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.