The Gap Year by Sarah Bird

DownloadedFileTitle:  The Gap Year by Sarah Bird

Publisher: Gallery Books; Reprint edition (July 17, 2012)

Pages:  320 pages

Genre:  contemporary women’s fiction

Where did you get it? Purchased in-store at Barnes & Noble.

Why did you read it? My book club chose it for discussion.

What’s it about?  This is a mother/daughter story.  Cam is a single mom raising teenaged Aubrey on her own since her husband left to join a cult.  She has Aubrey’s life pretty well figured out; Aubrey will attend a fantastic liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest, right after her 18th birthday, when she claims the trust fund arranged for her by her father.  But Aubrey has seemingly lost her mind in her senior year of high school.  Once a college bound straight A student and band geek, she’s met a boy and suddenly quit band.    She doesn’t  have any interest in her mother’s plans; the same plans she’s been going along with for years up until now.  Mother and daughter are no longer close and fail to see the other’s point of view.

What did you like?  There was a lot to like!  The book is witty and fun, insightful and smart.   Having two moody teenaged daughters of my own, I could really relate to Cam.  Cam had so many hopes and dreams for Aubrey and just wanted what was best for her.  And that feeling of your child becoming a stranger to you was sadly all too familiar… the feeling of, “Where did I go wrong?”  And how everything you say somehow gets misunderstood.  Yeah, that’s my life.  But having been a teenaged girl once, I could also relate to Aubrey’s feelings of wanting to please her mom, but also wanting her mom to butt out and let her live her life.  I read a lot of lines out loud to my daughter and we laughed a lot.

The story is told in alternating chapters by Cam and Aubrey.  I loved being able to “hear” their distinct voices and really understand where they were coming from.  Cam’s chapters are all in the present, but Aubrey’s reach into the past to give us the backstory.  It wasn’t typical and I liked this approach.

What didn’t work for you?   This is a small thing but at times there was an overabundance of adjectives.  Whenever I would find a particularly adjective-filled line, I’d email it to my friend so we could share a laugh.  There was a point in the book, maybe 2/3rds in, where I became much more interested in Aubrey’s story, and less interested in Cam’s.  Aubrey, like a lot of teenagers, had this whole secret life going on and I wanted to see what she’d do.  Cam’s ex, Aubrey’s dad, made a reappearance, and I found that storyline much less interesting.  I started skipping over the Cam chapters so that I could read Aubrey’s chapters all in a row.  But I did go back and read Cam’s chapters.  And I don’t think my reading of the book suffered by doing it that way.

Share a quote or two:  

“”When did he take over Aubrey’s life so completely?” I ask, even as I try to figure out when my daughter turned into a stranger.  Six months ago?  No, it’s been longer than that.  In that time, she’s become like a guest forced against her will to live in my house.  A guest who would happily pack up and leave and move in with said boyfriend if I pushed her even the tiniest bit.”

“Forget anthrax.  The greatest chemical threat facing our country today is the hormones delivered to our daughters at puberty.  Hormones that, in Aubrey’s case, were not fully ignited until Tyler appeared.”

Who would enjoy this book?  People who enjoy humorous contemporary fiction, those who like mother/daughter stories, those with older teens who are getting ready to lift their wings and leave the nest.

Who else has reviewed it?  Many bloggers have reviewed this book!  Here are a couple of standouts:

Suko’s Notebook

Raging Bibliomania

Anything else to add?  I really enjoyed this book.  The Gap Year was a good choice for my book club as a lot of us have teen daughters, and mother/daughter struggles are somewhat universal.  We had a lot to talk about.  Highly recommended.

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Spring Reading Series Announcement! Dead End Gene Pool by Wendy Burden

Today I’m announcing our May Reading Series selection… drumroll please…

DEAD END GENE POOL by Wendy Burden!

It’s dark.  It’s funny.  And it’s all true!  Here’s a synopsis:

In the tradition of Sean Wilsey’s Oh The Glory of It All and Augusten Burrough’s Running With Scissors, the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt gives readers a grand tour of the world of wealth and WASPish peculiarity, in her irreverent and darkly humorous memoir.

For generations the Burdens were one of the wealthiest families in New York, thanks to the inherited fortune of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. By 1955, the year of Wendy’s birth, the Burden’s had become a clan of overfunded, quirky and brainy, steadfastly chauvinistic, and ultimately doomed bluebloods on the verge of financial and moral decline-and were rarely seen not holding a drink. In Dead End Gene Pool, Wendy invites readers to meet her tragically flawed family, including an uncle with a fondness for Hitler, a grandfather who believes you can never have enough household staff, and a remarkably flatulent grandmother.

At the heart of the story is Wendy’s glamorous and aloof mother who, after her husband’s suicide, travels the world in search of the perfect sea and ski tan, leaving her three children in the care of a chain- smoking Scottish nanny, Fifth Avenue grandparents, and an assorted cast of long-suffering household servants (who Wendy and her brothers love to terrorize). Rife with humor, heartbreak, family intrigue, and booze, Dead End Gene Pool offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of old money and gives truth to an old maxim: The rich are different.

And you thought YOUR family was weird!!

She'll be here for our discussion-ask her anything!

Ok, so here’s the deal.  I have 20 COPIES  of DEAD END GENE POOL available for our reading series, compliments of  Gotham Books, a division of Penguin Group!  We’ll get the books out to everyone who’s interested in participating. Then we’ll discuss it here, and Wendy will join in!  Think of it as a book club of sorts, except without the wine.  Well, you can have wine in front of your computer if you like.  Who’s gonna stop you?

E-mail me with your address (even if you think I have it!) to request a free copy of the book- first come, first served.  Put “DEAD END GENE POOL” in the subject line, but please only request the book if you are interested in coming back for the  discussion.  Be sure it sounds like a book you’d enjoy.  And I’m really sorry to our friends in other countries, but this is open to residents of US/Canada only.

Click here to read a full description of the book. Dead End Gene Pool will be in stores on April 1st, 2010, and the discussion will take place here on May 18th – with the author participating ‘live’ for an hour!  I will post details for the discussion about a week before along with an email reminder to those who’ve won the book.

I hope you’ll join us!


A little Reading Series history:

Why do we blog?  Why do we read blogs?  For me it’s because I love to read, and I love discussing the books I read with others.

So out of that “desire to discuss” was born the Reading Series idea.  Another blogger and I really liked the idea of a virtual book club.  20 of us would read the same book and come back to talk about it, with the author in attendance!  This was such a huge hit with the Summer Reading Series (Beach Trip, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, and Two Years, No Rain) that we did a  Winter Reading Series (for the book Keeping the Feast).  Now it’s a ‘thing that we do’ with TLC Book Tours.

My TLC partner Trish from Hey, Lady! is having a Spring Reading Series discussion for The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott coming up in April.  Those books have already been claimed (and apparently, really quickly.  She claims she almost had her fingers bitten off by rabid book fans!)  SO, please be fast if you want to participate in this one.. and please don’t bare your teeth.. I like my fingers right where they are..

UPDATE: 3/23 at 2:30 pm PST-  I still have 7 books left, and all my fingers 🙂

Jokesters

L:  Mom, you’re smart.  You’ll be able to get this.  It’s a 6th grade joke.

Me:  Ok.

L:  Take the F out of way.

Me: (thinking for a sec).  There IS no F in way.  (The lightbulb comes on) Hey!  Wait a minute!

L & K: Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!  Get it?  Get it?  Say it again!

Me:  You got me!

 

Later that same day…

Uncle Bill:  Here’s a joke for you.. what’s brown and rhymes with “snoop”?

Me:  Aside from the obvious?

Uncle Bill:  Aside from the obvious.

The girls:  Poop!  Poop!  Mom, you’re so dumb.  It’s poop!

Me:  It’s not poop!  He just said it wasn’t the obvious answer!

The girls:  Oh.

Me:  I don’t know.  What’s brown and rhymes with “snoop”?

Uncle Bill:  Dr. Dre.

Me and Uncle Bill:  Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!

The girls:  (blank stares, shrugged shoulders)  That doesn’t even make sense.

Me:  Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog are rappers.  They rap together.

The girls:  So?  Dre and Snoop still don’t rhyme.  Now if his name was “Droop”..  

Me:  No, the raps rhyme.  It’s a play on words.

The girls:  Oh.  But why is that funny?  Poop is funnier.  You and Uncle Bill have a weird sense of humor.

Bedtime Conversation

K:  Tickle me, Mom!

Me: { tickle, tickle }

K: (suddenly serious) Mom, if I ever get cancer, I want the kind Cade and Collin’s dad has.

Me: Oooooooookaaaaaaaaay

K:  I’m not saying I want to have cancer, but if I had to have it, I think he has the best kind.

Me:  Why is that, honey?

K:  Because he has the kind that tickles.

Me:  He does?  How do you know it tickles?  Did the boys tell you that?

K:  No, they didn’t say anything, but I heard you talking to Daddy.

Me: (suddenly understanding, and laughing too hard to breathe)  Oh, honey!  You’ll never get that kind of cancer!  (laughing, wiping tears..)

K:  MOM!  Stop laughing at me!  It’s not funny!  Lots of people get cancer!  What are you laughing about??? (getting angry)

Me:  Sweetie, you misheard me.  I didn’t say Mr. Stewart has cancer that tickles.  I said he has testicular cancer.  Cancer of the testicles.  Girls don’t get that kind.

K:  Why not?  (kinda mad)

Me:  Because girls don’t have testicles.  Only boys do.

K:  Well, that’s not fair!  I’m going to bed!  (stomps off)

Review: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

imagedbcgi2The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett surprised me.  At 120 pages, it’s a novella, a bookish snack with an English twist.  Does that make it a scone, a biscuit, or a crimpet?  In any case, it was a tasty little morsel of a book that I thoroughly enjoyed (try it with tea!)  If I’d read this a couple of years ago, I don’t think I would have had the same appreciation for it.  I wasn’t the same kind of reader then and wouldn’t have been ready for it.  I was still munching on more common, undignified fare.   

The book is about how the Queen of England becomes a reader, accidentally.  On a romp with her dogs she stumbles upon a mobile library that makes weekly visits to Buckingham Palace.  She asks the startled librarian,  “Is one allowed to borrow a book?  One doesn’t have a ticket?”  and is told she may borrow up to six books.  “Six? Heavens!” she replies, and borrows one out of sheer politeness.  Inside the library she also meets a palace employee from the kitchen, the young Norman. 

One book leads to another, and another, and some more, and reading soon becomes a royal obsession.  The Queen brings Norman up from the kitchen to be her reading accomplice, suggesting books for her and going to great lengths to get them.  Everything changes for The Queen through her reading.  She feels as if she has wasted so much time, time that could have been spent with books.  She regretfully remembers meeting great authors at various functions but, having never read their work, realizes these were missed opportunities.  

The Queen’s newfound passion for the written word causes quite a stir and makes others uncomfortable.  Her people are up in arms because she’d rather read than carry out her duties.  When meeting her subjects out in public she no longer asks them the usual questions, such as where they are from, or if they have come from a great distance to be there; instead she asks what they are reading, and some people are embarrassed when they admit they aren’t reading anything. When she does encounter a fellow reader, the conversation is lengthy, causing long lines.  Soon people are giving her books out in public, and her ladies in waiting have to bring totes to carry these gifts.  It’s all becoming a bit tiresome for her attendants.  

Her private secretary, Sir Kevin, is especially upset.  “It’s important,” said Sir Kevin, “that Your Majesty should stay focused.”, however he concedes that he can understand Her Majesty’s need to pass the time.  The Queen replies, “Pass the time?  Books are not about passing the time.  They’re about other lives.  Other worlds.  Far from wanting time to pass, Sir Kevin, one just wishes one had more of it.”  At least her family is happy, because she is distracted and not so nit-picky and focused on them.  

Sir Kevin and the Prime Minister’s secretary conspire to end the Queen’s bothersome pastime that is making others so uncomfortable.  Norman is sent away under mysterious circumstances, and the books she packs for travel never arrive at their destination.  And yet, the Queen and her books continue to be a royal pain.  

Along with reading, the Queen begins having new ideas and feelings.  She starts to keep a notebook handy to copy down interesting passages, and soon starts writing down opinions and critiques of her own.  After a time she discovers reading isn’t enough.

“And it came to her again that she did not want simply to be a reader.  A reader was next door to being a spectator, whereas when she was writing she was doing, and doing was her duty.”

With writing, a new obsession is born..

I loved this tiny book and would highly recommend it to anyone who is passionate for the written word.  You will recognize yourself in Her Majesty and are sure to have a good laugh!

Feel My Butt

Conversation on the way up to bed after American Idol last night-

K:  Mom!  Mom!  Feel my butt!

Me:  Excuse me?

K:  You have to feel my butt!

Me:  Why?  What’s wrong with your butt?

K:  It’s hard!  Really really hard!

Me:  What do you mean?

K:  Just feel it!

Me: (feeling her butt)  Wow!  It’s like marble!  Have you been working out?  Doing lunges on the playground at recess?

K:  (giggles)  No, just the usual stuff.  Climbing on the playset and playing tetherball and stuff like that.

Me:  Well whatever you’re doing, it’s working.  You’ve got Buns of Steel!

K:  Let me feel your butt!

Me:  WHAT?  No, really, that’s ok..

K:  Just let me feel it!  Turn around..

Me:  Well wait ’til I clench up..

K:  It’s not hard!  It’s jiggly!

Me:  I wasn’t ready!  I wasn’t clenching!

K:  Dad, come feel my butt and Mom’s butt!

Dad:  What??!!

K:  I’ve got Buns of Steel, and Mom’s got Buns of Jello!

How to Increase Your Blog Hits

Blogging is new to me. I haven’t learned the lingo. I don’t know the etiquette. I don’t know what a meme is (Do I want one? Do I need one? Is it fattening?) What is the deal with bloggers giving other bloggers awards? No one has challenged me, or tagged me, or whatever it is people do. I’m totally winging it.

Someone told me recently that I could increase my blog hits with an intriguing title on my entries. Hmmmm. This one might get noticed. I guess we’ll see how it works.

Speaking of blog hits, I seem to be getting a lot (I guess). What is a lot? How many do other people get?

What is up with my obsessive desire to check my stats? How I love to see the blog stat graph go up, up, up. Is this normal? Why do I care? Do other bloggers do that? Will the obsession wear off soon????

Experienced bloggers, I would love to hear from you. I’m hoping my insanity is only temporary.