Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus’ (of The Nanny Diaries) second novel, Citizen Girl, is about the struggles of a young professional trying to make a living in the city.

Girl (again, they use a generic name) is fired from her job at a women’s advocacy center for trying to assert herself and find some dignity at the job, which in essence has her making photocopies every single day.

She is in desperate need of a job, and My Company, a women’s online resource, offers her a job for a “new development.” Only, she has no idea what she’s supposed to do. No instructions, no one to talk to, no one to work with. And she must figure out what exactly the job requires from her.

I loved The Nanny Diaries so I got Citizen Girl. I wasn’t expecting a light read, because The Nanny Diaries was heavy on introspection and emotions. Although the style of writing is carried over in Citizen Girl, the story got out of hand.

I think it probably dealt with too many issues. It touches on the struggle with day-to-day work. It touches on feminism and its varied meanings to different people. It touches on materialism and how people can stand by watching things drift all for the money. Girl has to deal with all this, and despite her altruistic nature, doesn’t resolve anything.

There were also a lot of parts that I went on and on until it was tiresome to read, such as the work parts with her boss Guy, who kept giving out vague information and instructions, and who kept maligning her for her ideals. The trashy parts didn’t help either, with the pool parties, porn sites, and all that jazz.

Even the supposed light in her tunnel, Buster (the boyfriend), falls flat because they inject the feminism as a conflict between Girl and Buster because Buster keeps on going to parties with strippers and shows with hookers.

The book also depicts some disturbing pictures of women. Girl’s mother is naively optimistic, Girl’s mentor seems to be the most positive character in the book… until she sells out and is a hypocrite to her cause (uh, getting funding for her women’s org from a porn site that traffics women), and Girl’s other boss Manley who is pregnant with a girl baby but is more than willing to earn her living off a porn site.

I guess they were trying to paint an accurate picture, but it’s insulting to all the women who have made it in their fields while retaining their humanity and their feminist ideals.

I really was expecting a better read.

***
My copy: I had it mooched last year, a mass market paperback

My rating: 2/5 stars

photo courtesy of http://www.aquabooks.ca/images/citizen.jpg

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Thirteen year old Salamanca Tree Hiddle is on the trip of a lifetime — a trip that will reunite her with her mother after a whole year of separation. Together with her grandparents, she retraces her mother’s steps to Lewiston, Idaho, where her mother is.

On the road, Sal entertains her grandparents with tales of her new friend, Phoebe Winterbottom. And as she tells them about Phoebe, her own story unfolds.

***
I first read this 1995 Newberry winner when I was in high school. Many years later, I finally found a copy of the book and I remembered why I loved it so well.

The book mainly deals with loss, a feeling everyone is familiar with, and how different people cope and come to terms with it. Sal is so candid at telling her story that you can feel the truth in what she’s saying, whether they’re hilarious observations about the things happening around her, or her deepest emotions that she tries hard to conceal.

Here are some favorite lines from the book:

“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” – the lunatic

“Everyone has his own agenda.” – the lunatic

“Everybody is just walking along concerned with his own problems, his own life, his own worries. And we’re all expecting other people to tune into our own agenda. ‘Look at my worry. Worry with me. Step into my life. Care about my problems. Care about me.” – Gram

“In a course of a lifetime, what does it matter?” – the lunatic

“…I wished that my father was not such a good man, so there would be someone to blame for my mother’s leaving. I didn’t want to blame her. She was my mother, and she was part of me.” – Sal

“I had brought a chicken in from the coop: ‘Would Mom leave her favorite chicken?’ I demanded. ‘She loves this chicken.’ What I really meant to say was. ‘How can she not come back to me? She loves me.’ “- Sal

“Sometimes you know in your heart you love someone, but you have to go away before your head can figure it out.” – Gram

“You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” – the lunatic

” I knew that sometimes you had to be alone with the birds of sadness. Sometimes you had to cry by yourself.” – Sal

“I tried to picture what the room was like and what room we were in and what she was wearing and what precisely she had said. This was not a game. It was a necessary, crucial thing to do. If I did not have these things, and remember these occasions, then she might disappear forever. She might never have been.” – Sal

“Our heads moved together and our lips landed in the right place, which was on the other person’s lips. It was a real kiss, and it did not taste like chicken… I felt like the newlY born horse who knows nothing but feels everything. Ben touched his lips. ‘Did it taste a little like blackberries to you?’ ” – Sal

“Ben was sitting on the front steps when I got home. He said, ‘I brought you something.’ There, strutting across the grass, was a chicken. I had never been so happy to see a chicken. When I asked him what its name was, he leaned forward and I leaned forward, and another kiss happened, a spectacular kiss, a perfect kiss, and Ben said, ‘Its name is Blackberry.’ ” – Sal

The book keeps you guessing until the end, and you realize Creech has successfully passed on some wisdom beyond Sal’s age and understanding, without making it contrived and artificial.

By the final chapters, I was crying buckets. It’s like finding an old friend, one who knows exactly how you feel. It’s beautifully written, wise, funny, and poignant, all at the same time.

***
My copy: originally a tattered paperback (got lost), replaced with another paperback from Book Sale, upgraded into a hardcover (library binding) with a tear on the front cover, also from Book Sale

My rating: 5/5 stars

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova


A young girl exploring her father’s library chances upon an ancient book and a collection of aged letters containing secrets that connect her family’s past to Vlad the Impaler, the Prince of Wallachia, on whom the legend of Dracula is based.
Except that it turns out that it’s not just a legend…

The Historian is one of the best thrillers I have ever read. 816 pages might seem long for a novel, but I thoroughly enjoyed its wordiness as I sank my teeth into this hair-raising adventure.

The narrative is told in alternating chapters from three different timelines: the narrator, the narrator’s father (Paul), and Paul’s adviser Professor Rossi. It is interesting to note that they are, at different points of their lives, on the same quest — the quest to find Dracula and vanquish his evil.

It is an exciting chase throughout the Eastern bloc, rich Eastern European history, and a lot of sleepless nights for the reader.

I don’t know what interrupted my reading more — endless things to do at work, or the fact that I couldn’t stay up alone at night reading it because it gave me the creeps.

On my first reading, I was at Starbucks, sipping my latte and reading, sitting on the counter against the glass wall of the store. Suddenly a rap comes through the window and I nearly jump out of my skin in fright… It turned out it was my thesis adviser — hehe, Sir Brion lang pala, phew! — but man, I was terrified!

When I first got The Historian, I was really looking for a good historical thriller and I seriously thought I’d be sorely disappointed, after having read The Rule of Four, The Secret Supper, and The Dante Club in succession. With all the historical thrillers out, I was really cautious of buying another one because it might turn out to be a dud. I’m glad I was wrong. The Historian was definitely a satisfying read.

The second time I read it was in September, when a bunch of The Historian fans from Flips Flipping Pages decided to get together to discuss the book and eventually turned it into an official discussion. I thought rereading it wouldn’t be as scary, but I spoke too soon, as I was home alone and couldn’t sleep without the light on! I kept seeing Vlad Tepes’ face every time I closed my eyes that week…

The Historian isn’t for everyone — some balk at length, some (*cough Twilight fans cough*) prefer four volumes of sap disguised as vampire novels, and some just plain don’t like it — but for those into historical thrillers, I’d say it’s a must read!

***
My copy: originally a mass market paperback, upgraded into a trade paperback, upgraded into a hardcover with a missing dust jacket, and now (permanently) a hardcover with a dust jacket!

My rating: 5/5 stars!

book photo courtesy: http://frontier.cincinnati.com/blogs/litchick/uploaded_images/historian-799672.jpg

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