Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

All summer long in the books and authors category at Yahoo! Answers were questions, quiestion, and more questions relating to the Twilight books. Piles of them. Sickening amounts of them. Questions that repeated themselves: Who do you love? Which character is your favorite? Which character do you want to see a book devoted too? What other books can you reccommend that are like Twilight? (all of these questions are still going on in Yahoo! Answers, I just took a break from the site for a while). And boy are people passionately opinionated about these books! I was genuinely curious as I'd never heard of these books before. But then I realised that they are teen vampire books which really isn't my thing, so I didn't do much about it. I just put them in the not my genre, not my age category and left it at that. Well, along comes the fall term at work and I start noticing these books everywhere. The majority of girls between grade 5-8 are carrying them around. Now these are thick books. The last book sweep I saw like this was the Harry Potter books. And for the same reason I read some of the Harry Potter books (I only read the 1st 3 or 4 of those), I decided that I should read these too. I really do care about the kids I teach. I want to know what they are into, and what is influencing them. Fortunately I work at a school with other caring teachers who already bought these books so I didn't have to and I borrowed. (I know I have yet to borrow and read Breaking Dawn, the last of the series).
So here's my honest opinion thus far. First I get why girls are into these books. Every young girl dreams about falling in love , head over heels in love and certainly Bella does that. There are parts of these books that are hypnotic to read. You can just eat it up. I do think that there are parts of the books that could be better written, with more description. There were a lot of jumps around. I like it when authors paint a picture for you such that you don't have to guess, and I thought Meyer could have done more in that aspect. I also thought she could have done better with the character development, the emotional side of things. I thought Bella was just too calm about the whole, Edward is a vampire thing. There wasn't any inner conflict, disbelief, none of that. It was like she saw it as normal, which just seemed like too big a jump for me. I'm still trying to work out how everybody sees Jacob as a viable love interest for Bella, I really didn't see any interest from her until late in Eclipse, and even then it was brief. Also, Jacob's interest in Bella came across as puppy love, very different than the feelings Bellas and Edward have for each other. I know some people find Edward too overbearing and controlling of Bella. I din't get that at all. I really think Edward wanted the best for her and was looking out for her. He's a strong male character. Would I want my 10 year old daughter (if I had one) reading these books? No. I think they are too old in subject matter for 10 year olds (particularly as the books progress in Bella and Edward's relationship). Eclipse in particular has topics that include decapitation and increased sexual feelings between the 2 main characters. If I were a parent of a 10 year old girl that was reading them (and there are a lot of them out there) I would be reading these books right along side them and discussing it with them.
Midnight Sun, for those who don't know is the unpublished 1st 13 chapters of Twilight as seen from Edward's point of view. It was internet leaked and then posted on Meyer's website to read. At last posting she is planning on finishing it.
As much as I know I've critiqued these books, I'm actually anxious to read Breaking Dawn and finish the story. There is something that is addicting about them.

Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

I was just looking back over the books I've read in the past few months and knew that I'd missed writing about a few of them. My write up on Keeping Faith triggered my memory on this one. Change of Heart is another example of Picoult looking into faith issues. It also takes you on twists that you aren't expecting at all. It's a tricky subject this one. What would you do if a transplant heart was offered to your daughter by the very man who had killed your husband and other child? What would the court decide about allowing euthenasia on a death row inmate in a way to preserve organs specifically for that purpose? Why are there unexplained miracles happening around that prisoner's prison wing? I really didn't know where she was going with this one. I thought I knew, and then I didn't. I thought I knew again and then I didn't. Exactly why I'm loving her writing so much right now.

Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult

I actually bought this one. Truthfully, I bought it because it was Jodi Picoult and it was in traditional paperback form which means it was cheap. I'm cheap, I know and fully admit it. I'd be so broke if I bought every book that I wanted to read. Keeping Faith is an earlier Picoult novel that has been re-released in this paperback form (mostly I think because of how popular her books have been of late.) You can tell that it is one of her earlier books. Her style is there, but it's not as established as it is now. The story is good and very interesting. It kept me going anyways. What I like about Picoult's writing is that you think you know where the story is going and then it takes a twist that leaves you questioning...maybe that isn't what you thought it was. The story centres around Faith, a little girl whose parents are going through a divorce. Strange things start to happen around Faith, raised with no religion but suddenly starts being the centre of faith healings. Faith healings themselves are interesting things. I know that there is a lot of crap out there, faking healings. I also know people who have been miraculously healed. I am someone who believes that God heals today. I'm not sure where Picoult stands in terms of belief in God, but she has been flirting with the theme now in more than one of her books that I've read.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Really, what hasn't already been said/discussed about The Red Tent? It has been big in book circles and clubs for the past few years. It's very well written. This is my second time reading it. For those of you out of the literature loop. It is the story of Dinah from the Book of Genesis. Dinah has a very short and sad mention in Genesis. She is the only daughter of Jacob. (Genesis 30:21) Her story is found in Genesis 34.
What I like about Diamant's writing is that it is very discriptive. She fills your whole senses with the atmosphere. Her's is feminist writing. While much has been said/written about Jacob and his son's, Diamant focuses on the women in his life. His wives and daughter. It's fascinating reading. I do have objections to some of the story that just seems a bit unlikely (would Dinah really run into her brother Joseph in Egypt?). I also wonder if Jacob's tribe would be so focused on other gods? I don't think they would be. This would be a wonderful book for a book study (and if I didn't have small children, I'd probably be part of one myself). I can feel myself starting to discuss these ideas on here, but without response, what's the point?

A Total Waste of Makeup by Kim Gruenfelder

Ahh, back to classic chic lit. Snatched from a library shelf this little gem was eaten up and enjoyed. As far as I can tell it is Gruenfelder's one and only foray into novel writing. As with much chic lit, it's already starting to date itself a little, but an enjoyable escape all the same.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More of Stephanie Plum and Mma Ramotswe

The thing about reading a series is that there isn't much new to blog about. I finally got the latest Stephanie Plum novel (#14) in to me at the library and Stephanie Plum is Stephanie Plum...same old enjoyable light read.
I've also worked my way through more Ladies Detective Agency books and still finding them very enjoyable. I've finished up to #7 now and look forward to the next one.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More of Mma. Ramotswe

I've spent a lot of time catching up on Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Series this past month. I'm currently up to In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (book #6). These books are so delightful. I love the language, the setting, the characters...just everything about them is a joy to read.
I absolutely love this quote from The Full Cupboard of Life "Traditional Botswana men like ladies who are more traditionally shaped. You and I, Mma. We remind men of how things used to be in Botswana before these modern-shaped ladies started to get men all confused."
I also love the notion that men like to look at a woman and be reminded of good food on the table :o)
Still enjoying the books and look forward to the next installments. I see there's plans for book number 10 to be published in the new year.

The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal

So I bought both of Bantwal's books from Amazon and quickly delved into this one. Again, Bantwal tackles an Indian dark 'secret'. This one is the cultural preference for boy babies to be born and the sad reality of gender based abortions.
The story is a little more complicated in this book. The main character, Isha faces early widow-hood after her husband is mysteriously murdered. The circumstances behind his death remain unsolved. Isha is the mother of one daughter and is pregnant with her second. It is for this reason that she leaves her husband's family home after he is killed. Her in-laws make it very clear that they would have wanted her unborn child aborted and believe her baby to be cursed. Isha faces her struggles head on. I found less jumps and bumps in this book. I do think that as Bantwal gains more experience in novel writing, the reads will get better. She has some definate strong ideas that she wants to get out there. She has a good voice for setting, once she works out some kinks in character I believe more people will be enjoying her books. I look forward to what she has to offer in the future.

Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal

I actually (gasp) bought this book. I saw it at Indigo last summer and couldn't get it out of my head. I also couldn't find it at my library. Jonathan was ordering a book on Amazon and wanted to get the shipping deal so we bought me a couple.
This is Shobhan Bantwal's first novel and a very interesting topic. It looks at the notion of bride burnings in India...one of the dark 'secrets'. In a male oriented society, a woman's place can be to bring in a handsome dowry and start producing babies (male preferrably).
The premise is this, Megha (trapped in a miserable young marriage with an overbearing mother-in-law) overhears her MIL and her husband plotting her death one night. She flees into the safety of her husband's cousin Kiran, who offers her shelter and security.
This book is rich in detail of life in India, which I loved. I have a heart for the people of India and would love to travel there one day. I did find that there were some jumps and bumps in the writing from time to time, but could overlook those to enjoy the story.

Naked Beneath My Clothes by Rita Rudner

This is a re-do. I first bought and read this book years ago after watching many a Rita Rudner comedy special. I think she's very funny. This book is a series of essays that she wrote with random thoughts on life and things that happen to her. It's one of those books that you can pick up and put down here and there and carried me through my uncomfortable moments of 'I don't have a book to read' the last few months. (similar position Stuart McClean holds in my life). After finishing this book (again) I wondered what happed to Rita Rudner. So I googled her (as you do) and found out that she is a headliner in Vegas with a steady show at Harrahs. You can find out more about Rita at her website www.ritafunny.com

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

This is the second of the Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency series. I happened into these books out of good intention and boredom. My Mom had sent me the first of these books after reading it herself and enjoying it. But it sat on my shelf for a little while until it got found again one day while looking for a new read.
The second I had to find for myself.
This book is a sheer delight. Really. They are timeless books that seem to take complicated matters and make them simple in a very fine writing style. The series follows Precious Remotswe. A lady in Botswana who decides to open her own detective agency. She is not highly trained, but is highly intellegent and knows people well. And it is from these traits that she earns her success.
I really just love how these books are written. Nothing fancy. Nothing over the top. Just very insightful.
Here's a quote from p. 6 of Tears of the Giraffe that stuck with me:
"She now knew why Mr J.L.B. Matekoni had never invited her to the house before. His office at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors was bad enough, with all that grease and those calendars that the parts suppliers sent him. They were ridiculous calendars, in her view, with all those far-too-thin ladies sitting on tyres and leaning against cars. Those ladies were useless for everything. They would not be good for having children, and not one of them looked as if she had her school certificate, or even her standard six. They were useless, good-time girls, who only made men all hot and bothered, and that was no good to anybody, If only men knew what fools of them these bad girls made; but they did not know it and it was hopeless trying to point it out to them."
When I read that I wanted to share it with somebody and read it out loud. But there was no one around at the time and since I'm currently sick and cough I wouldn't do it justice anyway. As you can tell from that one little paragraph, this a book that is just as charming and insightful as its main character. But please do start with the first book first and then this one. I'm going to start tracking down the third.

19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult

I was very interested to read this book. Yes, once again Jodi Picoult features a topic that will end up in a courtroom at some point (I sense a pattern as I read here). This time the topic is very real, very sad and very scary. The topic is a school shooting. It is the story of the boy who is the shooter, his mother (a nurse), her once best friend (a judge), and her daughter (a student at the school).
I read a non-fiction book last year that covered this topic brilliantly. It was The Bully, The Bullied and The Bystander by Barbara Coloroso. She is a parenting expert who has a heart for these kids. The ones who are bullied to death, or bullied enough to commit murder. She raised the painful question, just how innocent are the rest of us when these atrocities occur?
I think Jodi Picoult's fictional offering is extremely honest, to a point that may be difficult for some as they raise their own sons and daughters. I know I certainly thought of my own small boys as I read this and wondered am I teaching them all they need to know to treat people well and to not get stepped on in the process?
And yes, she got me again, once I was into this book, I was into it constantly. I think I would have read while driving the car if I could have (don't worry, I will never do that). If you really want to have a look at why we have kids killing kids out there read this book.

Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes

I read a lot of Marian Keyes this summer. Having heard that she was the 'new Maeve Binchy' and the 'queen of chick lit' I had to try her out. Much as I have been enjoying her writing, I take execption to the two titles that led me to her in the first place. The first: Sure, she and Maeve Binchy are both female Irish writers, that's about where the similarity ends. Binchy's work often flows from and older Ireland into the new. A lot like having a cup of tea and a good chinwag with an old friend, a delightful way to spend the afternoon. Marian Keyes' work delves into a more modern Ireland, or Irish who are now living elsewhere, such as London or New York. Her subject matter is a lot darker too. She does not flinch at drug addiction, death, or marital infedelity which leads me to the second: her work is not fluffy chick lit at all. The covers and marketing of her books may look that way, but there is no rambling heroine who stumbles through life. Any of these at some point must face their own harsh realities.
Last Chance Saloon follows a small friend group. The main 3 grew up together in Ireland moved to London as young adults. Tara currently lives with her terrible boyfriend (and he really is terrible). Katherine spends much of her life being perfect, alone. Fintan has found true love and lives the dream life. But as life often does, something happens that will change all of them and leave them questioning their own happiness and way of living. The serious subject in this book is cancer and Keyes does a nice job of not sugar coating the reality of this disease. She gives a very honest portrayal of how the disease affects both the carrier and those who who love him.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Is life what you know it to be? Are there reasons in the past that affect your current behaviours? Who do you trust most? Why? What would it take for that trust to be taken away? Della lives in New Hampshire with her father and her young daughter. She works in special rescues with her bloodhound. She has a longtime best friend and is engaged to her daughter's father. Everything should be great for Della. Execpt that one day it isn't. One day the police come knocking on her door and everything is not what she thought it was. Once again, Jodi Picoult seemlessly writes this tale from a variety of perspectives. It has so many twists and turns tha you think you would get lost along the way, but you don't. Very well written.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner

Yes, I found another book by Jennifer Weiner, when I like an author, I go all out. This one centers around something I know a lot about, becoming a mother and all that goes with it. Begining at the end of 3 pregnancies where a chance friendship bonds 3 women together and ending when the oldest baby is about 10 months old, this story had enough twists and turns to keep me going. Each woman deals with different challenges and circumstances in their lives. I love how she brings in all the hot mommy-debates and how we deal with them. Which book's advice to follow, the challenges and joys of breastfeeding, the joys of bedsharing with your baby, the reality of family relationships, the fatigue and feeling like you need to be everyhing to everyone...She got it bang on. Excellent work, great read.

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

I saw this book about a year ago and kept hoping that it would surface at my library. I'm now discovering that if I want to read a book by Picoult, I better request it because these books never get to sit on the shelves.
The premise is fascinating. A 13 year old girl who was conceived purely for the purpose of saving her sister's life (who was discovered to have a rare form of leukemia when she was a toddler), sues her parents for control over the medical decisions about her own body. I don't really want to say more than that and risk telling too much of the story. Picoult is an excellent writer. Each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character involved in the plot. The idea of doing that usually creates a muddle that is difficult to follow, but this book was a rare exception. I had no trouble going from person perspective to person perspective here. Excellently and sympathetically written, this one kept me up late until I could no longer keep my eyes open.

Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

Ahh, the joy of discovering an author who has been around a while, you don't have to wait a year or two before reading a new offering. Certain Girls is Weiner's follow up to Good in Bed. Set 12 years later we see Cannie at 40 and her daughter, Joy at 12. The book flows seemlessly back and forth between Cannie and Joy's perspective. I don't know how she does it but she writes both Cannie and Joy flawlessly. Joy's chapters are exactly how a 12 year old girl thinks and feels and Cannie's life at 40 also very accurate. Something I'm also enjoying about Weiner's books is that much of it comes from a Jewish perspective. I'm not Jewish and I've known very few Jewish people in my life. The whole idea of a bat mitzvah is new to me, and very fascinating. I think that is something that the Jewish religion has very right, a right of passage for it's youth as they ease out of childhood. Once again, much enjoyed!

Look me in the Eye, my life with Asperger's by John Elder Robison

This was one of those books that I picked up thinking, I should read it, but would I really? Would it just sit on my shelf for the next 3 weeeks collecting dust until its due date?
I did pick it up and I did read it. Asperger's syndrome is something that I keep running into at work. Increasingly, as people are more aware of its existance they are more willing to get their children tested and get them the help they need to succeed. John Robison was not one of these fortunate kids. He spent his childhood puzzled at why he was different, trying to figure out what the other kids knew about social behaviour that he didn't. He was also brilliant at circutry, with the abilty to visualise and create effects greater than his own mathematical skills. He grew up in a time when Apergers was not a recognised syndrome (that didn't happen until the 1980's). In fact he was not diagnosed until he was in his 40's. I was absolutely entranced reading this book. It gives us as rare look into the mind of an 'Aspergian', something I would like to know how to do more and more as I teach these kids. The book is peppered with vignettes about his life: growing up in a not to happy home, getting involved with sound amps and fancy guitars in the music industry, working with the first electronic toys... This book has sparked my interest to know more, and I am making it one of my work goals this year. Next up is a book written by another person with Aspergers that Robison reccommended to read.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Guy Not Taken (stories) by Jennifer Weiner

I do enjoy a good collection of short stories...Maeve Binchy, Alice Munro, Rohinton Mistry...and now Jennifer Weiner. She does not disappoint. This is a collection of stories that she had written over several years, some previously publlished, some re-written, some new. They are presented in an arc with the first story's main character being an 18 year old home from college and the last story featuring an elderly lady. Interesting to me was finding Bruce from Good in Bed featured in one of the stories. The end notes declared that this story was origianlly written and published before Good in Bed was. It gave me a second look at a character that I didn't like, and gave me more empathy for him. I'm curious to read her new novel, certain girls which will have these characters again. I've always loved revisiting characters that I know. I feel that I've got some sort of relationship with them already. I think that's why I enjoyed the 1st 3 stories in this collection (Just Desserts, Travels With Nicki, and The Wedding Bed) as the follow the same family, sey apart by years.

Plum Lucky by Janet Evanovich

I've been waiting for the phone call from the library that tells me Fearless Fourteen is ready for me. (I read too much to actually buy books, I'd be too broke if I did)...so imagine my surprise when I was rummaging through the 'popular fiction' bin and found a Stephanie Plum book I hadn't read yet that wasn't Fearless Fourteen. The reason I did not know about this book is it was published after Lean Mean Thirteen. But I digress. Plum Lucky is the 3rd 'between the numbers' book in the Plum series...more of a novella really, you can read it in one sitting. These books don't add much to the storyline. Morelli and Ranger are convienently out of town or undercover for the diration of these books. The main male character who appears is Diesel. He is only ever in these books. The books are holiday related (Visions of Sugar Plums was Christmas, Plum Lovin' was Valentine's and now Plum Lucky is St. Patrick's Day). Basically, this little book does what it set out to accomplish, tide me over until the next 'real' Stephanie Plum book is ready. One that features Ranger and Morelli more prominently.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

After my new found authour high, I immediately delved into another offering by Jennifer Weiner. This time it was a mystery. So immediately, I knew that I was not going to be reading the same book twice. (Don't you hate that, formula authors?). The main character this time around is Kate, married with 3 kids living in a Stepford-esque town in Conneticut. She's an ex-New Yorker who feels completely lost and out of place faced with these 'perfect' moms. It's like high school all over again, a popularity contest fought on the playground rather than the lunch room. I think most moms can relate to this, feeling of not quite up to snuff.
I can relate. I know I'm a little more on the peaceful parenting/crunchy granola side of the spectrum, but I don't fit in competely there either. I use disposable diapers, not homemade organic cloth ones. I had an epidural for the birth of both my kids (no home birth without drugs for me). I breastfed both little ones, the first to not quite a year and the second to 17 months (it was time people, we were done). But I know I don't fit in on the other side of the parenting spectrum either. When it comes to co-sleeping, both my kids did it (in fact my youngest still moves into our bed at some point in the night). The idea of letting him cry it out breaks my heart. But now I'm getting completely off-topic, I'm supposed to be discussing the book.
So...Kate finds the body of one of these so called 'perfect' moms. She can't shake it and can't leave it up to the police, so she decides to do her own investigating. What she uncovers makes her question her own ease and balance of image and real parenting. Who are we that matters? What do we project? What would we find out about each other if we were just a little more real?
I liked the concept. Some of the book for me was just okay...there were a few jumps in Kate's investigation that left me questioning where we were a bit. But Jennifer Weiner's characters were once again impeccable. You know these women. They are relatable. There are people like them in your life. I can forgive her jumps, she's not a mystery author. It's the sense of self that you take away that makes this worth reading.

Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner

I fully admit that I get ideas for what to read next off other people's reading lists. That's how I found Jennifer Weiner. A friend of mine had her listed in her iRead list on Facebook. She and I usually have similar reading taste, so I thought I'd check her out. This is the first of 2 of Jennifer Weiner's books I devoured this weekend. Yes I know I'm a book nerd, get over it! I have to admit that the title and the cover picture had me wondering on this one. I was really hoping that this was not a 'naughty' book (I know, I'm somewhat old-fashioned too). It's not BTW. Good in Bed refers to a magazine column that the main character's ex-boyfriend writes (and features her in). What I really, really liked about this book is that Cannie is not perfect looking. She is a plus-sized girl. This is the first book since Meg Cabot's 'Size 12 is not fat' et al, that I've seen that in. Most of the characters I read about are fairly thin and beautiful. Cannie is written as someone that you can really relate to in a best-friend kind of way. If she were real, she and I would probably hang out. The other thing I really loved about this book is that it was completely the opposite of what I thought it was going to be. It wasn't just about this girl mooning over her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, there were so many twists and turns to the plot that I really didn't know what was going to happen next, or how this all would end. Very well written, very much worth reading. I visited Jennifer Weiner's website and learned that she just published a sequel to this one, so I'll have to keep an eye out for it, I'd love to see where Cannie is 12 years later.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin

I know it's more chicklit and I don't care. I enjoy it. And contrary to some people's beliefs it's not just fluff. Sure it's not some big world issues topic, but the topic is relatable and very interesting. What would happen if you bumped into the ex-love of your life? Perhaps, the one you thought you would spend the rest of your life with before you met the one you are spending the rest of your life with.
The main character, Ellen, is a perfectly happy newlywed. She truly does love her life and her husband Andy. She loves the life that they are creating together. Then 100 days into her marriage she bumps into Leo, the one that got away. The great passion of her youth that she thought she had gotten over.
What I love about this premise is that Ellen is not someone who is living in a broken marriage looking for a way out. She honestly loves Andy, but running into Leo puts her in a tailspin. Emily Giffin demonstrates a lot of respect for marriage (which many authors today neglect). She also does a wonderful job of illustrating Ellen's point of view which may or may not be exactly what happened or happens, it's her perspective.
To me this is an interesting concept. Who hasn't googled and ex at one time or another? Even if it is a just checking up to see who has a better life? A kind of where are they now. I have to say that this is my favorite of Emily Giffin's books so far. I thoroughly enjoyed her first 3 and I'm glad I have more to look forward to in the future.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern

No, I haven't seen the movie...and I'll probably wait a while now that the book is fresh in my mind (I hate reading/seeing the same story close together, drives me nuts!)
Anyways, my good friend Jaclyn lent this to me after her disbelief that I had neither read or watched this, apparently I was missing out.
The premise of the story is this: Holly's husband dies at an early age, the book centres around the year that follows his passing. I know, it sounds terribly depressing. Who would want to read something so sad? Well you would if it was well written, which this is. Yes, there are parts to cry over, but there are smiles in here too. I liked it. I couldn't put it down really. I just love explaining to the girls at work that I'm not tired because my kids kept me up, but rather I couldn't put a book down. So thank you Jaclyn for brightening my day by giving me a good ole cry.

The Vinyl Cafe, Unplugged by Stuart McLean

Stuart Mclean is a story teller, not a novelist. My mom introduced me to his work a few years back when she sent me this book. I was enchanted. The Vinyl Cafe stories can be heard on CBC radio. They are centred on a family of 4 living in Ontario. They are humourous and enjoyable. I do have one admission to make...I've never listened to Stuart Mclean. I've never heard his CBC show and I've never seen him live. I've only read his books.
As I do with most authours I enjoy, I read through Stuart Mclean's books all at once. I haven't read any since. The nice thing about these stories, is because they are short stories, I can pick them up and leave them, as I did this week in between books. These stories are honest and touching and above all funny. They draw on the lighter side of everyday life and living...very Canadian, very reccommended.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger

Now that's more like it. After the disappointing reading of Soapsuds (yet another lesson to never judge a book by its cover), Chasing Harry Winston came in for me at the library. Lauren Weisberger is chick lit at it's newest and finest. This is her third literary foray and highly enjoyable read.
As I was reading I was thinking of all the contrasts to Soapsuds. This book also looked at the year in the life of...(in this case 3 best friends living in New York), but it also had plot (an interesting one at that) and character development. I know, just 2 little things that can make all the difference in a book. Sure, the book will be dated 10 years down the road, but, it will still be enjoyable because it is well written.
The story follows 3 friends who are at some kind of a cross roads in their lives. They are all nearing the dreaded age of 30, with no kids and no husbands in tow. Emmy's boyfriend of 5 years has just left her for a younger model, Leigh's life seems perfect, but she is dissatisfied and can't quite pin point it, and Adriana is wondering if there is more than just a string of flings. Emmy and Adriana place a resolution bet to do something in complete contrast to their usual over the next year and Leigh is along for the ride. Once again, Weisberger delivers with believable, relatable characters with a fun story. Much restoring my faith that yes, there are books that I haven't read yet that I will enjoy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Soapsuds by Finola Hughes and Digby Diehl

I picked up Soapsuds for an in between books read. (I'd be waiting for a few I'd requested to come in at the library). I was in a hurry and the cover looked interesting. It was only after I was home that I wondered about why the name and face on the back looked familliar to me. Duh, Finola Hughes is an actress, a soap actess. Though I've never watched any of her soaps (I was a Days fan when I did watch), I knew I knew her from somewhere.
The plot of the book is (surprise surprise) a year in the life of an English/Irish woman who moves to Hollywood to star in a soap. Hmmmm...how much of this is fiction and how much is autobiographical? I kept waiting for some kind of a plot...but one never really materialised. I kinda got into the pattern of following the behind the scenes at a soap, but at the end, I thought what's the point? With no real storyline, the ending was weak. I look forward to starting my next book (which I picked up on Friday) with much higher expectations than Soapsuds.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Peter Pan by JM Barrie

Peter Pan is one of my all time favorite childhood stories. It was a favorite movie (and ride) in the Disney version. I absolutely adore the newer movie version put out about 4 years ago. And I was fascinated with Return to Neverland. But I have a confession to make, I'd never actually watched the play or read the book. I'd always intended on it, but it never happened. I did buy the book, but it became one of those well intended books that sat on my shelf and sat on my shelf and sat on my shelf, unopened.
This past weekend, I ran out of things to read. I spent a day of nervous energy peering into my bookshelves for something to tide me over until the library opened again (summer hours drive me nuts)...I toyed a bit re-reading some the Vinyl Cafe Stories by Stuart McLean, and though they are amusing, they are still too fresh in my memory to really fill my literature void. And suddenly Peter Pan jumped out at me. Would this actually be the time I started to read the book? Yes. Now I remember why I'm so attached to these movies. It is such a magical, endearing story. I'm about 3/4 through now and am amazed. The writing style is so good. Why they don't write children's books like this anymore, I'll never know. It's so smart. (I don't like the dumbing down of things). There is so much more to the story than Disney could ever have portrayed (the newer movie is much more accurate). As I approach these last pages, I'm feeling fulfilled in having read a truly good book and I look forward to the day when I can share these stories with my own boys.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Ericson

I've read a lot of historical fiction in the last few years based on the life of Henry VIII or one of his wives. It is a fascinating era. It was an era thick with intregue, church reform, fear, treason, excess at court, love, lust, political games, plague...
My favorite of these books is Margaret George's Diary of Henry VIII with notes by his fool Will Somer. It is by far, the best researched and most believable. (If you do seek it out, get over the sheer size of the book, it's easy to get into and you'll be amazed as you zip through it).
Carolly Ericson's book based on the life of Catherine Parr is the latest of these books to cross my path. Catherine Parr is one of Henry's wives that I knew very little about. She was the last (and the only wife to not be set aside by Henry in some fashion). She played the role of comforter and nurse to a man much older than her, that she did not love. After all, if the king of England decides you'll be his wife, than you darn well will be.
I quite enjoyed Ericson's narritive of Parr's life. She opens the story when Parr is just 7 years old, meeting the woman she was named after, Henry's 1st wife, Katherine of Aragon and closes with her death at the age of 36.
One reason I enjoy historical fiction is that these are stories about people who really lived. They helped shape our society. They made their mark on this earth and there is something about them that keeps us wanting to know who they were all these years later. Usually, historical books will promt me to do my own small research to begin to sort out fact from fiction. I certainly did that when I read another of Ericson's book, based on the life of Marie Antionette and plan on doing that again with the Parrs. It's not just Catherine's life that I wonder about, but also, those who played a supporting role, like her 1st husband, her brother, and a few of her friends. How much of their characters is supported by history and how much inventing did Ericson have to do? Just some things I find fascinating.

About Stephanie Plum

Discovering Stephanie Plum has been my summer project. I wanted something light, fun and unlike anything else I'd read before. In case you are not familiar with her. Stephanie Plum is the leading character of a series of mysteries authored by Janet Evanovich. Stephanie is a 30ish Jersey Girl who becomes a bounty hunter by despiration and does well at it purely by accident. The supporting cast is just as much fun. There's her grandmother whose favorite source of entertainment is attending the local funeral parlour viewings. Her sometimes sidekick, Lula an ex-hooker turned around, but still holding onto the attitude. And let's not forget the men in her life, Morelli, the bad-boy turned cop who she can't quite commit to, but can't live without and Ranger, her mentor who is, let's face it 'hot' (perhaps the reason Stephanie can't quite commit to Morelli).
I started the series at the end of June and have read through the 1st 13 plus the 2 'between the numbers' books. I anxiously await the 14th, which is the most recently published Plum book. If you haven't read these yet, do read them in order. Although most cases don't require having read them in order, the character development certainly does.
In my summer of Plum I've found a few online threads related to the series. The most intreguing to me are the discussions of if the Plum books were to be a movie...
I guess when the idea first came to make a movie out of these books, the ideal person to play Stephanie would have been Sandra Bullock. I totally agree, she would have been perfect, 10 years ago. I also understand that Reese Witherspoon has some rights and association with the film rights to the books, but I just can't see her as Stephanie. So who would I cast if the movie were to be made today? Here's my take:
Stephanie: Brittany Murphy
Morelli: Balthazaar Getty
Ranger: Mario Lopez
Lula: Mo'nique
Connie: Marissa Tomei
Vinnie: Steve Buscemi
Grandma: Cloris Leachman
Stephanie's Mom: Rita Wilson
Valerie: Judy Greer