Wednesday, May 28, 2008

(45)The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The concept of this book had me all excited. It was fresh & creative. I mean, really -- a book written from the perspective of the dog! How exciting! I am a huge dog lover & anyone who knows me, knows that my dog is truly my best friend.
But the subtle humor that peppers the book seems inappropriately out of place given the subject matter of the rest of the book.
Let me back up. You are first introduced to Enzo as he is lying on his death bed. He is reflecting back over his life. And the things that have happened to him & his owner, Denny. From the first chapter you sense the underlying humor that Enzo brings to the family. He is a smart dog. Having been left with the company of the tv for years while Denny is at work, well, Enzo received quite the education.
Enzo continues his trip down memory lane with the introduction of Eve. Well. Then tragedy after tragedy strikes Denny & his family. Almost to the point of complete predictability. So amidst of all of this tragedy, there are the bits of dry humor. And it just seems wrong.
I think this book would have worked if there were only one "issue" at play. Or if it were the dog reminiscing on just a typical, boring life with his family. The humor could have made the "mundane" excellent reading material. But as it was written, it was just too much.
I did stick with it to see how the ending would turn out. But overall, this is not a book I will be suggesting to customers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

(44) Audition by Barbara Walters

I like Barbara Walters. I have a lot of respect for what she did for Women's Rights in our country.
But, to tell you the truth, I struggled to finish her book. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for another memoir.
Several people at work have read the book & have said that it was really & truly a "tell all" book. But honestly, I didn't really care to read about her early days. Or even her days starting out with NBC.
I will admit that what she had to write about the Fidel Castro interview was fascinating. And I thought she could have written a little more about 9/11. She named a whole chapter on the event, yet only a couple of pages were given to the event itself & the aftermath.
To anyone who watches The View on a regular basis, a lot of the information in the book is not all that surprising. I knew she had a daughter that had problems growing up. I knew the daughter was adopted. So not a lot of surprise there.
The book is very well written. It is told in Barbara Walter's speaking style. I could "hear" her voice as I read the book. And that made it a little more enjoyable.
Read it if you are interested in political history. Because most of her "behind the scenes" is more geared towards her political interviews. With a little celebrity "gossip" thrown in for good measure.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

(43) Stone Creek by Victoria Lustbader -On Sale May 27th

I would like to introduce you to a couple of people I met while visiting Stone Creek. A sleepy little summer town on the East coast, where wealthy city dwellers go to escape the heat of summer.
First, there is Lily. Lily is the 46 year old wife of a very high-powered lawyer from the city. Paul is her second husband. Her first husband divorced her after coming out & has been with the same partner ever since. They are getting ready to adopt their first child. Lily is a kind, generous soul who decides to spend the entire summer at their house in Stone Creek. She is hoping to nurse the wounds of infertility & the scathing words of her callous husband. She is hurting something fierce. She loves Paul with all of her soul, but how can she live with a man who orders her to stop wanting to be a Mother?
Next there is Danny. Danny is a ruggedly handsome thirty-something year old widower trying to raise his five year old son, Caleb. Danny lost his wife exactly one year ago. He has been trying so hard to hold it all together for Caleb's sake. And the fact that his Mother in Law pounces at the first sign of weakness. She enthusiastically points out each & every flaw of Danny's. As a native of Stone Creek, Danny is used to the wealthy summer residents that flash their money, drive cars more expensive than his home & live up on the hill.
Danny & Lily's paths cross briefly at first. Just a run in at the grocery store & an current of electricity sparks between them. They both feel it & wonder "what if". As the summer progresses & their paths cross more often due to a charity they are both working on, Danny & Lily find themselves spending more & more time together. And enjoying every minute of it.
Can Danny & Caleb fill the void in Lily's heart? Will they satisfy her yearning for a child? Will Lily finally help Danny move past the loss of his wife? Will they connect on a physical level as well as an emotional level?
Stone Creek is a very well written love story. It is the perfect book for you to take to the beach or the lake house & devour in one sitting. The heartache that surrounds all of the characters, including Paul & the nasty Mother in Law, will have you hoping for the RIGHT outcome at the end. But don't be mistaken, this is not one of those cheesy, happy ever after endings. This is a book with a realistic ending. This is one of those books that makes me wonder what happened, AFTER the ending.
A great summer read!!

Friday, May 16, 2008

(42) Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster

I *heart* Jen Lancaster.

I discovered her when I read the Advanced Readers Copy of her first book Bitter is the New Black . I laugh my ass off each & every time I read about some new mess she has gotten herself into. In fact, I have read an excerpt from her second book, Bright Lights, Big Ass, to almost every bookseller in my store. If you are one of my booksellers, you know which one I am talking about. The Ikea escalator blurb. What kind of dumbshit puts their most precious cargo on a fucking CONVEYOR BELT!?? Ugh!! My biggest pet peeve, ever!!!
(by the way, that wasn't a direct quote from the book, but you get the idea!!)
Her writing is the perfect mix of intelligent wit & self deprecating humor. Her new book is just more proof that her books are the manifesto of the average American woman.
In her new book, Such a Pretty Fat, Jen takes us all on her wild ride of weight loss. From her visits to Jenny Craig, to attending a Weight Watchers meeting, to her sessions with her personal trainer, Barbie, you can't help but laugh til you cry when you read about her experiences.
If you are a normal woman who just wants to laugh, you need to pick up her books. And if you are too cheap to buy the books, check out her blog. You will get an idea of her style & when you stop laughing, you can go buy her books.

Monday, May 12, 2008

(41) The Host by Stephanie Meyer

It is very rare to find an author such a Stephanie Meyer. She has such a talent for immersing the reader in the world she has created. Whether it be in Forks or in the caves, as a reader you forget all about the outside world. For a brief period of time, your friends are Wanda's friends. Your concerns are Bella's concerns.
The Host is the first book of Stephanie Meyer's that is not part of her world famous Twilight series. It is the first book in which Meyer can prove that she is a world class storyteller.
When I first started reading The Host I admit I was a bit confused. Meyer doesn't give a whole lot of back story to what has happened to the world. By reading the dust jacket, I knew the book had an Invasion of the Body Snatchers feel to it, but it was a couple of chapters before I was able to piece it all together.
Sometime in the not too distant past, The Souls came to Earth & started slowly taking over. There was no violent war, there was nothing to give away that the people on the street were no longer human. They looked the same, they sounded the same, they continued doing things Humans do, like playing in the park & walking the dog. But the remaining Humans knew. Things were too perfect. The nightly news turned into the "feel good" hour.
The book starts with the insertion of a Soul (the body snatchers) into a Host (the humans). The Soul is Wanderer. And the Host body is Melanie. And while the Healers (body snatcher doctors) believe that the Host has turned over not only her body, but her mind to the Soul, Wanderer knows differently.
Melanie is still present. Melanie still has her thoughts & opinions. Melanie still loves her brother, Jamie & their companion, Jared. And the battle for control of the body has begun. Over the coarse of time, Melanie & Wanderer have agreed to live in harmony. Until Melanie convinces Wanderer to seek out Jared & Jamie.
It is while on the verge of death, they are discovered by Jeb, Melanie's Uncle. And the head of the human sect that is hiding in the mountains of the desert. Among them are Jared & Jamie.
This is when things get good! The members of the group only see the "parasite" they do not believe that Melanie is still present. They see her body, they see her face, but the words they hear are coming from the "parasite".
The story continues in page-turner fashion. You see the different species learning to have compassion for the other. You see that there are strong bonds being formed between species that are programmed to hate the other.
Yes there is a love "triangle", but in reality it is more. There are four people involved, but only three bodies. Can love survive an extraterritorial invasion?
I promise you that once you start reading The Host. And once you piece the history of these people together, you will not be able to put the book down. You will not be able to stop until you find out if "Wanda" and Ian end up together. You will not be able to stop until you find out if Melanie & Jared can resume their love.
This book has confirmed what I had already suspected. Stephanie Meyer is a world class storyteller. And she has found a loyal reader in me.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

(40) Escape by Carolyn Jessup

There is something about the FundementalistChurch of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) that intrigues people. So much in fact that HBO created a very successful series called Big Love based on the Cult that practices Polygamy.

And as we all know the FLDS have been in the news recently due to the raid on their compound in Texas. The YFZ (Yearning for Zion) ranch.

Well, right before Christmas this book came out. Escape by Carolyn Jessup. Carolyn was the fourth or fifth man to Merril Jessup. One of the most powerful men in the "church".

Carolyn had been born into the religion. Her father had two wives & for the most part she grew up in a functional family. Early in the book she details the abuse she suffered at her Mother's hands. Make no mistake, they were BEATINGS. Yet, later in the book when her life was really & truly at risk, she chose to seek comfort & refuge at her parent's home.

Carolyn was just 18 when her marriage to Merril Jessup was arranged. Jessup was a man in his fifties with either three or four other wives & more children than he knew what to do with.

Carolyn then moved in with her new husband & her family. She goes into great detail what life was like in that "home". The chaos. The backstabbing. The verbal & physical abuse by the "favorite" wife, Barbara. Even though favoritism was strictly forbidden by their religion, the was clearly a favorite. And she made life a living hell for the other wives & their children.

This is a quote that stood out to me about a family trip that Merril wanted to take to the San Diego Zoo. They rented a barely running Greyhound bus for the 34 children & a couple of the wives. One of whom was mentally ill. The other wives traveled with Merril in one of the family vans.

"We were a traveling road show of freaks and noisy children. Before I married Merril, my life had been relatively normal with moments of strangeness. Now it was surreal, with occasional bursts of reality."

Carolyn was lucky though. She was allowed to go to college. She shared an apartment with a couple of Merril's daughters. Who took lessons from their Mother on how to make her life a living hell. Carolyn was pregnant with her third child when she received her teaching degree.

The stories that Carolyn tells in her book will leave you speechless. She details the extremism that was implemented when "Uncle" Rulon Jeffes health started to fade & Warren Jeffes was named the new "Prophet". For example Jeffes decreed that the color red was reserved for the Second Coming of Christ. And to wear or own anything red was considered a sin. He did not allow schools to teach certain subjects. He collected all of the books that were considered "unwordly" and burned them. He randomly "re-assigned" wives to other men's. They & their children were pulled from their homes & their families & given to other men. And boys of all ages were "excommunicated" and kicked out of the religion & out of their family homes. These boys were deemed "The Lost Boys". "Our lives were currency for others to spend"

Heartbreaking, shocking stories of abuse & neglect & emotional power play to try & break the women like Carolyn, who knew that they were not being treated right.

This book was absolutely fascinating. I could not put it down. I so badly wanted to reach through the pages and kick Merril Jessup in the balls. I am serious. The man is so EVIL & VILE that I just could not help but CHEER when Carolyn & the children made it to the safe house.

It is surreal to read of these "religious" practices taking place in our society today. But it does. And it is. And we are foolish to think that it will end because Warren Jeffes is in prison. Or because there was a raid at one of their compounds. As long as women believe that polygamy is an act of God, as long as women believe that the violence towards them is "God's way", it will never end.

We, and by we, I mean those who have Escaped, can only be there to help them when & if they ever want help

Saturday, May 3, 2008

(39) Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen on sale June 2008

An interesting memoir of a promiscuous girl.
Kerry Cohen goes into pretty explicit details of her "Loose Girl" days. She talks of her first kiss. Her first blow job, which is no big deal, and the time she lost her virginity. By the time she leaves for college she has slept with more boys than most girls do in their entire life time.
And not one of those boys did she love. Or even have a real relationship with.
The book is an interesting read. Only in the , you can't look away from a train wreck, sort of way. There is nothing spectacular about it, a few astute observations, like saying [my father relied on Nora to provide him with friends] .
But otherwise, nothing stands out. An okay book, but not the "memoir of the year" as the blurb in the letter from the publisher suggested.

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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