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sex symbol shares her stretch marks

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 by kate

I just wanted to pre-empt this post with a note (mainly for my mother). I’m not pregnant. Even though I picked Jenny McCarthy’s Belly Laughs to review, I am not – nor do I wish to be in the near future – pregnant. And I don’t think you necessarily need to have the belly bump to enjoy this book.

Just the fact that a former Playmate model gained 60 lbs, had really bad gas and wore granny panties is reason enough to read Belly Laughs.

“To women who escape getting stretch marks, I offer you lukewarm congratulations. No, scratch that. I actually hate you.”

I actually struggled not to chuckle out loud while reading Jenny’s take on water retention and morning sickness:

"Strangers gawked at me as they saw me gagging in Aisle 3 holding up some cheese. It’s hard having these symptoms in public when you don’t look pregnant. If I were nine months along they would look at me like ‘oh look, poor little pregnant lady doesn’t feel so good.’ Instead they are looking at me as if to say, ‘Don’t bulimics puke after they eat?’

Some sample chapter headings are: Holy Sh** I Think I Hard-Boiled My Baby! (Taking Hot Baths), Granny Panties (Letting Go of the G-String), Passing Stonehenge (Constipation), Where the He** Can I Find a Muumuu? (Nothing to Wear) and Is That an Apple on Your Rectum, or Are You Just Happy to See Me? (Hemorrhoids).

Somehow, by totally grossing me out, McCarthy made pregnancy not so scary. Maybe it’s because you know she’s not sugar-coating anything for you.

Chapters dealing with bodily functions were funny, frank and graphic. But as much as Jenny delves into the world of doo-doo, she doesn’t dig as deep as I would have liked. (Some chapters are only 2 pages long.)

It takes a woman with a strong sense of self to divulge the kind of information Jenny so freely wields in this book (Okay. I’m going to say it. She poops on the delivery table.) And I expect, expecting moms everywhere will welcome the info and the light-hearted humor.

Previous Post: spring festivals

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spring festivals

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 by kate

If you’re itching to get your spring book fix, here’s a list of book festivals going on next month.

April 1-3
Fay B. Kaigler Int'l Book Festival
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

This year’s speaker lineup includes Judy Blume, Ashley Bryan, Eloise Greenfield, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, John Green, Yuyi Morales, Arthur Yorinks, Pat Scales and Louise Borden. Workshops will cover banned books, illustrations, the ’09 Newbery Challenge and early childhood literacy.

April 14-19
Fox Cities Book Festival
Appleton, Wisconsin

Featured authors include Sherman Alexie, Simon Armitage, Elizabeth Berg, Samantha Chang, David Giffels, Michael Perry and William Sleator. Activities include poetry and novel readings, breakfast with the author, genre presentations, panel discussions on how to get published as well as musical performances.

April 15-19
Border Book Festival
New Mexico

This year, the festival will host singer/songwriter Perla Batalla and her musical group and writer Luis Rodríguez, author of the autobiography Always Running. Other events include readings, panels, workshops and performances.

In an effort to celebrate it’s 15th anniversary, organizers are asking the public to submit reflections, stories, or artwork celebrating the number 15, i.e. 15 favorite books, 15 favorite meals, 15 sacred memories, 15 reasons to love the desert, 15 lessons you’ve learned in your life, 15 favorite sayings or when I was 15. . .

April 18
Annapolis Book Festival
Annapolis, Maryland

Kathy Lee Gifford, NewsHour's Jim Lehrer, and Newsweek managing editor Evan Thomas are just a few of the featured authors. Panel discussions will touch on such topics as wine, immigration policy, music, parenting and the future of politics.

April 18
Southern Kentucky Book Fest
Bowling Green, Kentucky

The 11th annual festival is held during National Library Week and will include book signings, panel discussions, workshops and children’s events. More than 130 authors will participate in the festival, including Chuck Barris, Jill Conner Browne, Michael Buckley, Canedy, Elizabeth Emerson Hancock, Ellen Hopkins, Silas House and Janis Ian.

April 22
Green Book Festival
Los Angeles, California

This festival honors books that contribute to understanding and action on the changing worldwide environment on Earth Day.

April 25-26
LA Times Festival of Books

The 14th annual festival, held on the UCLA campus, will host nearly 450 authors and is expected to attract 140,000 attendees. The event is free and includes panel discussions with authors, cooking demonstrations, storytelling and poetry readings. This year’s programming guide will be published in the LA Times Sunday, April 19.

Let me know if any of you have any to add!

Previous Post: mental moral war

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mental moral war

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 by kate

I admit I felt weird when I first picked up The Sirens of Baghdad, by Yasmina Khadra. Seeing the world through the eyes of an ordinary boy driven to violence was unsettling, but after following the unnamed Iraqi student through his country’s war, I now somewhat understand the mindset of one willing to sacrifice their life to take the lives of others.

Khadra’s main character is 21-year-old Iraqi who had been studying in Baghdad when war hit the city. Soon his academic aspirations were ruined and he returned home to his quiet town of Kafr Karam.

His village remained far removed from the war until a mentally challenged boy was gunned down by American soldiers who believed him to be a threat. Then a nearby wedding was mistakenly bombed and celebrating families were turned into ash and rubble. “I didn’t remember ever having borne a grudge against anybody, anybody at all, and yet there I was … outraged, sick, tormented,” the young protagonist said after viewing the accidental massacre.

The final straw came when soldiers raided his town at night and inflicted the ultimate disgrace upon his family, turning the former student who “simply hated violence” into a human weapon. “All the stars in the sky lost their gleam. The sun could keep rising, but I’d never be able to distinguish day from night anymore.”

“Such a smooth transition!” he said. “I had gone to bed a docile, courteous boy, and I’d awakened with an inextinguishable rage lodged in my very flesh.”

The author humanizes a country far removed from America, and doesn't shy away from the atrocities of war.

“I was condemned to wash away this insult in blood.”

The characters’ anguish and anger are so real it’s disturbing and Khadra’s narrative is chillingly similar to terrorism today and the very real future of viral war.

The novel ends somewhat abruptly, especially after so much time is spent following the main character from his small life in Kafr Karam to Baghdad and eventually to his secret terrorist mission in Beirut. But the story is worth the journey.

Previous post: no slumdog sequel

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no slumdog sequel

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 by kate

Amid all the hubbub about Slumdog Millionaire, I never knew it was based on the book Q&A, which was published in 2005. Maybe that’s because Q&A’s success in the states wasn’t realized until recently. The publishers of the book have hopped on the film's coattails and changed the novel’s name to Slumdog Millionaire, slapping a shot from the film on the cover. As a result, sales have surged, and the book has risen to No. 8 on the NY Times Best Sellers List.

Author and Indian diplomat Vikas Swarup hasn’t wasted any time, either. He’s written a second book, Six Suspects, which has also been optioned for a film. The book follows the lives of 6 murder suspects: a corrupt bureaucrat, an American, a stone-age tribesman, a Bollywood sex-symbol, a small-time thief and an ambitious politician.

I wonder if this film will end in song an dance, too.

Previous post: 25 most influential books

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pages you shouldn't pass up

Thursday, March 5, 2009 by kate

Mental-floss magazine has taken on the task of naming the 25 most influential books of the past 25 years. But its criteria are not exactly based solely on plot.

Paula Coelho’s The Alchemist made the list because of the way Coelho marketed his book. He offered it for free online back when Blackberries weren’t even born yet. In 1999, 10 years after he published The Alchemist, Coelho’s publisher dropped him for lack of sales. So the author turned to the web and sales immediately jumped. In the first year 10,000 copies were sold. Less than 10 years later, 10 million books were sold. Maybe musicians should take the hint.

Other titles that made the list include:

Thinking in Pictures – a picture of autism
And the Band Played On – a focus on AIDS
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – a complex translation about Japan
Middlesex – from the author of The Virgin Suicides

Personally, I think The Giving Tree should be up there, but that’s just me. What book do you think belongs on this list?

Previous Post: your valentine guide