July 26, 2008 at 5:02 am (Book Review) (, , , , , )

This Review is of the book Aberrations by Penelope Przekop

Abberations was a complete joy for me to read. Angel’s search for the security of love and that which she defines as mother-ness is heartbreaking as she both succeeds and fails to find what she is looking for. Having moved to Houston, this book feels like a slice of what that general part of the south must have been like in the 80’s, and some of it doesn’t feel so distant if you are involved in the GLBTQ rights movement.

Angel is a 22 year old graduate student that is trying to make it by with one parent, two jobs, three friends and a never ending list of questions. She is caught up in several difficult situations. The man she loves is married to someone else, her father is about to remarry a woman that is determined to turn her life upside down, and she is seeking out something, anything, that feels like being mothered. She finally finds a mother of a sort, though it wasn’t anything like she thought it would be, and discovers the sense of mother-ness in a way that she never expected to find it. There is just one more problem, she is struggling to live a semblance of a normal life while struggling with narcolepsy before there were medicines to make managing it much easier. Finally deciding to find relief from her disability through recreational pharmaceuticals and date someone without telling them about the narcolepsy, she finds out that you can’t outrun a problem that lives inside your own body…

The interactions between the people in this novel are complex and as the story unfolds, you are caught up with this motley cast of characters as they navigate their lives through and around and despite each person’s aberration. No one seems to be quite functional, but they all manage to make it work somehow.

Penelope’s description of life as a narcoleptic is hauntingly accurate if you happen to suffer from it the way I did. Before being diagnosed, it could be maddening to experience cataplexy – you think you are losing your mind as you lay there, able to see, to hear, to THINK and respond inside your own head to the external stimuli around you. However not one muscle can move – you lay there helpless – on the floor at the store, school, your partner’s apartment. In those days it wasn’t something that you could easily hide if you had a moderate to severe case of it. Some narcoleptics are lucky – they only experience the EDS or excessive daytime sleepiness. I can sympathize with Angel – during the 80’s the treatments consisted of daytime stimulants, antidepressants that may or may not help cataplexy, and perhaps something to encourage sound sleep at night. These days narcoleptics can find much better medicine, but they function in ways that the medical experts don’t really understand. Let me tell you – being given highly regulated drugs and being told that they have no idea why they work is not the most comforting of experiences! If you want to find out more about narcolepsy check out the following websites:

Narcolepsy Network

Wiki on Narcolepsy

Like the book? Join Penelope Przekop’s fan site on Facebook at:



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Just Chillin’

July 16, 2008 at 5:47 pm (Book Review) (, , , )

This isn’t a new release, but I made a decision to myself that I would review all of my college textbooks as I go along, because some texts are clearly better than others.

Just Chillin’ is a case study of adolescent development. It takes place at a Middle School near Baltimore Maryland, a primarily middle to upper middle class community in a suburban neighborhood. It follows several students in 6th, 7th or 8th grade, with each student chosen to highlight a particular aspect of adolescent development. Eric represents the family relations aspect, Lily the social aspect. Another student, Jackie was representative of “the average sexual experiences of middle school students” I put this in quotes not because it is directly from the text, but to underscore my sarcasm at this. I think that this book has an overly naive view of how middle school students are, and how inexperienced they are these days.

I think that the author went through considerable effort to produce an entertaining and readable case study, but because it reads more like a novel, I was surprised to find it was actually a researched case study. Perhaps I just didn’t do my homework, but the casual tone of this makes it less believable as a properly performed case study. I also question the value of this book for a course on adolescent development in a program that focuses on inner city middle schools.  Our students don’t have the kind of family structure or lifestyle that is portrayed in the book. I would like to see a case study along the same lines at a type of middle school that is far more common.

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Yet another giveaway

July 16, 2008 at 4:53 pm (Uncategorized)

There is a giveaway for what seems to be an incredible new book series and fantasy world.  Check it out on fellow librarythinger’s web blog at http://thefriendlybooknook.com/2008/07/16/the-questory-of-root-karbunkulus-by-kamilla-reid-giveaway/

Wish me luck – because I would love to read this one!

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reading meme

July 15, 2008 at 12:35 am (Uncategorized) ()

I bumped into this book meme over at http://readerville.wordpress.com/ and it looked fun as a way to know more about my reading/reviewing process.

1. Do you remember how you developed a love for reading?

My Mom spent a lot of time with me when I was tiny reading to me and teaching me how to read. BY the age of 3 I had my favorite story memorized and it looked like I was reading as I recited the appropriate words on each page. By 4 I was reading on my own and by kindergarten (4.5 years) I was reading at a 2nd grade level. I have always from that point forward devoured books as fast as I could. During summers my father would have to take me to the library several times a week sometimes I would go through all 10 books in a day or two, until he got sick of all the driving and handed me one of his science fiction books. I was probably 8 or so.

By that point I was reading fiction for adults instead of teens. By the age of 13 I was reading advanced works of fiction like Michael Moorcock which isn’t the easiest read (topic or prose). In junior high I was assessed as reading beyond high school level.

What are some books you read as a child?

My first favorite was Chicken Little, transitioning through to Dick and Jane. Later on it was the boxcar children, Sweet Valley High, Babysitters Club, etc. I also loved non fiction. In elementary school I devoured all of the books on dinosaurs, and the librarian introduced me to the mythology section. My early reading of Scandinavian Folklore has had an enduring impact on my interests, life and eventual career.

What is your favorite genre?

For fiction my favorite genre is fantasy. A well written sci fi novel or true to life fiction can still get my attention though. Most importantly it must be well written, with an engaging plot – however my favorite feature is dialogs and characterization. Some of my favorite novels, in analysis, are not very challenging reading (though I love a challenge) or have a very complicated plot – David Eddings repeats the same plotline a million times in his novels, but he writes such amusing dialog with strong female characters, that I will read them again and again because they can make me respond to the characters.

For non fiction I love monographs on Viking archaeology, history, medieval history, and medieval accounts. I also enjoy memoir and books on education.

Do you have a favorite novel?

OUCH. That is hard – I have so many that I love. Kushiel’s Dart comes to mind. It is a rich world drawn from history and fantasy alike. Other favorites have included the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Also, it really depends on my mood – do I want a serious read, or do I want one of those guilty pleasure fluff fiction novels to keep me entertained.

Where do you usually read?

Depends on fiction or non. I tend to read non fiction at a table or desk where I can take notes. Fiction is read any where I get a chance, in bed, relaxing in the bath, eating at the dinner table. If my nose is in a good book, I cannot put it down…

When do you usually read?

Whenever I can. I enjoy it more than most things, so whenever there is down time I usually have a book in hand. More so now that I am in a M Ed program.

Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time?

Yes. I have spent 21out of 28 years of my life in some form of education or other and I read books for school and work and pleasure.

Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction?

Yes. Depending on the purpose of the non fiction, I often take notes or need to sit somewhere where I can focus on it better.

Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library

I buy most of my books, rarely use libraries unless working on a special project, but I also borrow them from friends.

Do you keep most of the books you buy?

Yes.  Definitely.  Until the floor makes funny creaking sounds.

If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? Were they some of the same ones you read as a child?

I have no children.  I do have 2 beautiful nieces.  I read to them from Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein

What are you reading now?

For school a book on inclusive classrooms, adolescent development

For fun I am reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran” with several books in the cue.

Aberrations is on my list next (likely started before I finish the current book, followed by Up for Renewal

Do you keep a TBR (to be read) list?

–not a formal list as such, but I do keep track in my mind what I would like to do next.

What’s next?

I plan to take over the world, one book at a time 🙂

What books would you like to reread?

Not sure – would like to read Shakespeare again, as well as a number of classic works that I hated in high school.  I loved Shakespeare’s comedies, but hated some of the other stuff they had us read.

Who are your favorite authors?

Jacqueline Carey, Anne McCaffrey, Raymond E Feist, Jochens, Jessie Byock, HR Ellis Davidson…

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Giveaway contest on another blog

July 14, 2008 at 1:29 am (other people's blogs)

This book looks really interesting, so wish me luck!


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Upcoming Review Titles:

July 13, 2008 at 5:56 pm (Upcoming attractions) (, , )

Recieved in Houston and enroute to me at school in Boston are the following two titles:


Up for Renewal

I look forward to reading these books, and will be reviewing them as soon as I can.  They should arrive here Thursday.

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more thoughts on Kabul Beauty School

July 10, 2008 at 3:58 pm (Book discussion) (, , , , , )

I do not think I focused enough on the incredible opportunity that she was offering these women.  In a country where women went from relative equality in the 80’s to extreme censorship in the 90’s and 2000’s so many women lost the ability to support themselves.
Even in the US, a woman in a bad situation – abusive husband, father, parents, etc who cannot support herself is trapped unless she is extraordinarily lucky and finds the emotional support to free herself.  By empowering these women to have marketable skills like being a beautician – and how to do so by combining traditional Afghanistan techniques and Western techniques (including proper hygenic treatment of the tools of the trade) they open the door for these women to begin making some choices and freedoms of their own.  Deborah takes her own experiences with an abusive and controlling spouse and fights back and works through these issues by helping other women find a way to make money to help their family, or to save money more than the husband knows about to be able to do have more choice in their lives.

Whether or not you can see eye to eye with Deborah on her personal choices, and the way that she makes decisions that affect the lives of her closest friends and family; she definitely makes an impact on the lives of many women in Kabul.

I came to this book with a humorous state of mind – I mean – seriously – beauty school?  How does that change the world?  I walked away with a radically different state of mind.  Beauty in a world where women were hidden and with no public agency or voice, can have more impact on the individual than I can really grasp in a world where beauticians are everywhere.  I can only hope that the political sphere over there improves and the funding returns for the school to carry on.

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July 9, 2008 at 1:47 am (Book Review) (, , , , , , )

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez

My initial response to this book was this, pulled from my library thing review:

This book was…incredible. I could not put it down. I bought it at 7:00 this evening and just finished it now at 12:30.

She paints a vivid description of the many joys, fears, successes, and troubles she found on her amazing journey passing back and forth between the States and Afghanistan. She shows the type of courage that would make the world a much better place if more people had her sense of humanitarianism and perseverance.

There are parts of this book that make you laugh and laugh, as you read about her various blunders and faux pas, and then again, there are times I was hard pressed not to burst into tears at some of the more emotional moments. This describes a period of intense ups and downs in the lives of many women.

At the end of it all though, you don’t want the book to be over, you ache for her and Sam’s difficulties, and you long to know how everyone is doing now, even though the afterward updates you through 2007. If you enjoy reading about current events, people’s lives, and stories that aren’t so much about happy endings as they are about gripping reality, this is a book you need to get your hands on.


To that I feel that I need to add something.

I still say that it was a very rewarding book to read.  After a lot of reflection though, I feel that I cannot agree with many of the choices made by the author of these memoirs.  Some of the details she gives about the life of those around her concern me.  They are details that would be a source of incredible difficulty for the people she talks about, and in at least one incident – that of a friend’s wedding and wedding night, something that the people involved can’t help but recognizing as their own story – could have horrible repercussions.  Some things should remain secrets between friends – no matter how juicy the story.

I also observed that for a memoir about charitable work, the person doing the work was extremely self absorbed.  I find that she has a lot of disdain for traditional culture, makes spur of the moment decisions that effect everyone around her with consideration only of herself, and in the end, I feel like the charity work in and of itself was a method of making her feel better more than anything else.

This in no way diminishes my enjoyment of the book, and I really recommend it.  I would love for other people who have read this book to respond with their own opinions.

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July 9, 2008 at 1:32 am (Book Review) ()

Sitting Practice  by Caroline Adderson

This story revolves around a married couple that suffers tragedy at the beginning of their lives together that threatens to tear apart all they hold dear. Woven throughout the plot are similar themes of emotional wounds that worsen due to lack of communication between both of the protagonists and their immediate families. Ross has a codependent twin with a son that he treats as his own. Iliana comes from a fundamentalist family that is shunning her for her sinning ways. They are both so wound up in their own personal dramas, they do nothing more than hurt all of those around them. The book is somewhat awkward to read, but I feel that the last third of the book redeems it somewhat.  Even though not every loose end is neatly wrapped up at the end, life is like that and I found myself rather satisfied with the ending.

This book was an odd read for me. Throughout the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the book I had a hard time connecting with or caring about the characters. The husband has a very odd personality that is hard to accept as being a real person – he feels more like a cartoon character or someone you would see in a lame common denominator Hollywood summer movie. I ended up wondering how he survived to adulthood without becoming a Darwin award recipient. The wife during this part of the book has little impact or presence as a character, life just happens around her even when you are seeing her as an active force in the story. The rest of the book, when they show you two years after the incident, you actually see the main characters start to grow as people and display more human emotions. Their lives begin to change, decisions are made, and then I was able to start sympathizing with some of the characters. By the end I was pretty happy where things would end up, as people realized that they were going about things in the wrong way, and begin to find ways of actually interacting with each other in a more healthy manner.

I would recommend this book, but not with as much praise as some of the other books I have been reviewing. The characters are too unbelievable as people throughout the beginning of the story until the story progresses.

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Cool book review

July 3, 2008 at 9:16 am (other people's blogs) ()

This book involves a main character with narcolepsy.  Someone on librarything shared a link to this review, and now I will too.


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