Sunday, March 22, 2009

Everyone is Beautiful. Really.

A few times a year, I react strongly to a book. Sometimes, I identify completely with the main character. Sometimes, I find the plot to be absolutely intoxicating. Sometimes, I find myself smitten with the secondary and peripheral characters, the setting, the humor, or the author's enticing way with words. In this particular situation, all of the above apply to Katherine Center's newest novel, Everyone is Beautiful.

When my latest Early Reviewer ARC arrived in the mail from Random House this past Friday, I was not particularly impressed. Another chick lit, I figured. Center's book was tossed onto the "To Be Read" stack, only to be picked up again a few hours later. While waiting for the coffee to percolate, I flipped to the first page and was immediately ensnared. I forewent all obligations and consumed the novel that evening.

Center's novel takes readers on a wild ride of emotions and ideas, ranging from laugh-out-loud humor and excitement, to varying shades of sobbing sadness and weeping happiness. Elena, the heroine and mother of three young boys, is far from average. Elena, as well as the novel's other characters, express a deepness of thought and opinion that elevates the story far above the stereotype-ridden chick-lit genre. Beneath the veneer of a rite-of-passage romantic comedy is Center's simmering discussion of what makes a person beautiful. In addition, the characters deal with issues including the struggles of parenting, loss of loved ones, and fears of the loss of identity.

Everyone is Beautiful has something for everyone, at every stage in life. While the heroine is a mother of three in a new city, Center's work also sheds light on multiple stages of life for both women and men. It is plump with possibility and humor, as well as a more serious look at how a person becomes who they are over the years, and how a few small changes can throw everything into or out of focus. At the risk of sounding cliche, this novel changed my life.

My advanced reader edition of the book (released 17 February 2009) already has a waiting list of three. I think it would make an excellent Mother's Day gift, but I can't bare to give it away!

((Portions of this have been x-posted on LibraryThing and submitted to Random House.))

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reinforcing the Glass Ceiling

Swirling about in my mind are numerous less-than-pleasing issues, problems, ideas, and worries.

  • Does going to an excellent and highly-ranked grad school mean that I must choose before academia and a large family?
  • Why is it that I am only enthused enough to exercise after I eat so much food, I fear that moving will be rather impossible?
  • Can I finish all of these darn papers? Does my thesis have a point, even? Does anyone care about an academic approach to the American Girl dolls? Do I?
  • Will my ex stumble upon this blog, and sift through it for some off-hand mentions of him, as I would if I were to find his? Does this make me completely contemptible?
  • Why am I so horribly fascinated by Russell Brand and his too-tight leather pants? How is it that this man can wear higher heels than me, or most women I know?
  • Was I too quick to judge my boss?
  • How many saltines would I eat tomorrow, if all I consume is coffee and crackers?
I think that I'm setting myself up for failure. I've partially applied to this wonderful east-coast college that I can't quite afford. I intend (sort of) to finish the application process tomorrow by sending them my writing sample, along with a revised statement of career objectives and a brief explanation of my rather unusual writing sample choice.

I'm not sure if I'm trying to sabotage myself or not, but to meet the requirement of an academic writing sample, I'm sending their history department a personal essay that I wrote a few months back. It's about preservation, and does have historical significance, but it's a mix of narrative and expository sections. I believe (sort of) that it's a creative approach to identifying myself as an interdisciplinary student of both history and English. I believe that it also expresses my interest in and passion for preservation, and public historicism. The essay is definitely not what the committee is expecting, and I'm not sure if it will be well received. Thus, I am sending that brief explanation. But if the sample needs an explanation, is it good enough? Shouldn't it be able to stand alone?

Too late now. I've decided.

But what of this whole grad school "thing," anyway? The plan is/was to pursue a Masters in Library and Information Science (or possibly a MA in History) combined with a certification/specialization in archives management. I've adored my experiences of working with archives, and know that I'd be happy continuing in this field.

Is up rooting and moving to Boston the best plan, though? We're getting married in October, here in Michigan. So if we can find jobs and whatnot, we'd have to jet back out here in a matter of months to pull off The Wedding in a single weekend. That's stressful. But that's not the big issue. Boston is expensive. I hardly think we could afford it. And why should we leave Michigan when we both have multiple job opportunities to follow. For gawd's sakes, his fallback is a full time position at his university. Salaried with benefits, if I'm not mistaken.

I can't back out of the application process now, or I'd never live it down. I'd be mortified to explain it to my parents, my friends, my family, and the six wonderful individuals who were kind enough to write letters of recommendation. But I just don't want to. I think.

I'm done rambling about this. Read what you'd like in the title of this ramble. I feel as if I'm degrading myself in more ways than one.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Still alive, and struggling to keep my head above water at the moment.
Fortunately, I haven't fallen victim to that awful cold that's circulating.
However, I am attempting to plan a wedding, apply to grad school(s), keep up with classes, and prepare a few pieces for submission to various journals.


In fact, I haven't read the blogs for well over two weeks, and so I've fallen behind.

I have, however, watched Pride and Prejudice twice in the last 48 hours (the newest rendition, not the BBC version).

Dead Poets Society party this weekend, at which the English honors society will make bookmarks, eat pizza, and swoon over the fictionalized life of a "good" teacher.