previously written the Lonely Patient, a  story of treating a young woman hooked on prescription painkillers”. Well, the Addict is virtually the same thing. This book tracks his one year committment to helping keep Lucy off of vicodin, and their therapy sessions which lasted about a year.

The Addict: One Patient, One Doctor, One Year CoverTo be honest, I’m not exactly sure who this book is meant for. Michael Stein is an internist; a physician who specializes in treating and diagnosing non-surgical diseases. In this case, addiction is the disease and Stein is the expert. He is a highly intelligent man, full of information about addiction, how it develops and how its slowly taking a grip over the nation. Addiction isn’t limited to just lower class minorities, not with painkillers, he stresses. Addiction can haunt the soccer mom using vicodin to get that extra boost of energy to cart the kids around. It can haunt the upper class lawyer who just wants to get away from the reality of his job.

While the focus of his story is on one patient and her progress under his care, Lucy Fields, he does digress to talk about other patients and their addictions. I think this sets up a nice balance and highlights that addiction is handled differently on a case by case basis. Each addict has their own backstory to why, when and how they started and each addict reacts differently to the same drug.

Stein met Lucy at the hospital he works for because of the program he runs to help people quit vicodin. His method is basically to switch them from one pill, vicodin, to another, Buprenorphine. My first reaction to this was, how is that any better? Buprenorphine works as a stopper for vicodin, it sends signals up to the brain saying “you don’t want vicodin, you don’t want vicodin.”  Stein never discussed if Buprenorphine is addictive and if addicts latch onto that instead. He does actually address the point of pill-switching later on in the book, which I greatly appreciated. The switch is monitored and the pills are given out at the hospital and are tied to either weekly or monthly sessions with Stein. In this regard, he keeps them hooked to the sessions and can continue to treat the mental issues behind the addiction.

This was a really insightful book and very well written. Stein has a way of setting up the scene so that you feel like you are there. I wish we could have learned more about Lucy, or heard from her perspective. Her life story was told in choppy bits during the course of the year long sessions and she seems like a really interesting young woman. One thing that bugged me was when Stein would talk about addiction or the addict, he would switch pronouns, talk about the addict as a he in one chapter and a she in another chapter. Although its good to know that addicts come in all shapes, sizes and sexes, the pronouns would be too confusing especially since he would go into one of these side-talks right after talking about a patient in an example.

As I said above, I think the audience of this book is for future medical practioners, I think some families may benefit from hearing Lucy’s story, as well as at least learning the facts about addiction and its development over someone’s life.

This book is for my Dewey Decimal Challenge, 600s century. The assigned call number to this book is: 616.8606 Stein

The Addict
by Michael Stein
Harper Collins, 2009
ISBN 0061368134
275 pages

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Bee Season – Review

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg

Age: Adult

Bee Season by Myla Goldberg is an incredibly touching, mesmerizing and haunting story of one Jewish family in Pennsylvania. The story begins with Eliza Naumann, a fifth grader designated to one of “slow-learners” classes, manages to lift her up the ranks by winning the class spelling bee, followed by the district spelling bee, before making her way into the final rounds of the national spelling bee. As Eliza’s new talent and success catches the attention of her father, her small family begins to erupt at the seams. Her brother, who once had high rabbinical  aspirations begins to seek out new religions, feeling cast away from Judaism at the same time he feels cast away from his father. When Saul chooses to study with Eliza instead of keeping his guitar/study session with Aaron, there is a rift in the family that only gets bigger as Miriam, Eliza’s already quirky and somewhat OCD mother, progress further into a psychosis she had been building up since childhood.

The writing is an intense, slow and rhythmic  character study of human nature and our role on this earth.  There are a number of parallels between each member of the family, whether is it finding religion through unlikely means, or a way of handling problems or neglecting problems. Saul’s intent focus on Eliza’s success for the spelling bee puts his family in danger, or as the backcover of the book says “a tailspin”. The chapters alternate back and forth between Eliza, Aaron, Saul and Miriam. We learn how their actions directly and indirectly effect each other, how little they understand just how similar they all are. The most important element is the power of words in this books. Not only are words a tool for Eliza to pull herself out from a crowd, but words are a path that lead to a higher, divine experience. Eliza and Aaron on different paths, leading to the same locations with their chants; Eliza’s permutations of words, and Aaron’s chants with his japa beads with the Hare Krsna’s.

For some reason, I see this book as mandatory summer reading for high school. I think it should be. There are a number of themes, and motifs throughout this book that any confused teenager and cling to.  Both adults and teens can really get into this book. When I first started reading it, I had Akeelah and the Bee stuck in my head, the movie about a girl from the slums going on to win the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. Although the similaries ended with the first half of the book.

This book

falls into my 999 Challenge Category from Books from the Rory Gilmore Booklist.

Bee Season
by Myla Goldberg
Anchor Books, 2000
ISBN 0385498802
274 pages

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You Know You Love Me – Review

Book two of the Gossip Girl series by Cecily von Ziegesar jumps in right where the first book left off. If you don’t remember where book one ended, I suggest stopping by a local library or bookstore and reading the final chapter before diving into this book, otherwise you’ll be a bit confused with where the story starts. Although Cecily does recap a little, it took a while for the first book’s ending to sink in to my memory. The second book is written as a continuation of the first, which I think is one reason why it made such a fantastic crossover into a TV series.

You Know You Love Me features all the same characters and provides more character development and growth. The first book merely introduced us to all the important characters in a glitzy, contemporary and fun way. The second book takes these characters and really shows us their true colors. You Know You Love Me further follows Serena van de Woodson’s attempts at recreating a social life for herself at a preppy New York private all-girl’s school after being snubbed out of the elite social group by her former best friend Blair Waldorf. In the sequal, Serena turns to the not so rich and fabulous duo of Dan and Jenny Humphrey for companionship. While Serena is reinventing herself as a novice film director and finding friendship in the places she would have least suspected, Blair is burdened with her mother’s impending marriage to her “gross” boyfriend Cyrus Rose. There is more salt in Blair’s wounds when Blair finds out that Serena has been asked to be one of the bridesmaids.  Will this wedding reunite them in friendship, or will it just push them farther away?

That being said, the second book was not as good as the first, but only because Gossip Girl was a completely refreshing read. A third of the way into You Know You Love Me, and I am already familiar with the author’s quippy one-liners and seeminly accurate internal monologues of the horny teenage mind. The teens in the book are amazingly written, and I wonder just how much time Cecily von Ziegesar actually spends with New York elite teens to get material for her books. The characters are addicting, I love Blair’s multi layers of bitch and vulnerable, love-sick teenage girl. There is a love tug-of-war between Serena and Blair over Nate, and most girls know that fighting over a boy usually tends to end badly. I think this series is a great read for teens, they’ll be able to latch on to their favorite characters. While Cecily does glamorize the drugs and sex, she also makes a point of highlight these activities as folly’s not so much as condoned recreation.

FINAL GRADE: B+

You Know You Love Me
by Cecily von Ziegesar
Little, Brown and Co., 2002
ISBN 0316911488
227 pages

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Wings – Review

Wings
by Aprilynne Pike
Harper Teen
Publication Date 5/5/2009

Wings Wings, by Aprilynne Pike is the story of a young girl’s transformation during a rather vulnerable time of her life. At 14 years old, Laurel’s family moves from their cozy little house in Orick to a larger city in Northern California. Up until then, Laurel had been home schooled by her mother. The move to the larger city results in Laurel’s enrollment in a public school. After making a relatively easy transition into a world of peers, Laurel begins to go through some magical changes that forces her to question and investigate her identity and role in the world.

What caught my eye about this book was the praise quoted on the cover by Stephanie Meyer. That enough gave me cause for concern. I did read all 4 Twilight books (and all in one week too), so I am well aware of Meyer’s way with words. However, one thing that frustrated me eternally with the Twilight series was that for the majority of all the books (particularly Breaking Dawn), NOTHING HAPPENED! All talking, all build up and no closure. Well, Wings ended up following the same formula as the Twlight series. The first half of the book was slow and laid a lot of the foundation for Laurel’s story. I did find her story interesting, but I think Pike could have taken it to another level. There was more science than drama. I was expecting there to be more complications with Laurel’s transition into a new school, with people her own age. Instead, Laurel immediately catches the eye of a rather popular boy at school in biology class who quickly introduces her to a group of friends, all on the second day of school. While the more than half the book is dedicated to Laurel’s transformation, the last 1/4th of the book actually revolved any real conflict and even that wasn’t very exciting. The book does leave itself open to a sequel, for anyone who did enjoy the book.

I think this book will appeal more to the tween age group than it would to high schoolers. What I liked about the story is that Laurel’s transformation into a faery parallels what most girls go through when they hit puberty. There is a lot of confusion and mixed up emotion. There are a few swear words towards the end, but for the most part, the book is fairly innocent. Although Laurel is described as resembling a model with her waif figure and pale white skin, I think kids will relate more to her emotions and actions than her looks. I think Pike really caught onto to teenage awkwardness through Laurel, and I think that is something tween can identify with.

FINAL GRADE: B-

Wings
by Aprilynne Pike
Harper Teen, 5/5/2009
ISBN 0061668036
295 pages

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Reading + Puzzles + Book Blogs = FUN

Come join the Puzzling World of Winston Breen. A good friend of mine is friend’s with puzzler and author Eric Berlin and linked me to this awesome event that will start tomorrow when the first puzzle is posted. The puzzles are aimed at adults, but I think kids working with their parents can have fun with it too!

http://www.winstonbreen.com/puzzleparty.html

The Rules:

Every day from April 16th to April 22nd, there will be a new puzzle waiting for you on a different blog:

April 16th: A Patchwork of Books
April 17th: Fuse #8
April 18th: Shelf Elf
April 19th: Books Together
April 20th: Bookshelves of Doom
April 21st: Chicken Spaghetti
April 22nd: Oz and Ends

Go to every blog! Solve every puzzle! Submit your answers by the end of each day to puzzleparty@gmail.com. Every day, one randomly drawn correct answer will win a signed copy of The Potato Chip Puzzles!

And save your answers — you’re going to need them to solve the final puzzle on April 22nd. One randomly drawn person who submits the right answer to that puzzle will win not only The Potato Chip Puzzles but over two dozen other books, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons!

Get ready to start solving! The party begins April 16th!


Come on….you know you want to join!! I’ll be keeping up with this challenge on my Twitter feed during the next week.