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18 July 2012

'The Long Earth' by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

How fair would it be to have a special ability that gives me unimaginable freedom?

The whole concept left me feeling uncomfortable.  It is difficult to describe.  It is like the feeling you get when you know you have forgotten something important.  Where do I fit?  How fair would it be to have a special ability that gives me unimaginable freedom?  How much should a government or private company try to control curiosity and the urge for freedom that most of us have in spite of wanting security.  Have we grown too big or too populous to function as a society?

There are people who love themselves or worse yet, their own dreams, more than their own children.  These people exist side by side with people who love their children more than their own lives.
I'd like to believe I love my children and that their wellbeing comes before my dreams... at least until they graduate.  But am I sure?  What if the lure, the temptation was literally the size of a universe?  That special talent by the way is also shared by others naturally.  Some people can learn to develop this ability and then there are those who cannot do it at all; in fact it makes them ill.  Where is the fairness?  Should I compensate the 'have nots'?  After all, I was born with it and it is no more my fault I have this ability, than it is someone else's who doesn't have it at all.

This book left me with so many questions and a lot to think and reflect on.  In fact I am impressed with just how much I have wrestled mentally in the last few days.

What would I do?  What will I do?

Most of the questions in the book are given no answers.  Good.  I like to think for myself.  Characters act in certain ways, as their nature allows and often do not think too much or too deeply.  It is a rather sad but realistic view of most of humanity.  If any, the general suggestion is 'help when you can and be honest'.  But theses concepts are so slippery in spite of their simplicity.  Moreover, the questions are not asked directly.  I kept passing judgement on the characters and then suddenly started second guessing myself.  What would I do?  Am I sure?

The story is excellent, captivating and well thought out.  It is healthy to think deeply now and again (or as deeply as I can, in any case).  How could it be otherwise?  I asked myself so many cool questions.  I'll probably go hunting for Stephen Baxter to see what he is about on his own.

Terry Pratchett 
ISBN: 9780857520098 

'The Devil Wears Prada' by Lauren Weisberger

Fashion fun; A great read for so called "chic-lit"

Like many other women, I have watched the film (several times thanks to the dvd).  It is a fun girl's evening-in movie that my daughter and I enjoy.  So I didn't bother to read the book for a long time.  A couple of weeks ago, though, I read that Laura Weisberger is writing a sequel.  I like the movie so I thought, "give the book a try and then you'll be able to enjoy the sequel."  Naturally, the book is fashion fun,  All the fat/thin conversations (obsessions), boss from hell situations and general thoughts of the protagonist are there in even greater detail.

The book gives me a more subtle approach to the fashion conversion of Andy.  I also saw a clearer picture of why her  romantic relationship broke down.  The film presented the problems as issues of time, availability and priorities, which are of course important in a relationship.  But, he seemed to do more sulking than thinking.  It is not the challenges that destroy a couple but how you approach those challenges as a couple.  In the book it felt to me that the reason he broke up with Andy was not that she made good or bad decisions but that they were different from what he would have done.  He did not sulk, but he did judge.  Andy finally "does the right thing", as he defines it, but under her own hilarious terms; independent of all those people trying to pressure her.

In the book I read a good look inside Andy's head.  The new relationships she builds and the people she meets both "high" and "low" teach her to think... not just react.  This is an important point because her mother and father can be overbearing and so can the angelic boyfriend.  She does the right thing for different reasons than her boyfriend or parents.  Andy did indeed learn by working at 'Runway'.  She grew up.  So, yes, she changed perhaps she out grew her parents and boyfriend.  The fact that the trauma of working for Miranda Priestly gave her inspiration for writing was an added bonus.  What I mean is, that I know people who travel to foreign places or work amazing jobs without introspection, curiosity or intelligence.  Andy grows because she brings all three together.  She faces her own nasty parts (not necessarily Miranda's) and decides for herself what to keep and what to throw out.  And yes, just in passing, there are also people in my acquaintance that can bring all three together, though none, I think, had a boss like Miranda Priestly.  All in all, a great read for so called "chic-lit"  I can't wait for the sequel.

Lauren Weisberger 
ISBN: 9780007156108 

01 July 2012

'Fifty Shades of Grey' 'Fifty Shades Darker' by E L James

The perfect Summer read; light, easy on the brain and so naughty

I could write about 'The Secret Garden', one of my favorite Summer books, which I just finished rereading.  I could write about 'Mistress of the House: Great Ladies and Grand Houses 1670-1830', which is empowering as well as instructive and entertaining; I've also been reading it this week.  But, truth be told, what I must admit to reading, because they're so often on my mind, are the first two books of the trilogy by E L James.

They are indeed the perfect Summer read; light, easy on the brain and so naughty.  And if your curiosity and stamina leans that way, also very instructive.  I have gifted this trilogy twice this Summer.  I have not managed to read the third book myself because someone close to me ( I won't mention names in order to protect the not so innocent) got to it first.  But what followed the reading of these books were some interesting conversations, questions and dare I say it, ... flirting requests.  My own thoughts and comments I will not elaborate further because in truth you should read the books yourself and have some thoughts of your own; with luck also some action.  In fact give it to your significant other and promise a prize if he or she completes it.  And yes, there will be a test.

The thing about erotic (for lack of a better word) literature, at least for women, is that they are not instruction manuals but a source of inspiration.  Pornography, by definition, is so explicit it takes away all kinds of imagination.  I consider this book erotic, some may consider this book more.  How do I draw the line? I use a rule I read in 'Afrodita' by Isabel Allende...

"Erotic is when you use a feather, pornography is when you use a chicken."  Or something like that.

What this book, in spite of its clichéd premise, does so well is to entertain both sexes.  There is enough description of the lady in suggestive or explicit positions to satisfy most men.  For the ladies, on the other hand, there are descriptions that excite our other senses.  The protagonist is constantly describing the wonderful smell of her lover or the way his skin feels.  I can personally relate.  I cut off relationships when young because my nose simply said no.  As for what skin feels like, or the rough chin of an unshaved man, well, you see where I am headed.

In short, I was interested and kept interested by my own senses.  The book made me curious about how to explore my own relationship further.  Then, earlier this week, I picked up an old issue of 'Time' magazine in my gynecologist's waiting room.  It had an article about these three books and their legion of fans.  It seems I am not the only long married woman who wished to 'proactively' explore her sex life after reading these books.  The article said that the author herself refuses to discuss her own sex life (good for her, why should she?) and is rather shocked at how explicit women who come to book signings can be.  Ok, so I get to meet my literary hero and I start gushing about all my new found joy... my issue is, do I want to have all the strangers waiting in line behind me listening in and perhaps nodding vigorously as I speak?  Worse yet, making some suggestions?  Em... no.  Not really.  It struck me as funny as I was at the gyno's office anyway.

Not to change the topic too much but I've been thinking of something else.  The writer is British and she lives somewhere around London, or so we are told on the jacket.  So, isn't it strange that she set her book in America?  The land of the free? Presumably? or freer than the British?  It puts me in mind of the film 'Love, Actually'.  In the extras of the dvd the writer/director talks about one of  the characters who has been silently in love with a co-worker for three years.  This, (British) writer decided that no sane woman could stick to unrequited love with an Englishman for three years.  So they got a gorgeous foreigner to be the object of love and desire.  The director told this story and laughed.  Now I wonder if E L James thought of Richard Branson, even for just an unconscious moment, and promptly moved her rich hunk to America.

Anyway, go read the book, enjoy yourself and do go shopping to some of those tasteful, discreet shops that have popped up on the internet.

E L James
ISBN: 9780099579939