Friday, December 26, 2008

I Just Want My Pants Back

Meet Jason Strider. He lost a pair of his favourite pants to a girl he "made love" to in a refrigerator (she wore them home and never returned them). Now normally losing a pair of pants shouldn't be THAT big a deal, but it is to Jason because those pants are one of three that he owns. He lives in New York and works as an assistant (pay is horrible) and also drinks like a fish and smokes doobies like it's going out of style. Oh, and he needs to eat too. So he doesn't exactly have a lot of money to throw on a pair of pants. (Even though he probably should.)

His is the perfect case which proves that getting an education at an Ivy League college doesn't necessarily mean that you will make the most out of it. His English degree is not one that he uses to help him rake in the dough. The only time he exhibits his use for it is when he text messages his friends or sends them emails. Which happens very often throughout the day since his assistant job doesn't really leave him with much to do where actual work is concerned.

His days are spent running late for work, drinking a lot of alcohol, hanging out with his friends, trying to get laid, smoking up, and going to bed super late despite the fact that he needs to wake up early to start the cycle all over again.

The only bright side there is to his living situation (although, it could be worse ... he could not only look the part of homeless dude, -- which he totally does -- but also play the part as well) is that he befriends his neighbour, Patty. She is much, much older than him but has lived the same lifestyle as he is living now (pot, drinking, frequenting bars until dawn, dead end job) so she is a "cool" older neighbour. You definitely wouldn't mistake her for being somebody's grandma.

This debut novel was written by David J. Rosen. I don't read a lot of books written by dudes, but this is exactly what I would've expected. It was laced with cringe-worthy humour ... you know, the type that you chuckle at but then mentally berate yourself for having laughed in the first place because it was "below the belt?" That kind of humour ... very boy's locker room. I mean ... he writes about sex with a girl in his refrigerator and has his character think in the middle of it, "What a fantastic e-mail this is going to make tomorrow." So something a guy would say. And do.

He eventually gets his pants back, but I felt that the book kind of progressed from him trying to find his pants, to him trying to find his life. I read this book last year (and actually wrote this review last year as well) so it's hard for me to elaborate any more without re-reading. I do remember enjoying it and getting through it quickly. If you're looking for a change of pace with what you're reading, pick this up.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holidays on Ice

I love David Sedaris. I love his writing - it's witty and amazingly observant. His commentary on daily life is brilliant and I'm quite certain that if we met in real life, we'd be best friends. It was because of this that I was interested in finally, after all these years, reading his Christmas collection Holidays on Ice. Sadly, in the end, I'm very torn with the book. 

Some essays are hilarious, like "SantaLand Diaries" and "Dinah, the Christmas Whore." They share memories from his past Christmases worth mentioning (working as one of Santa's Elves at Macy's, having a prostitute join his family for Christmas). Some were published in other books of his, so I've already read them, such as "Let it Snow" and "Six to Eight Black Men" (which are both terrific, nonetheless). And then some (three to be exact) I really didn't care for. They were okay, sure, but not written in his usual style. Rather than being first person narratives, he assumed the role of someone else and wrote their story (a angered wife, a rich competitive man, a TV executive) I didn't care for those stories and found myself skimming the pages rather than indulging. When it got back to his voice, I was comfortable again. 

The book didn't exactly get me into the holidays spirit, but it did bring out the jaded side of me. And that's just as good, right?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Um...what's wrong with wanting to read The DaVinci Code?

I recently read an article in New York Times about Book Club troubles. I guess I had no idea what a serious business book clubs were. Click the link to read the article for yourself as I make a bit of commentary on this article.

First of all, if looking at Jocelyn Bowie standing there all high and mighty doesn't make you want to punch her in her mouth, maybe this quote will:

The last straw came when the group picked “The Da Vinci Code” and someone suggested the discussion would be enriched by delving into the author’s source material. “It was bad enough that they wanted to read ‘Da Vinci Code’ in the first place,” Ms. Bowie said, “but then they wanted to talk about it.” She quit shortly after, making up a polite excuse: “I told the organizer, ‘You’re reading fiction, and I’m reading history right now.’ ”
Oh. My. GAWD. A book club wanting to read a book and talk about it? What kind of madness is this? Hey. Ms. Bowie. Get off your high horse and quit acting like you're too cool for school. Maybe your group didn't want to look past Oprah's picks because you were condescending about suggesting new titles? Perhaps? And who's to say that these books that you look down your nose at won't be deemed "literary classics" someday? do I get Esther Bushell's job?

"...Esther Bushell, a professional book-group facilitator who leads a dozen suburban New York groups and charges $250 to $300 a member annually for her services."
I want that job. But I think I would be better at it because I wouldn't have any "moral obligations" (WTF???) and would gladly take money to lead discussions about The Devil Wears Prada. Because even though it's labeled a "chick-lit" book (meaning some think that it's below them to even peek past the super sweet cover), there are things to take away from it and discuss (like rivalries between women and how we tend to sabatoge ourselves by doing this or how the movie wasn't as annoying as the book...just to name a few).

Maybe I am over-simplifying this, but it shouldn't be this hard - or petty - to have a book club. Seriously, who the hell would want to join a book club whose guidelines includes "no therapy talk, no chit-chat and no skipping meetings."? Me thinks that some people take things and themselves waaay too seriously.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

When the title of the final Harry Potter installment came out in the spring of 2007, everyone was a buzz with questions.

"What are the Deathly Hallows?"

These questions were answered July 21, 2007, when we all were finally able to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The answer was found in a book Dumbledore left Hermione: The Tales of Beedle the Bard which are basically fairy tales or fables for witches and wizards.

After finishing the final Harry Potter book, J.K. Rowling actually started writing her own version of The Tales. At the time only seven copies were made - they were all handwritten and illustrated by Rowling. Six were given as gifts to those who helped the most with the Potter series and the seventh was sold at auction with the proceeds going to a charity.

When news of this book being written hit the streets, people demanded to be able to read the stories. But at the time, there was absolutely no intention of the books being released publicly, much to the dismay of many a Potter fan.

So imagine my surprise* when I received an email from Barnes & Noble this summer announcing the public release of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. I reserved my copy and on December 4th, I headed to my local Barnes and Noble and purchased my copy.

Along with The Tale of the Three Brothers (the story featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows), Rowling brings us The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, The Fountain of Fair Fortune, The Warlock's Hairy Heart and Babbitty Rabbitty and her Cackling Stump.

The stories themselves are entertaining with lessons to be had by all who reads them - much like the fairy tales and fables we have grown up with. The best part of the book, however, is the "extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore." Rowling has managed to reignite the Potter magic and create more questions and desire for more stories outside of Harry Potter**! I also believe that she has created a book that our future generations will use the same way our parents used Hans Christian Anderson or Aesop's Fables.

Even if you're not a Potter fan (to which I say, "say what?") the book is worth the read - especially if you have children who are of the age to appreciate and understand the lessons to be learned. Plus, all of the proceeds of the sale of the book go towards a charity.

*So not surprised at all even though Rowling stated that Harry Potter's story is over.

**There are so many side stories to be had here, people! Prequels and such...and people
will buy them! Rowling would be crazy not to cash in on that.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Veil of Roses

Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald is about Tamila, a 27 year old Persian girl, trying to make a life in America. Born in California, Tamila and her family moved back to Iran while she was an infant. Upon moving back, her family's passports were ripped up, never permitting them to travel again. Now, after quitting her job as a teacher, as a birthday gift, her parents present her with a limited three month visa. She's to return to America, live with her older sister, and find the freedom she deserves.. and ultimately needs.

From trying on her first Victoria's Secret bra to ordering coffee at Starbucks, you watch Tami grow. Sometimes failing, she never gives up and always continues her walk home, her awkwardly worded conversation, or quest to find a husband in order to stay in the states. The book's overall theme was hope - hope for a better future. Eye opening in many ways, you learn about the Persian lifestyle and, ultimately, about yourself. As Tami realizes that she could, in fact, sit with men and drink coffee out in public, you realize that in some countries, it's outlawed. As she realizes that she can make decisions on her own, you realize that somewhere people can't. Tami is endearing and fun loving. The book lets you cheer on her quest for a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Q&A by Vikas Swarup focuses on the life of 19 year old Ram Mohammad Thomas, a poor server in Mumbai, India, who somehow wins a billion rupees on India's equivalent of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Convinced that he cheated (and unable to pay the winning prize amount), the producers try to jail the boy until an attorney interrupts. And that's just the first chapter.

The rest of the book tells the story of Ram's life. Each chapter starts with him discussing with the attorney a certain memory from his past. Each chapter ends with a video clip of him answering a question from the quiz show correctly. Each story he tells correlates perfectly with the question and you learn how he answers each question perfectly. You cheer Ram on as he narrates his tale. His life is full of crazy episodes (living with has-been celebrities, learning about India's red light district, giving tours of the Taj Mahal illegally), but the crazier the better. The ending is far from disappointing, as Swarup delivers an interesting and shocking twist. Every person Ram meets throughout his life is important, every scenario memorable. The book is beautiful, addictive and incredibly entertaining. The writing is spot on and the heartbreaking and warming tale is one to be remembered. Ram is a character who lives on with you, weeks after the last page is closed.

(The film adaptation, Slumdog Millionaire by director Danny Boyle is now out in selected theatres. It focuses more on the love aspect, but still it looks incredible.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

American Wife

"American Wife" is a novel that made headlines when it came out- not just because the author (Curtis Sittenfeld) is a celebrated writer who had many fans eagerly anticipating her next work, but because her book, "American Wife" was sold as work of fiction, based loosely on First Lady- Laura Bush, a woman who is often in the public eye but has remained largely out of the spotlight.

"American Wife" is the story of Alice Lindgren, a bookish, thoughtful woman who marries a wealthy, carefree Charlie Blackwell- a man from a political family who is so similar to George W. Bush, you can almost here G.W.B reading the lines of Charlie as you read. There are many more parallels between the novel and the life we know of Laura Bush- both grow up Democrats, both have beginning careers as librarians, both are involved in car accidents that result in death, both marry men who have addictions to alcohol and later become President, both of their husbands are fighting an unpopular war... and the list could continue.

The genuis of Sittenfeld's writing is that she creates characters that are so flawed, so entrenched in personal drama yet still relatable- still likeable. Though Charlie Blackwell is thoughtless and often selfish- a man who puts his country into an unpopular war, I still found myself drawn to his character. Charlie's parents (who you cannot read about without immediately thinking of George Bush Senior and Barbra Bush) are portrayed just as you would imagine the REAL couple to be- a highly political couple who are deeply aware of 'appearances' and 'proper behavior' but who have been peppered by Sittenfeld with enough charm that they become likeable.

One of the greatest moments of the novel was how Sittenfeld shows how love can change politics, and how politics cannot change personal beliefs. Laura Bush (like Alice Lindgren) has been asked about abortion and has shown in interviews to be pro-choice. I had always wondered how a pro-choice First Lady could resolve herself to marry a man who she knew was pro-life, and could (or would) affect policy to reflect his belief. Sittenfeld expertly answers this in her book, through a paragraph that stands out to me both for it's simplicity and thoughtfulness. It is shortly after she has decided to marry Charlie Blackwell.
If I were to tell the story of my life (I have repeatedly declined the opportunity)... I would probably feel tempted to say that standing that night just inside my apartment, me in my nightgown and Charlie in jeans and a red shirts, I made a choice: I hose our relationship over my political convictions, love over ideology. But again, this would false honesty; it would once more contribute to a narrative arc that is satisfying rather than accurate. My convictions were internal- I'd rarely seen the point in expressing them aloud, and if I had, my entire political outlook could have been summarized by the statement that I felt bad for poor people and was glad abortion had become legal. And so I didn't choose anything in this moment. I had met Charlie a matter of weeks before, and already the idea of living without him made me feel like a fish flopping in the sand. To go from being a Democrat to a Republican, or at least to pretend, through smiling obfuscation, that I had- this was a small price to pay for the water washing back over me, allowing me to breathe.

Along with her ability to clearly capture the best and worst of humans and find yourself rooting for characters who remind you of people in your 'real life' that you cannot fathom liking, and her ability to give explanation to choices often not discussed, Sittenfeld manages to expertly weave in political commentary, with issues such as class, race, homosexuality, love and wealth and the result is a beautiful, thought provoking novel.

I admit, it's long (over 500 pages) but it's a quick read and book that makes you feel sad when it's over. And isn't that the measure of a good book?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Gossip Girl

Okay, I admit it. I love the TV show Gossip Girl. It started as a guilty pleasure, something I watched secretly every week, hidden in my bedroom, but soon it grew. Since I enjoy it so much, I decided to check out the book series it's based on, penned by Cecily Von Ziegesar (an Upper East Side name if I've ever heard one.) Now, I'm going to be honest here and say that the first book was absolutely terrible. So bad, in fact, that I refuse to continue the series. And here's why.

1) The characters are terribly written. Each character is a complete stereotype. There's the brooding poet, the hot rich girl, the sex-crazed guy friend, and so on. And not one is likable. It's hard to feel bad for them when you can't stand them. From start to finish, the characters never learn or grow, they just stay the same. Yes, this is high school, I get it, but it's also a book. Give me some depth! The book has none.

2) The plot is everywhere. I wasn't exactly sure where the book was going. Was there a climax? Was I excited about anything? No, not really. The author writes a typical day fine, but that's the problem with the book. It's all very...boring. And when something "big" happens, it's nothing of note.

3) What was the purpose of "Gossip Girl?" A various blogger called "Gossip Girl" intermittently adds various pieces of information about the cast of characters. None of it is important though. I suppose it's showing that we live in a digital age, but it doesn't help the story progress, nor does it matter.

I hate saying that a TV show is better than its literary counterpart, but that's the case here. I think Ziegesar should take a few notes from the creator of the show, Josh Schwartz, and liven up the books a bit. Bring some truth into them, make the characters relatable. Because the first book is like a thrift store t-shirt. Trendy to get, but not always perfect. Clean it up and accessorize a bit and then you'll have something special.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Bright Side Of Disaster

I read this book in a day. This is Katherine Center's first novel and I think she did a really good job with it.

It was easy to get sucked into the story line and the characters were portrayed in such a way that you automatically felt like you knew them and could picture them in your mind.

This story is about Jenny who is having her fiancé's baby. They are set to get married a month after her due date ... things went a little backwards but it seemed to work out for them. Dean and Jenny met five years prior when he was trying to woo Jenny to show her he's a nice guy so she would give him her friend's phone number (the girl who he was really after). The friend wasn't interested and it was after the rejection that Dean noticed Jenny was "kind of pretty too."

Things seemed to be going well, however Dean (an office worker by day and "in a band" by night), began to get a little distant. Perhaps he wasn't ready to be a father or to settle down. In any case, he chose to deal with this situation and his feelings by leaving her high and dry with a note that explained "it wasn't his fault he wasn't in love with her anymore."

The next day she gave birth to their daughter.

The rest of the story portrays how this single mother went from feeling as though her situation was hopeless to rising from the ashes and making the best of it for the sake of her baby. With the help of her own mother, some new mommies she met at her birthing class, and a cute, attentive neighbour, John, who was there for when she was on the brink of sinking, she was able to get through this ordeal. Dean returns home after 7 months (of course the night she comes back from her first date with the new neighbour) and a whole slew of issues arise.

I really liked how the story progressed but wished that the ending didn't seem so concise and to the point. I would've liked to have seen the ending be drawn out for a few more pages. I really liked the voice that she used throughout the novel. Her next book is due to be published in the Spring of 2009 and it's one, based on this book, that I can see myself wanting to read.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How To Be Single

I just finished reading this book by Liz Tuccillo. She co-authored the book He's Just Not That Into You with Greg Behrendt which some women have dubbed The Dating Bible (and which is in production of becoming a movie, apparently). I have to say that I do own that book and after reading it, things started to make a lot more sense and I stopped taking crap from guys. But that's another post for another day.

How To Be Single. I had seen this book many months ago and picked it up but never bought it. Even though it seemed like a good read and not your typical chic-lit book (sassy is not chic-lit), I just didn't want to read it because of the title. There, I said it. I don't want to know how to be single. I've been single for a long time. I know how to be single and it sucks (sometimes). I'll admit, the not having to check in on anyone and having the freedom to do what I want, when I want without the need to think of my boyfriend first, is kind of liberating. But the flip-side is that I don't have a guy that I can kiss when I feel like it. There is always a down side to that bright side.

But I digress.

I didn't get this book at first because I didn't want to read a book that would give me advice on how to do this (be single) accordingly. But when I finally picked it up, I had a hard time putting it down. Before I get into the story, I need to say that Liz Tuccillo is a fantastic writer. It makes complete sense that she was an executive story editor for HBO's Sex and the City. The book felt like it could have been a complete season of Sex and the City. It was witty and funny and clever and heart-wrenching and joyous all at the same time. As soon as I turned over the last page, my immediate thought was that I would read that book again sometime soon. And I don't do that. Especially with the looming pile of books that seems to never end.

Again, I digress.

Tuccillo had some interesting research to be done for this book and she was able to travel around the world to get the information that she needed ... mainly, how women coped with being single in different countries in the world.

The narrator of the book, Julie, embarks on a similar journey while she leaves her four friends in New York to deal with how to be single in their own lives. Before Julie takes this trip, she and her friends go out to try and get Georgia's mind off the fact that her husband had left her for a younger Brazilian tango dancer. She pulls in reinforcements (her other 3 friends) to help Georgia have fun. This night is something of an epiphany to Julie. Here she is, sitting with her beautiful and successful late 30-something friends, and they are all alone. And she doesn't know why. The night ends with a trip to the hospital and it's there that she meets two Parisian women who give her some insight as to how women from other parts of the world deal with their relationships (or lack thereof) in much different ways. This is where her idea of traveling to interview single women is born. Throughout her travels, she comes to some insights of her own as her friends do the same back home. Her four friends were only acquaintances with eachother, their tie being Julie, but by the end of the book they are friends who have been there for each other and not only for a good time.

This story celebrates friendship and heartache -- heartache that is necessary to see what you have when you have it (and what you deserve and shouldn't settle for) and friendship to see you through it. It teaches us that no matter what life throws at us, or no matter how despondent our situation may seem, there is always love to be had, you are not alone, and miracles do happen.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Breaking Dawn

(If you plan on reading the Twilight Series, you may not want to read this review, as it discusses moments in the previous books.)

For starters, I admit that at the age of 24 I still enjoy young adult literature. There's something about the Twilight Series, by Stephenie Meyer, that's ridiculously addictive. The plot is enticing, the characters are so well drawn out that they become friends, and the overall books are satisfying. With that being said, the last book in the series, Breaking Dawn, is a bit underwhelming.

Eclipse, the third book in the series, leaves off with Bella's ultimate choice. After almost being murdered by a gang of young and angry vampires, she finally chooses that her love for Edward, her vampire boyfriend, is stronger than her friendship with (and possible love for) Jacob, her werewolf best friend. With that, she rejects Jacob and agrees to marry Edward. Breaking Dawn starts on a hopeful, gentile, and happy note: preparations for the wedding and honeymoon. There, Bella will, as planned, finally join her future husband in a life of bloodlust as a vampire.

Naturally, there are some complications. These early set complications, along with previously noted problems, all culminate to lead up to the climax 700 pages later.

In my opinion, the problems with the book start with the voice. Between Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, Meyer penned a book out of the series entitled, The Host. Although the characters in The Host sound exactly like those characters we've grown to love in the Twilight Series, some of her writing style changed and with that, left Breaking Dawn different. She lost some of her characters, giving them new personalities and new motivations. Jasper becomes friendly and winks at Bella. Rosalie becomes angrier than normal. Also, what's with the nicknames? Since when was Jasper "Jazz" and Emmet "Em"?

A third of the way through the book she changes voices completely. Rather than having Bella narrate the middle chapters, she has Jacob. The reason is unknown. After three books of learning, accepting, and loving Bella's narrative, this new voice is different and irritating. Important at times, definitely, but there could have been ways to explain what happened without changing the voice. And most importantly, it's not very masculine. Meyer tries too hard to make him sound like a teenage boy, which results in dialogue even movies wont use. Thankfully, the narration is changed back to Bella's at a very crucial part.

I think the biggest problem Meyer faced, however, were her fans. It's not unknown that these books have created quite a following. With millions of fans aching to read the last book, message boards were filled with predictions, hopes, and fears. Wanting to suffice every fan, Meyer created a plot that lacked the passion she originally had in the series. Wanting to appease the fans, she lost many.

The plot itself was endearing at times, yet ridiculously over the top at others. My wildest prediction was proved to be true, something I truly hoped would not happen. Sure, a story of a vampire, human, werewolf love triangle is a bit out of the ordinary, but that's acceptable compared to what she proposes in the book.

Complaints aside, the book was decent. Not nearly as satisfying or complete as the others, yet still good and still very enjoyable. It had moments where I couldn't put the book down, moments that I reenacted in my head while at work. Moments that made me smile because it reminded me WHY I loved the series so much. With liking the characters as much as I do, I wanted to keep reading. I wanted to love it. And because of that, I did enjoy it. I did like how it ended, a happy ending, as she promised, and I liked what happened with each character. It was a solid ending to the series.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Queen of the South by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Andrew Hurley (Translator

It is not unusual for me to read books in translation. I am drawn to works by French, Italian, and Russian authors. For some reason, one day I picked up The Fencing Master and found myself hooked on the writing of arturo Pérez-Reverte. Being an avid reader and regular consumer of mysteries and intrigue, the works of this Spanish author are not my normal book selection, but once I start reading, I am swept
> up in the pros, the language, and the unfolding of the story. The Queen of the South did not disappoint.
The book opens with a phone call - a call expected but not desired. A call that will change many lives, primarily that of Teresa who is now on her own; alone to find her way. From these opening scenes, Teresa is on the run. Brought up in poverty, formerly the woman of a drug dealer, she is forced to escape Mexico and live off her wits; to find her own way.
Through wonderful pros, the author spins Teresa's tale as seen through her eyes and those of a reporter who is attempting to tell her story. Teresa flees Mexico to land on her feet in Spain where she develops as a person and yet remains isolated from everyone. As Teresa states, "It might be that ambition, plans, dreams, even bravery, or faith-even faith in God, she decided shivering-didn't give you strength, but took it away. Because hope, even the mere desire to survive, made a person vulnerable, bound to possible pain and defeat" (206).
Relationships are a vulnerability to Teresa as is hope. She finds peace in books and the sea while artfully building and controlling a drug transport business and becoming the Queen of the South. The book provides insight into a world that, for many of us, seems far removed and foreign. Through Teresa's story, the reader moves through the world of narcotics at the highest levels. The politics, the thirst for power, and the corruption are described in vivid detail. It is a world of cold hearted characters with each doing everything
> possible to survive and prosper.
I have heard this book described as a mystery and a thriller, though I am not sure I would describe it as either. There are some exciting chase scenes and others in which I found myself wanting Teresa to survive but not fully understanding why. If you are open to trying something new, it is a good read.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

I read this book back in January when I saw a preview for the movie in the theatre. Being a true geek, I decided that I wanted to read the book before watching the movie.

I've never been one to be drawn to historical novels, but the plot of the movie intrigued me, so off to the bookstore I went. I'm glad that I bought it because it was a story that was fascinating for me to read.

While Philippa Gregory states that the story is a work of fiction, it is based loosely on what happened in England in the 16th century. I was completely drawn into the story and my imagination ran wild, as I pictured such a time of turmoil so clearly in my head.

The story is that of the rise and fall of the Tudor court. The narrator is Mary Boleyn (otherwise known as The Other Boleyn Girl) and she tells a story of love, heartache, mischief, slander, crime and punishment. She and her sister, Anne, are ladies of the Tudor Court, both beloved by King Henry VIII. Mary has fallen for the King and bears two children (while being married to another man). All the while, her sister, Anne, betrays Mary and commands the king's love and devotion while Mary is carrying his first child. The Boleyn parents are very short-sighted and see their hunger for sovereignty as a good excuse to use their daughters beauty and wit to charm the king.

In a nutshell, Anne manages to win not only the King's love but the throne as Queen of England (using deceitful means - overturning Queen Catherine's rights). She betrays her sister by adopting her son and denying Mary and legal rights as his true mother (she does this so that if she cannot conceive a son with Henry, she will have her sister's son as an heir to the throne). Anne sees that her husband, the King, has a roaming eye and is afraid that he will fall for another courtesan, which would leave Anne banished from the throne, just as Catherine was. Anne is desperate to have a son (she did give birth to a girl, Elizabeth, who ended up being one of the most powerful Queen's in England) thinking that this will keep her place on the throne. She is unsuccessful as her many miscarriages would show, and has even resorted to drastic measures (incest) in order to conceive a boy (this obviously ended very badly).

In the end, Anne was arrested for the crime of incest (among others) and was executed by way of beheading. Mary, on the other hand, lives her life with her new husband peacefully within the country, turning her back on the courtesan life.

This book was well written and kept me engaged throughout. It took my about three weeks to read this book (which is a long time for me when reading a book I actually want to read), but I enjoyed it very much.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Born Standing Up

This memoir tells the story of Steve martin's life as a stand-up comic starting with his childhood aspirations and beginnings and ending literally at the end of his stand-up career.

Steve Martin ended his stand-up career in 1982 so some his fans who are under 35 may have no clue he was ever a stand-up or at least not know much about that part of his career. I for one, remember it well and was quite interested to learn whatever I could about the genesis of that material and why it ended completely.

The book is a quick and interested read and did offer insight into a breadth of comedy material that was both unique and entertaining. Having since had a successful film career, written a couple of novels, and dabbled in other areas of the arts, Steve Martin's memoir is a worthy read if you have any recollection of that period in his career.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andrews

In Andrews' newest book, Gina Foxton stars as the the chef in a regional cooking show called Fresh Start. When she discovers that her producer boyfriend slept with the wife of the show's sponsor and here show is doomed to be canceled, she believes her life is over. A new opportunity soon opens up as she discovers that The Cooking Channel is looking to add a new show and they are interested in her. However, they are also interested in another regional cooking show called Vittles, which is hosted by wildly popular Tate Moody. The tension builds between both Gina and Tate as the network decides to turn their battle for The Cooking Channel spot into a reality show competition. This takes them both to an island off the coast of Georgia where things not only heat up in the kitchen but with each other.

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Andrews's series featuring Savannah residents Weezie and BeBe, I was excited to hear that she was penning a new book. I was actually reminded a bit of the Weezie and BeBe characters with Gina and her sister Lisa in this book. I had a hard time putting this one down as I got caught up in the cooking competition between Gina and Tate. I've heard mixed reviews on this book as some just don't like it at all. But, I thought it was quite enjoyable and a good choice for summer reading.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What Happened

I had been eagerly awaiting my copy of this book, thinking it would fill in missing gaps, answer questions, firmly end all (or at least some) of the 'what actually happened?' questions I had about Iraq, the Valerie Plame Wilson leak and Scooter Libby.

In short, this book gives you no insider details, no memorable quotes, no revelations that pull back the curtain and show you 'inside the White House'. Instead, you get pages of Scott McClellan talking about how he stood up to hazing in his university days, how Scott felt confused at times, and endless quotes Scott puts in from pundits and reporters alike who repeatedly call Scott a 'good man'.

Don't get me wrong- I DO think he was put in a difficult position, I do think that he did the best job he could- given the administration he worked in and the hand he was dealt. But does this book deliver anything new? Not at all.

The hype for this book was far better than the book itself. I finished reading it feeling like the movie trailer of this book (because let's face it- they will turn this into a movie at some point), will be the best part of the film. There's just not ENOUGH in the book for the book to be worth reading. Scott hints at possible areas of interest- Colin Powell's views on Iraq, Condi Rice and her enabling ways, the secrecy involving Dick Cheney and just how out of the loop George W. Bush really was on some issues (hello Katrina? I'm talking about you)- but never follows through with any of them. As soon as you find yourself getting interested in the book, it backs away and returns to the dry narrative of Scott discussing yet another time he was "in the Oval".

I suspect if you want a book to lecture you on how to improve Washington, this may be a winner for you. If you are looking for a book that gives you dirt on what happened during formative Bush years in the White House- skip it. I highly recommend Bob Woodward's trilogy "Plan of Attack", "Bush at War" and "State of Denial" instead. These books are far superior in regards to information shared, insider views and writing style.

What Happened, indeed.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

In preparation for the upcoming film, I recently read F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. As a long time Fitzgerald fan (I was an English major, it's in our blood to love him), I was utterly impressed by this work. The story is about Benjamin Button and his strange life. Born as an old man, he slowly ages backwards as the story progresses. Obviously, this causes many issues, especially concerning school (someone who looks fifty simply can't go to college with seventeen year olds!), women, and his family's status in society. Not only does he look old as a child, but he's educated as such, thus as he ages, not only does he become younger, but his brain and maturity change as well. The tale is dark, at times, naturally, but Fitzgerald tells it well.

Fitzgerald is known as a proper wordsmith, weaving a story with an imaculate amount of analogies and word play. His sentences flow easily, keeping the reader intrigued. His description of life in 1860 was written so well that it's almost relatable at times. We still suffer from similar situations, such as wanting to fit in.

As mentioned, the film comes out soon, directed by David Fincher. At first I was worried, wondering how they could expand on this story, however judging by the beautifully done trailer, I think they have it under control.

Read the book online here, or download the audio book here. Both are for free.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Radio On

Once upon a time, radio was a sound salvation. It played all the time, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, on the pool deck, in the car. The tinny pop chug-a-lug wired the air around it with bright-minded echoes of retro romance and fakey fun, filling up the empty blue space that envelops all suburbia with the simplest of all possible remedies for boredom: a beat. - Gina Arnold, Route 666

Sarah Vowell's first book, Radio On is a diary of sorts that documents her experiment: listening to the radio every day for a full year. To some, this may sound simple, but she doesn't simply listen, she engulfs it, understands it, and somehow becomes the radio. Listening to everything from the top ten hits to obscure Native American chants on AM stations, she documents every song and every commercial listened to. An interesting anthropological study of her, if nothing else.

The book was written in 1995, a year after Kurt Cobain passed away and that's what sets the the book on the first page. Being a long time fan of the band Nivana, Vowell discusses how the band didn't just play music, they influenced it, along with a generation of followers. Throughout the book she touches on other musicians she likes (Courtney Love, Smashing Pumpkins) and abhors (Alanis Morissette, Hootie and the Blowfish). She addresses the idea of selling out and how most bands are completely overplayed, leaving the radio full of repetition and nothing new.

As stated, she doesn't just listen to music. Being a great hater of Rush Limbaugh, she frequently tunes into his program to see what he's ranting about. It's an interesting social commentary, listening to her opinions of him, juxtaposed by her vision of Clinton and the time, a president who she didn't always agree with, but ultimately supported. Along the way, she tuned into NPR frequently, namechecking greats such as David Sedaris and Ira Glass (individuals who she later in her life became friends with and works with currently on the program This American LIfe).

What was most interesting to me wasn't just her analysis of the radio (which she, ultimately, gets sick of half way through, yet trudges through like any good writer would), but how the book is very dated. Taking place in 1995, she addresses radio and CDs as the only medium of music. In one scene, during an early recording of This American Life, she notes a new, unfamiliar piece of equipment, a minidisc. Ultimately, I'd love to know what Vowell thinks of the radio today. Although, mostly, it hasn't changed, we still have Rush, we still have repetative top ten hits, but it's not nearly as influential as it was back then. In days of sirius radio where you can listen to whatever you want whenever you want, ordinary channels seem out of date. And regarding politics, I wonder what she thinks of the situation nowadays, or what she thinks of Mrs. Clinton running (and losing) for the democratic candidate. 

As a long time Vowell fan, I will admit this was my least favorite of her few, however I did enjoy it. It was an interesting journey through the world of this medium, something that, admittedly, I rarely listen to. If nothing else, it inspired me. Inspired me to put down the itunes and ipod and turn on the radio for at least right now. Who knows what I'll find on it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

New Moon

I've noticed recently that there are reviews for both Twilight and Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer on this website, however none for the second book, New Moon. With the fourth book in the series, Breaking Dawn, coming out in less than two months, I figured I'd add the missing review, hopefully convincing others to join me in enjoying this series.

(As a general warning, if you plan on reading the "Twilight" series, please don't read any further as this post may give away some key plot points. I wouldn't want to ruin it for anyone.)

Before starting New Moon, my roommate Megan simply told me to get through the book and that Eclipse (the third book in the series) is much better. I doubted her, wondering how a book that continues the wonderful tale could be disappointing? Boring even?

Megan, like always, was pretty much right.

New Moon continues where Twilight left off. Bella is starting her senior year of high school in Forks. She and Edward are deeply in love and everything seems more than perfect. That is, until a disastrous accident occurs during her birthday party. Edward sees it smart for him to leave her, to get her away from vampires and danger. Naturally, this doesn't sit well for her.

As she learns to piece herself back together, as hard as it is, she becomes rebellious, lost, and friendly with the boy Jacob Black. She learns that cheery Jacob might have some secrets of his own, ones that might effect everything around her.

As I was reading reviews for this book, the most common complaint was that Edward wasn't in it nearly enough. Pathetically, I have to completely agree. I found myself flipping pages to see if I could find his name later on, if I could see any of the Cullens mentioned. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy the story between Bella and Jacob, it's just that it wasn't right. Juliet should be with Romeo, not Paris. 

The story moved slow and I believe that was the main problem. It wasn't bad, it was still interesting and I was still deeply addicted, but it didn't grab me nearly as much as Twilight did. However, Bella's emotions were very relatable. Which brings me back to my highest compliment for Meyer. She writes characters exceptionally well. They're very real, to the point that you feel like you know them. Or are them. I give her so much credit for that. She said on her website that the characters write themselves. I can almost see that happening.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Giving Tree

You knew the review on a picture book was coming, right?

I absolutely and positively LOVE picture books. Sometimes I feel as though I get more meaning out of reading a 20 page picture book than reading a 500 page novel.

This book was written by Shel Silverstein, one of the more prominent writers in children's literature. His books always have a hidden meaning behind them ... a lesson to be learned. This book was first published in 1964 and it is one that I read to my students every year. This book definitely has staying power.

In essence, this story is about a boy who is friends with a tree. This tree gives the boy everything that he asks for without expecting or wanting anything in return. As the boy grows older, his time with the tree is less frequent, and he finds himself going to the tree ONLY when he needs something. In the end, the tree is reduced to a mere stump. When the boy returns, a wary old man, the tree is sad that it has nothing left to offer. When the boy/man says he just wants a place to rest ... the tree offers its stump, pleased that it can at least offer that.

This is a story of unconditional love and generosity. The tree loves the boy so dearly that it will give everything it has, just to see the boy happy. One might compare the relationship that the boy and the tree have as that of a parent and its child. Like a parent, the tree embraces this boy, even when he grows up and spends less time with it. The tree is never bitter that the boy doesn't spend more time with it ... it is just happy with the time it is given.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Patterson co-writes this book with Charbonnet as he returns to writing a new romance novel. In an interview, Patterson described this book as a "fairy-tale for grown-ups." I was somewhat skeptical of the premise, basically a woman falls in love with her imaginary friend, and wondered how in the world he could even write such a book.

The plot begins as young Jane is having dessert with her imaginary friend, Michael in a New York hotel. Jane's mother, a highly successful Broadway producer, is very strict while Jane's father is essentially non-existent. Michael is her very best friend. On Jane's ninth birthday, Michael must leave Jane as that is just what he must do. He tells Jane that she will eventually forget him as all the children he's worked with eventually do but, Jane never does. Next, we find Jane all grown-up, working for her mother, and fresh from having huge success with a stage play based on her childhood relationship with Michael. At the same time, Michael arrives in New York for vacation before he receives his next assignment. By chance, the two find each other again but can they ever really be together?

The entire story is so far-fetched, sappy, and definitely a "fairy-tale" but I actually really enjoyed reading this one. I think it is simply because of the fast pace in which Patterson writes that makes me want to keep turning the pages. I just have to see what happens next. Good read and possibly a good beach read for the summer.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

There's No Place Like Here

It's common to lose things and never find them again. A pen tossed in a bag that somehow fell out. A sock lost in a dryer, forever dooming its pair to be shoved in the back of a drawer. But what about people who go missing? Those who are gone, without a trace nor motive. Those who were expected at school, work, a friends house, but just never show up. Where do all of these things go? That's exactly what There's No Place Like Here by Cecelia Ahern covers.

Sandy Shortt was the complete opposite of her name. Donning long dark hair and standing at a staggering height, she stood out her entire life. One day, at the age of ten, the girl across the street (and her eternal bully) went missing. She just disappeared, never to be seen again. Rather than mourning the girl's loss, Sandy asked herself one question: "where do things go when you can't find them?" At the age of ten, she committed her life to finding these items.

The slightly psychological disorder took over her life. Her search was never over, always retracing steps to find lost socks, journals, toys. And, later on in life, people as she started her own Missing Persons agency. She was committed to her job, she lived by her job, and because of that, her personal life took a back seat.

But what happens when Sandy, the person committed to finding things, goes missing herself? What happens when she finds herself in a place called Here, a place where all missing things go. A places where she's among her lost socks, toys, and possibly even the people she's been looking for her whole life.

With a unique premise, There's No Place Like Here is instantly engrossing. Juxtaposing the story of Sandy's struggle in a new area and her past that led her there, you see how she got to that point and cross your fingers that she'll get out. She's an interesting character, Sandy, one that you don't always like, but somehow in some ways relate to. And that's what attached me to the book.

Always involving, the book takes you through a journey of discovery as you learn that it's possible to be lost in life as well. That it's possible to commit yourself so thoroughly that you lose yourself along the way. It also asks the question...can we be found again?

The book is a quick and easy read. Ahern rightly so maneuvered her way from classic chick lit to fiction as she combines a magical element to the story. Although far from her best book (which I'm still convinced isLove, Rosie, it is still very enjoyable. My only complaint has to be the ending. Although it offers hope and, possibly, an answer, it leaves you wondering about other characters.

If you're looking for a fun book to read, I definitely suggest it. Because, in the end, the book is relatable. We all get lost at times...but only some of us are willing enough to be found.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Something Borrowed

Before I start my review, I just wanted to welcome our brand-spanking new reviewers, Amber, Lauren, and Elisabeth. Thanks for taking an interest ladies! Your reviews have been awesome!

Okay ... about the book.

This book was written by Emily Giffin and I believe this is her first novel. I read this book a couple of years ago and I found it was something I could relate to, not because I was sleeping with my best friend's fiancé (like that would ever happen), but because of the age-group of the ladies this book focused on. These women are turning thirty, in the prime of their lives, have great careers and great friends and are living life the way it is meant to be lived: to the fullest.

Of course with every friendship you have the under dog (Rachel) and the alpha dog (Darcy). Darcy is the "look at me!" girl while Rachel is the girl who stands in Darcy's shadow. She is the type of girl who will bite her tongue when it comes to Darcy's antics, because, well that's what best friends do, right?

Darcy is pretty dependent on Rachel. Rachel is ambitious. She's a NYC lawyer and Darcy isn't anything really. Darcy followed Rachel to NY and, considering she didn't really have any work background, managed to snag a glamorous job which paid amazing dollars. But then again, Darcy is the kind of girl that doesn't really have to work to get what she wants. Yes ... she's THAT pretty.

Long story short, Rachel hooks up Darcy with this guy she went to law school with named Dex. At first Dex didn't really show an interest in Darcy (much to her shock) because he kinda sorta liked Rachel. Since Rachel wasn't really confident, she dismissed his feelings because he couldn't possibly want someone like her. Dex and Darcy began to date and wound up getting engaged, with Rachel appointed to maid-of-honour status. On the night of Darcy's surprise 30th birthday party, Darcy goes home pissed drunk and Dex and Rachel end up sleeping together.

This is where it gets interesting. They vow to keep that as a one night thing but the problem is that they can't stop thinking about each other and it continues on to be something ... more. And it's a weird dynamic because Darcy is important to the both of them. This affair comes to a head when Rachel can't stand the lies and being the other woman when she feels she should be THE woman. She tells Dex that he either needs to call off the wedding or they can't continue what they're doing (duh). Strangely enough? I was totally rooting for Dexter and Rachel. Even though they were having an affair. Trust me if you read this book, you would be too.

I loved this book. It was so well written and not hard to read at all. I loved how Emily wrote the story ... her style was awesome. Read this book. It's such a fun read (and it has a sequel!) and it took me about a day to finish it. And I re-read this book. That's how much I liked it (but truth be told, I only re-read the steamy parts).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mistress of the Elgin Marbles

Two hundred years ago a young woman from a wealthy Scottish family married newly appointed British ambassador Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin. Shortly after their wedding the two set off to the heart of the Ottoman Empire. The journey, which would take them from Istanbul to Athens to France, would eventually bring countless treasures from ancient Greece to London. The young bride was Mary Nisbet, the subject of Susan Nagel’s biography Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin. This book is a rich and fascinating biography of a powerful woman with an infamous tie to nineteenth century art history. The name Elgin is the eponym for a collection of marbles in the British Museum and in this book Nagel recounts the events of the taking of 2,000 year old Greek sculptures from the perspective and letters of Lady Elgin.

Nagel’s book fleshes out the life of this extraordinary ambassadress who could be an intellectual peer of Dolley Madison and Abigail Adams. Many of the storied events in Lady Elgin’s life are described in Nagel’s well executed writing. When Mary was twenty-two years old she oversaw the delivery of vials of the smallpox vaccine to the Persian Gulf, Baghdad and India. She became a celebrity in both Europe and Asia and was credited for saving many lives through her unofficial medical diplomacy. She broke cultural barriers by disguising herself as a man to enter into ceremonies at the Turkish court.

Nagel successfully integrates the life of this complex woman with the well known accounts of how treasures of ancient Athens made their way into the British Museum. After returning to England Lord Elgin began pursuing a divorce from Lady Elgin, not because she had been having an affair, but because she refused to have more children. Nagel praises this as just one of her progressive stances in the early history of women’s rights. When the two divorced the loss of his wife’s wealth forced Lord Elgin to sell his collection to the trustees to the British Museum. Mistress of the Elgin Marbles presents the story of a notable woman, and enriches the history of one of the most controversial collections of art in world history.

The Shadow of the Wind

Whenever I decide that I want to become a writer, I read a book that's so amazing, so wonderfully done, that it quickly diminishes that thought. My writings can never be comparable to the greats, and I believe this Carlos Ruiz Zafon just fell into that category. The Shadow of the Wind immediately lures you in due to its unique and engrossing plot. A bookseller takes his eleven year old son to a building hidden among the debris in post war Barcelona called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There, in the literary mausoleum, Daniel, the boy, is allowed to choose one book to make his own--one book to give life to again. Following the maze of shelves and dusty books, he chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. Little does he know how much Carax's novel will change is life. How it will lead him to uncover the truth and solve a mystery that has been hidden for thirty years throughout the streets of Barcelona.

Zafon tells the tale through Daniel's eyes. You learn with him, through his investigations and prying. The story takes bold turns and gives shocking revelations that lead up to the "eyes open wide, holding my breath, don't disturb me" finale. You care for Daniel, for his friends, and for Carax. And you learn that everyone is connected in one way or another--for better or for worse.

The book, originally written in Spanish, is a true masterpiece and deserves its renowned recognition. Although the 485 pages may seem daunting, the prose is so beautiful, you don't seem to notice. The plot progresses slowly, but every description and every detour is completely worth it and almost always important. Just keep track of the characters. Admittedly, I had a hard time doing that at some points.

I highly recommend the book for anyone who is interested in tale that weaves mystery, danger, love, and life together brilliantly in a cobweb of disguise. Or, as Daniel puts it towards the middle, "It's a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Post-Birthday World

I've found that as my life has begun to get crammed full with work and weddings, friends and family, I've gotten more choosy with my book selections. I'm a huge book whore, but I just don't have time to waste on books that aren't really doing it for me.

Which makes me glad I picked up "The Post-Birthday World" by Lionel Shriver.

Anyone who's watched the movie "Sliding Doors" and saw how tricky it can be to follow two stories being played out simultaneously will appreciate this book. It's far more detailed and funny than the movie it shares much in common with.

It's the tale of an American artist, Irina McGovern who lives in London with her long-time boyfriend. They are friends with a famous snooker player named Ramsey Acton, and celebrate Ramsey's birthday together every year. One year Irina's boyfriend Lawrence cannot make the birthday dinner- and Irina and Ramsey meet for dinner alone. They get drunk and kiss. Or, they get drunk and Irina goes home without kissing Ramsey.

Each chapter continues on- one story follows Irina as she lives a life of guilt for having cheated on Lawrence and deals with the eventual break up and her new romance with Ramsey. The other follows Irina and Lawrence as they deal with their relationship, one filled with surprises and heartbreak.

I promise it's not as complicated as I'm making it sound. My favourite part of the story is how the author ensures that many of the same events happen, the same lines are said by a character but depending on which path Irina chose (to kiss or not to kiss..) the context is completely different.

It's a choose your own adventure for the adult world- a well written, richly worded account of what happens when you follow down both the path you chose and the road not taken.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Miracle on the 17th Green

I must admit that even James Patterson can't make me like golf and the fact that this book has a golf theme made it a scary one to start and jump into. I must also forewarn you to learn what the following terms mean:
Par, Eagle, Birdie, Bogey, Double Bogey. You can find them all here in the WikiPedia Golf Glossary.

As much as I resisted, because of the golf theme, the story kept me in there and by the time it was all through I was hooked. The story's main character, Travis McKinley, takes us deep into his mid-life crisis including the near meltdown of his marriage, his losing a job, and taking a stab at a dream. The end result is a beautiful story about possibilities and believing in yourself.

At 149 pages, not having enough time is no excuse so grab a copy, a steaming cup of licorice spice tea and a cozy throw and find your favorite easy chair. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

My Sister's Keeper

"Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood."

This was the first book I’ve read by Jodi Picoult and I have to say, the story line totally pulled me in. It was fascinating, heartbreaking and hopeful wrapped in suspense. She managed to write this story in the voices of all the main characters, which only enhanced the story because the reader is able to look at the plot from different angles … a sort of placing oneself in the shoes of everyone involved.

There are 7 main characters (7 voices) that are involved in this story. Anna and Kate (the sisters), Jesse (their brother), Sara and Brian (their parents), Campbell (Anna’s lawyer) and Julia (Anna’s guardian at litem).

When Kate was 2 years old, she was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia. Her only chance of prolonging her life was if she could find a donor. Because this alone could take years (and she didn’t have years), her parents decided to fashion her a sister who would be a genetically perfect match through in vitro fertilization. A year later, Anna was born and made her first contribution at attempting to restore her sister’s life, by donating the blood from her umbilical cord. This was supposed to be her only contribution, however when Kate’s leukemia returned, Anna donated blood and bone marrow. Fast forward to Kate being 16 years old and Anna being 13. Kate’s kidneys are failing and Anna is expected to donate one of hers to save her sister’s life. Instead of going through with this, Anna does something that is unthinkable. She retains a lawyer (Campbell) to be medically emancipated from her parents and gain the right to make the decision herself.

Throughout the novel, we hear the voice of Anna who goes through with this for what the reader might think are selfish reasons (but the truth comes out at the end why she even initiated this lawsuit in the first place), the voice of her father, Brian, who loves both of his children and can understand Anna’s point of view, but still would do anything to save Kate, the voice of her mother, Sara, who is beside herself when the lawsuit comes to be and can’t understand why Anna would do such a thing, the voice of Jesse, the kid who in the midst of his sister’s illness has been cast aside by his parents, deemed the lost cause. We also hear the voice of Campbell and Julia, who happened to be past loves, and in their fight for a just cause, find their way back to eachother.

This book was so well written and had me hooked from the start. The twist at the end was so devastating and so unexpected (but I won’t give that away), but it also served to save that family and pull them back together. It was a fantastic read and one I would definitely recommend.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The No Asshole Rule

This book is so important, so relevant, that I am even going to show you the back cover in this post. Written by a Stanford University professor, this book serves multiple purposes: asshole detection (in oneself and others), how to deal with assholes (we all must deal with them regularly), and how to not be an asshole (dare I say we've all had our moments, I have for sure).

The title, clearly controversial, really puts the content into perspective but I suspect there will be those who stray away thinking that this is just some kind of a joke or tongue-in-cheek (that sounds gross related to this title) quip containing nothing of serious value. The reality is a wonderful guide and should be offered free to all if not all as they climb the management ladder as a reminder that the people you are an asshole to while climbing are the same people who just may treat you like the asshole you are on your way back down.

While entertaining, the grim realities this book observes cover situations we all find ourselves in and offers real methods of coping. For even more assistance with the chronic asshole or to determine whether or not you are one, the author's blog offers an Asshole Rating Self-Exam (ARSE); I scored a 5 (not an asshole). This book is an enjoyable (though frightening considering the truths it makes reference to) read, I also listened to the unabridged audio version which was a special treat hearing a professional sounding guy say asshole a bunch and once again, dare I say, a must read?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Hide & Seek

Released in the mid-1990's this book is easily my favorite of the more than 20 books I've read thus far by James Patterson. With brilliant character development and a cleverly crafted story, this book will take you in, have you feeling genuine emotion for Maggie Bradford, the main character, and completely absorb you in its twists and turns.

It has been quite a while where I got so lost, so completely in a work of fiction. This book was probably where Patterson's now formulaic reader friendly writing style really began to come into its own. I just can't say enough how much I enjoyed this and I don't want to give any of it away so I am going to leave it to you to give it a whirl. Like most of his books, this is a quick read and well worth every exhilarating moment.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Everything Book of Home Recording

I got this book from the library because I wanted to try to get a bit more sophisticated and polished with my podcasts and wanted to explore ways of using recording equipment to do so.

This book is geared specifically to the musician looking to build a basic recording setup at home and it does a very good job at touching on all of the levels of equipment and how they fit into such a plan.

The text was written very similarly to that of the famous "Dummies" books so it was easy to read and had plenty of illustrations. Where I got lost is on the parts geared specifically toward musicians that used musician lingo that I am not all that up on. However, I did find it useful to learn about microphones, mixers, and the smaller scale multi-track machines out there and felt it was a good primer for jumping into the mix.

If you are a musician who has been itching to record on the cheap and/or learn about how to get started in recording, I definitely would recommend this book. While it did serve my purpose, it was a bit overkill for me but being a geek and someone utterly frustrated at having no real musical ability, I didn't mind so much.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Preacher Vol.1-Gone to Texas

This was the first graphic novel I ever read and I would like to say the last, but I enjoyed the story enough to give volume 2 a go at some point.

Here's what convinced me to give this book a shot in the first place, "Do me a favor, get a hold of the first book of Preacher. Yeah, it's a graphic novel, and yeah it is basically blasphemous, but I still think you'd 'get' it." That was my blogger bud Mike's recommendation and I am glad that I took him up on it.

This is not a story for the faint of heart or for the ultra right-wing closed minded conservative bible belter. The three main characters are a Preacher, an Irish vampire, and a hot chick with an itchy trigger finger and a "past' with the preacher. If you don't have a weak stomach, because this really does put the graphic in graphic novel, and you are open minded enough to let fiction be fiction without limits, you might enjoy this very well written story.

Regarding the graphic novel concept, well, it's just like reading a comic book. Ididn't enjoy it at all and would rather the story be just words and the pictures be controlled by my own imagination. That being said, Steve Dillon's artwork is quite brilliant and quite complementary to Garth Ennis' story.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter Morgan is a blood splatter analyst for the Miami police department with a secret, he's a serial killer. The twist is that he only kills that bad people that slip through the cracks of the system. With an uncanny sense to anticipate the killer's moves, his job puts him in the perfect position to track them down. In this first book in a series by Lindsay, there is a killer on the loose that Dexter feels strangely connected to as the killings are much like his own. Both intrigued and frightened, the killer lures Dexter into a game he can't refuse.

Showtime is running a show based on Lindsay's novels and I recently finished Season 1. Being a fan of Michael C. Hall (he plays Dexter) since he was on Six Feet Under and hearing about the premise of the show, I knew I had to check it out. It wasn't until later that I discovered that there were "Dexter" books. So how does the book compare to the show? It's similar but the book focuses more on the main killer rather than little side stories of Dexter tracking down a bad person like on the show. The book version helped me see inside Dexter's head a bit more but the show actually lays down more of a storyline about his past. There are also some plot differences but I won't go into them here since some of you might want to read the book or check out the show. In fact, CBS will begin airing Season 1 this Sunday night. I'm rather shocked that they are choosing to do this honestly because it's pretty gruesome. I'd imagine that the network would have to cut quite a bit out.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Read My Book You Hockey Puck!

The first important thing to know before deciding to read this book is being familiar enough with it's subject. My own guess is that you probably would need to have been born before 1973 at the latest to really know Don Rickles. That is, unless you have an older relative who has exposed you to this rather unique entertainer.

Take a moment to study the cover photo and I mean study, don't just gander or look. If you know who Don Rickles is then you know that Peggy Sirota, the photographer, is clearly one of the best photographers in the business because this photo really captures the essence of Rickles - a genuinely funny guy with a clear "devilish" side and a heaping helping of warmth and friendliness.

Considering that he has been in show business for more than 50 years and recently celebrated his 80th birthday, you might expect and autobiographical work to clock in at more than the 239 pages (including pictures). Written as a collection of very brief stories presented chronologically, it reads more like an anthology of talk show appearances over a very long time than a book. There was always a part of me that felt like there was not just something, but a whole lot left out in between the stories (leave it to me to make a comment like that). That being said, the stories presented were very entertaining and the whole book only takes a couple of hours to read and I felt it well worth the time invested.

If you know who Don Rickles is and have been entertained by him at some point, the book is a fun glimpse. At $24.00 list, you may want to head to the library unless you are looking to build a library of your own. In hindsight, studying that cover photograph was almost worth the price of the book itself (especially since I got mine from the library).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Julie and Julie: 365 days, 524 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

When visiting her parents in Texas, Julie, a frustrated temp working in New York City, rediscovers a worn copy of her mother's Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child that she once use to thumb through as a child. Inspiration strikes and she decides that she will work her way through every recipe within a year. Determined to prove that anyone can master the art of French cooking and tracking down all the ingredients, including the obscure, Julie begins to blog about her experience. Things begin pretty well despite a move to Long Island at the beginning of the project. Soon, however, the project eventually takes over her life. With the encouragement of her husband, friends, family, and many readers of her daily blog, Julie pushes through all the triumphs, disasters, and just plain ickiness of some tasks.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and at times laughed at loud at some of her adventures. Although, I must admit that I spent the majority of the times cringing at some of the tasks she had to perform. From trying to get marrow out of a bone, to killing her first lobster, to the state of her kitchen on a daily basis (hint: dishes piled high and sink that backed up quite a bit). I had to stop reading this while I was eating because I nearly threw up my turkey sandwich the day I read about the kitchen pipes backing up. The details were a bit too much for lunch-time eating. In the end, it was great to see her finish her task, visiting Julia Child's kitchen at the Smithsonian, and ultimately getting a book deal so she could quit the government job she hated.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

I'm not sure how to write a review about a book such as this especially when the subject is one of such legend as Benjamin Franklin. I'd bet that just about everyone that grew up in the US can almost instantly conjure up some image of Franklin or something that has an association with him at the mere mention of his name.

I remember when this book first came out a few years back I wanted to read it and somehow time got in the way and I put it off, until now. I found it interesting to see the bits and pieces of stories that I've always conjured upon mention of his name come to life in the context of the period in time in which they occurred and the actual way they happened.

I'm not sure the book is for everyone. While very well written and interesting, a 500 page book of non-fiction set in the 1700's in three different countries isn't everyone's idea of a good time. However, if it remotely sparks your interest, I say take it for a spin...Franklin was a remarkable and interesting man and this story was nothing short of fascinating to me.

So, how'd I do? Did I manage to write a cohesive review of such a book? Peace.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Will of Wisteria by Denise Hildreth

The Will of Wisteria was released either late summer or early fall last year but I recently picked it up as a Christmas gift for myself and saved it as my first book of 2008. I was completely surprised when I began the book, having just returned from Charleston, to find out that it was set it...yep, Charleston, SC. With my mind fresh with historical and visual details of the city, I just lost myself in the story.

Set in Charleston, SC, the book follows a year long journey of four self-absorbed and somewhat estranged siblings of the Wilcott. The story begins on the eve of the reading of their father's will as they discover that their inheritance is not going to be as easy to come by as they thought. Demanded to quit their jobs and use their talents to perform pro bono work for a year prior to receiving their inheritance has left them shocked, paranoid, and in disbelief. Determined not to let the other win, they each set out on a very special journey.

Hildreth has the most amazing way of grabbing you and her writing is just so darn smooth. She has really started to develop as a wonderful writer and this book really shows off her talent. I highly recommend this book and I cannot wait to see what else she cooks up in the future.