Category Archives: Good

Adult Fairy Tale

So it has been brought to my attention that I have been crapping all over the books recommended to me by my friends. I must admit I have been hanging out with some real losers lately (I mean the books!) and maybe I have been a bit harsh. Or … real friends don’t let friends read 400 pages of garbage. However, I am happy to report to you now that I  busted out from under this literary rain cloud as soon as I opened “Before Ever After” by Samantha Sotto, and the sun shone from its enchanted pages. (Insert reverberating opera note here. And maybe some small, low-flying bluebirds like the ones that put on Snow White’s cape.)

Genius mention of Snow White by yours truly because she is the perfect lead in for talking about how this book is the closest you can get to an adult fairy tale. It has a Prince Charming and the girl who falls in love with him that doesn’t think she is worthy of him. There’s even castles, sea monsters, love potions, and mystery. The title even suggests it ends happily like all fairy tales should. But to make a long blog post short, it doesn’t. That wouldn’t be very much fun now would it?

This historically romantic fantasy starts at an end and ends with a start. Our heroine is immediately made a widow in a very drastic turn of events and, while still recovering from her loss, meets her dead husband’s doppelganger who has turned up at her doorstep promising the adventure of a lifetime. Over the course of their trip to find out if her husband is in fact still alive, she recounts the story of how they met on a European tour and the tales he taught her along their travels. Tales? Or clues? Dun dun dun …

You have got to read this book in your breakfast nook with a mimosa and baked eggs and cheese. (If you solve the elusive secret ingredient to this recipe, please share!)

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Hyper Venting

I came up with the idea of this blog during a very slow period at work. Something to keep me and the masses (yes, I am referring to all 4 of my followers) entertained when bored. But then both my professional and personal life had the nerve to explode into a constant state of on-the-go-ness.  Sorry if I’ve let the 4 of you down. I also have not been hitting my book a week target and I 100% blame this on the Metro Transit strike.  Eff you Metro Transit. Don’t you know that’s where I do my best reading?! The most calming part of my day is when you take the wheel and veer in and out of rush hour traffic ignoring yellow lights, pedestrians, and generally every moving thing smaller than the size of, oh, let’s say … a bus.

In between my work days, workouts, 11 o’clock pm soccer games, practices, volunteer committees, bribing someone to drive me to and from work (say it with me now – Eff you Metro Transit), exercising my dog so he doesn’t surpass a lean, mean 125lbs, cooking, cleaning, SBC meetings (shhh), mandatory “don’t forget my face” hangouts with friends, and keeping the romance alive in my relationship, I have actually managed to polish off a few novels.  Superwoman, eat your heart out.

But I have decided to make my blog posts a little easier on myself. I’m just going to say a little bit about the book, and then tell you what food and drink I think best fits with this read or what it reminds me of; pairing my two most favoritest things that I know nothing about. They say “write what you know”. What about “write whatever the heck you want and claim naivete bliss when someone claims you’re wrong”? I will eventually make these concoctions myself and not only post my thoughts on the reads, but my recipe and thoughts on the eats. I will call myself the BookCook. Maybe. OK, I’m getting way ahead of myself.  Read on, you 4 fantastic, fearless, followers.

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Life is like a box of objects

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that included pictures but I may start incorporating more of them into my reading repertoire after this. Whoever started the rumor that picture books were only for kids anyway? Clearly Elena Mauli Shapiro didn’t get the memo because, although this is a graphic novel, it’s not the kind for children, if you get what I mean, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Also, how awesome is her name, the title, and this cover art? I picked this book as next on my list based on the cover alone. It wasn’t one I had previously heard about or read any reviews, but saw it on a stand in the library and it spoke to me on a couple levels. Firstly, this is exactly what I look like after a particularly strenuous soccer match. And secondly, my car is named Theresa. How could I not?

Normally when I am first alone with my next novel conquest I treat her like a lady should be treated and take the time to get to know what other authors have said about her behind her back cover, or learn more about her story from the synopsis she wears on her sleeve.  I get a feel for her past through her dedication message and previous publications.  I get to know her mind before I crack open her spine and devour her body.  I sound like the praying mantis of books. What I don’t give a damn about is the biography of the author. What does it matter to me where this person grew up or what prestigious ivy league school they attended as long as they can keep me entertained with their words. That said, halfway through reading this book I happened to glance at the back inside jacket information About the Author and realized this is based on a true story. Or at least on a true box of someone’s belongings left behind after passing away at “13 rue Therese” in Paris, where the author happened to live as a girl. This completely changes how you read and feel about the book.  Except that I still read pretty much every book in a British accent even though you can tell as early as the title on the cover that this one takes place in France. Half the novel is written in French for F sake. (Pardon my French.) But this is no longer pure fiction. This is someone’s imagination run wild while rifling through someone’s personal mementos and drawing some pretty racy conclusions from lacy gloves and love letters. I couldn’t help but wonder if someone who knew the real-life Louise Brunet has come into possession of this novel and taken offense at her being penned for immortality as a sex crazed adulterer just because some box made it seem like she lost her soul mate (aka cousin, aka disgusting) in the war and was second best-ing it with a man of her father’s approval.

For about half the book I was convinced Louise was an imaginary character full of mischief and music and someone you wanted to befriend. Granted she was pretty much made up as Ms. Shapiro knows Louise existed in name only, it somehow makes the whole experience more intimate knowing these mementos actually exist. That each one carries a story of its own. Imagine someone went through your pockets or purse at this very moment and wrote an entire book based on the findings? Mine would mostly be about lint and lip gloss, but Ms. Shapiro gave a personality and a life to a tin of trinkets and tells an amazing tale with only a few photos, letters, and coins to go on. Of course Louise couldn’t have made things easier and just left behind her diary.  But this author creates fiction from artifacts using both poetry and prose, English and French, (don’t worry, the French is translated for those of us who don’t use it unless we’re singing the lyrics to a Moulin Rouge song) and intertwines a tale of love and passion with the bloodshed and tragedy of war. She pieces together sentences using Louise’s pieces of sentiment.

The author has carried around this box of souvenirs for so long that each object has become a part of her, just like one of the main characters, an American named Trevor, who is tasked with translating a record of all the findings becomes so closely entrenched in his work that he begins to pop up in the lives and deaths of these characters who existed before he was even born. Yeah, it gets weird. But good weird.  Like the French.

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Still wondering

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve beaten the system. The library system that is. Down the man. I figured out that if you put a hold on a large print format of the book you’re requesting you get it in less than half the time it takes to get the people with normal vision version.  Of course I could be skewing national statistics on the visually impaired, but in my mind’s perfectly capable eye, I’m winning.  I was only about 10th on the blind person’s list for Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder”, where I would have been over 70th if I didn’t use my powers of evil genius to obtain it.  I can’t even mathematically calculate how much waiting time I just saved myself.  But I’ll try. About 60 odd people each hoarding their copy for 3 weeks, give or take a few days, adjusting for the multiple copies owned by the library, factoring in the time it takes to deliver the book to my preferred branch, carry the one, multiplying by pi as the limit approaches infinity … that’s gotta be like 4 years of waiting I just saved myself.  And the book was good, but no offense Ann, it wasn’t worth waiting out my early 30’s for.

The book was good. And then it got better. It had a lot of twists and turns, not unlike the Amazonian river where the bulk of the story took place. It starts off, as every good book should, with a pharmaceutical murder mystery. I thought the book took place in Sweden because the main characters’ names were things like Anders Eckman, and Dr. Swensen, which is basically the word “Swedeners” itself scrambled up in a word jumble, but turns out it’s Minnesota. If they had have had a heroine named Mrs. Ines Odah I would have got it.  You don’t learn a whole lot about the multiple characters as they first come into the story, but over time Ms. Patchett has a way of making you care about each and every one of them, even the one that doesn’t utter a single word for the entire novel. Which is saying something. Pun intended.  She makes boring scientists and their boring study on the effects of female fertility in the Lakashi tribe somewhere in the jungle in Brazil actually interesting. You also don’t learn a lot up front about the mission of the main character as she’s sent by her lover/employer into the depths of man-eating tribes in the Brazilian jungle but I believe this is for the best.  The people she meets and befriends and the adventures she has are better left as a surprise.

However, the author has left this reader puzzling about the reason why she chose the title, “State of Wonder”. Sometimes titles are very literal in describing the theme of the book and some are purposely too abstract to even waste brain cells on trying to figure them out, but the meaning behind “State of Wonder” just hovers slightly beyond the reach of my fingertips. Which is ironic because that is also where I have to hold the large print version of it so I can make out the words like I’m at the optometrist’s office reading an eye test chart. Please read this book and get back to me on your thoughts of why this title was chosen and save me from my own personal state of wondering.

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So nice I almost read it twice

It used to be a source of amusement for me that my parents could go to the video store, return home with their pick, pop it in the VCR, and 5 minutes into viewing realize they had already seen this exact movie only months before. It’s only because karma is a huge bitch that this same phenomena is now happening to me with books.

I read the jacket on the inside cover of “A Reliable Wife” and was instantly taken with the plot. Not to mention my obsession with novels that have the word “wife” in the title. (If you’ve been reading my previous blogs you already know this tidbit about me and if not, catch up, you’re missing some good shit.) So I said to myself, “I mustn’t delay in securing my spot in line for this literary masterpiece, post haste”. Yes, that is how I talk to myself in my head. Especially when I’m in a library. After waiting months for my turn on the dance floor with Robert Goolrick’s fiction I promptly realized I was taking my own sloppy seconds for a spin. And I knew it the second I laid eyes on the main character’s name. How is it that I can remember a single character name over a New York Times #1 Best Seller title? Maybe author’s should just name their books after the main character and save me this problem in the future. I mean, who can forget that they’ve previously read Jane Eyre, Moby Dick, or The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar?

I have to admit I didn’t re-read the book once I realized the duplication. But I do remember loving it. Sure, now my remember-er is working. I remember liking how Mr. Goolrick doesn’t come right out and tell you what’s going on but through the feelings and conversations between the two main characters he paints a vivid picture. Since I did dive right in to the beginning of the book I can attest that it starts with a splash.  Lonely Mr. Ralph Truitt has placed an ad for a simple, honest wife to take care of him and his household as they both age, but gets duped by the woman who responds as she is anything but. The seductive, and slightly evil, Catherine Land has plans to poison poor Ralphy and make off a wealthy widow. And then there’s like 275 more pages! As each twist and turn of truth shows itself in the novel you flip flop over who you sympathize with, until you feel like you’re the one who’s been poisoned. This book has everything you could ask for;  passion, obsession, madness and murder.  Everything you could possibly want in a wife.

I believe it says something about this reader that even though I may be suffering from old timers disease (an early onset I assure you) at least I can still rely on my same great taste in books.

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Groundhog Day Revisited

I’m one of those people who never wants to see a movie until I’ve read the book first.  Such was the case when “One Day” hit theatres.  They had me at Jim Sturgess. My crush on Jims began with him singing in “Across the Universe” and is what fueled me in selecting this novel for my book club monthly pick. (No, I don’t mean because he was on the cover.) There were actually times I pictured him singing his sarcastic, cocky comments through Beatles lyrics (watch the movie), and even though that may not have been what Mr. David Nicholls intended, I personally felt it made the book better.  Usually I hate already knowing what the big screen version of the characters look and sound like because I like to let my mind wander as I’m reading and piece together eyes, mouths, and hair until  I’ve personified the hell out of the description and come up with my perfect cast.  But in this case, I didn’t mind.  I love both Anne Hatheway and, as I’ve already mentioned and no doubt will again, Jimbo, and thought the film’s casting director deserved a pat on the butt.  (Did I say butt? My apologies, still thinking about Jimmy. ) The movie stars selected fit my imagined version of their book counterparts to a ‘T’. “Twilight” Directors, take heed.

Since it was my choice, I really only have myself to blame for reading yet another chick lit book. Me and the Sturg. And it seems I’m in a bit of a chick lit funk. A chunk, if you will. I’ve always been a fan of this type of read but lately I’ve been craving more from the words on the page. I mean, I haven’t had to ask Josh what a word means in over 3 novels now. I’ve been wanting some drama besides the stereotypical “he loves me, he loves me not” drama. Then, all of a sudden, I’m hit with it.  Like a mack truck. Unexpected. Everything was finally working out for this couple, the novel was winding down, I was downloading an illegal copy of the movie with hopes of a nude scene, and this author went and delivered me a punch to the throat. I know it’s what I said I wanted, but what girl ever really wants what she says she does?! Come on!

The situations in this novel all take place on the same fateful day each year over a span of 20 years. They follow the repeated screw-ups of Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew a la a spin on “Groundhog Day”, but with a way hotter, British, Bill Murray.  They don’t repeat the same day over and over but the same failed relationships, careers, breathalyzers, and all the while (minus a few sketchy and frankly, less entertaining, years) they have each other to fall back on. Duh. Anyone can see where this is headed, right? Especially someone currently in a chunk. What takes us 20 pages to realize, takes them 20 years. But the anticipation is half the fun and the supporting cast of never-ending not-so-significant others weaves a tale that leaves us hungry to find out what happens in the next year/chapter.

When my fellow secret book club members and I met this month to discuss my amazing ability to select a novel (after our token hour of  workplace/family/friend gossip over cheese, chocolate and wine… no, you still can’t join) we also watched my illegally downloaded copy of the Hollywood movie. (PS. There is nudity! Full backal?… posterior?..you get to see his butt! Hallelujah!) Because it was unanimous that we all liked the book, we were relieved that the movie was so closely scripted from it. Scenes were delivered exactly how we pictured the conversations taking place and a huge kudos to them for aptly portraying the hairstyles, techy gadgets, and clothes through the different years, bringing up deeply harbored memories of our 80’s childhoods. It just all went by in a bit of a blur with 20+ years crammed into 107 minutes. If I hadn’t just finished the novel 36 hours before watching the movie I think I would have been a bit lost. But not as lost as the book club member currently on my shit list for not finishing the last 50 pages. Unfortunately I can’t single her out by name because that goes against the core rules of SBC. Know what’s another core rule? Reading the book.

Regardless, I recommend both.  But start with the book. The book’s always better. No offense, James, I still love you.

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Had me at Hadley

Recently people have been telling me I should get into writing, and not just my family who loved my previous attempt at a blog and homemade greeting cards. People also say I read books like it’s my job. I personally think getting paid for reading books would be amazing, but am content right now to read books to escape from my job.  About the only thing I enjoy more than reading is talking about what I’ve just read. I enjoy critiquing books and either recommending them to fellow readers or banishing them to the paper shredder.  Don’t get me started on Bridges of Madison County. (Did you know there’s a sequel?! Gross.)  I have a lot of opinions. So my boyfriend scored major points when flippantly suggesting I write a blog about “all the freaking books I read”. (After mulling over the idea I went to tell him he’s a genius and found him eating an entire bag of beef jerky for supper while spelling out an emoticon on his phone cause he can’t figure out how to create a smiley face with punctuation.)

So it’s only fitting I begin my foray into writing about books with the book I just finished about writer Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, affectionately known as Hadley.  It was titled, “The Paris Wife”, and family, please don’t read anything in to this, but I will read any book with “Wife” in the title.  I don’t know what the fascination is.  Perhaps not being married myself I want to gain some insight, but constantly siding with the scorned wife probably isn’t getting me there any faster. The book also has a romantic aura about it to this self proclaimed book aficionado just by virtue of mentioning some of the greats like James Joyce, F Scott, and Gertrude Stein.  It takes you back to post-war Paris (read in a French accent) and who doesn’t love a great love affair?  It’s the stuff us gals dream about.  Guy loves girl, guy does something stupid to hurt girl, guy wins girl back with over-dramatic gesture of love … but wait, fighter and lover Ernest “Hem” doesn’t try to cover up his indiscretions and eventually leaves Hadley for another love. And then another. Gasp! And no, I don’t need to say “spoiler alert” when it’s a true story. Hadley is wronged as a wife on a number of occasions but all it takes from Hem is the use of a pet name or sob story about his war injuries and you’re right back in love with this quirky couple.  With a love this great it’s so easy to forgive and forget  … until it isn’t and it all comes crashing down.  Ms. McLain definitely has you riding the proverbial emotional roller coaster along with Hadley from page one to the back cover when you realize you’ve been crying for about 20 pages. My tear stains on the pages of your novel are this blogger’s equivalent of any prize winning award on the front cover. Two swollen, red eyes up.

So I’ve decided to take on more than I can handle and not only read a few books a month but write my thoughts about them too, for anyone who cares.  Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll turn into an Ernest Hemingway myself. But without the adultery and penchant for bar brawls.

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