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) 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.