Monthly Archives: May 2010

The Barbie Chronicles – Review

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The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty edited by Yona  Zeldis McDonough

Age: Adult

Broken into five categories, Yona Zeldis McDonough compiles a series of essays, poems and memories of the toy doll we all know and love, Barbie. The essays examine Barbie as a role model, as sex object, anti-feminist, pro-feminist, revolutionary, etc.

I really, really enjoyed reading this compilation of thoughts on a doll that I frequently played with as a child. It was interesting to learn about her history and development. Barbie was created by Ruth and Elliot Handler as an Americanized version of a German adult sex doll called Bild Lily for their little daughter who would become the namesake for the famed doll. Each essay offers a different perspective, some more personal than others. Some talk about their own childhood with Barbie, other talk about their children playing with the doll. Some take a more scientific or sociological take on Barbie’s role in history. I think McDonough did a good job of balancing out the pro and con views about Barbie,  some essays with middling feelings about her and some with no feeling at all.

I did feel a bit nostalgic reading through this book. In the 15+ years since I used to play Barbie, all of them have fallen by the wayside. Most had been decapitated, but the ones still intact had been sold via numerous garage sales. While reading this book, I wondered if and what influences Barbie had on me.

I never had to have all of Barbie’s accessories, or clothes that came individually. I think most of my Barbies came as gifts from family other than my parents. They neither fostered nor neglected my joy of this doll. She was something to play with until I got older and moved on to something else, books. I moved on from lonesome Barbie and the stuffed animals to the Babysitter’s Club and Boxcar Children. A collection of stories, ready to go. One way or another, Barbie played a role in my life, she filled a gap of childhood imagination and play that no other doll could.

The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns Forty
edited by Yona Zeldis McDonough
Simon & Schuster, 1999
ISBN 0684862751
240 pages

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How to be lovely – Review

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How to be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life by Melissa Hellstern

Age: all

Divided into ten chapters: Happiness, Success,  Health, Love, Family, Friendship, Fulfillment, Style, Fame and Humanity, we learn how to abide by Audrey’s rules of life via Melissa Hellstern’s collection of quotes and phrases. Told mostly through Audrey Hepburn’s quotes about herself, we get a little insight into the mind of one Hollywood’s most influential stars. Each chapter begins with a brief message from Hellstern about Audrey about the topic of the chapter. The rest of the space is filled with quotes from Audrey, quotes from her friends and cast members and pictures from movies and her personal life.

The book isn’t really a detailed guide on how to be like Audrey Hepburn. Its more of a glimpse into her mind, I guess. The collection of quotes only reinforce what I always loved about her. She is humble, compassionate, and very true to herself. Audrey Hepburn has always been one of my favorite actresses. Not really for the style, but more for the characters she portrays in the movies and the poise with which she carries herself. She is never the damsel in distress, or the ditz searching for a husband. She is the intellectual, the conflicted and the charmer. We see how insecure she felt about her acting ability, how attuned she is with nature and how naturally she fits into any surrounding. I do love that the book is filled with Audrey’s quotes, rather than a strict interpretation of her way of life.

This book would make a cute gift for an Audrey Hepburn fan especially if coupled with a DVD of one her movies. For those that just want a “What would Audrey do?” type of book, then this would be the one for you.

The world has always been cynical, and I think I’m a romantic at heart. I hope for better things, and I thank God the world is so full of people who want to be genuine and kind. –Audrey Hepburn

How to be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life
by Melissa Hellstern
Penguin Group, 2004
ISBN 0525948236
189 pages

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Noteworthy Links #6

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If  you ever needed an excuse to read Neil Gaiman, here it is! American Gods has been selected as the One Book, One Twitter selection for 2010!

I for one, am psyched that American Gods is the selection. I loved this book and am probably due for a reread.

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Paper or plastic for those books you just checked out at the library? Baltimore is piloting a new program where you can purchase your groceries at the library.

patrons can order groceries online and pay with cash, credit or food stamps. The orders are filled by Santoni’s supermarket, a longtime Baltimore grocer. They deliver the items to the library the next day.

Talk about a great way to bring healthy habits into the library!

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Never one to fall out of the digital media rat race, Google will be coming out with its own Ebook store this summer. All you need a Google account because the service will work across a bevy of devices.

The company says the ebooks will work across multiple devices, and, unlike the ebooks of iPad and Kindle, any device with a browser will be able to view the books. Customers with a Google account will be able to access the service.

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The role of the graphic novel and comics in the literary lives of children today, one woman’s take. Jennifer de Guzman, one of the judges for the San Jose Public Library’s first annual Graphic Novel Contest discusses the role of comics and what she learned about life reading them.

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The Summer Before – Review

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The Baby-Sitter’s Club: The Summer Before by Ann M. Martin

Age: 8+

Told through the eyes of Kristy, Claudia, Mary Ann and Stacey, we get a look into the lives of the four girls who would later form The Baby-Sitter’s Club. Kristy is unhappy that her mom is dating again. Mary Ann is constantly struggling to prove to her father that she is responsible and is no longer a baby. Claudia is making some tough decision about growing up and growing away from two of her best friends. Stacey is new to Stoneybrook and trying to find a place to fit in, despite her diabetes.

Although this book was written years after the Baby-Sitter’s Club series ended, I thought that the stories held true to each of the four girls and their friendships. At times the narration felt more like a flashback, an adult Kristy or Stacey recapping that summer in their lives. The voices and conversations were far more mature than what I would expect an 11 year old to say.

For those that read through the entire series and the spin-off stores like I did, this book doesn’t really supply you with any new information about the girls. I did like reading from all four perspectives, especially about the same events that happened during the course of their summer break. It was also the perfect length, in total pages and per chapter. There was an even number of chapters for each girl, but I did feel that Kristy took center stage a lot. That’s probably because quite a few of the Mary Ann chapters were about Kristy. I thought the Mary Ann chapters were fairly boring, and the Claudia chapters about growing up and having a first boyfriend were the most entertaining. This is fairly odd for me, because reading the series I loved the Mary Ann books and usually skipped over the Claudia titles. The conflict and drama is pretty low on the richter scale, so it might come off as too slow for kids 11 and up, but the younger crowd will enjoy it.

Older Baby-Sitter’s Club fans will appreciate the book for its nostlagia and younger readers will enjoy it for a peak into the lives of the girls before the club.

I also heard that Scholastic began reissuing the series in April this year (hence the timing of The Summer Before). I’m not sure how many libraries will reinvest in this series, since it is nearly extinct in most library systems in the US. I’d like to see the BSC series make a comeback though. It was one of my absolute favorites growing up and one of the main reasons I was such a book nerd.

In case you missed the BSC tribute back in November, follow the link to a week-long tribute started by everybody’s Friend Amy to your favorite girls and books from Stoneybrook, Ct.

The Summer Before (BabySitter’s Club)
by Ann M. Martin
Scholastic Press, 2010
ISBN 0545160933
215 pages

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The Age of Innocence – Review

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The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Age: Teen and up
Genre: Fiction
Location: New York

Set in the early 1900’s in New York, The Age of Innocence is a story about love, betrayal, etiquette and social norms. Newland Archer is the typical upperclass New Yorker, set to wed May Wellend. When May’s cousin Madame Ellen Olenska comes to the New York seeking refuge from her husband in France, Newland’s views of his ideal world begin to tear as he discovers a new way of living and thinking through Ellen.

Edith Wharton’s classic is much like Pride and Prejudice; filled with social commentary and distaste for elitist norms and customs. It did, however, lack the wit and humor that made Pride and Prejudice a fun read. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy Age of Innocence, particularly towards the end. The first half was very dry and very, very little happened. Most of the first half was laying the foundation for the future relationship between Newland and Ellen. I did enjoy Wharton’s descriptions of New York during that era, and the personalities she crafted that embodied certain archetypes of the time.

May Wellend represents naive innocence (not seeing any reason or cause to change), Newland represents trapped innocence (wanting to change, but unable to), Ellen lacks all innoncence as she represents change.

The book is also ripe with Wharton’s frustrations with American customs in regards to traditions, appearance and social class. Although Wharton herself comes from upper class of New York, I think this gives her an insider’s perspective of the lifestyle that she mocks in this story.

The girls in my bookclub were very unsatisfied with the final ending between Newland and Ellen Olenska, but I liked it. I have a bias towards the not-so-happy endings. They seem more realistic to me. I did think that the ending was incredibly rushed through, when compared to the rest of the book. So much happened in the last 20 pages, and it took the first 140 to lay all the groundwork.

I do want to read more of Wharton, I love learning about the elite New York aristrocrasies that reigned over classic New York. I think this book would be a logical step up from fans of Anna Godberson’s The Luxe series, although Age of Innocence lacks the intense drama and raw passion that carries The Luxe series. Age of Innocence is a more quiet, subtle and accurate portrayal of this era.

This book was read for the OATES Challenge as well as the Read, Remember, Recommend Challenge.

The Age of Innocence
by Edith Wharton
The Modern Library Classics, 1920
ISBN 0375753206
270 pages

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