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Showing posts from July, 2010

Review: Admission by Jean Hanff Korlelitz

I was sitting in a very boring faculty meeting at the University of Tampa when my college advisor slid a file folder across the table. I thought it might be a notes for an upcoming story (I was editor of the college newspaper, which is why I was at said very boring meeting) or something for my professor's Shakespeare class, but it was my college application. I don't remember why he had it, but I do remember being horrified by my essay. I think Tampa got the one about how I looked up to my older brother, which is a fine thing to write about, but that essay I'd labored over as a high school senior looked amateurish to a college junior. "How did I even get accepted?" I whispered to my advisor. "They were letting everyone in that year," he said, and laughed. He wasn't exactly lying. Tampa did go on a big "recruitment" kick, which I took to mean letting in almost everyone with a pulse. I didn't want to go to Tampa. I wanted to go to

Review: Broke, USA by Gary Rivlin

For two years, I've written about personal finance for a few websites - first interest.com and cyberhomes.com , then bankaholic.com and now bankrate.com , creditcards.com and a few custom publications. I'm not financially savvy person and certainly wasn't when I started on this beat, but as I worked up from shorts to full blown features about deceptive practices of the credit card industry, I developed a stronger grasp on why money is such a complicated thing for so many people, especially because the deck is stacked against them. Gary Rivlin's Broke, USA shows how that deck is stacked in the favor of people who have realized how to exploit the poor. He looks into how payday lenders, pawn shops, check cashers and rapid tax refunders have sliced into the earnings of people who can least afford it, and the subprime mortgage crisis where he says the greed of a few caused harm to so many. It's a bleak story, and probably not what most people would read on the fi

Review: The Mighty Queens of Freeville

I picked up Amy Dickinson's The Mighty Queens of Freeville because it was on the display table at Barnes & Noble, and I've heard the title about a thousand times. Dickinson, aside from being the Amy behind the "Ask Amy" advice column, is sometimes a panelist on NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me. I listen to the podcast every Sunday while either running or cleaning. I'm fortunate enough to have played a round on the show and won Carl Kasell's voice on my home answering machine (or iPhone, in my case). I always assumed that the book was about misers. Freeville sounds thrifty, right? Dickinson is funny on the show, so I gave it a shot. The women in this memoir are thrifty, but that's not the point of the book. Freeville, New York is where Dickinson's clan is based, and the book is about the women in her family, most of whom were left by their husbands. Dickinson's father walked out after he mortgaged her mother's farm, which left th