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June 29, 2005

Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:02 pm

fiction by Audrey Niffenegger.

A great read for the summer. It is light and airy and easy to fall into. The diary/dialogue style works well for the book, a style that normally annoys me. The littlee details about the year and the character’s age is also useful in setting the plot each time it changes, which is again and again. It made me want to reread it just to plot out the time in sequence and see if it all worked out like it was supposed to, but I had it on a 7-day loan form the library so no time for that.

It is not a complicated book or a deep thinking book. It almost made me cry in the end, even though I knew what would happen, it left me anxious for what was to come. The reality of the story and the day to day life worked well with the total impossibility of the time traveling idea. There are a few places that could have been fleshed out more, especially Henry and Claire’s wedding, but I think the book sort of rushed on as it came to the end.

Maybe it is just me, but I like it when stories continue on and hate to turn that last page. I would have been happy to hear more of this story and read on for a few more days. Overall it was a good book to read,

March 25, 2005

Book Review: Everything you NEVER wanted your kids to know about SEX (but were afraid they’d ask)

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:10 pm

book by Justin Richardson, M.D. and Mark A. Schuster, M.D.

A book addressing all of those difficult sex questions, and the basic ones too, for infants through teenagers. The authors make a strong initial point, parents need to decide what their views are about sex and what they want to portray to their children. This book will not tell you what you should, or to what degree, tell your kids about specific situations. However, it does raise several questions that will get parents thinking about why they may be reluctant to address specific issues.

I feel that this book is very useful for parents who feel that sexual development is an important part of growing up. Many issues are raised that need discussing either between parents (so they know what they want to say if a question is asked) or to children. I found the aspects that go beyond simple intercourse made this book very valuable. Discussing masturbation and establishing that it is okay to masturbate was dealt with very well.

The book does a good job of avoiding placing any judgement calls on the topics discussed or parents possible feelings toward them. It does present plenty of real life possible situations, ones that most parents may hope will never happen, and how to turn it into a positive discussion about sexuality.

A few of the topics covered in this book: nudity, masturbation, puberty, std’s, safe sex, sexual orientation…

March 15, 2005

Book Review: Sink Reflections

Filed under: flylady, review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:14 pm

book by Marla Cilley - The FlyLady

A book focusing on home organization. This book provides a realistic view and method for getting organized, decluttering, and cleaning your house. Finally a system that takes in considerations people with habitual procrastination and difficultly following a organizational plan.

The FlyLady method really focuses on starting small, very small, and working up from there. She points out that you shouldn’t try to suddenly organize and clean your life overnight, or in a week. Instead, you should work on establishing certain habits or patterns, realized that it takes weeks to start a new habit, and work up from there. Major cleaning tasks, if you must tackle a major task, are broken up into 15 minute increments. It is amazing how many things can get done when broken up like that.

House cleaning is broken into small, manageable chunks of time and tasks spread throughout the week. Each week focuses on one area of the house, so there is no need to try to clean everything every week. And all of these tasks are done Monday through Friday, leaving the weekend free for fun family time.

For people concerned about getting their family members help, FlyLady points out that if you want the house clean and if it makes you happier, then it is up to you to clean it. This was a great one for me, I felt very overwhelmed trying to clean the house alone and would get mad that no one was helping. When I finally accepted that having a clean house is something that is important to me (and not as much to everyone else) and that it makes me happy, I was able to let go of the frustration that I was doing it alone. And, as FlyLady suggested, family members began to help out more when they saw me taking such an active role in keeping things clean.

Also, this system also focuses on removing any guilt you have about your messy situation. A wonderful consideration for people who feel so overwhelmed that they don’t know where to start. And, again, she focuses on taking small steps. No need to suddenly turn a brand new leaf and decide you’ll do everything perfectly from here on out.

I found this book to be extremely helpful in changing my view toward housework and organization. I admit that I am still at the babysteps stage, but I manage to keep my sink clean (it’s important, read why) and my kitchen running smoothly.

The [FlyLady] website is another resource for email reminders and good tips to keep you motivated.

April 25, 2004

reading something into it…

Filed under: books — suzanne henderson @ 9:24 pm

I’m currently reading [An Anthropologist on Mars] by [Oliver Sacks]. It is a collection of seven case studies / case descriptions of neurological diseases that are quite fascinating to explore. I’ve read about 4 of the studies so far and they have left me with all sorts of thoughts. Before getting into the one that is currently stirring up a wealth of contemplations of existence, I’ll mention my favorite to this point.

“To See and Not See” focuses on a case of a man near-lifetime blindness who has an operation to remove the cataracts on his eyes and restore sight. However, he can’t really see because he cannot make any mental-visual connection to what he ’sees’. His world has been completely tactile and non-visual.

Parents rarely consider that one of the major learning and development processes that takes places as an infant grows is the visual and mental connection of sight. As an adult we’ve had our whole lives to know that the large yellow object in the sky is the sun. Now take someone who has been blind, they cannot even comprehend what yellow is or round is (visually speaking). .

This is something we don’t even have a vocabulary for, because we cannot possible image what it would be like to exist without any representation of objects as we know it. We may mistakenly believe that a blind person simply builds a colorless world around them, but one that still takes solid form. However, the man in the story had no concept of distance, because he processed things in how long (in minutes, seconds, steps) till something else happened or was present. This isn’t someone walking around in world painted black, this is someone walking through time.

Even now, I’m lacking the words or the mental organization to convey how dynamically this essay affected me. Trying to imagine or picture living in a world so different from the one I know and then being thrust into one where suddenly everything loses all context, nothing is anything like what I thought it was, and suddenly I have no world that is mine to exist in.

“Prodigies” is the essay I’m currently reading. However, since I went into far more detail on the concept of seeing, I’ll wait till tomorrow and till I have completed this chapter to go into the discussion of multiple intelligences and also the mysterious ways of the brain.

His book makes me want to study neurology. Thankfully, I know I have not to mental capacity to pursue of that type of education. But damn this is fascinating.

October 4, 2003

Book/Movie Review: Girl, Interrupted

Filed under: movies, review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:44 pm

the book by Susanna Kaysen:

Based on the author’s mental institution hospitalization in the 1960’s. Book is humerous and serious at the same time. The reader is not beat up with everything that is wrong with mental institutions or the reason’s people go there, instead you’re just given one person’s insight on her time in one. Kaysen makes a good point that you can find ‘normal’ people there and some people just get stuck and never leave.

Book is easy to read, great on a rainy afternoon. If you like this one, recommend Just Checking and Prozac Nation.

movie based on the book:

It follows the book perfectly. I couldn’t remember if I saw the movie first or read the book first, either way it doesn’t matter since they are identical. I liked it as much as I like the book, plus Angelina Jolie is in it and that is enough for me.

update: since reading the book/watching the movie and writing this review, I’ve wondered more about some of the concepts in the movie. Mainly because of another movie that I recently watched about a girl that has to go to a convent because she got pregnant but is never able to leave. I don’t recall the title at the moment, but it had me rethinking the physical imprisonment of young girls either in any type of institution.

Book Review: Just Checking

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:39 pm

Just Checking : Scenes from the Life of an Obsessive-Compulsive by Emily Colas

A funny, frightening look at living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Many parts are quite humorous, until you start considering what it would be like to have to live with OCD yourself. Then it starts to creep under your skin a little. The author did a wonderful job of tying in little stories and transitions to keep the story moving and give a partial glimpse of what living with this disorder is like.

It’s a short book and certainly worth reading.

Book Review: Not Much Just Chillin’: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:25 pm

book by Linda Perlstein

Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls says:

“Linda Perlstein has managed to embed herself in the lives of minds of middle schoolers, thoroughly capturing the major issues and the minutiae that govern the course of these crucial years. A terrific read for parents and other adults who need to navigate along with them.”
That is an impressive review from an author I highly regard. However, I haven’t found this book to be worth reading at all. Perhaps if you are a concerned parent with no clue or remembrance for what middle school was like, then take the many days and evenings to trudge through this novel. It moves slowly, very slowly, and while it tries to pulll you into the minds of a typical middle schooler, it still leaves you watching from the outside, the sidelines, the parental position that you are already at.

The first fault I found was the classification of the school, Wilde Lake in Columbia, MD, to be a little too over dramatized. It’s a suburban school in a typically white, upper-middle and upper class neighborhood. Columbia, MD. This isn’t your typical urban or suburban school. However, to be over generalizing and stereotypical, concerned parents and adults interested in issues about middle school development will probably be from neighborhoods and school settings much like this one.

Second fault, it is a slow read. The intro to students personalities is dull and indicate that the author really didn’t do her research on what middle school kids are like on a social and cultural level. Instead, she’s spooning out adult-centered information that further alienates parents that are already struggling with their children’s personal interests.

I’ve only read two chapters, so maybe the book gets better. However, it’s gonna take me a while to finish it since I’ve got several other more interestesting novels waiting for me to read.

Update: I tried very hard to get through more of the book but I couldn’t. There was no way to build up enough momentum to continue turning the pages. Parents of middle schoolers are often desperate to find some way to reach their children that seem to be slipping away from them — for these parents, the last thing they need to do is waste their time trying to fight through this books in hopes for some great insight into the child’s life. There are other books out there that can open plenty of doors for them in a much less painful way (along with many other resources including their own children).

October 2, 2003

Book Review: Plain Living

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:38 pm

by Catherine Whitmire

Great collection of quotes and tidbits of insight on various concepts of simple living and clearness. Good food for thought and meditation. If you need some centering in your life and direction on questions you should be asking, it’s a good place to start.

There are soft references to Quaker living and concepts. However, it has very open ended questions and thoughts that anyone can find useful.

Book/Movie Review: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

Filed under: movies, review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:01 pm

the [book]:

fiction by Rebecca Wells

Wonderful book about mothers, daughters, friends, childhood, and southern tradition. The author does an excellent job of flipping between present and past, different characters, and situations. It is tied together beautifully and well rounded at the end.

I was laughing and crying at the same time. Definitely a stereotypical chic story and a damn good one at that.

the [movie]:

Terrible! Awful! Please, please don’t see this movie, certainly don’t see it if you’ve read the book. The movie doesn’t even come close to pulling through the strong emotions and connections from the book. The Sisterhood needs more than 116 minutes to truly unfold. The producers completely butchered the story and wasted everyone’s time by making this film.

Book Review: The Piano Tuner

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 2:57 pm

fiction novel by Daniel Mason

In short: Historical fiction set in 1886 and around a British man heading off to the nether regions of Burma to tune some crazy man’s piano.

Beautiful imagery throughout this book. All of the descriptions come alive and dance before you. You can smell the spices and curries and you can almost feel the seasons pass. I was stunned by the descriptive detail within this book. I devoured every word until at last there was nothing else. My senses ran on high for two days, I was still recalling morsels of beauty from the text.

And then I started to think about the book. There was nothing in this book, no plot, no structure, nothing to really classify it as a story even. Had I written this for a class project, I would have gotten wonderful smiles from the imagery, but an F since it lacked any real content.

That being said, it has great potential for a good story. But too many corners are cut and the end gets rushed into a fray of loose ends. Seemed like Mason just ran out of time and turned in whatever manuscript he had finished at the time. Instead of ending where he did, he could have pulled through and produced an outstanding novel.

October 25, 2002

Book Review: Tipping The Velvet

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 2:53 pm

Fiction novel by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters creates a wonderful novel exploring a young girl’s fancy of women in the late 1800’s. Young Nancy Astley is swept away from her oyster serving family by a music hall masher, Kitty Butler. Tipping the Velvet follows her struggles as she struggles to hide her identity and eventually finds acceptance as a tom.

The historical richness is expertly paired with the passionate encounters to make this novel a success. Once I started reading, I could hardly put it down.

Wondering what ‘tipping the velvet’ means? Something that would prolly happen between a girl and her female lover at some point. Don’t think I need to be any more specific than that.

October 22, 2002

Book Review: Odd Girl Out

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 3:21 pm

Non-fiction book by Rachel Simmons

Rachel Simmons has tackled the unspoken aggression in girls. Labeled alternative aggression, Simmons displays case after case of the ways girls use exclusion, threats of losing friendship, and undetected aggression.

Any woman that has experienced this hidden aggression will find this book to be a vivid reminder of everything that has ever been do to or done by girls growing up. Simmons focuses on how girls maintain damaging relationships, use group support when in conflict, silently attack other girls with body language, and float below the parent-teacher radar.

For parents and educators unfamiliar with this type of aggression, Odd Girl Out gives specific examples of cruelty and the devastating effects it can have.

The only downside to the book is the extensive examples included. As a adult woman who has experience these alternative aggressions first hand, I didn’t need the page after page description of other girls problems. But for anyone trying to understand or first realizing this is a problem, Rachel Simmons provides a wealth of information to dive into.

Some key points that jumped out at me were:

Alternative aggression is just as damaging as physical violence. In some cases, it may even be worse. There were multiple cases of girls developing serous mental and anxiety problems as a direct result of the cruelty they were facing from other girls. Additionally, our culture has often defined the difficulties girls face as “just a phase” or “social skills” that girls have to deal with. However, Simmons and other researchers are finding this is not the case, alternative aggression is a serious topic.

Parents and teachers need to be aware and carefully watch for these specific types of aggression. It is often consider a silent fight or quiet battle because girls are good at playing the “good girl” in front of teachers and parents, yet still giving mean looks, whispering about a girl to their friends, spreading rumors, and writing mean notes. There is rarely any physical or definitive evidence that something is happening.

One reason there is this type of aggression in girls is because they are given conflicting messages about how they are supposed to act. In a society that tells girls that they can be anyone they want to be, they are still faced with the views that they should be quiet and well mannered. This conflict of expectations makes t difficult for them to discover ways to resolve conflicts and deal with anger.

Some things parents, teachers, and girls can do to deal with alternative aggression:

Parents need to:
- actively listen
- ask about your daughters day everyday.
- get the facts about any problems
- help plan out strategies for dealing with aggression
- switch school (if possible, it has shown to help several cases)
- or enter into a new after-school activity
- talk with teacher, guidance counselors, and school officials
- do this after doing everything else you can to solve the problem, not as a first solution
- let your daughter know that you are aware of the way girls can be mean
- sympathize and don’t downgrade the situation

Teachers need to:
- keep aware of possible aggression in the classroom
- explain aggression and what types are not acceptable (include alternative aggression)
- check out The Ophelia Project
- check out The Empower Program

Girls neet to:
- have open/honest talks with their friends about how to deal with anger
- get help, talk to someone
- get rid of the friend (this is harder than it sounds)
- find a new activity
- know that it will end

This book goes into the social and economic differences of aggression in girls. It also discusses way to deal with aggression as it is happening. The list above is a vague generalization; please pick up the book to get a better understanding of the best way to deal with this problem.

I suggest any educator or parent of young girls pick up this book and read through it. The hidden aggression in girls is a powerful force in a girl’s childhood and has long-term effects on life. It is about time that someone decided to tackle this issue and raise awareness about it.

October 4, 2002

Book Review: Cat’s Eyes

Filed under: review, books — suzanne henderson @ 2:51 pm

Fiction Novel by Margaret Atwood

[Cat’s Eyes] follows the main character’s transition from child to woman. Atwood describes the cruelty between girls with acurate detail. When discussing this book for a college lit class, the women in the room readily confirmed the actions between Elaine and her “friends.” Atwood has been caled a feminist writer, but I do not see that portrayed in this novel. For me, Cat’s Eyes is a portrayal of a girls struggle through childhood and coming to terms with feminism as a woman.

Rachel Simmons includes an excerpt from Cat’s Eye in her non-fiction book: [Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls]