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. 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