Monday, January 28, 2013

Featured Reader: Micaela from Dolce Vita

I couldn't have this 'Featured Reader' segment without including one of my favorite bloggers, Micaela. I think Micaela is one of those bloggers that is just a big, beautiful ray of sunshine in the blogging world. Several moons ago, she had made a post that she was going to be reading a J.D. Salinger novel with another blogger, Jo. I really stuck my nose in on that one, mentioned I loved Salinger, and the three of us banded together to create an online book club. We each asked two or three questions about the book, and then wrote about it on our own sites. My favorite question that we asked for every book was, "What are your favorite quotes from this book?" I always laughed because where I was often picking out the quotes about disparity, heartache, and sadness, Micaela was always picking up the beautiful, heart-wrenching and life-affirming quotes that I had hardly even noticed. That's why I love reading Micaela's blog - she's always able to see the beauty and gold in life. She is the queen of thrifting, and new mama to a beautiful baby girl, Felix. Even though our little book club is on a hiatus (girls, I'm down to read with you again ANY time!), I still enjoy hearing what Micaela has to say about reading and books, and I was so excited to read her answers to my questions.

What are you currently reading? 
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I have fallen head over heels for her thanks to The Mindy Project. Her book was the only thing I asked my husband to get me for Christmas. 

Have you always been a reader? What is your earliest reading memory? 
Always. I remember my teacher reading us Green Eggs and Ham in Kindergarten while we ate green eggs.

Which genre of books do you love the best? 
I love Literary Fiction, Memoirs, and occasionally Short Story Collections. 

Where is your favorite reading spot? What about that spot makes it so special? 
My bathtub is my favorite reading spot. After having a baby, there's few places I can "escape" to. When my husband watches Fe, it feels like a special luxury to relax in bubbles with a book (and often a glass of wine). 

What are three of your most favorite books? 
The Time Traveler's Wife, Eat, Pray, Love and Love Story.

You are the new mama to an adorable little girl, Felix. She's only a couple of months old, but have you already started reading to her? 
Yes! When Felix was a newborn I read what I was reading out loud to her (doctors say it's good for the baby to hear your voice). When Felix was only three weeks old, I was reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I remember thinking reading the word "masturbation" out loud to my newborn would probably be frowned upon. 

What is one of your favorite books to read to Felix? 
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman.
"On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, "Life will never be the same."  Because there had never been anyone like you... ever in the world." 
It's such a sweet book and there's even parts for you to interact with your baby. 

Have your reading habits changed since having your daughter? When do you squeeze in your reading time? 
I definitely have less time to read which was a hard adjustment (when I love a book I cannot put it down). The best time I squeeze in my reading is while I'm laying with Felix and she's nursing. To me, it's one of the pluses of breastfeeding :) 

I love seeing your thrifting finds..any favorite book-related thrifts? 
I was so excited when I found these- read alongs on vinyl (books are included and have the best illustrations). 
Valentine's Day is coming up, what book on your "to-read" list would you love to receive from your husband? 
The History of Love. I'm embarrassed to admit I have never read it though I've always wanted to. I can't think of a better occasion than Valentine's to check that off my list. 
Psst... Husband incase you are reading this, Felix says she wants Andy Warhol's Colors

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Micaela! Please check out her blog, Dolce Vita.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Marking Your Page.

When I was younger, buying bookmarks used to be one of my favorite things. I'd love going to the bookstore in the mall and looking through the racks of bookmarks. There were the cutesy animal ones that clipped to your page, the sophisticated silver looking ones, bookmarks with long strands of ribbon and beads, scenes from the Harry Potter movies, etc. Picking out a bookmark was a very serious process for me, and since I didn't buy them often, I had to choose just the right one.

Now that I'm older with bills to pay, buying bookmarks is not a luxury I indulge in anymore. Using found objects, or random items has become much more fun to me. For awhile, I used a cute birthday card from my boyfriend in which was a long, sweet letter. I've used movie ticket stubs, receipts from the library, empty gift cards, and now, this risque playing card. I got the card several months ago at a martini bar on the rim of a drink called 'The G-Spot.' When I ordered, the waiter laughed and said, "that's a fun one." When the drink was set down in front of me, I understood why he looked so tickled. Immediately, it made a home in the book I was reading and hasn't left since. It makes me laugh every time I see it, though I have had several embarrassing moments when the card flutters out of my book on a crowded train, lands face up, and someone awkwardly reaches down to hand back the card with the buck naked, and very buff man on it.

What do you use as a bookmark? If it's a found object, what's the story behind it?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Whip Smart

"I wondered whether everyone had such hurts or these wounded were simply drawn to me. I felt privileged to be the keeper of secrets, to be so trusted. But inevitably, I'd feel the burden of too much power; like my future lovers, they needed me more than I did them."
2012 seemed to be the year of sexual exploration. Fifty Shades of Grey was embarrassingly popular, and suddenly everyone was rushing to the nearest adult boutiques to take classes with their partners and girlfriends on bondage tricks, the in's and out's of BDSM, and how to carry out a healthy dom(me)/submissive relationship. Despite the book series topping the charts, and being passed around like the flu, more often than not I see a woman reading Fifty Shades on the bus with the cover of the book pressed into her legs, like she's hiding it. Sex is a non-taboo taboo in our society, and non-vanilla sex is even moreso. People rarely talk shamelessly about their kinks, which is partly why I appreciated Whip Smart, a memoir by Melissa Febos so much.

After moving to New York, Melissa catches wind that one of her neighbors in her new apartment building is a professional dominatrix. Intrigued, she introduces herself. Becoming a domme, a female dominant, is easy, she learns, staying a domme is the hard part. Lured in by the idea of fast money without having to take her clothes off, and unshaken by the stories her neighbor shares with her about all that being a dominatrix entails, she replies to an ad in the Village Voice that leads her to the Dungeon of Mistress X.

In the dungeon, Melissa becomes Justine. Justine evolves from feeling out of place alongside her co-workers, each of them more seasoned than her and sexual enigmas, to being just like one of them. She pays her dues as an apprentice, who sits in on sessions, then moves up to the easy sensual sessions, and eventually learns to love corporal sessions - the most 'violent' of them all. Melissa writes about each of her clients, most of whom she views as pathetic, with incredible detail. She does not spare us from the bodily fluids spilled, or the twisted fantasies of her clients.

Outside of the dungeon, Melissa is uncertain of most things. She is uncertain about how she is pulling the grades that she is in school. She is uncertain of her personal, sexual relationships and how to maintain their normalcy. She is uncertain of her career at the dungeon. She is uncertain of how to keep these two lives she has created separate. She is uncertain of whether or not she wants to kick her hard drug habit, fueled even further by the wads of money she is making in the dungeon.

Febos guides us through her four years as a professional dominatrix, both in the dungeon and in private sessions, and her downward spiral into cocaine and heroine abuse in a way that makes you feel like you're right alongside of her. I could practically feel the hot breath and sweat of the clients as she makes their wildest fantasies come true. I cringed as she admitted some of her deepest secrets to those closest to her. It was fascinating to read her reinvent herself, and then slowly work on rebuilding herself outside of the dungeon into a woman she doesn't recognize, but wants to be.

I gave this one five stars on Goodreads. I could not put it down, and admired the bravery with which Febos let us in on the secret world of dungeons and dominatrixes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking For New Books for 2013?

For Christmas, I was gifted with a copy of My Ideal Bookshelf edited by Thessaly La Force with art by Jane Mount. I was drawn to the brightly illustrated cover with spines of books that I could recognize.

Opening the book is just as magical as looking at the cover. Essays were collected from dozens of notable people: authors, chefs, artists, designers, scholars, musicians, etc. Each of them were asked to compile their Ideal Bookshelf. The diversity of professions in the essays makes for a slew of different genres and types of books. The first essay by Hugh Acheson of Top Chef fame is about his love for cooking, and the books that fueled his passion for southern cuisine, and his craft in general, while writer Francine Prose only chose novels and story collections by Anton Chekhov because, "Reading Chekhov shares a quality with looking at certain kinds of great art: both activities feel like a religious experience." 

Each person had their different reasons for choosing the books that they did. Many authors chose books by authors who they idolized and wish their work could be like. Chefs typically chose books that were in their childhood homes and used by their mothers, or books that examine food in a way they agree with. Artists and designers shared their favorite references books or artist biographies. And sometimes, books were simply chosen because they came to them at a pivotal moment in their lives. There are so many other different types of books and their reasons for being there and it was a fun examination into each professions inspirations and desires.

Each 'Ideal Bookshelf' is painted vividly, only showing the spine to show a part of books that are very often seen, but not often appreciated and enjoyed.

One of the fascinating parts of this book was how different each shelf was based simply on appearances. Quite a few people shared the same love of books. Lolita by Nabokov and Nine Stories by Salinger were on several shelves. Many people loved Chekhov, and Carver, and The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, but every shelf was arranged very differently. Actor James Franco is notorious for being all over the place: one second he's an actor, the next a director, the next a writer, the next an artist, the next a student napping in the lecture hall, so his shelf is very unorganized with just piles of books thrown haphazardly together. Photographer Alec Soth's shelf was very straight, uniform, with thinner and colorful books.

Something that I really wish was in this book were longer essays. As we all know from my featured reader section, I'm a pretty nosy person when it comes to books and why people like them, and I would've loved to know more about why each person chose each book that they did - especially books that I know and love. Many of the people picked out one or two books to touch upon, and the rest was about their craft. Still interesting to read, but I just would've liked the focus more on the books.

There are over 75 enlightening essays by the folks I already mentioned, as well as Patti Smith, David Sedaris, Roseanne Cash, Miranda July, Judd Apatow, etc. It is definitely worth keeping on your shelf as a reference of books to read. There are hundreds of amazing books in here, and my 'to-read' list grew exponentially. Of course.

What would be on your ideal bookshelf? I still can't figure mine out!