Monday, February 24, 2014

Jane Austen Reimagined

Jane Austen could not have imagined the impact her books would have on our lives today. I am a great Austen fan and have read (and re-read)  her six completed novels.  Even those who have not read her books have encountered Jane Austen because countless movies, plays, and books have been produced based on her work.  After all, who can forget such classics as CluelessBride and Prejudice,  From Prada to Nada, and Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. I am always curious, so I have viewed, read, and enjoyed countless of these Austen remakes.

For all of you who, like me, are hopelessly Lost in AustenJane Austen's books are now being modernized or "reimagined" by six bestselling authors as part of the Austen Project.  Curious? Take a look at the website, The first of the books, Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, was published in October 2013. The plot is essentially the same, although Marianne is an architecture student and Marianne goes to the ER when bad boy John Willoughby breaks her heart. Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid will be released on April 1, 2014. Pride and Prejudice by American author, Curtis Sittenfeld, will be released in autumn of 2014. Can you imagine how much trouble Lydia Bennett will get into on Twitter? Alexander McCall Smith will be writing Emma. The authors of Persuasion and Mansfield Park have not yet been announced.

If you are all a twitter about Jane Austen "reimagined" for our modern world, begin with Sense and Sensibility, get on the hold list for Northanger Abbey and watch for the autumn release of Pride and Prejudice.

~Gilby G

Monday, February 17, 2014

Going Gray: What I Learned About Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity and Everything Else That Really Matters

If you’re old enough to remember the TV commercial that asked “Does she or doesn’t she? Only her hairdresser knows for sure,” then it could be that your hair is gray. It’s also a good bet that you color it, like 55-60 percent of American women (and who knows how many men). But if you’ve begun to question whether the secret to eternal youth can really be found in a bottle of hair dye, Going Gray is the book for you.

This was the question that Anne Kreamer, a 50-something journalist and former TV producer, asked the day she saw, with horror, a candid photo of herself, her hair dyed its usual but very unnatural dark brown. She didn’t look younger, she didn’t look right, and it wasn’t a good look. She sheared off her dyed locks, swore off hair color, and set off on a fact-finding mission that resulted in Going Gray, a thoughtful examination of how our culture of youth rejects graceful aging in favor of struggling to look 25 until we're 95. 

Her research is thorough, beginning with the roots (sorry!) of the hair coloring revolution-- it wasn’t that long ago, after all,  that women with dyed hair were gossip-worthy. She then moves into surveys, focus-groups, and interviews with professional image consultants. She even product-tests herself on dating websites, comparing the hits she gets with colored hair vs. gray--and the results may surprise you. Regional and professional attitudes toward gray hair are examined (hint: don’t attempt to let your hair go gray in southern California, or if you’re a female senator) and the financial hit of frequent hair coloring also adds to the interest.

Kreamer wasn’t without her critics--friends don’t let friends go gray, at least not without a fight--but she’s clearly comfortable with her decision. Readers on the fence about whether or not to get off the hair color treadmill will be intrigued by the surprising discoveries she made about herself, and also by what Going Gray says about how, as a youth-centric society, we buy into the cultural norms created by corporate advertising.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: Creamy and Crunchy

Every single lunchtime of my childhood, I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. To this day, I adore peanut butter--so I was elated to find a book devoted to one of my favorite snacks! Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food tells you everything you could ever want to know about peanut butter. The book is well-researched and well-written, and it's crammed full of interesting facts and trivia. (Did you know, for example, that Americans eat more than a billion pounds of peanut butter each year? Or that the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth is called arachibutyrophobia?)

In Jon Krampner's peanut butter masterpiece, you'll discover the history of peanuts and learn about how they arrived in the United States. You'll read about about Peter Pan, Skippy, and Jif, and about the battle that determined just how many peanuts have to be present in a jar of peanut butter. You might even find a favorite new recipe.

Read and enjoy--preferably with a peanut butter sandwich by your side.

~Queen of Books

Monday, February 3, 2014

All Things India

Are you already on the waiting list for The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri? Lahiri's novel was on the 2013 Booker Prize shortlist and has gained in popularity as word of mouth spread. Beautifully written, it follows the lives of two Indian brothers and their diverging paths. While you are waiting for your copy, you may want to check out a few other books about India. Beyond the Beautiful Forevers is a nonfiction book written by American Journalist Katherine Boo. Boo spent years researching and interviewing people in the slums of Mumbai. Her account is an intimate portrait of the residents, detailing their hopes, aspirations, flaws and disappointments.

If fiction is more your style, try books by Aravind Adiga. His first novel, White Tiger, won the Booker Prize in 2008. His subsequent novels are Between the Assassinations and Last Man in the Tower. Bharati Mukherjee's Miss New India gives a glimpse into the world of a young woman in a Bangalore call center. If you want to spend a few pleasurable hours relaxing, watch the movie Slumdog Millionaire or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.