Monday, December 27, 2010

Hearts on a String

Hearts on a String, by Kris Radish.

None of these women are from Florida. Four of them live in places where winter claims the most days. Places where it often snows in April and people cry in the morning when they open the window and see yet another gray skyline. Cities that literally rejoice when the temperature jumps past thirty or forty degrees. Towns where wool is always in high fashion. In Milwaukee, where Margo lives, it's not uncommon to see people walking toward the grocery store in shorts the moment it's one degree past forty-three. In San Jose, where Patti leaves her bag when she's not traveling, the California sun is often obscured by car exhaust, fog, and smog, and clouds that have a tendency to move in and never leave. Cathy's hometown of Denver is a freezing snow bowl that often closes freeways.

Paradise for each one of these women is suddenly right outside the long balcony that caresses the three sides of their lovely suite.


This book was kind of cheesy in parts but the premise was interesting: five women meet in a bathroom at an airport, where they help one of the women whose iPhone has fell in the toilet. When all flights are canceled due to storms around the country, they decide to share a suite together at a hotel where one of the women was staying. They are stranded there for about four to five days, and within that time they learn everyone's secrets, and find that they all have more in common than they thought.

4 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Carrie Diaries

The Carrie Diaries, by Candace Bushnell.

I've had boyfriends before, and frankly, each one was a disappointment.

There was nothing horribly wrong with these boys. It was my fault. I'm kind of a snob when it comes to guys.

So far, the biggest problem with the boys I've dated is that they weren't too smart. And eventually I ended up hating myself for being with them. It scared me, trying to pretend I was something I wasn't. I could see how easily it could be done, and it made me realize that was what most of the other girls were doing as well - pretending. If you were a girl, you could start pretending in high school and go on pretending your whole life, until, I suppose, you imploded and had a nervous breakdown, which is something that's happened to a few of the mothers around here. All of a sudden, one day something snaps and they don't get out of bed for three years.

But I digress ...


I am a big fan of the TV show "Sex and the City" but I didn't start watching it until my senior year of college (2 years ago), when it was being syndicated on TBS. I checked out the book of the same name, by Candace Bushnell, and was very disappointed - it contained vignettes of which Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte were only featured slightly, and I got through about 1/4 of the book before deciding to stop reading it. This novel, however, I liked a lot, as its a prequel of sorts to Sex and the City, and features Carrie in her high school years. The ending made me smile, as it basically sets up the entire TV series, and I liked reading about how Carrie was in her teenage years, since I already know what she was like in her 20s and 30s thanks to the TV show.

4 stars out of 5.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mini Shopaholic

Mini Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella.

I feel totally inadequate as I scroll through pictures of smiley girls with long shiny hair cooking vegetable risottos, bouncing balls in the garden, or dressed up in judo kit. No wonder Minnie has tantrums. It's because no one's doing martial arts or making sushi with her. All this time I've totally deprived her. Suddenly, making jam tarts in the kitchen with Mum seems totally lame. We don't even make the pastry ourselves; we get it out of a packet. We have to hire an Ultimate Nanny, as soon as possible.

This is the newest "Shopaholic" book by author Sophie Kinsella, of whom I've been a fan for a long time. Her books are hilarious and Becky, the protagonist of them, has such a strong "voice" that the books are a pleasure to read (and can also be read rather quickly). In this installment, her daughter Minnie is now two years old, and Becky wants to throw a surprise party for Luke, her husband. The Bank of London has just gone bankrupt, however, and no one is really spending any money, so she has to be thrifty about it - not one of her strong suits.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender.

He pressed the mute button, and the room filled with sound. Horns, voice-overs, snatches of songs. It was like we were exchanging codes, on how to be a father and a daughter, like we'd read about it in a manual, translated from another language, and were doing our best with what we could understand.

This book is about Rose, a young girl who has a unique talent: she can taste people's feelings in the food that they make. The first time this happens to her, when she is nine, she can taste desperation and unhappiness in her mother's cooking; and from then on, she is unable to eat it. She eventually learns ways to make eating more pleasurable for herself (mostly eating junk food that is made at plants where no humans touch it), but as the years go on, she must figure out what to do with the information she receives this way about others.

The book was interesting, although there is a side plot with her brother that was a bit confusing to me. Rose's talent is definitely not one I would like to have, and I found it interesting when she actually cooked for herself one time; she did not like eating her own food at all either, as it revealed to her what emotions she was feeling.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Department of Lost and Found

The Department of Lost and Found, by Allison Winn Scotch.

There is a moment in every relationship when one of the parties senses its imminent demise. There's a moment of incredible clarity, when your stomach drops with a heavy sense of dread, and you feel like control is slipping through your fingertips even as you try to hold on. The night I bought our tickets to go to Sally's wedding and the one when Jake was dying for moo shu - that was the night I had that moment.

Natalie Miller is 30 years old and in perfect health - until she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Her slimeball boyfriend breaks up with her the same day because he is having an affair, and she must rely on her friends and family to help her through it. She kinda/sorta has a crush on her OB GYN, Zach, but she doesn't want to be in a relationship while she has cancer. Meanwhile, her old boyfriend, Jake, hears about her diagnosis, and comes back to visit, and they end up embarking on a pseudo-relationship. Natalie also works for a senator and has been a workaholic for the past five years; to not work while she is out sick, then, is not helping.

The narrator (Natalie) sometimes came off as a little annoying, but overall I liked her. I also really liked the ending of the novel, although it was a bit predictable.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Before I Fall

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver.

I think of all the years that Lindsay's been holding on to this secret knowledge, this secret self who cried every night and scrubbed pillows clean of pee - the scariest secret of all, the past we're trying to forget.

And I think of all the times I sat in squirming silence, terrified I would say or do the wrong thing, terrified the dorky, lanky, horseback-riding loser inside me would rise up and swallow the new me, like a snake feasting on something. How I cleared the shelves of my trophies and dumped my beanbag chair and learned how to dress and never ate the hot lunch, and, above all, learned to stay away from the people who would drag me down, and carry me back to that place.


This book was kind of like the movie "Groundhog Day" except that instead of just repeating a day over and over, Samantha had to repeat the day of her death over and over. She decides to take more and more risks, since she figures it won't matter what she does, but later she decides to try to help people instead. The novel was really interesting because although the same scenarios repeated themselves over and over, she always did something different in each situation. The ending was kind of sad though - it was not what I expected it to be.

According to the author's website, this novel has been optioned for a feature film. It would definitely play out well on the big screen, in my opinion.

4 stars out of 5.


Friday, November 5, 2010

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook - A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal, by Ben Mezrich

Sitting on the plane, waiting for the engines to come on, Eduardo still couldn't believe it all. He'd eaten koala on a yacht. He'd gotten drunk in some of the poshest places in Northern California. And he'd been whispered numbers that would make him and Mark rich, really rich.

Whatever the numbers were, though, Eduardo knew that they weren't going to sell thefacebook. In his mind, it was way too early for that.


I wanted to read this novel because I had seen the movie "The Social Network" recently (click here for my review of it) and the movie was based on this book, which in turn was based on the real events that had led to the founding of Facebook. I had no idea so much controversy had surrounded its beginnings before I saw the movie, or that Mark Zuckerberg had essentially screwed over some of his friends, and as an avid Facebook user, I was intrigued by all of it. The novel ended up being mostly the same as the movie, with the exception of a few scenes here and there, and I liked it a lot because it was written in narrative format, rather than a dry biography-type form. The author, Ben Mezrich, went to Harvard as well, which was interesting (Zuckerberg and the former CEO of Facebook, Edwardo Saverin, had been Harvard students before starting Facebook - Saverin and not Zuckerberg went on to get his degree there). The book covers all the major events leading up to the creation of Facebook, and the events that happened after, which led to two major lawsuits being leveled against Mark Zuckerberg, both of which he lost.

4 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stiltsville

Stiltsville, by Susanna Daniel

Margo drives up for a long weekend every couple of months. She talks about moving to be closer to me, but though I am lonely for her, I don't encourage it - she needs to become steadier in her own life. I hope that one day she will have a baby. If this happens, though, I'll have to consider moving back, which is right now is unfathomable to me. When I think about Miami, it is as if all I loved about the place no longer exists. It is as if every regret I've ever had lives there. But I miss my daughter, and I would like our family to continue.

The mountains and changing seasons here remind me of my childhood. I miss the ocean, of course, but I do not care to live near it again.


This novel was one of the best I've read in a really long time, and it's actually the author's first book (the author, incidentally, is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop). There actually is a place called Stiltsville in Florida, but after a hurricane in 1993 most of the houses were washed away, and the author's family had a house there.

The novel follows Francis through her life and marriage, and spans from the late 1960's to the 1990s. The ending is bittersweet but, interestingly enough, fits the book completely. We follow Francis from when she is a young woman of 26, to when she meets and marries her husband, Dennis; when she raises her only child, Margo; and when she has to struggle to deal with Dennis's illness later in life.

(First time ever, I think) 5 stars out of 5.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, by Danielle Evans

I want to wake Chrissie and tell her about this as if it's a warning: Don't push too hard; your last chance to see a person the way you wanted them to be may come at any moment. One minute you have a parent, or a friend, or a lover, something solid, and physics tells you their resistance will always be there to meet you as you press yourself into relief against them. Then all of a sudden your mother is a fading outline in a thunderstorm, wet and weak and so far out of reach; or your lover who may also be your best and only friend is pulled so quickly into someone else's life that you don't even realize he's left yours until you're getting a save-the-date card; or your father is somewhere at the other end of the world and even if you had a number for you, you'd feel wrong calling to tell him to quit collecting stuff when it's painfully clear that you have nothing to offer to replace it.
(from the short story "Wherever You Go, There You Are")

I saw a review of this book in People magazine and it looked interesting, so I decided to give it a try. The first story in the collection, "Virgins," was published in 2007, when the author was only 23 years old, which is pretty impressive. I really liked all the stories, albeit more than others, and the characters in the stories tended to be young, African-American, and always with a choice to make.

The stories in the collection include:

Virgins
Snakes
Harvest
Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go
The King of a Vast Empire
Jellyfish
Wherever You Go, There You Are
Robert E. Lee is Dead


4.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Take Me There

Take Me There, by Susane Colasanti.

I liked this book overall but there were a few things I did not care for. It's told from three different perspectives - Rhiannon's, Nicole's, and James's - all of whom are main characters. It reminded me of the novel Flipped, however, because when it changed to the other person's perspective it kind of rewound a bit and told events that had already happened, albeit from this new person's perspective ... I found this a little tiring, although sort of interesting.

I have been reading a lot of Colasanti's books recently and many of her others (see below) were better than this one. It was still an interesting read, however, and fans of YA lit will most likely like it.

2.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Barefoot

Barefoot, by Elin Hilderbrand.

Still no flicker of interest from Peter. Peter thought of Josh as the help. A servant, a slave. Whereas Peter was the husband, the neighbor, the peer, the equal, the chieftain in Melanie's real life. But Peter Patchen was also a genuine crumb who cheated and lied - that was Melanie's real life.

I have read Elin Hilderbrand's stuff before and it was pretty good, so upon recommendation from fellow blogger Lori, I decided to read Barefoot. Although it has a picture of a beach on the cover and may well be considered a "beach read," it definitely goes beyond that, and I ended up liking it a lot. The novel is about Vicki and Brenda, sisters, and their friend Melanie, all of whom end up staying at Vicki and Brenda's tiny Nantucket cottage for the summer. Melanie is running away from her cheating husband, Peter, whom she hasn't yet told that she is pregnant; Vicki is trying to get away from the fact that she has lung cancer; and Brenda is avoiding a major scandal involving her at the university at which she taught. The summer changes all of them for the better, however, and the way that the plot unfolds makes for a great book and fun read.

4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, by Janelle Brown.

Janice often consoles herself with the idea that Margaret will understand, someday when she has a family of her own, how priorities change; how fantasies about career and adventure grow irrelevant the minute you have a baby in your arms who adores you, relies on you, greedily consumes your very essence. How life always isn't what you anticipate it will be like when you're young and idealistic, and the grace comes in learning to love what you have chosen instead. Sometimes, Janice also wonders whether the person she is trying to convince of this is not her daughter but herself.

This is Janelle Brown's (author of This is Where We Live) first novel and it was just as fantastic as her other one. It follows Janice, who has been married for twenty-nine years but was just dumped by her husband, who has run off to be with Janice's tennis partner; and her children Lizzie, who is a 14-year-old high-schooler and Margaret, a 28-year-old who has decided to close her magazine, Snatch, and try to hide from her old friends Visa and Mastercard, as she owes them about $100k in past bills. When she hears the news of the divorce, she comes rushing home, and she, Janice, and Lizzie will soon learn that they are all hiding secrets from one another.

The book was excellent, and I really like the way Brown writes - there is so much detail and the prose seems so effortless. I eagerly await her next novel, whenever that may be.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cum Laude

Cum Laude, by Cecily von Ziegesar.

Another slow song came on, and even as their bodies continued to participate with what was happening in the room - talking to each other, moving puzzle pieces around, pretending not to fall sleep or stroke a foot or a lock of hair - their minds were elsewhere. Each of them in his or her own way was marveling at how they'd gotten there, to this particular house in Maine, this wee-hour moment together, when at breakfasttime they'd been in their own houses, in their own hometowns, with no inkling of this whatsoever.

Cecily von Ziegesar is the author of the "Gossip Girl" series, and I read a review of Cum Laude online that said she basically took the stereotypes of her characters from there and put them in this book. I am a big fan of "Gossip Girl," and although this may be so, I thought she did an excellent job with this novel, and I hope there will be a sequel or two - one website mentions two more but another says no sequels will be coming anytime soon.

Eliza, Nick, Tom, and Shipley are freshmen at Dexter College, in a small town in Maine. They meet each other during orientation and have no idea at that point how their lives will soon intersect with one another. Cum Laude follows them through their first year of college, and by the end of the book I found myself wanting more - much like with von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girl" Manhattanites.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Something Like Fate



Something Like Fate, by Susane Colasanti

Maybe everything that happens in our lives isn't already decided by fate. Maybe we have some influence over the outcome. If you want something badly enough, can you change your fate? Or will the thing you want the most come true anyway, no matter what you do?

I saw this book in Borders a few months ago and was intrigued by its cover (see above). Why was the girl on the left holding hands with the boy sitting closer to the other girl? I put the book on hold at my local library and now am finally getting to read it. It reminded me a lot of The Unwritten Rule, by Elizabeth Scott, which I also reviewed, in that a girl is lusting after her best friend's boyfriend. The characters in Something Like Fate, however, could not be more different than Scott's.

Lani "knows" that she and Jason have a connection, even when he starts dating her best friend Erin - and he knows it too. When she goes off to summer camp the summer before their senior year of high school, he breaks up with her via snail mail, and he and Lani spend most of the summer together. The problem, of course, is when Erin gets back from camp, and Jason has to tell her that he and Lani are now going out.

The book was pretty good, and I'm going to check out some of Colasanti's other YA books sometime soon.

4 stars out of 5.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Insatiable

Insatiable, by Meg Cabot.

Alaric supposed vampires avoided Target because of the parking lot security cameras. (It was a myth that vampires wouldn't show up in mirrors or on film. Certainly in the old days it had been true, when silver-backed mirrors and film had been the norm. But now that the world had gone digital - and mirrors were cheap - vampire reflections could be caught just like anyone else's.) Alaric actually liked Target. They didn't have Target in Rome. He'd bought a Goofy watch the last time he'd been in a Target. The other guards had made fun of him, but he liked his Goofy watch. It was old-fashioned and didn't do anything but tell time.

But sometimes all you needed was to know the time.


Meg Cabot is the author of "The Princess Diaries" series, which I like, but she's also written quite a few books for adults, Insatiable being one of them. This was a vampire story but almost written like a spoof, as you can see above - a lot of moments in the novel made me laugh out loud. The main character, Meena Harper, has quite a special gift - when she looks into someone's eyes, she can tell how they will die. She views this more as a curse than a gift, but when she runs into Lucien Antonescu, who ends up being a vampire, he ends up acquiring the use of her gift via means that you can probably guess.

The novel was really funny and also interesting. The way it ended was not really conventional but I liked it, and according to Cabot's website, there will be a sequel released in 2011.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"This is Where We Live"

This is Where We Live, by Janelle Brown.

She was going home, of course - there was nowhere else to go. But it wasn't just that: She was incapable of giving up. As her mother observed, it was just her nature. There were things she wanted - and they weren't outrageous things to want - a nice home, a happy marriage, financial stability, the ability to pursue her dreams. A few bad months, one terrible fight, shouldn't mean the end of all that. It shouldn't mean that they suddenly didn't love each other anymore. She would go home and save it all.

I had never read anything by Janelle Brown before this novel but it was very, very good. The prose is among the smoothest I have ever read, and her characters, including Claudia and Jeremy, the main ones, are very relatable. They both make bad choices along with the good but we can see where they are coming from, and how they came to make those choices, and can't help but wonder what we would have decided if we were in their position.

I could actually see this novel translating to the "big screen" very well. Brown has also written the book All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, which I just checked out today from the library, and I am hoping that is a good as this novel was.

5 stars out of 5.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Help

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960. A church baby we like to call it. Taking care a white babies, that's what I do, along with all the cooking and cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning.

This book was 444 pages long, and I flew through it in less than a day - that's how good it was. Many people had recommended it to me, but every time I checked it out from the library it inevitably became due, so this was the first chance I had to read it, and the rumors are true - it was excellent.

The book follows the lives of three or four African-American maids in the South (Jackson, Mississippi) in the 1960s, and also one ambitious white lady, who decides to write a book, anonymously, with first-person accounts of what it's like to be an African-American maid in a household during this time period. I was surprised to find out that the author of this book, Kathryn Stockett, is white, because most of the chapters are written in first-person, and as you can tell by the passage from the book included up above, it does NOT sound like a white woman talking. The characters in the novel were very memorable, and they will probably stick with me for a long time after reading this book.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The House on Oyster Creek

The House on Oyster Creek, by Heidi Jon Schmidt.

She was probably right: The oystermen were fighting a losing battle - it was a romantic notion that you could farm the edge of the sea, live by the tides, and really make a living at it. Farmers never made a decent living ... Certainly the dairy farmers she'd grown up among had suffered one hard time after another, and without government milk subsidies, she'd hate to think. But to be able to say, "I raise oysters," was a little like being able to say you were a mom, or that you wrote a column for the East Village Mirror - there was not much outward glory in it, but at the end of the day you could be proud for what you'd done.

This is the first novel by Heidi Jon Schmidt that I have read and it was very good. The main character, Charlotte Tradescome, has a husband who is 20 years older than her and a small child, Fiona, and they decide to move from New York City to a house he inherits in Wellfleet, Masschusetts, near Cape Cod. She meets Darryl there, an oyster farmer, and sparks fly between them; he is her age but unmarried, but she still feels bound by her marriage to Henry. Meanwhile, Charlotte has sold off part of their land to another "washashore" (out-of-town) couple, and they are making changes to it that not all of the townspeople agree with.

The ending was a bit surprising to me and it's rare to see a type of romance in a novel that ends up like Charlotte and Darryl's.

4 stars out of 5.

Friday, August 13, 2010

"Remedies"

Remedies, by Kate Ledger.

No one ever warned you how hard it was going to be, having children. And you could never guess how much destruction they would do to you, inadvertently, or with your own abetment. You could never imagine how desperately you would want to protect yourself.

Remedies tells the story of Simon and Emily Bear - of their failing marriage; their child, Jamie; the child that they lost, Caleb; and of infidelity. Simon, a doctor, is on the verge of a major medical breakthrough, and he ignores Emily and Jamie, inadvertently. Emily, meanwhile, is having an affair with an old flame, which Simon doesn't even realize since he is so busy with his medical practice. The novel shows a family dissolving, slowly, piece by piece, and its done in great detail and at its own pace.

This is Ledger's first novel, and although it was lengthy, it was very good. She describes each facet of the Bear family's lives in such detail that it kept me wanting to read more and more. The ending was not what I expected, but it was one that, when thinking about it, I did agree works for the novel.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"The Unwritten Rule"

The Unwritten Rule, by Elizabeth Scott.

There are a million rules for being a girl. There are a million things you have to do to get through each day. High school has things that can trip you up, ruin you, people smile and say one thing and mean another, and you have to know all the rules, you have to know what you can and can't do.

And one of them is this: You don't kiss your best friend's boyfriend. You don't do it once. You certainly don't do it twice.


I thought for sure that I had written about another of Elizabeth Scott's books on here, but when I perused the archives, it turned out that I had not. I have read Bloom, Perfect You, and also Something, Maybe by her as well, and all of them are good YA novels. In this novel, Sarah likes Ryan, and has since 8th grade, but he's currently going out with her best friend Brianna - which is, of course, a problem.

The book didn't end exactly as I had predicted, which was rather interesting. Sarah's character grows a lot as a whole, which I was happy to see, because throughout most of the novel, she is Brianna's mousy little sidekick, for the most part. Elizabeth Scott's novels are mostly about relationships between guys and girls, usually when they are teenagers, and this novel was no different; however, the fact that another girl is dating the guy Sarah wants to date throws a monkey wrench into the usual "girl meets guy" formula.

4 stars out of 5.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Love Under Cover

Love Under Cover, by Jessica Brody.

So I caught the flu. I contracted the virus. The one that makes you start sentences with the word we and end them with the words isn't that right, honey? The one that makes you sick with anxiety when the phone doesn't ring exactly when it's supposed to. It's a disease that makes you dizzy, feverish, nauseated, clammy, and from time to time even delusional.

Yet once I had caught it, I never wanted to be cured. I only wanted to be with Jamie.


I liked this book a lot because although it is chick lit, the premise is unusual - the protagonist, Jennifer, is a "fidelity inspector," meaning that she tests husbands to see if they will cheat on their significant others. Usually the wife (or occasionally the husband, for his wife) will come to her and her agency and pay her a fee to do this. However, as she is now engaged to her fiance, Jamie, Jennifer has gotten out of the "game" and now only does desk work at the agency ... until one night, when getting back in is the only option.

Apparently this novel is a sequel to The Fidelity Inspector, which I am looking forward to reading next. The book can definitely be read as a "stand alone" novel, however, and that is what I originally took it as. The characters are smart and Brody's prose reads very quickly.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Girl at Sea

Girl at Sea, by Maureen Johnson.

Just because she had been well behaved all this week didn't mean that she was any less interested in what was behind this trip - it was just that she had chosen not to act on it.

Being given a shiny key is a temptation. Keys open things. And from the moment it was around her neck, her senses were tingling.


Ever since reading the two books in the "Scarlett" series, I have been working my way through Maureen Johnson's books, and this one was very good. Clio is being "dragged" to Italy by her father to work on a ship for the summer, even though she just got a job at an art store in town. She's bummed that she has to leave, and she and her father aren't exactly close, but she soon meets Elsa and Aiden on the ship, and they become friends. Clio has an interesting "back story" as well, which is told to us in bits and pieces, starting with a successful board game that she and her father invented when she was twelve.

4 stars out of 5.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Bird in Hand

Bird in Hand, by Christina Baker Kline.

Alison had been living for other people for so long that she culd barely identify what she wanted for herself anymore. She'd find herself paralyzed with indecision in the strangest places - the grocery store, for instance, where she roamed the aisles with a rising panic, even as she clutched a list in her hand: What would her kids eat? What would her husband want? She rarely asked herself what she wanted. It seems irrelevant.

Alison and Charlie have two children together and live a happy live in the New York suburbs - so she thinks. Ben and Claire, Alison's best friend, are married without children, but just as happy. What Alison and Ben don't know, however, is that Charlie and Claire have been having an affair for a few months; however, when Alison gets in a car accident which kills a child, Charlie has to "be there" for her, and the cracks in the facade that is their relationship begin to show more and more.

I thought this novel was interesting because it didn't have the normal "happy ending" that one expects nowadays. The Boston Globe said "She's the real deal. Kline dramatizes private life ... with a generous, knowing appreciation of human nature," and I'd have to agree. Alison and Claire have been best friends for 30+ years, and Charlie and Claire have loved each other for the entire time he's been married to Alison (Claire, in fact, introduced him to Alison), and it is only now, at the worst possible time, that they are acting on it.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Scarlett Fever

Scarlett Fever, by Maureen Johnson

"It's not always going to be like this," Scarlett said. "I've been useful to you, right?"

"Many times," Dakota said, leading her along. "Sometimes, we all get a little broken."

A little broken. Scarlett wondered about that. At what point do you get so broken that it's time to just get thrown away? She had a feeling she was going to find out.


This book was hilarious and I was surprised to find out that its actually a sequel - the first book, Suite Scarlett, is one that I have not yet read, but am now definitely planning on reading. The novel follows Scarlett as she is coping after the breakup of her and her "summer" boyfriend, Eric. She lives in a hotel in New York with her parents - but a falling-down hotel, not a fancy one - and her siblings Marlene, Lola, and Spencer. Spencer is a budding actor but has not been able to land a part recently, ever since the Day of the Sock (read it and you'll see what it is); Marlene is 11 and a cancer survivor; and Lola is eighteen and works instead of going to college. Scarlett works for a crazy agent who is constantly calling her on the phone to do things for her, and eventually she runs into Eric one day because he needs an agent, and she has to deal with her feelings all over again.

Maureen Johnson is a great writer - I've read a few of her other books, such as The Key to the Golden Firebird and 13 Little Blue Envelopes. Her prose is funny and smart, and the dialogue and narrative is definitely engaging. The book ended very abruptly, of which I was not a fan (and for which I am deducting a half-star!), but there will be a 3rd Scarlett book published sometime in the future.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Remind Me Again Why I Need A Man

Remind Me Again Why I Need A Man, by Claudia Carroll.

"Sorry, but I happen to like getting drunk on a Saturday afternoon with my friends if I feel like it. I like smoking in bed. I like eating or not eating or living on take-outs, entirely depending on how I feel. The sad single is a marketing notion peddled to us by Hollywood, and it doesn't exist, and the sooner you realize that, the better. Living on your own is cool, and you know it."

This book was hilarious and is a must-read. Amelia Lockwood is 37 years old and still single, and she wants to find a husband; therefore, she enrolls in a night course called "How to Find a Husband over the Age of Thirty-Five," with interesting results. Her assignment each week for class is to re-visit each of her exes, see where they are now, and figure out the relationship didn't work out. She has four good friends, whom she calls the Lovely Girls (all are women, with the exception of her male gay friend), and they cheer her on throughout.

The book reminded me a lot of the movie "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," except it was a lot funnier. The ending was kind of vague, however, and I had hoped for something more concrete.

4 stars out of 5.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Six Rules of Maybe

The Six Rules of Maybe, by Deb Caletti.

I made a silent promise to myself - I would come back when no one was here, and I would read those words. Maybe at that moment I knew what a thief must feel, a jewel thief. The way his heart would quicken with need and envy and want when he gazed down at the promise of diamonds and rubies. The way he knew he would soon hold them in his hands, pretending they were his even if they could never be.

I have read a few other Deb Caletti books and they were all great, including this one. Scarlet's older sister Juliet has returned home not only pregnant, but with a new husband as well. They decide to stay with Scarlet and her mother until the baby is born, but of course there are complications.

4 stars out of 5.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

House Rules

House Rules, by Jodi Picoult.

I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome long before it became the mental health disorder du jour, overused by parents to describe their bratty kids so that people think they're supergeniuses instead of simply antisocial.

I am a big fan of Jodi Picoult's novels, which are generally great, and this one proved to be no exception. Picoult writes her novels in the first person, and each chapter is from a different person's point of view: Jacob, an autistic boy with Asperger's; his mother, Emma; "normal" brother, Theo; lawyer, Oliver; and police officer Rich. Jacob enjoys forensic science and both studying and creating crime scene, and when a girl whom he is close with dies, he is the number one suspect, and his Asperger's only makes him look even more suspicious.

Although the endings in Jodi Picoult's books are usually quite shocking, this one was only mildly so, although I must admit I didn't see the ending coming until I read it.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Entertaining Disasters

Entertaining Disasters, by Nancy Spiller.

Garlic made us interesting, if only to ourselves, set us apart from our neighbors whose houses held no special odors, were nothing more than common shelter for their benign, boring, blank breath. And when this mother became another mother and stopped making her garlic dip and her garlic bread, stopped putting out the damask tablecloth and using the good crystal and china, we remembered her garlic recipes, made them and tasted them in our minds.

This book was interesting in that at the end of each chapter, a recipe was revealed. In addition, the book was mainly conversation-less, leaving us only with the main character's "voice," who was both dry and witty, and would be someone I'd want to be friends with if she was real. She tells us about her childhood and how food was a major part of it, and how that then changed when her mother slowly went nutsy; and how now, she is an established food writer, but most of her parties that she has written about are fake.

The end of the book slows down a bit, but other than that, it moves steadily throughout.

4 stars out of 5.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets

Dirty Little Secrets, by C.J. Omololu.

I loved the glazed, faraway look people got as they glanced at you with a smile that faded as they quickly realized they didn't know you - their eyes scanned your face and, without a flicker of recognition, moved on to the next person. You were a factor in their life for a nanosecond and then you were gone.

This novel was about Lucy, whose mother was a "hoarder" - she refused to throw practically anything out, and as a result, their house is a mess. Lucy is careful to always go over her friend Kaylie's house and never allow friends or neighbors over to hers, but when she comes home and find her mother dead one day, the game is up. Lucy decides to call 911 in a few days, when she has time to clean up the mess, so that she won't forever be thought of as "Garbage Girl" - at her last school, a Catholic prep school, once one of her former friends had found out her secret, they had started to call her this.

The ending of this book was a little shocking, but I suppose it was still a valid way to end the book. I had never realized that hoarding was an actual disease - the author of this book has done research with an organization called the Children of Hoarders. I tend to collect a lot of things - the U.S. state coins, old memorabilia from high school, etcetera - but luckily I am not a COMPULSIVE hoarder like Lucy's mom was.

3 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Art of French Kissing

The Art of French Kissing, by Kristin Harmel.

"Emma," Brett said slowly, as if talking to a child or someone whose mental comprehension was in question. "I thought you told me you were coming home."

I looked out at the darkened silhouette of the Eiffel Tower and felt a sense of calm settle over me. "I know," I said. "I think I
am home."

Emma Sullivan is about to marry her boyfriend of three years, Brett - until he dumps her and then kicks her out of the home they share. She then gets fired from her PR job the next day, and it turns out that there aren't many other PR opportunities in Orlando, where she lives. She then gets lucky and receives a job offer from an old friend, Poppy, who is working in Paris to promote a new rock star's first album. While there, she finds happiness, and also love, and learns that maybe what she had before wasn't what she was looking for after all.

Kristin Harmel's books are always very cute and very readable - I devoured this book in less than a day. As she did in When in Rome, she plunks a character down in a foreign city where the character has only been once, and that person learns not only how to thrive there, but has fun in the process. The characters are hilarious and relatable, and there are always twists thrown in near the end as well.

4 stars out of 5.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tangled

Tangled, by Carolyn Mackler.

As I waited for her to burst through the door, I wondered whether this was it. My big break. The thing that'll finally make everything better.

Carolyn Macker's books are generally interesting, but this one was particularly so because she broke the book up into four parts, with each of the main characters having their own section. The events and people in each section intersected, however, which is what made it so interesting. Jena, Dakota, Skye, and Owen are all very different people, but their lives intersect when they meet in Paradise (a Caribbean resort). Jena and Dakota hook up; he then dumps her for Skye, who isn't really interested; and Owen doesn't want to be there at all, and spends most of his time on his laptop in the business center. The story continues on after their April week in Paradise, however, and each character tells their story in a different month, up until July.

It was a little disappointing that each character only got 1/4 of the book for us to "get inside their heads," but I did like how all the storylines intersected, for the most part.

3 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nanny Returns

Nanny Returns, by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.

...these parents see the aforementioned fifty thousand as an investment in the brand their children will be wearing for life, trotted out at every job interview and cocktail party; it will buy them entree into colleges, clubs, and gated communities. For the reputation of the school to suffer, it would be as if they walked out of Bergdorf's with their ten-thousand-dollar bags dangling off their elbows, only to find them being sold on the street for twenty bucks.

This was the sequel to The Nanny Diaries, which I have read - however, I remember the movie version more. The novel kind of hopped all over the place, but it did have a concrete plot: Nanny and her husband "Harvard Hottie" (aka Ryan) from the previous novel have come back to New York after traveling everywhere for his job, and they are looking to raise a family. However, Nanny's old charge Grayer X soon is back in her life, and once again she is trying to fix his extremely broken home life.

The novel was good but I think the first book was more organized (or what I remember of it).

2.5 stars out of 5.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Winter Garden

Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah.

I take the tiny scrap of her paper with her name on it and hold it in my hand. How long do I sit there in the snow, stroking my baby's coat, remembering her smile?

Forever.


This is Kristin Hannah's newest book, and it might just be her best. She details a family who has recently been devastated by the death of their elderly father, and Meredith and Nina now have to deal with their mother, a woman who has never shown them much warmth. There is a reason for this, however, that has everything to do with her past, and throughout the novel, her past is shown in the guise of a fairy tale.

By the end of the book, I was practically in tears. The ending is very sad, but parts of it were happy, so I suppose you could call it bittersweet.

4 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Overnight Socialite

Sorry it's been so long since my last post! I have been blogging about movies over at my other blog, Yes/No Films, and between that and work, I haven't had much time to read.
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The Overnight Socialite, by Bridie Clark.

The game was changing; he couldn't deny it. Take Southampton, studded with McMansions, brand-new Bentleys, and various arrivistes waving their wealth like nautical flags - the place felt utterly transformed since his youth. Uproars in the economy had separated the bulls from the steers, and the bulls that survived were hardier, fiercer, tougher to ignore. The socialites were far worse.

This book was very cute. Wyatt bets his friend Trip that he can transform any young lady in Manhattan into the city's newest It-Girl; when he sees Lucy Jo shivering in the rain at a bus stop, he has found his lady. Lucy wants to be a fashion designer but just got fired at her minimum wage job at a designer's factory, and this is the perfect opportunity for her. At the end, of course, both Lucy and Wyatt get more than they bargained for, and the story moves on from there.

This was a chick lit book but the writing is more "serious" than other chick lit I have read - less fluffy, I suppose one would say. I could definitely relate to the characters, and Wyatt and Lucy make a lovely pair, even though he was "born to money" and she is just starting to realize what his world entails.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Italian for Beginners

Italian for Beginners, by Kristin Harmel.

But consistent was good, wasn't it? It was safe, reliable, predictable. I had always been proud of being that person everyone could count on, the one who would always be there, who security guards could set their watches by, who arrives at work early and stayed late, who held everything together while everyone around her fell apart.

This novel was a great piece of chick lit, and I had not previously heard of Kristin Harmel; now, however, I want to read all her books. Cat is thirty-four years old and her little sister, who is twenty-nine, is getting married. Their grandmother launches into a loud and quite embarrassing shpiel at the wedding, asking (as the semi-senile person she is) why it's Becky (the younger sister) getting married and not Cat. Cat recalls being at her most happiest when she was on study abroad in Italy, and after encouragement from her father, she goes back there, in an unprecedented (ie, last-minute) move for her. She thinks she knows what she wants to find there, but instead everything goes in a way different direction, and she finds that different - and taking risks - doesn't always have to be bad.

The prose flows very easily in this book, and I wanted to stay up the whole night to finish it (sadly, I had to get some sleep before work). Harmel is also the author of The Art of French Kissing, among other books, which takes place (you guessed it) in France, and I can't wait to read that novel next.

4 stars out of 5.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Christmas Cookie Club

The Christmas Cookie Club, by Ann Pearlman.

I am the head cookie bitch and this is my party.

The Christmas cookie club is always on the first Monday of December. Mark it on your calendar.


I only read the front flap of this book when I checked it out of the library, so it was a surprise to later read the back flap (author's bio) and see that not only was the author from Ann Arbor, but the book was set there too!
(which I probably could have figured out once they started mentioning Zingerman's and the Gandy Dancer, among other places!)

Marnie is the "head cookie bitch," and each year she invites 11 other women over to her house for her annual cookie club. There are rules, some of which include that you must make 13 dozen cookies (1 dozen for each woman and 1 dozen to donate to a hospice) and you MUST attend the club each year, with these cookies, or else you forfeit your spot - and apparently there is a LONG waiting list to get in. The women are all great friends and as tragedies and miracles happen in their lives, they share them with one another.

The book was a little schmaltzy at points, but each of the women had a different story to tell, which made it interesting. I loved the Ann Arbor references and what was also interesting was that at the end of the book, the author confesses that she actually IS in a Christmas cookie club herself, which is where she got the inspiration for the book.

3 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Swan Thieves

The Swan Thieves, by Elizabeth Kostova.

Marriages are like certain books, a story where you turn the last page and you think it's over, and then there's an epilogue, and after that you're inclined to go on wondering about the characters or imagining that their lives continue without you, dear reader. Until you forget most of that book, you're stuck puzzling over what happened to them after you closed it.

Elizabeth Kostova is a graduate of the MFA program at Michigan, so I had definitely heard of her before reading this book; in addition, her first novel, The Historian, got very good reviews. I haven't read The Historian but I decided to read this novel, her second. She weaves together 3 or 4 different stories into one cohesive dialogue, and it is interesting to see how the stories all combine and are related to one another. Dr. Andrew Marlow's patient Robert Oliver is a renowned painter, but he tries to attack a painting at a museum, and is then put in psychiatric care. Dr. Oliver wants to find out what is wrong with Robert, and why Robert won't talk any more, and to do this he must delve into his past - he visits his ex-wife, Kate, and his once-lover, Mary, and in doing so becomes entangled with Mary himself. His search takes him around the globe, to Paris, Acapulco, and other places, and soon the search becomes more of an obsession than something that is necessary.

The novel was a little confusing at parts, otherwise I would give it a higher rating.
3.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ford County

Ford County, by John Grisham.

Although I like Grisham's books, I am not a big short story fan (thereby making me a hypocrite, since all I write are short stories!), but this one was very good. All of the stories take place in Ford County, Mississippi, which was also the setting for Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill. The stories were all great but my favorite one was "Casino":

And every outfit was adorned with an astonishing collection of gold - thick watches, bulky neck chains, bracelets, belt buckles, collar pins, tie bars. Bobby Carl gathered gold the way some women hoard shoes.

There are 7 short stories in this collection, and all make for easy reading.

4 stars out of 5.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Girl Stays in the Picture

Girl Stays in the Picture, by Melissa de la Cruz.

She didn't become the most famous sixteen-year-old in the world by playing wallflower. This might be her first-ever visit to the fabled Cote d'Azur, but Devon had been a star since she was in pull-ups. She knew how to play the fame game.

I love de la Cruz's books - I think I've written about her series "Blue Bloods" on here once or twice - and this one was no exception. What's particularly exciting is that on the front cover it says "A GIRL Novel," and the ending of the book is clearly leading to a sequel; therefore, I am eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.

"Girl" follows Devon, a pop star who just landed a star acting gig; Summer, an equally famous pop star who is working in the same movie; Livia, the daughter of the director who has just has Gastric Bypass Surgery and now weighs about 1/3 of what she used to; and Casey, Summer's best friend from high school who has agreed to follow her to St. Tropez, where filming is taking place, to be her assistant. Each of the girls has their own personal dramas going on, and Casey is beginning to figure out that Summer is not as nice as she once appeared to be.

This movie was fun to read from beginning to end, and I highly recommend it. Cruz writes "newspaper-style" gossip clippings that often start out the chapters, and it seems that all of America are watching these starlets as they work and play in St. Tropez for the summer.

4 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

She's So Money

She's So Money, by Cherry Cheva.

Camden studied me. "That involves us giving each other our locker combinations," he pointed out.
"Yeah, I know," I said.
"Are we ready for that much intimacy?" he asked innocently.
I rolled my eyes as I disentangled myself from the seat belt and got out of his car. "We're hormone-addled teenagers. Aren't we supposed to do it even if we're not ready?"
The grin on his face told me he agreed.


Cherry Cheva is from Ann Arbor and was recently a speaker at the Ann Arbor District Library, which is how I heard about her book. She currently writes for Family Guy in L.A., and her book was absolutely HILARIOUS - great wit and a lot of the lines made me laugh out loud.

Maya works in her family's Thai restaurant and when her parents go on a 2-day vacation to DC, she and her little brother are put in charge of the restaurant. They manage to incur a $10,000 health violation, and she decides to not tell her parents about it and pay the bill herself ... by organizing a "cheating ring" in which she does her peers' homework for $100+ per assignment or paper. She gets Camden King, aka "King of the School," involved, and things are going swimmingly ... until they start falling for each other.

This book had lots of twists and turns in it, in addition to being hilariously written, and I enjoyed it until the very last page.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Almost Moon

The Almost Moon, by Alice Sebold.

When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily. Dementia, as it descends, has a way of revealing the core of the person affected by it. My mother's core was rotten like the brackish water at the bottom of a weeks-old vase of flowers. She had been beautiful when my father met her and still capable of love when I became their late-in-life child, but by the time she gazed up at me that day, none of this mattered.

The Almost Moon is Alice Sebold's third novel, one of which being an autobiography, and after really liking The Lovely Bones, and reading a preview chapter of this in that book, I decided to read it. It's definitely not as good as Bones but it is hard to compare the two, as they are drastically different. This novel takes place over 24 hours, whereas The Lovely Bones spans a decade or more. The style of prose, beautifully written by Sebold, is the same - incredibly detailed, with nothing left out, and fairly straightforward - and the plot is simple: Helen has just killed her elderly mother and has no idea of what to do next. The first sentence of the novel definitely grabs the reader, as it grabbed me, and we wonder - why did she do this? What were her reasons? And, of course, what is she going to do now?

2.5 stars out of 5.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Match Me If You Can

Match Me If You Can, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Seeing the light shining through the front window filled her with dismay. Maybe he'd left it on as a courtesy. Please don't be waiting up. She absolutely could not face him tonight. Even without watching a dirty movie, she could barely keep her hands off him, but after what she'd just seen ....

Contrary to the paragraph above, this novel is actually a very sweet book. Heath Champion, sports agent extraordinaire, is looking for a wife, so he hires Powers Matches. Annabelle, proprietress of Perfect for You, needs Heath to enroll as her client to boost her (mostly nonexistent, at the beginning) client list. You can probably figure out what happens next, and the ending, but this was still a nice book to read; romantic without being too "foofy" like the last romance I read.

Thanks to Justina for recommending this novel to me to read.

3.5 stars out of 5.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Castaways

The Castaways, by Elin Hilderbrand.

Delilah and the kids waved from the bow of the boat. Jeffrey waved back. Delilah always said that people were predictable, that they could be counted on to act exactly like themselves. She wanted someone standing on the dock waiting for her.

And here he was.


This novel was about three couples - Phoebe & Addison, Jeffrey & Delilah, and Andrea & Ed - whose lives drastically change when their friends Tess & Greg die in a tragic boating accident. Everyone has connections to the couple, some that are obvious - Andrea was Tess's first cousin - and some that begin to reveal themselves after the couple's death. The four couples had called themselves "The Castaways" and were inseparable; they had taken numerous group trips together and were best friends.

I actually didn't like this novel at first but by the end of it, I had changed my mind. The novel stays in 3rd person the entire time but explores each of the 6 people's background and connections to Greg and Tess - each person gets their own "chapter," so to speak. At the beginning this was rather confusing since the book had only just begun, but by the end of it, it made sense.

4 stars out of 5.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Van Alen Legacy

First off - Happy New Year!

The Van Alen Legacy, by Melissa De La Cruz.

The exercise was over. She knew who she was, where she was, and what had happened to her. She was Bliss Llewellyn, she was in the Hamptons, and she was carrying the soul of Lucifer inside her body.

That was her story.

The next day she would have to remember it all over again.


I'm a bit biased towards this series, as it's the fourth book in the series and so far all of the books (including this one) have been fabulous. The series is about vampires, called "Blue Bloods," but it portrays them very differently than "Twilight" or other movies/TV shows that are in existence. The books are very fast-paced and at the end of each novel, I always cannot wait to read the next installment in the series, at which De La Cruz is currently "hard at work."

If you like this book, too, De La Cruz has written a few other series' and some individual books that also make for great reading. Her books fall into the "YA" (Young Adult) category but, in my opinion, can be enjoyed by all.

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