26 January 2012

Organized Simplicity - Tsh Oxenreider

Remove the Mess, Add Meaning
Simplicity isn't about what you give up. It's about what you gain. When you remove the things that don't matter to you, you are free to focus on only the things that are meaningful to you.
This was a recent free offer from Amazon.  Like so many people these days I am not just interested in living a simpler life I am practically obsessed with it.  Lately I have been very intrigued by what is called a "French Closet"---basically it means that you own only a few key pieces of high quality clothes that fit you perfectly.  Well, if you knew me personally you'd know right away that owning only a 'few' clothing items has never been even remotely a possibility.  I love fashion.  I have loads of clothes that take up three closets and we aren't talking about those dinky little niche in the wall closets.  The stand alone shower in my en suite?  It's been converted into a closet because I simply ran out of space.  

My little family and I live in a quaint but small cottage where space is a premium and my hoarding of the closets has really been challenging.  A few years back I purged the kitchen of all non essential gadgets and it felt liberating.  Now, I am the proud owner of a few well seasoned cast iron skillets and great set of knives and you know what?  I do not miss the Cuisinart or the toaster oven or the panini press, the George Foreman or any of the other stuff I donated.  

I was off to a great start on this path to simple living.  Enthused and optimistic even.  But somewhere along the way I simply stopped purging our stuff.  Out of sight out of mind.  Until, at least, something else came into the house and it was time to find it a home and I realized all the cupboards were taken.  The closets were full.  We began talking about selling our sweet little home and buying a bigger place.  Well, thank Heaven that sanity prevailed and coincidentally this book popped up on Amazon.  Actually, I believe that God answers all prayers and that this book showed up free just when I was struggling with our space issues was, in fact, NOT a coincidence but that is neither here nor there.  

It probably took me two days to read this book and it was just enough motivation to get me going.  Every week since reading this book I've made a trip to the local charity to drop off more of our unused stuff.  Stuff we didn't even know we had.  Stuff that was piled up on the tippy tops of the closets, stuff tucked into the dark recesses of the laundry room cabinets and yes, my friend lots and lots of clothes.  The process is still ongoing but I always joke that our home has lost a lot of weight these last few weeks and she looks great for it.

10 January 2012

Pure - Julianna Baggott

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .

Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again. 


This is a compelling book.  Pure is a somewhat savage coming of age book set in a post apocalyptic world.  It is a world that is mesmerizing in all of it's harrowing detail, a world ruled by a stark authoritarian regime and populated by humans that barely eke out a bleak existence.  And yet there is hope in these pages.   There is a subtle beauty that manages to redeem a novel that could have been too bleak and oppressive.  I came away from this novel feeling hopeful, feeling alive and capable.  Ms.  Baggott writes with a sensitivity that allows her characters to retain their human qualities in an environment that endeavors to destroy rather than nourish.  

What else can I say other than I was absolutely surprised by this novel.  I wasn't expecting that much from an 'end times' book.   I never do.  Pure somehow treads that line between shock and awe and true literary fiction.  Sure it's a book about a dystopian future and it has all the qualities that novels of that genre usually have:  desolate lands, victims, martyrs and characters that spend most of their time just surviving.  Yet, Pure manages so much more than that.  It is also a novel about first love, friendship, and the complex bonds that humans create when they become attached to one another.  The characters in Ms. Baggott's novel are not mere pawns that drive a story they are the story, their lives, hopes, fears and dreams are what propel this novel along.  Their struggles became mine and I found myself thinking about them even after the last page had been turned.

You can find Julianna here.

More about Pure here.


Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Julianna Baggott also writes under the pen names Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode. She has published seventeen books over the last ten years. Film rights for her forthcoming novel PURE have been acquired by Fox 2000. The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, written under pen name Asher, was published in spring 2011. There are approximately 50 foreign editions of her novels to date.

Julianna began publishing when she was twenty-two and sold her first novel while still in her twenties. After receiving her M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, she published her first novel, Girl Talk, which was a national bestseller and was quickly followed by Boston Globe bestseller The Miss America Family, and then Boston Herald Book Club selection, The Madam, an historical novel based on the life of her grandmother. She co-wrote Which Brings Me to You with Steve Almond, A Best Book of 2006 (Kirkus Reveiws) optioned by producer Richard Brown and adapted by Keith Bunin with Matthew Warchus set to direct.

Her Bridget Asher novels include The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, The Pretend Wife, My Husband's Sweethearts. More info can be found at her Bridget Asher blog.

She also writes bestselling novels for younger readers under the pen name N.E. Bode as well as under Julianna Baggott. The Anybodies trilogy was a People Magazine pick alongside David Sedaris and Bill Clinton, a Washington Post Book of the Week, a Girl's Life Top Ten, a Booksense selection, and was in development at Nickelodeon/Paramount; The Slippery Map (fall 2007), and the prequel to Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (2007), a movie starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and Jason Bateman. For two years, Bode was a recurring personality on XM Sirius Radio.

Julianna's Boston Red Sox novel The Prince of Fenway Park (HarperCollins), was published in spring 2009. It is on the Sunshine State Young Readers Awards List for 2011-2012.
The Ever Breath (Random House) was published in December, 2009.

Baggott also has a highly acclaimed career as a poet, having published three collections of poetry and having been published in the best literary publications in the country, including Poetry, The American Poetry Review, and Best American Poetry in 2001 and 2011.

Baggott's work has appeared in over a hundred publications, including the The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Glamour, Ms., Real Simple, and read on NPR's Here and Now, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation. Her essays, stories, and poems are highly anthologized.

She is an associate professor at Florida State University's Creative Writing Program.

In 2006, Baggott and her husband co-founded the nonprofit organization Kids in Need - Books in Deed, that focuses on literacy and getting free books to underprivileged children in the state of Florida.

* I received an advance copy from the publisher for purposes of review. I was in no way obligated to write a review much less a favorable one. The opinions stated herein are all my own.