Monday, December 31, 2007

Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship

I've had this book sitting in a "to read" pile for longer than I expected and certainly when I came across it on the very last day of 2007, I had no intentions of starting it - but I did - I also finished it because I couldn't bring myself to put it down until there was nothing left to read.

Tony Randall and Jack Klugman are best known as Felix Unger and Oscar Madison respectively, a role they played on Broadway, but more famously on television for five seasons in the early 1970's.

Growing up, I would drive my dad crazy as we watched The Odd Couple together and I would say the dialogue of the whole show just before the characters. It took years, but they are finally releasing the seasons on DVD and I've jumped on them. Even as a kid, I sensed that there was something special about this show.

Completing the book in a single sitting isn't all that tough, it's141 pages in total, many with pictures. The text however is far more than the story of two actors who shared a very special friendship, which was interesting to me as a fan. I took with me a lesson in genuine friendship, one that truly saw no boundaries, one of true devotion. What really drove it home was to see this lesson through the eyes of two people who have achieved the level of fame that these men have.

It's so rare to take a positive message from the celebrity world. This book offers one and I am glad I read it today of all days as it is a beautiful and necessary message to take into a new year.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


It's been a really, really long time that I've bought a book and read it from cover to cover in about 2 days (and this book is over 500 pages). This book brought me back to my old ways of getting lost in a story very quickly. From the first page of the first chapter, I was immersed immediately into the lives of these unknowns.

I must've passed by this book everytime I visited my bookstore a hundred or so times. And everytime I passed it, I would stop, pick it up, and put it back down. For some reason, I picked it up yesterday and decided I'd get it. My only regret is that I didn't buy the other two books that followed it as well.

This story is about vampires who live among humans. The concept of vampires has always fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I particularly am drawn to stories of vampires who have human characteristics about them. The ones who are able to quell their desires to drink human blood. The ones who fall in love and have relationships. Vampires are always perceived to be monsters, so when I read the back cover of this book, I knew that this was more than just vampires who sucked blood. I'm just a sucker for a love story I suppose.

This story is about a 17 year old vampire, (although he's more like 108 years old), Edward, who falls in love with a girl named Isabella (Bella for short). She is new to the town of Forks, Washington and has moved to live with her dad while her mom can travel freely with her new husband (who is looking to be signed to a minor league baseball team and isn't exactly stationed in one particular town). At first Edward tries to avoid her because he genuinely fears for her safety (he is afraid that he will give into temptation and drink her), but he takes precautions so that he can be with her. And she is utterly and completely intoxicated with him and, her learning what he is makes her feelings for him grow even stronger. His family is accepting of his love for her and go to great lengths to save her from a possible savage death by another vampire who tries to kill her. By the end of the book, Bella wishes to be transformed into a vampire so that she can spend eternity with Edward but he refuses to subject her to that. But, there are two other books that follow so who knows what will happen.

This is the author's (Stephenie Meyer) first book and I have to say that she did a really good job in getting the reader involved in the lives of these characters right off the bat. I couldn't put the book down. The love story she created was so forbidden, yet so beautiful and sacred at the same time. She created Edward to have such amazing human qualities that it was no wonder Bella could fall for him so easily ... I could not blame her one bit.

Well you can bet that I will be buying book two and three of this series. It was that captivating.

(Eclipse - the third book - was reviewed by Pam.)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Eric Clapton: The Autobiography

I've been a fan of Eric Clapton since I first heard him play. There are a select number of musicians whose passion for the music and their instrument are evident beyond all else. Clapton's storied career came at a price however and he himself introduces us to his personal demon's and openly discusses how they affected him and how he treated them.

In reading this book, I felt an attachment not to the legendary and brilliant musician, but to the human being that is Eric Clapton. I fell like I was confided in by someone who has reached a point where honesty and connections to the people take precedence over the fame.

So yes, we hear the stories about drugs, we hear the stories about womanizing, we hear the stories about alcohol and suicidal tendencies. What made this book different for me was the connection that he so clearly wishes, and succeeds to make with the reader and quite frankly, the sheer beauty of his recovery into sobriety and a beautiful family life. Somehow, I sense that when I go back to listen to his glorious body of work, this time, I'll be ready to hear it for the first time.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I Killed - True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics

I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy. Stand-up is an art-form that I am certain most people just don't fully comprehend and I say this as someone who has dared to stand in front of an audience yearning to laugh and being the one who attempted to make that happen.

While I have enjoyed the comedy of many of the performers who contributed, it was really fun, and of course funny (mostly) to read about their life on the road.

I think to most, especially those who've not tried to achieve any measure of success as an entertainer, the perception of life as an entertainer is mostly positive. It's hard for a layperson to see beyond the "success" of a performer. This book does a great job of humanizing the struggle of a performer and taking the reader on a journey as the passenger as they tell of their travels. If you like to laugh and you like stand-up comedy, there's a great chance you'll know many of the more than 2o0 contributors and that you will enjoy this book immensely.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Guy Not Taken

Oh how disappointed I am, let me count the ways...

When it comes to 'chick-lit' I'm picky. I'm not a fan of the Shopaholic series, nor did I find Bridget Jones life changing. But I have always enjoyed the writing of Jennifer Weiner. "Goodnight Nobody", "In her Shoes", "Good In Bed", and "Little Earthquakes" are all books I loved and have read more than once. So it was with a bit of excitement that I picked up "The Guy Not Taken" a collection of short stories by the author as a nice holiday treat to myself.

I should have bought myself a fruitcake.

It's not as though Jennifer's writing takes a completely different tone in this collection, she still is able to write a sentence I am envious of, but it's everything else that falls by the way side- the stories, the mood, and most importantly- the characters.

The first few stories center around a family who has been abandoned by their father. The narrator is funny and dry, but her domineering sister takes over the tale and is perhaps- the most annoying character to ever been created. She's greedy and thoughtless and it's never made clear why the narrator (or anyone else really) ever REALLY sticks up to her. It's only after she's ruined the inside of her grandmothers car (by leaving in food that gets infested by maggots) that you see anyone get upset with her. I found myself skimming the book early on just to save myself the trouble of reading about her.

And when you are skimming pages early on, it's never a good sign.

The stories do improve as the book goes on, but I couldn't help but think I would have preferred to re-read one of her old works than invest time and money in this one. Even her best stories in the collection ("Dora on the Beach", "Buyers Market") aren't enough to pull the book out of the mediocrity that she falls back into with this piece of work.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

I've heard buzz about this book for some time and I can't begin to tell you how many times I've picked this one up in the bookstore to gaze at its cover only to put it down. So, when a co-worker brought the book in to me recently proclaiming that I just had to read it, I decided then that I must finally stop and read this one. Disappointed, I was not! Having been craving a wildly exciting book for months, I was delighted when I was immediately captivated after turning the first page.

This story follows Jacob Jankowski as he recounts his days in the circus during the Depression. We are first introduced to Jacob as he is in his nineties and living in a nursing home facility. As word of a circus being set up near the nursing home spreads, the residents begin watching the set-up and Jacob is transported back to the 1930s where he was in college studying veterinary medicine. Through an unfortunate string of events, Jacob joins up with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth where he meets owner Uncle Al, animal trainer August, August's wife Marlena, and many of the circus crew. A page-turner and full of delightful imagery, I simply could not put this book down. I especially enjoyed the interview with the author at the end of the book where she recounts how she began writing the book along with her detailed research. I highly recommend adding this one to your wish list this holiday.

Nineteen Minutes

Sometime last year "My Sisters Keeper" by Jodi Picoult was THE book to read. I joined the masses, read it it- and loved it. I've read a few more of her books that ranked high for me but none which came close to the love I felt for "My Sisters Keeper"- until now.

Ninteen Minutes is the story of a school shooting. In keeping in traditional Picoult fashion, the story jumps narrators and time. In many books I find this a distracting quality, but in this one, it makes sense and leads the reader to the conclusion necessary to end the book satisfied.

Picoult expertly tells the tale of a teenager named Peter- who within the first pages of the book goes on a shooting rampage in his school killing students and a teacher. You naturally despise him, but as the story continues- you learn his history, the constant bullying straight from kindergarten until highschool and the you begin to wonder if endless years of bullying and torment can ever justify a murder, and if they can't- what can they justify?

Though Peters story could be it's own book, the author also weaves in the story of Josie- Peter's first and only friend in kindergarten who grows up to join the 'popular crowd'. How she deals with popularity, with Peter, with the pressures of watching someone get bullied and doing nothing is as interesting as Peters own tale. Also present are Josie's mother- who is a judge assigned to the case, and Peter's mother- a woman dealing with the realization her son has done something that she cannot help him undo.

I enjoyed this book on many levels. I appreciate a writer who is able to combine a controversial issue in a way that lets the reader see ALL sides of an argument without feeling like they are getting a one-sided account. As a teacher I adored it, I think any book that can raise awareness about school bullying is important and the way that it's done in this book- without apologizes or restraint makes me thankful that I was never in a position that Peter faced. Also, as a former student it appealed to me. The choices that Josie has to make- to preserve herself in a environment ripe for bullying, while still never succumbing to the bullying that others around her participate in- is one that I never really thought about. How guilty is someone who watches and does nothing?