Monday, April 07, 2008

Who Doesn't Like the Bangles?!

It's just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
'Cause that's my fun-day
My I don't have to run-day
It's just another manic Monday

First things first:
Monday brings us the new March/April issue of The Edge of the Forest. There are many fantastic features, including Spring Books, a podcast, and author interviews. It was contains my reviews of three awesome titles:

Gamma Glamma Kim Flores (fun book featuring scientifically based makeovers)
Toby Wheeler: Eighth-Grade Benchwarmer Thatcher Heldring (feel good sports book)
Smart Dog Vivian Vande Velde (girl tries to save talking dog from having his brain dissected. It's a funny one.)

But Mondays are also all about nonfiction, right? I bring you 2 titles for older teens and adults. One depressing, one hilarious.

First up:

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Ishmael Beah

Technically, this is an adult book, but it has massive teen appeal (content skews it towards older teens, although Beah was a much younger teen when he lived it) and is listed as one of YALSA's 2008 Top 10 Best Books for Teens, as well as a 2008 Alex Award winner. For our system's Notable Teen Books discussion, this is the one book everyone has to read. (There are 10 books being discussed, you have to read at least 5 or 7, I can't remember because I'm a dork and read all 10, but there's one book that everyone has to read. This year, this is it.)

One day Ishmael, age 12, goes to town with some friends. While there, he village is attacked and his family flees. He never sees them again. He and his friends run from the war-- trying to stay in front of the fighting so they don't get caught, don't get killed. Still, a group of boys traveling together is a thing to be feared. Eventually, Ishmael is caught and forced to join the army fighting against the rebels in Sierra Leone. He's given massive amounts of drugs, a gun, a little bit a training, food, and a hatred and desire to kill the people who killed his family. Eventually he is taken by UNICEF and undergoes rehab and moves to New York.

The chronology is kinda jumpy, but the horrific story is beautifully told. I had to keep hitting myself to remind myself that Beah and I are the same age. While he was fighting for survival, snorting coke, and watching people he cared for die, I was freaking out about chemistry class.

It's a hard read, but the Beah's story is one that needs to be told, and he does it really well.

There have been some criticisms of the accuracy of the book, but frankly, I don't think there's much merit. (If the claims were true, there'd be much wider coverage, I think. Also, Beah addresses all these accusations here.)

And now to something completely different...

Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag Michael Tonello

Do you know what a Birkin is? It's a handbag made by Hermes. I've always found them extremely ugly, but, in a brand of "it" bags, they're the ultimate. They also cost an insane amount of money. ($10-$100K. My college education was cheaper!) Remember that Sex and the City episode where Samantha really wants a Birkin but the list is years long and so she uses Lucy Liu's name to get one? She loses the bag, and Lucy as a client. Too bad she hadn't read this book first. I've always preferred the Kelly bag, featured in the movie version of Le Divorce. (It might be in the book-- I haven't read it. Anyway, the Kelly might not be as rare or hold as much cachet, but a cuter handbag by far. And smaller. The Birkin is the size of a diaper bag. UGLY. Of course, most of my purses were free. Yes, one initially housed a lotion/bubble bath duo. And my latest one looks like a Nancy Drew cover, so what do I know?)


In this hilarious, dishy memoir, Michael tells of deciding to move to Barcelona on a whim. Quickly, the job he had lined up fell through--he's broke with mounting debt. He also has a closet full of clothing appropriate to his old life on Cape Cod, but not so suitable for sunny Spain. So, he sells it on Ebay. He quickly catapults himself into a career buying Hermes scarves that are easy to get in Spain, not so easy in the US.

This escalates in trying to hunt down the elusive Birkin. He finds a formula that works almost every time, no waiting list needed. Waiting lists are for mere mortals who don't have the formula.

Along the way he finds himself, true love, eats some really fabulous food, and has to hire some thugs when a bag is taken hostage.

This book is great, because it's dishy, but not in a bad way. It's mainly dishy about Michael, and there are very few celebrities, so it's a nice dishy. It's also HYSTERICAL. Michael's list of stock Hermes employees alone is worth the book. What I love is that he never takes the Hermes lifestyle as serious as his clients, which allows him to poke fun at the crazy ones, while at the same time singing the praises of the nicer ones. Michael's easy tone makes it seem like the whole story is being told over a lavish dinner with some good wine. I couldn't put it down.

(The Birkin is the one on the left at top. The Kelly is the one down here on the right. I even picked matching leather and textile to get a better comparison. See how HONEST I am?)

Full Disclosure (see! more honesty!) ARC was provided by publisher via LibraryThing's early reviewer program.

Look for it next month.


Kelly said...

Thanks for the mention of the FOREST, Jennie. The handbook book (even though handbags are inexplicable to me as a phenomenon) looks like just the pick me up I need right now. Thanks for the dishy review.

Jennie said...

I, too, don't understand the handbag thing, especially the Birkin thing, but the book was great. When it starts, he has never heard of a Birkin!