Showing posts with label essays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label essays. Show all posts

02 March 2013

It's in the Bag and Under the Covers: Stories of Dating, Intimacy, Sex, & Caregiving About People with Ostomies

So you poop in a bag and you want to know if what you feel about that is "normal?" You're either going to end up on the Internet or at your public library, looking for information about what it means to be an ostomate. Not the nitty-gritty medical stuff -- doctors cover that pretty well -- but the messy emotional stuff about relationships and intimacy your doctor might have given you a not-really-helpful brochure about. (Mine had a middle-aged couple walking hand-in-hand on a beach. I was nineteen. It did not make me feel better about my new self).

Should you end up at your library, ask your nice reference librarian to interlibrary loan this book for you. Should you end up on Amazon, go ahead and buy it ... then donate it to your library when you're done with it.

Truly, I found It's in the Bag and Under the Covers to be a very helpful, informative, and encouraging book. The book is a compilation of true stories contributed by members of so you're guaranteed a healthy dose of real people talking about what it is really like to live with an ostomy. Some stories are funny, some are sad, and some had my nodding along saying "that! that is exactly how it happened for me, too!"

(Basically, we are all beautiful, sexy creatures and people who really like us and want to make beautiful sexytimes with us won't care about how we go to the bathroom).

It's in the Bag and Under the Covers: Stories of Dating, Intimacy, Sex, & Caregiving About People with Ostomies by Brenda Elsagher (Expert Publishing, 2011)

13 September 2010

Behind the Bedroom Door: Getting It, Giving It, Loving It, Missing It

An emotionally diverse collection of personal essays about women and sex by twenty-six talented writers like Julie Powell, Susan Shapiro, and Ali Liebegott. While some essays are a bit explicit, they ultimately tend more toward candid insight than eroticism. My favorite essays were Deanna Kizis's assertive "Turning the Other Cheek," Valerie Frankel's funny "Ouch, You're Lying on My Hair!," and Hope Edelman's tender "The Sweetest Sex I Never Had." I was so moved by Edelman's essay about falling in love at fifteen while her mother died from cancer that I read it three times.

I imagine -- in the way it's convenient for teachers to reduce students to stereotypes -- that she saw me as the honor student tossing my smarts in the trash for the chance to screw a former outlaw. But she didn't know him, not really, not as the sweet, gentle boy I knew him to be, the one who touched me so carefully, so perfectly, that I needed his hands on me all the time.
(from Edelman's "The Sweetest Sex I Never Had")

Excerpts from selected essays are available on the book's website,

Behind the Bedroom Door: Getting It, Giving It, Loving It, Missing It edited by Paula Derrow (Delacorte Press, 2008)

15 June 2009

"Well presented. That's what it is, well presented."

Kafka's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes by Mark Crick (Harcourt, 2005).

Admittedly this book's subtitle is a bit misleading -- fourteen writers hardly make a "complete history of world literature." Secondly, despite the ingredient lists, these aren't really recipes so much as culinary imitations of different writer's styles ...
That said, I found this book to be pretty darn entertaining and spot-on in its imitation of authors like Raymond Chandler, Jane Austen, Irvine Welsh, and Virginia Woolf. However, while Kafka's "Quick Miso Soup" and Woolf's "Clafoutis Grandmère" were all very fine and Literary, I admit my favorite "recipe" was for "Rich Chocolate Cake" à la Irvine Welsh -- written with such a thick Scottish brogue and so riddled with curse words that it simply begs to be read out loud. The cake, too, sounds delectable:
Ah take the pan off the heat while ah crack two eggs into a jug. Ma eyes focus long enough oan the shells tae read the crack by date: the bastards want me tae throw them oot and buy more. Mebbe the hen that laid them is sitting in the freezer doon at Scotmid, but ah know they keep for months. There's nae need tae beat the eggs: the 14:22 from Kings Cross goes by the windae and stirs every fucking thing, including me. Ah measure oot the flour and at the sight of such a mountain of white powder ah'm tempted tae stick ma nose in. Ah add the eggs and flour to the mixture and pour in a drop of port. Ah hae a drop masel; it's no bad, so ah put some more intae the pan. The bottle's soon finished. Ah've drunk half and the other half's goan intae the mixture -- greedy fuckin' cake.

30 May 2009

Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever by Joel Derfner

I had never before seen somebody I admired understand what was expected of him, choose to act otherwise, and be happier for it. For the first time in my life I realized that it was possible to reinvent oneself.

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through some old issues of Publisher's Weekly in a desultory fashion, vaguely hoping something fantastic would jump up and say "read me, woman!" when Swish caught my eye. This essay collection did not get a good review in PW, but the book's title and the review's reference to knitting were enough to have me reaching for an inter-library loan slip. And a good thing, too. Swish turned out to be just the right mix of funny and introspective -- exactly what I needed in my continued recovery from Bad Novel Brain Fog.

Joel Derfner has been celebrating his gayness since he was six years old at summer day camp, and hasn’t stopped since. On the way to becoming The Gayest Person Ever, he has been an aerobics instructor, musical theater composer, go-go dancer, and a member of the gay cheerleading squad. He also knits fabulously. In his essay collection, Swish, he covers everything from his relationship with his mother to "transformational ministry" (ex-gay movement) in a way which is both extremely funny and brutally honest. I recommend this book to everyone -- especially that bits about knitting and the essay on Exodus's transformational ministry.

Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever by Joel Derfner (Broadway Books, 2008)

20 December 2008

"Lo, now is come the joyful'st feast!"

A~Z Reading Challenge “I” Author: Washington Irving’s Old Christmas (Sleepy Hollow Restorations, 1977).

This is a facsimile of the first (1875) edition of Irving’s Old Christmas with illustrations by Randolph Caldecott (of the Caldecott Prize). The packaging is quite simply beautifulL. Caldecott’s black and white cover art of birds, ivy, and holly (accented with just a touch of red) is charming. And the small size of the book makes it nice for cozying up to with a good cup of tea. I suspect Old Christmas would make an excellent gift if, say, bundled with Dickens’s The Annotated Christmas Carol (W.W. Norton, 2003) or The World Encyclopedia of Christmas (McClelland & Stewart, 2004) and a nice bottle of something warming.

Old Christmas contains a series of brief vignettes describing the traditional English Christmas customs which were, even at that time, falling by the wayside. The chapters are scenes out of from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day: the stagecoach ride is one chapter, then "Christmas Eve," and so on through "Christmas Dinner" (alas, that the food was not described as often or as well as my little foodie heart desired). Irving writes with good humour and clear affection for his subjects. He include lots of fascinatingly odd little bits and pieces of Christmas tradition in this little book which had me running to my annotated Christmas Carol for additional information.

Now, if only I had a merry group to play snapdragon with!

This Sleepy Hollow Restorations facsimile edition is currently out of print, but I found a few nice copies on eBay which would make very fine gifts ...

Don’t want to buy it? Library’s copy checked out? Google Book Search has Old Christmas, too.

23 September 2008

Klee Wyck

A~Z Reading Challenge “K” title: Klee Wyck by Emily Carr (Douglas & McIntyre, 2003).

Klee Wyck is a collection of literary sketches from the Canadian artist Emily Carr which focus on her experience painting in the Native Canadian villages of the west coast. Douglas & McIntyre's "restored" edition is supposed to be much closer to Carr's original than the "educational" edition most Canadians are familiar with which omitted much from Carr's work. Educational authorities appeared to have liked the idea of Emily Carr better than they liked her actual writings -- her references to missionaries and schooling were not always kind:
The Missionary said, "It is good for the Indians to have a white person stay in their homes; we are at a very difficult stage with them -- this passing from old ways into new. I tell you savages were easier to handle than these half-civilized people ... in fact it is impossible ... I have sent my wife and children south ..."
"Is the school here not good?"
"I can't have my children mix with the Indians."
Having listened to Susan Vreeland's The Forest Lover, reading Klee Wyck was a little bit odd experience. Many of Carr's experiences were familiar, but Carr's real voice is so much plainer than her fictional counterpart that I sometimes hungered for a few extra adjectives. Also, I was tickled to see how Vreeland had rolled pretty much all of Klee Wyck's Native Canadian women into the character of Sophie. Making, perhaps, for a better story, but also minimizing Carr's variety of experience.

Oh, whatever. Good book. Much enjoyed. Go read.

21 May 2008

"Damn you, delicious powdered cheese."

I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley (Riverhead, 2008)

My “C” author for the A~Z reading challenge was Sloane Crosley and her essay collection I Was Told There'd Be Cake. I do not know how I came to pick this title as collections are usually not my cup of tea. As Cake isn't mentioned on Bookslut, I'm guessing it must have been the Library Journal review that did it.

(Which is strange, because I usually eschew anything with a starred review as I have been burned once too often by those crack-smoking optimists over at LJ).

I Was Told There'd Be Cake is a slice-of-life essay collection about a mid-20s (?) Manhattanite with roots in Westchester. The essays are cleverly and hilariously written on topics any good girl from the suburbs should be able to identify with. The lax vegetarianism, quasi-religious summer camp experiences, and sporadic litter of good intentions -- it's all familiar stuff.

My favorite stories were "Christmas in July" ("I came close to building my own theological infrastructure at the ripe age of seven, when I memorized a series of words: Sky, Blankey, Speech, Kim"), "One-Night Bounce" ("The second I was old enough to know what sex was, I knew I wanted to have a one-night stand"), and "Lay Like Broccoli" ("As for other vegetarians, I tell them I started eating sushi because I developed a mercury deficiency"). However, I must admit my favorite passage is at the start of "Smell This" (a story of friendship and a stealth turd):
Unless you are a professional, you will find the tart to be a high-maintenance, unforgiving whistle-blower of a pastry. If they could sprout sexual organs and mate, they'd go extinct on the jungle floor. Chocolate chip cookies, impossible to fuck up, would breed like deer. Tarts are the red pandas of the baking Amazon.
Perhaps it was the half bag of dark chocolate M&Ms I had mainlined while reading this collection, but that passage made me laugh like an idiot as I visualized vast herds of chocolate chip cookies roaming the jungle glades while one shy chocolate hazelnut tart, its crust a little crumbly around the edges, cowered in the undergrowth ...

31 July 2007

Reads & Listens, July 2007


Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
In the end, I still regret Fanny's marriage to Edmund. Yes, her patience and virtue were rewarded with the one man she desired, but what a man to desire! Why do I feel as if Edmund married on the rebound from Miss Crawford and mostly picked Fanny because she was a convenient and appropriate choice for a man of his position?

Girls: Volume 2: Emergence written by Joshua Luna (Art by Jonathan Luna)
The people of Pennystown band together after some truly weird shit goes down one night in their small town. Will they survive the invasion of "girls?" What's going on with the giant sperm? Will the plot progress?


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle written and read by Barbara Kingsolver
I loved the descriptions of nature, home-based food production, and food preservation, but Kingsolver's preachy politics (which I agree with!) wore on me. Also, she writes about Americans as if she weren't one and her enthusiastic description of Europe as the source of All Things Good seems awfully simplistic and romanticized (has she never been in a Sainsbury's or Tesco?).

Small Wonder written and read by Barbara Kingsolver
Collection of essays all sort-of encompassed by September 11th. Not all essays are new -- some have been tweaked a bit to contemporize or bring in line with the others -- but all are interesting. Kingsolver has a beautiful reading voice and, even though I was often annoyed by the contents of her essays, I could have listened to her forever.

Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (read by Stephen Briggs)
Nac Mac Feegles! Witches! Always a good time.

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett (read by Stephen Briggs)
More Nac Mac Feegles! More Witches! Plus Annoying Teen Cliques! And Death! Yippee!

02 July 2007


Currently listening to Barbara Kingsolver read her essay collection Small Wonder and (somewhere around the middle of the first disc) she asks:
How much do we need to feel blessed, sated, and permanently safe? What is safety in this world, and on what broad stones is that house built?
After discarding a bunch of foolishness, my answer turned out as simple as this: the circle of my husband's arms.

30 December 2006

Reads & Listens, December 2006

Singer in the Snow by Loise Marley
When I picked Singer up, I didn't know it was part of a series and so didn't enjoy it as much as I might have. Spent too much time wondering how the characters managed not to starve to death on a world where summer only comes every five years (where does the grain come from? do they grow it during the brief summers? if so than why is summer some universal holiday when it should surely be "all hands to the plough and let's hope the crops don't fail?" and what insects survive between summers to fertilize the plants, anyway?) -- and not enough time worrying about the trials and travails of our heroes. I think I might have enjoyed it with more back story, but I'm not desperate to read the other books.

Women of War ed. by Tanya Huff & Alexander Potter
I was hoping to find strong "military" characters like Signy Mallory or Paksenarrion and was ... disappointed. None of the stories in this collection grabbed me or made me want to look the author up.

Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil Worshippers Who Became Saints by Thomas J. Craughwell
The subtitle pretty much says it all.

Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church's Betrayal of American Nuns by Kenneth Briggs
Grrr. This book makes me want to shout at people and donate all my savings to the Retirement Fund for Religious, for all the good that would do.

After Midnight by Teresa Medieros
Despite the silly vampire shtick, this was quite a fun (and frequently funny) read. The chemistry between Caroline and Viscount Trevelyan (Adrian Kane! Who really thinks that is a probable name for a peer c1820?) seemed quite believable and delicious. The relationship between the sisters was also quite excellent. Still ... the set-up for the next novel (Portia & Julian's love story) was clear from the moment I found out Caroline had sisters and several events -- which didn't really have much to do with Caroline's -- just seemed tacked on to get me to read the next book. The Children of Men by P.D. James
By the sixth chapter I very much wanted to chuck the book out a window, but I forced myself to soldier on. Stupid. Horrible book. Haven't hated a book so intensely since American Psycho.

Night's Edge by Maggie Shayne et al
Collection of three novellas of which I only read Charlaine Harris's "Dancers in the Dark." It was pretty okay, but lacking some of the depth and wit I enjoy in her Sookie Stackhouse books.

Bite by Laurel K. Hamilton et al
Collection of five short stories about vampires. Of the five, only read Charlaine Harris's "One Word Answer" (bridges the gap between Dead as a Doornail and Definitely Dead).

Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras by Cathy Hopkins
First book in the series. Pretty good YA story about friendship, kissing, growing up, and all that rot. Frequently funny and often quite introspective.

Village Christmas by Miss Read
The Christmas Mouse by Miss Read

I thought I'd like to read some twee "Christmas in Merry England" type stories to get me in the mood and these were what was on hand. I hadn't enjoyed my other excursions into Miss Read's England, but thought Christmas stories would be safely saccharine. Well. Yes and no. What a nasty and hateful undercurrent runs through all these stories! And what small-minded bigots so many of her characters seem to be! Miss Read's England is one I would never wish to live in and I cannot comprehend why her books are so beloved by so many.

Rain Fall by Barry Eisler
Thriller set in a noir Tokyo full of jazz and whiskey bars. Very atmospheric and beautiful -- I want to believe in this Tokyo. However, neither the plot nor the characters were ever particularly compelling and (let's face it) anything with a nerdy computer whiz sidekick makes me cringe. Still, if you're tired of Eric Van Lustbader, this book might appeal to you.

The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy ed. by Leonard S. Marcus
Interviews of thirteen fantasy writers including Terry Pratchett, Ursula k. Le Guin, Susan Cooper, and Madeleine L'Engle. Very informative and intriguing -- almost all of the authors discuss the impact of WII and Tolkien on their work. Maybe that is because many of these authors are of the same generation and class? In some ways the interviewees are too homogeneous. But still, a fun read for those of us interested in the person behind the page. The manuscript excerpts make a nice bonus, but the reading lists aren't always complete ... only the juvenile/young adult books are included, I guess?

30 November 2006

Reads & Listens, November 2006

Wolf Who Rules by Wen Spencer
A solidly crafted follow-up to Tinker. The cover art is still terrible, but what can you do?

M or F? by Lisa Papademetriou & Christopher Tebbetts
Frannie likes Jeffrey, but is too shy to talk to him. Best friend Marcus impersonates Frannie to woo Jeffrey for her. Jeffrey likes Frannie (as written by Marcus). Marcus likes Jeffrey. It's a breezy and (mostly) funny story of mistaken identity and false assumptions.

The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey by Lisa Papademetriou
Veronica and Heather, two total opposites, find themselves trapped in the fantasy world of the novel Queen of Twilight. They must face their fears and band together in order to save the land of Galma and get back home. Very funny.

Canning Season by Polly Horvath
Winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature (2003). Lonely and badly mothered Ratchet is sent off to the Maine woods to live with her ancient (and outlandish) great-aunts. A rollicking tall tale with lots of slapstick humor and just maudlin enough to give it some poignancy.

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
It's the same story told in Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, but this time it is told through the eyes of Mattie Gokey, a young woman desperate to get out of the woods and take control of her life. Beautifully told. I loved Mattie even when I wanted to shake her for falling for that Roy Loomis ... gah.

To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan
I think I was supposed to hate this book, but I ... liked ... it. Even when I disagreed with Flanagan, I still felt extremely entertained and amused by this book.

American Born Chinese written and illus. by Gene Luen Yang
A 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature and no wonder. Wonderfully illustrated fable with three linked storyl ines and central characters. Plus, it features the Monkey King! What's not to like?

Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights by Faye Kellerman
Two of my favorites from this short story collection were "Holy Water," which involves the kidnapping of a Rabbi by a soda company in an effort to discover their competitor's secret formula and "Summer of My Womanhood" an autobiographical piece about working in her father's deli.

Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham (illus. by Medina and Leialoha, et al)
In a New York secretly populated by exiled fairy tale folk, Rose Red is found murdered. Or isn't. She was probably murdered, but maybe she was kidnapped. Or maybe it's all a ruse. It's up to Detective Bigby Wolf and Snow White to discover the truth. It's as if Agatha Christie and Neil Gaiman had a love child who was addicted to daytime television.

Y: The Last Man (Vols. 1-4) by Brian K. Vaughan (illus. by Pia Guerra & José Marzán)
Yorick Brown is an escape artist with a hot girlfriend in Australia. He is also the last man on Earth. Dangerously addictive series ... it is impossible to just read one.

The First: Two Houses Divided by Barbara Kesel (illus. by Lary Stucker, Bart Sears, et al)
Collects the first seven issues of CrossGen Comic's The First and holycrap bad.

I Feel Bad About my Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
Another book I didn't expect to like, but did. Really need to stop reading reviews -- I hate the books I'm told I'll like and like the ones I'm told I'll hate.

30 July 2006

Reads & Listens, July 2006

The World According to Mimi Smartypants by Mimi Smartypants
Read this on the plane on the way to Manchester and must have annoyed the shit out of the nice yeshiva boys sitting across from me what with my donkey snorts, hyena laughs, and all.

The Marriage Spell by Mary Jo Putney
So who didn't guess our darling couple would be doing it like rabbits at the sacred well? I mean, this novel was a nice bit of fluff, but there are better examples of Fantasy-Regency-Romance (Sorcery and Cecelia, for one).

The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett
A very good reason to give up hoovering.

The Brentford Chainstore Massacre by Robert Rankin
I give up. Always go "Oh! Robert Rankin! Interesting cover! Funny premise! Must read!" and then (hours later) am left feeling pretty ... eh ... about the whole thing. Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse was just an aberration. I'm not meant to read Rankin.

Septimus Heap, Book Two: Flyte by Angie Sage (illus. by Mark Zug)
An enjoyable little adventure, but not nearly so clever or well crafted as Magyck.

Inconceivable by Ben Elton

My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices ed. by Lila Aza Zanganeh
Mostly breezy little collection essays by Iranian writers, artists, film makers, etc, discussing what it is to be Iranian and trying (valiantly) to create a truer picture of Iran for Westerners who see it either as an Axis of Evil or something straight out of the The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.

Troll Fell by Katherine Langrish
Orphan boy is taken in by his dastardly twin uncles who have terrible plans involving spunky neighbor girl, gold, and trolls. Langrish uses of elements from Scandinavian folklore/fairy tales in her world building and it's a good thing. Extremely enjoyable.

30 January 2006

Reads & Listens, January 2006

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore
Another much appreciated Christmas gift from The Husband. While any book that has an undead Santa is likely to be a good one, this book was even better than I anticipated. Very Pratchett and Rankin-esque -- which means nothing much, really, but it's the new year and I'm still wasted.

Counting Heads by David Marusek
So dense and complicated that I don't know how to summarize it easily. "Many people look for some rich girl's head?" That's too easy. Overall, a very impressive book that was not easily put down.

Flirting with Pride & Prejudice ed. by Jennifer Crusie
Collection of non-scholarly essays examining P&P. Funny is places, thoughty in others, and always very personal. I especially enjoyed the essays about Mary and Charlotte as I tend to feel they got the short end of the stick.

Poison by Chris Wooding
Poison's sister, Azalea, is stolen by the phaeries. In order to get Azalea back, Poison does a deal with the Phaerie Lord. Of course, he does not uphold his end of the deal ... A pretty good story with some interesting world building.

Where's My Cow? by Terry Pratchett (illus. by Melvyn Grant)
"It goes HRUUUGH! It is a hippopotamus! That is not my cow!"

Invasion of the Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel
Latest adventures of that merry band. Brilliant, as always.

Once Upon a Time (She Said) by Jane Yolen
Mishmash of Yolen's essays, short stories, and poems about fairy tales. Writings include those intended for adults as well as children and the non-fiction is interwoven with the fiction which I found a little confusing, sometimes. Mostly, it was too much of a good thing and I came away feeling as if I had eaten too much cake.

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
Horrifying and yet so probable.

The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs ed. by Reader's Digest
This book covers all the standard supplements and gives pretty precise instructions for usage. The dosages might be too conservative for some, but they usually match those listed in MedlinePlus, Gale's Health & Wellness database, and EBSCO Health. A good guide for beginners or those looking for a solid reference for their home library.

The Turkish Lover by Esmeralda Santiago
Santiago was a guest on last week's episode of Daisy Cooks! She was so compelling (and Daisy's enthusiasm for her works so infectious) that I had to borrow this book. It was marvelous. I cannot speak of it without gushing or blowing the whole story. I must go devour the rest of her works. Now.

Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage by Kenneth S. Deffeyes
Published in 2001, some of Deffeyes predictions/assumptions are already off (but perhaps it doesn't matter when the oil will run out so much as it will). Provides a good overview if you want to know where oil comes from, how we find it, drilling technology, etc.

30 May 2005

Reads & Listens, May 2005


The Safe-Keeper's Secret by Sharon Shinn
Reed may be the son of the King and Fiona may be meant for more than safe-keeping ... pretty good coming of age novel with a few twists which may surprise some readers.

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
Just to prove that I am a freak, I will now admit I never read the Secret Life of Bees. It's just never appealed to me. I picked up the Mermaid Chair, because I liked the cover and the inside flap made the novel sound a bit like an Alice Hoffman work ... and it was. Funny and sad all tangled together, it was a delicious read.

Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food by Susan Marks
Entertaining and informative look at the way Betty Crocker changed the way American women cook and how the development of corporate marketing impacted the way we perceive food. Also, examines the mechanics of modern food processing. Excellent companion to Something from the Oven or A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove.

The Good Body by Even Ensler
Disappointing. The Vagina Monologues were so shocking and uplifting and I expected the same of The Good Body, but what I read were tired cliches about why women don't like their bodies or how chubby women can be strong. It didn't open any new vistas of understanding for me. Indeed, reading it made me feel kind-of pissed off and cheated. And then I saw the Ensler's photo and just wanted to throw the book across the room. Oh, I know, fat is as much a psychological state as a physical one and even skinny bitches feel fat, but really.

Roller Birds of Rampur by Indi Rana
Sheila, 17, was born in India but grew up in London and thinks of herself as English. But when her boyfriend dumps her because she's not English enough and her best friend is sent "home" to India for an arranged marriage, Sheila begins to wonder who she really is and where she belongs. While the books provides a great deal of philosophical and cultural insight, the characters never really feel properly fleshed out.

Natural History by Justina Robson
Through genetic engineering, we have created the Forged -- human/machine hybrids made to do jobs too boring or dangerous for us to perform. Voyager Lonestar Isol nearly dies on an exploration mission, but it saved by the discovery of mysterious "stuff" that seems able to become whatever the user needs it to be. When she returns to Earth claiming to have found a new world, she starts sharing this "stuff" around and, obviously, it's not all good. The Unevolved (ordinary humans) don't want to give up the planet -- especially if it might have belonged to someone else -- so they send Isol back with archaeologist Zephyr Duquesne to determine whether the planet was/is inhabited. "Stuff" happens ...

This is the most original science fiction novel I've read in a long time and I look forward to reading it again.

Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam
He talks about social capital and how the United States doesn't have much of it, anymore. I think he means that, with the decline of certain kinds of organized social groups (bowling leagues), we lose that ability to socialize and to congregate in a regular way and this decreases our trust in others which leads to all sorts of bad things like depressed economies, increased crime rates, depleted environments, etc. I don't know if that's true or if I understand his theory properly, but it makes for interesting reading.

The Disappeared: A Retrieval Artist Novel by Kristine Kathyrn Rusch
First book in the Retrieval Artist series (discounting the novella that started it all). A detective novel set on the moon with interesting treatment of alien cultures and multicultural laws. Some of the character development is weak or relies too heavily on repetition. Still, a promising start. Those who enjoyed Kristine Smith's Jani Kilian books may also enjoy this series.

Wait Until Midnight by Amanda Quick
The romance is not very sparky and the plot's a bit weak (who didn't guess the murderer was Durward Reed?? And "Durward?" Fuck's sake, what kind of name is that??), but it's still a pretty enjoyable bit of fluff.

Beware of God: Stories by Shalom Auslander
"Somebody Up There Likes You" and "Waiting for Joe" were two of my favorites.

Sarah: Book One of the Canaan Trilogy by Marek Halter (trans. by Howard Curtis)
Better than Orson Scott Card's Sarah, but is that saying much?