Some of My Favorite Books

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

I saw this novel on a list of books from 2010 to read and then saw it at the library. I'm so glad I did! How this book, "Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter," got its name is explained in the book:

M, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I humpback, humpback, I.

-  How southern children are taught to spell Mississippi

This is one of the best books I've read in a good long time. The dialogue alone is priceless! For instance, take the way Larry Ott's father teaches his son to thank his mother for supper: 

"Enjoyed it."

This who dun it is literature and a good story, all wrapped up in one nice neat package. Franklin has written three other books. For sure I'll read them too.

Book Read:  Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Author:  Tom Franklin
ISBN:  978-0-06-059466-4

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Till You Hear From Me by Pearl Cleage

Well, I had read What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage years ago. It was great. Funny, insightful. This book, Till You Hear From Me, her latest, did not live up to Cleage's first novel. Oh well.

Merry Christmas and read something good!

Book Read:  Till You Hear From Me
Author:  Pearl Cleage

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In Harm's Way is the first of Ridley Pearson's books I've read, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was suspenseful and a who-dun-it that I didn't figure out. Not that I ever do!

This book is one in a series featuring Sheriff Walt Fleming.  I may just have to go back and read the earlier Sheriff Fleming books, Killer Weekend, Killer View, and Killer Summer.

Book Read:  In Harm's Way
Author:  Ridley Pearson
ISBN:  978-0-399-15654-0

Monday, November 29, 2010

Disobedience by Jane Hamilton

I was about to finish this book last night, lying in bed, but I was tired, beginning to fade. I wanted to give Disobedience its rightful due, so I stuck the makeshift bookmark, a drawing by my grandson of a musical staff, if that's what it's called, and a treble clef and another musical symbol (??) with a smiley face, back in my book.

I got up this morning anticipating finishing the book. I made a pot of coffee and got a blueberry muffin and sat down to read the final 20 or so pages. It was worth the 8-hour wait. If you've never read Jane Hamilton's books, I think you should. Even though she writes what I think will become known as literature, not just fiction, her books are highly readable (unlike some stuffy books, to me anyway, that live through the ages) and engaging.

An article about Disobedience in the Wisconsin Academy Review is "Jane Hamilton Gets Naughty:  Her new novel, Disobedience, takes a nuanced, witty look at adultery and family ties." Yep, that about sums it up.

Book Read:  Disobedience
Author:  Jane Hamilton
ISBN:  0-385-50117-X 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Strange Fits of Passion by Anita Shreve

I love to read Anita Shreve's books, and Strange Fits of Passion did not disappoint. I really like her typical setting, New England, and her books are generally dark and so well written that I get drawn in and think about the book all through the day.

This book had a unique premise, a true-crime writer who wrote an article, then a book about a 1971 case that today would have been viewed entirely different. Shreve wrote Strange Fits of Passion in 1991, so I checked IMDB to see if a movie had been made of it. Nope. There is a movie by the same name but it's billed as "compelling" (that fits) and a "comedy" (that does not fit). Darn.

Book Read:  Strange Fits of Passion
Author:  Anita Shreve
ISBN:  978-0156-03139-4

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

When I started reading Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner, it was like deja vu all over again. I had just read Janelle Brown's All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

The two books have an eerie number of similarities:  a powerful cheating husband, a wife who's put her life on hold to take care of him, his career, their house, and their two daughters, two daughters in each book with their own set of problems. The younger one even gets pregnant, in each book. And she's named Lizzie in each book to boot! Hmmm.

But, since these two books were written (or at least published) around the same time, I guess this particular plot just was cycling through these two women's minds.

I like this author's writing. She's detailed enough to show the scenery, crafts good characters that are believable, and enough plot twists that aren't so obvious that you can predict with 100 percent accuracy what will happen.

Book Read:  Fly Away Home
Author:  Jennifer Weiner
ISBN:  978-0-7432-9427-0 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What I Didn't See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler

I just finished reading this great book of short stories:  What I Didn't See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler. I was surprised by how good this book was. Of course, I'd read Fowler's novel, The Jane Austen Book Club a few years ago and though I don't read Jane Austen, her novel was good. This collection of mostly creepy short stories was better! When Fowler added the sci-fi convention in The Jane Austen Book Club, she was staying true to her love, I think. This book reeked of sci-fi, which I don't usually read, but mostly enjoyed.

I especially liked the first short story, "The Pelican Bar." Very unsettling, made you think. All the good qualities of fiction.

Book Read:  What I Didn't See and Other Stories
Author:  Karen Joy Fowler
ISBN:  978-1-931520-68-3

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown is another winner, though I liked This Is Where We Live better. I think All We Ever Wanted was just way too out there for me, with the crazy-selfish lives led by the three women at the center of this book.

The mother was a mess from day (page) one and progressively got worse till she was a wreck.Margaret, daughter No. 1, was someone I could relate to somewhat but turned out to be as big a flake as her mother, just in different ways. And poor, pitiful Lizzie, daughter No. 2 was also a hot mess that, with luck, will turn out all right.The father? A pig.

Book Read:  All We Ever Wanted Was Everything
Author:  Janelle Brown
ISBN:  978-0-385-52401-8

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Is Where We Live by Janelle Brown

Okay, I can't believe how good this book is! I thought it would be a fluffy, girly-girl chick lit book with little substance. A book I could cruise through when I felt like it. Wrong. I ended up reading a chapter here and there throughout the day, every day, to see what Claudia and Jeremy would do next. It was that good.

This Is Where We Live is a timely look at today's crap economy, including the job market and real estate bust, how some people feel entitled and their reactions when things don't go the way they'd planned. And the author spins a good tale of life in Los Angeles, among the fruits and nuts that would personally drive me crazy if I ever tried to live there.

I have Brown's other book, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, on reserve at the library. Yay! That should take me through the weekend. Get busy, girl, and write some more.

Book Read:  This Is Where We Live
Author:  Janelle Brown
ISBN:  978-0-385-52403-2

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The House on Salt Hay Road by Carin Clevidence

The House on Salt Hay Road is a novel about the lives of an extended, makeshift family living on Long Island. Nothing much happens, but normal family stuff, which is to say nothing is normal to all families, so things happen indeed.

I love this kind of book because of the nitty gritty details that unfold about the individual family members. From outward appearances, most of the time nothing special happens but when we get to see what they're thinking and wanting, their worlds are pretty interesting after all.

This novel is set in the late 1930s and just their existence is sometimes hard work, not to mention their inner obstacles. The ending brings more action than anyone could have wished for.

Book Read:  The House on Salt Hay Road
Author:  Carin Clevidence
ISBN:  978-0-374-17314-2

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Wow! I hadn't heard of this book when I picked it up at the Phoenix Library last week but I'm glad I brought it home. I almost didn't because it wouldn't check out at the self-service area where you have to check out books. I took it to the counter and a librarian checked it out for me. I'm so glad. This is probably the best nonfiction book I've read in years. 

The cover of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot reads:

"Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry. More than twenty years later, her children found out. Their lives would never be the same."

This book tells the story of a poor Black woman in the 1950s who had cervical cancer, went to Johns Hopkins for treatment, and died at the age of 30. She left behind five children and the HeLa cell. At the time, cells were taken from all patients and Henrietta's cancer cells lived and multiplied unlike any other cells before. The name HeLa was given to the cells by the doctors and scientists taking the first two letters from the patients' names. In this case, He from Henrietta and La from Lacks to make HeLa.

The story of Henrietta's children and her cells are intertwined, making for a fascinating tale. The author spent 10 years researching and writing the story after hearing the name Henrietta Lacks in a science class in high school and being unable to learn anything about the woman whose cells have contributed so much to the science and medical worlds.

You've benefited from HeLa cells. We all have. Her cells have provided cells for scientific researchers to test drugs, vaccines, and much more. Read it. I think you'll like it.

Book Read:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author:  Rebecca Skloot
ISBN:  978-1-40000-5217-2

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Private Life by Jane Smiley

What a nice surprise I got at the library last week. I saw a new book by Jane Smiley! Private Life is the story of a woman born in 1880s Missouri and her life up till World War II. Like all of her other novels, which I've read except The Greenlanders, Smiley wrote another winner with Private Life. I liked this one in particular but felt total pity for Margaret. She finally realized that everyone thought her husband was a FOOL, affirming her hidden feelings. Whew.

If you've never read any of Jane Smiley's books, I'd say pick one, any one. Do not tarry.

And today when I went to volunteer at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, I saw My Name is Memory on the bookshelf. How cool! I'd just finished reading it in real life then got to record a few chapters today.

Book Read:  Private Life
Author:  Jane Smiley
ISBN:  978-1-40000-40600-5

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares

My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares. This is the first of Brashares' books I've read. She also wrote those traveling pants books and The Last Summer (of You and Me).

Well, this was a different book. The premise is unlike anything I've ever read. Daniel is a soul that remembers all of his past lives from 1,200 years ago. He can't remember when his birthday is (which one?) and pines after Sophia/Lucy, a girl/woman he loves and has loved through the ages. In this case, forever.

This book was totally unique in the premise but so unbelievable that I have mixed feelings about it. Toward the end, I found some of the fantasy elements a little too tricky. But then again, I tend to lean toward the boring, matter of fact novels that could really happen.

Book Read:  My Name Is Memory
Author:  Ann Brashares
ISBN:  978-1-594478-758-3

Friday, September 17, 2010

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I borrowed this book, Housekeeping, from my son. He has quite the library of an assortment of books, both fiction and nonfiction. Some books he's read, some he hasn't yet. I've read other books by Marilynne Robinson and the last one I'd read, Gilead, was long and a little like slogging through thick mud in sandals. But I'd seen the movie of the book Housekeeping. The book was published in 1980. And the movie was wonderful. And turns out so is the book.

When I was finishing this book, my mind was on a friend from high school who died this week from cancer. It was shocking. She has a little boy and had been sick more than a year but no updates were posted online for a few weeks so it was a surprise. Not a good one. And then last night as I was finishing this book, I read this passage that made me think even more of Claudia:

"There is little to remember of anyone--an anecdote, a conversation at table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long."

It was a fitting tribute to losing a friend. A friend I only kept in contact with online and through a few cards I'd sent to her while she was in the hospital, but a friend who was always herself. Always happy, with a smile and laugh that was unmistakable. Farewell, Claudia.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Split Image, A Jesse Stone Novel by Robert B. Parker

I'm a big fan of the Jesse Stone movies on television. You know the ones--Stone Cold, Sea Change, Death in Paradise--with Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone, the chief of police of Paradise, Massachusetts. Or maybe you don't. 

But I don't miss these movies. The spare language delivered so well by Tom Selleck, his mostly gloomy demeanor, his face! Any way, I'd never read any of the Jesse Stone novels, and there are 8 others.

In fact, I'd never read any of Robert B. Parker's books. He wrote the Spenser novels that Spenser for Hire was based on and the Sunny Randall novels, the western Appaloosa that the 2008 movie was based on. He was prolific. And as I usually do, I looked up Parker online. I thought he'd died recently. Yep, in January of this year of a heart attack. Darn. But he left more than 50 books and since I've only read this one, I have some catching up to do.

I liked Parker's writing style. It didn't get in the way of the story, but sometimes his writing is abrupt. Very abrupt. Like the last sentence in this almost flowery paragraph, flowery for him, any way:

After lunch they walked back to the station, where Sunny had parked. It was late summer, and cooler than it usually was in August. The sky seemed clean and fresh, and the air was soft. The houses of the old town were built intimately next to each other and to the street. There were a lot of people walking around.

Book Read:  Split Image
Author:  Robert B. Parker
ISBN:  978-0-399-15623-6

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz

I finally finished this book last night around 1 a.m. Finally. I picked up The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz at the library because I saw that he also wrote Reservation Road. I haven't read that book but really liked the movie. I think I would like the book Reservation Road better than I liked The Commoner.

This was a good book, very thorough in developing the characters, the customs of the Japanese Chrysanthemum Throne, and this fictitious look at an outsider (a commoner) marrying into the monarchy. Maybe it's that foreign thing I have; I usually can't get into books set elsewhere and certainly can't relate. But this was a good book with an even better ending than I imagined, in my opinion.

Book Read:  The Commoner
Author:  John Burnham Schwartz
ISBN:  978-0-385-51571-9

Friday, August 20, 2010

This Time Together, Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett.

When I went to the library last week, I picked up This Time Together, Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett from the Best Picks table. I was still knee deep in Special Topics in Calamity Physics at the time, which I was having trouble getting through. As a reward, when I finished that long bad boy earlier this week, I decided to read Carol Burnett's latest book. And I loved it! Devoured it in a couple of days because...

I love Carol Burnett.

I mean I really love her. She is so funny. And the book brings back so many of the good memories I have of watching her show. Did you know it was on for 11 seasons? I just knew it as always on. And when it was gone, I missed it. She got the title from the song she and the cast always sang at the end of the show, "I'm so glad we had this time together."

I saw Jim Carrey talking on Oprah earlier this year about Carol Burnett and I could totally relate. She was (is) pure genius. She wrote this book in small chunks, chapters that are never more than 10 pages or so long. Not long enough, but she tells the story and wraps things up just right.

Do you have a memoir or autobiography that you've read that you'd like to share?

Book Read:  This Time Together, Laughter and Reflection
Author:  Carol Burnett
ISBN:  978-0-307-46118-6

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Okey, dokey. When my daughter gave me Special Topics in Calamity Physics to read, I made a face. Unlike her, I did not major in chemistry (never even took chemistry, ever, or physics, like she had, advanced college courses, at that) and thought this looked way over my head, even though I knew it wasn't a textbook. It is fiction, but still. That name. But she said, "I think you'll like it." And I did.

Blue Van Meer and her father Gareth live their lives changing schools each year. He's a college professor and she's a senior, the year she narrates the story. The first two-thirds of the book is filled with background on their relationship, her starting her final year of high school at yet another new school, tales of the June Bugs (women Gareth dates for a minute then drops the next), and the new friends that Blue is thrust into at the invitation of a film teacher, Hannah Schneider. And it's very scholarly with references thrown in to real and probably made-up books to stuff I just don't know about. Lots of background. Lots.

But once the murder/suicide/whatever it was in the woods occurred, the book got interesting. In fact, the last two-thirds of the book flew by. Granted, I stayed up late last night and got up early and read till after 10 this morning, but I wanted to finish this book.

I won't give the plot away, but Special Topics in Calamity Physics is an interesting read that leaves you wondering, which Pessl refers to somewhere in the 514 pages--the fact that many of us dullard Americans don't like movies or books that have ambiguous endings. I don't mind them, nor did I mind this ending. I thought the whole book was totally unrealistic, of course, but an interesting read.

Have you read this book? What did you think of Blue and her father and the whole premise?

Book Read:  Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Author:  Marisha Pessl
ISBN:  0-670-03777-X

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Long Time, No Post

It's been a while since I've posted here. It's not that I haven't been reading. I have. I finished up a big copy editing project last week and am reading a big book that seems to be taking me FOREVER! It's Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.  

STICP is good, but all of the trivial facts are way over my head, making me read slower, I think. And no, it's not about physics or I wouldn't be reading it. Ugh.

I predict I'll finish it within the week though since I won't be reading ALL day EVERY day in addition to the evening fun reading I do.
What are you reading?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

I stayed up till almost 3 last night (this morning?) and finished reading Juliet, Naked. I tried going to sleep around 1:30 but the dry Arizona air was hot, I was itchy, and I knew that book was sitting a few feet away. So, I turned on the light again.
This book title lends itself so well to a nice play on words. I posted in my Facebook status earlier this week that I was:

Off to bed to read Juliet, Naked. Nick Hornby is such a good writer!

One friend "liked" it, and I had the following comments:
  • Virginia asked:  Wasn't sure if that was the book title or if you like to read in the buff. :-)
  • Mary commented:  LOL -- I thought the same thing. TMI!!
Mums the word on that comment. Yikes! But thank goodness for punctuation and capitalization. The book is SO GOOD! Read it. If you've never read any of Nick Horby's books, this is a great one to start with. It has a universal theme (fan obsession). In this case, it's a washed up music group. Who among us hasn't wished for a return from a band, an actor, an author?

And again, Hornby's writing is so good. You just have to read it to know what I mean. Here's one instance where his insight and attention to detail is amazing. Duncan, the number one obsessed fan is musing about Tucker Crowe, the reclusive singer Duncan idolizes:

Tucker Crowe was his life partner. If Crowe were to die--to die in real life, as it were rather than creatively--Duncan would lead the mourning. (He'd already written the obituary. Every now and again he'd worry out loud about whether he should show it to a reputable newspaper now, or wait until it was needed.)

To me, Hornby almost writes like a woman, in his details, thought process, and the way his mind circles around something picking it apart like I know I do from time to time. Guess that's not a female thing, just a thing.

Hornby has written five other novels (About a Boy and High Fidelity to name two) and a small boatload of nonfiction books, which I'm going to have to turn to next. I haven't read Slam, a novel for teens, so I'll give it a go as well. Try him, you'll like him!

Book Read:  Juliet, Naked
Author:  Nick Hornby
ISBN:  978-1-59448-887-0

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Write Like...

Stephen King. That's what the Website "I Write Like" says any way. I wish!

I saw information about "I Write Like" on Facebook and pasted in my last blog entry. And stranger things have happened but I can't think of too many right now, but I'm not reading a book right now so won't have a blog update for at least a few days so decided to post this instead. Two of my sisters and one crazy little nephew were here visiting last week so we had other fun (than reading).

Find out who you write like and post the author's name in the comments below. It'll be fun to see!

I write like
Stephen King
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg

I just finished reading Elizabeth Berg's lastest book, The Last Time I Saw You. This one is about a group of people debating going to their fortieth high school reunion, their last reunion. For some reason it's their last, like why bother having a fiftieth--everyone will be dead by then or something.

Anyhoo, as someone who's never attended a high school reunion and has no plans to, I read The Last Time I Saw You with mixed feelings:  "why would anyone go to one of those" to "it would be interesting to see some people" to "I wonder who would recognize me with my teeth straightened?" But Berg does a good job of featuring most of the key players from high school, you know the ones; they were in every class:  the popular jock, the cheerleaders, the nerds and dweebs (raising my hand), the people who died in car wrecks, wars, and illnesses, and some truly forgettable people that no one remembers at all.

But near the end of the book, what Berg is famous for, drawing the reader in, the story gels and the feeling of being wrapped in a cozy blanket emerges without any fluff.

Book Read:  The Last Time I Saw You
Author:  Elizabeth Berg
ISBN:  978-1-4000-686-7

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I, Alex Cross by James Patterson

Like all of James Patterson's books, I enjoyed reading the 3- or 4-page chapters (feels like you're really accomplishing something!) in I, Alex Cross, but this book was especially gory (a wood chipper? really?) and just sick and wrong. And the storyline was unbelievable to me, not that some of the strangest stories can't really happen. Maybe they really do. But this one just didn't grab me like some of his books have. I think I, Alex Cross is a good summer read though. Except be warned:  It's not nice nor light.

Book Read:  I, Alex Cross
Author:  James Patterson
ISBN:  978-0-316-01878-4

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Snow Blind by P.J. Tracy

This book was a mystery lite. I mean, sure, it had some murders, five that come to mind, but it wasn't gory, which isn't a bad thing. Snow Blind also didn't involve the Monkeewrench gang as much as its predecessors.

P.J. Tracy, the author(s), is really a mother-daughter team. They write mystery novels featuring a foursome of geeks, the Monkeewrench crew, who write crime-solving software and help the Minneapolis police solve crimes. So, the book was good (an English teacher turned sheriff was interesting, as was the fortress city where abused women went to live to be safe), but it wasn't spectacular.

Book Read:  Snow Blind
Author:  P.J. Tracy
ISBN:  0-399-15339-X

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Solar by Ian McEwan

I just finished reading Solar by Ian McEwen. If you're not familiar with McEwan, he's a British writer who wrote Atonement, Amsterdam, Enduring Love, and other novels. I like his writing, but have to admit that Solar was way over my head. I'm no scientist, so when I read the passages about global warming, photovoltaics, artificial photosynthesis, and the like, most was lost on me even though it was well written and interesting and oh so timely.

The protaganist is Michael Beard, an overweight, womanizing Nobel prize winning Einstein loving scientist who was truly pathetic in just about every aspect of his life. McEwan's details of Beard's problems with his girth alone makes it worth reading. Beard's adventure riding the snow machine to get to the North Pole conference--and having to stop to take a whiz in the sub-zero temperatures--alone is worth reading this book.

What baffled me was how this pig (and I use that term in every negative way possible except having to do with the animal) could get five women to marry him and had two more fighting over him in the final pages. Quite a tale!

Book Read:  Solar
Author:  Ian McEwan
ISBN:  978-0-8350533416

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

I finished The Feast of Love, and yep, the book is as good as the movie, which I mentioned in the previous post that I loved. The hard part for me was that the book used a story-collector, who happened to be called Charles Baxter, JUST LIKE THE AUTHOR! Well, when I emailed him, I asked the author if this was autobiographical and he said no. But in the movie, one of the characters takes on the role of the narrator/story-collector, which for the movie just made it easier, I suppose. But otherwise, not too many variations. A few, but not too many.

The Feast of Love is a somber book for the most part, but I caught myself laughing out loud a few times while reading it. The following passage was my favorite of those. A little background:  Bradley, the human, is sitting at Jackson Cascades, a waterfall attraction in Jackson, Michigan. He is feeling forlorn after his second wife, Diana, leaves him and he drives from Ann Arbor to Jackson to sit with others and get bit by mosquitoes and watch the waterfall light show while they played Neil Diamond music:

"Down below me were some families, likewise sitting, likewise watching this spectacle but perkier than I was. One child wearing Oshkosh overalls was running in widening circles. He was yelling, 'I'm gonna explode!' I nodded at him. Okay with me, kid. You just explode right there. I'm watching, and I've got the good view."

So, if you want a real treat, read The Feast of Love then watch The Feast of Love. 

Book ReadThe Feast of Love
Author:  Charles Baxter
ISBN: 0-375-41019-8

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Don't listen to me. What do I know? Unless I do know...

Well, Barbara Kingsolver won the Orange Prize for The Lacuna. You know, the book that just didn't flip my switch. But what do I know? Not much evidently!

I did start reading The Feast of Love though, which I do love! I'd read one other of Charles Baxter's books, First Light, many years ago, and it was so original in the format and well written to boot. I have had The Feast of Love sitting on my nightstand for a long time, have meant to read, have tried to read it, but I did it bassackwards:  I watched the movie first, which I totally love, instead of reading the book first.

And so, I got a wild hair the other night and looked up Mr. Baxter on the internet, which I usually do after I read a book but I felt like this was a special circumstance since I've seen the movie (many times) and know what's going to happen. So, as I was tooling around his Web site, I saw the "email the author" button and I did! And he emailed me back! And we've exchanged a couple of emails, while I'm reading his book. How cool is that? I'll tell you how cool. For a word nerd, wanna be author, it's the best.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Well, it's summer--maybe not officially for another 2 weeks--but with the temps hitting 100 here in Phoenix, it's summer. And the book Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner is exactly what many would call a "good summer read," a good book for staying in out of the heat or going out and enjoying the warm weather if it's not already a blazing 90+ degrees and it's not even 9 a.m. where you are. Ugh.

Best Friends Forever: A NovelI have to admit, I read this book during the day, at night, whenever I could. It was a nice escape, and I like the writing. Nothing flowery but a good story with realistic, interesting characters; a good old-fashioned bait and switch (get him naked then hit and run); two opposites who were best friends.

Book ReadBest Friends Forever
Author:  Jennifer Weiner
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9429-4

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Lacuna a No Go

In case anyone gives a rip, I am not going to read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. I really really really think she is an excellent writer, but this one didn't do it for me, so it's in the book bag to go back to the Snotsdale Library when I go there next.

I picked up Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner (is that pronounced weener or whiner? I will have to check.) and I'm enjoying it. Go figure. I am shameful. But she's a very good writer too. She wrote the book In Her Shoes (I've seen the movie) and Good in Bed (I've read it) and others.

Okay, just checked. Here's how it's pronounced straight from the horse's mouth (that is, from Ms. Weiner's blog):

"...And finally I find it, and then phone rings with my backup emergency wake-up call.

"Miz Weener?"

Yeah. Great. Good morning to you, too. (You do know that it's Wyner, right? The infinitely less offensive pronunciation. Note to self: consider using married name while travelling.)"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Oh man. I just finished House Rules by Jodi Picoult and it's 11 a.m. I read mostly at night before bed, but for really good books, I like to be wide awake. And this is a really good book. The best I've read in a long, long time. I always enjoy Picoult's books but sometimes the particular topic is one I can't really relate to or don't understand or just don't care about that much.

But House Rules covers two hots topics:  Asperger's syndrome and forensic science. I don't even know what to say except READ IT!

Book ReadHouse Rules
Author:  Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9643-4

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cut that meat! Cleaving by Julie Powell

Cleaving, Julie Powell's second book, is about her butcher internship at a small butcher shop in upstate New York. I imagine after her crazy success with her first book, Julie and Julia, she had more time and money on her hands than she knew what to do with. She used this butchering business as a diversion. That and an affair and overindulgence in wine. She could have just as easily done something different, like counting cracks in the sidewalks of Manhattan or watching paint dry so I suppose it was at least useful, but man, she's one self-indulged freak!

It was a little difficult to read all about her cheating on her husband, and staying with him, and him cheating on her, and the way this D character treated her and how pitifully she pursued him. Oh brother. And all that meat talk wasn't that pleasant to me. I mean, I hate to cut the fat off steak to make stir fry, and forget cutting up a whole chicken. Those suckers go in the crock pot or the oven if they even make it home. But it wasn't as bad as My Year of Meats, which just begged to gross people out. It was a very good novel but gross as hell, in parts.

 What grosses you out?

Book ReadCleaving
Author:  Julie Powell
ISBN: 978-0-316-00336-0

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Half Broke Horses, the winner by a head

Well, I did something I hardly ever do. I started reading one book then started another before finishing the first one. Shame. The first book? The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.

I know! I love her books, usually. I'm having trouble loving this one though. I started it, liked it okay but never really got absorbed in the storyline. Those darned foreign settings. They trip me up nearly every time. This one is set in Mexico and the U.S. I don't know what it is. I guess I just can't relate.

Anyway, I saw Half Broke Horses on the New Books table at the Phoenix library when I was picking up some movies on the reserve shelf. I grabbed it! I loved The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. If you love memoirs (I do!) and you love larger than life tales (I do!), I think you'll love it. So, I figured I'd also like Half Broke Horses. I did.

The cover calls it "a true life novel," because it's based on Walls' maternal grandmother's life but she wrote it in first person and filled in the blanks, the details when she really didn't know exactly what was said or some of what happened. But this was as good as The Glass Castle, in my opinion. The book covers Lily Casey Smith's life from when she was about 10 years old till the 1950s. The woman was incredible. We have nothing to complain about.

I zipped through the book, then went to the Scottsdale library to pick up some movies (yes, I watch a lot of movies) and saw Cleaving, sitting on the New Non-fiction shelf, by that narcissistic whiner Julie Powell (Julie and Julia). So, I sat down to read a little to see if I could stomach it; it's about her new-found love--being a butcher. Yick. I hate cutting up meat, but I have to admit, I got sucked it. So, now I'm reading it. I must be in a memoir mood.

We'll see if in a few days when I finish Cleaving if The Lacuna opens up to me again.

Book ReadHalf Broke Horses
Author:  Jeannette Walls
ISBN: 978-0-670-02165-9

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert -- Life Sentence or A Good Thing?

Committed. The word, when I first saw it on the cover of Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, inscribed on the inside of a gold wedding band, struck me as hilarious. I mean, committed. It's a humor book, surely! Committed. A life sentence. Penance for being stupid. That's my take on marriage these days. For me.

And Gilbert, who is best known for that little book a few years back--Eat, Pray, Love--I think felt (feels?) the same way, to a degree. The subtitle after all is "A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage." Maybe that was added by an editor? Maybe she really does buy it. I don't know. She admits she never planned on marrying again. Ever.

But as it turns out, she and her man that she met in Bali (at the end of EPL), "Felipe" (his real name is Jose, at least that's what I found from a quick Internet search) HAD to get married. Not because she was preggers or anything. No, if they wanted to stay together in the United States, they had to get married (if SHE was approved and if he successfully jumped through 50 or 60 hoops). It was that or he could no longer enter the United States because he was born in Brazil, and Homeland Security started cracking down big time on foreigners and how long they could stay in the U.S., or if they could be here at all.

So, Gilbert spent the next 10 months trotting the globe with Felipe/Jose reading books about marriage, talking to women everywhere she went about marriage, generally researching the institution of wedded bliss (tongue firmly in cheek) to write this book. One example of something she came across was when they were living in Southeast Asia, somewhere. They visited a woman who explained that her friend had to leave the village and go live in the city because she got divorced. The woman said, "A marriage is best when there is only one captain. It is easiest if the husband is the captain." See? That right there makes me feel sick because obviously I'm my own captain, and once I realized that and made peace with it, I got a lot happier. She didn't convince me. I think marriage is a made-up convention that works for some people and not so much for others. I'm one of the others.

Book ReadCommitted
Author:  Elizabeth Gilbert
ISBN: 978-0-670-02165-9

Monday, May 10, 2010

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving -- His most autobiographical novel yet?

If you are as big a fan of John Irving as I am and you've read his latest novel, you might have shook your head throughout, thinking, "Hmmm, that's what he did. Yep, he did that too."

Last Night in Twisted River is the story of John Irving's writing life. The years match. The books match. The long time between book publications match. His writing style matches; he writes the last sentence first as did Danny Angel in LNITR.  Angel doesn't sign books; he writes them. Neither does Irving.

I'm not so sure about the rest. I'm not so sure about these themes:
  • semicolons:  Did he use them as much previously as the writer Danny Angel [who is obviously Irving]? I don't know though he used a wonderful smattering of them in this novel.
  • farting dogs
  • cooking
  • a cursed left hand
  • a naked sky diver
  • big women, lots of big women frequent this novel
  • bears:  Irving finally included bears again. His early novels nearly always had bears and wrestling. I was glad to see bears back in this one.
All in all, I loved this one. Some of the characters who are bigger than life--Ketchum, Six-Pack Pam, Amy--are reminiscent of Melony from The Cider House Rules (his finest book, my favorite book of all time) and T.S.Garp.

Book ReadLast Night in Twisted River
Author:  John Irving
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6384-0

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Okay, I may just be the last person to have read The Help, but it's done. I did it. And it was indeed a very good book. But I'm not sure it was as great as all the hype I heard about it. But that right there may be the problem:  I really prefer watching a movie or reading a book with NO previous outside influence. If I hear something is really good, it really does subliminally set a bar that the real experience never quite meets. That's why I don't read book reviews before I read a book or check out blurbs about movies. Going in blind works for me.

That said, The Help really was a good book. I liked the story within a story or book within the book concept and think that was done very well.

I'll read more of Stockett's books if she writes them. So get busy, girl.

Book ReadThe Help
Author: Kathryn Stockett
ISBN: 978-0-399-15534-5

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

So Much for That by Lionel Shriver

Well, well, well. After a long dry spell of book duds, I finally found a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entire time, and the real clincher, I didn't want it to end.

So Much for That is Lionel Shriver's latest book, and it's fabulous! Not fabulous in a sweet, isn't-life-wonderful kind of way. No, I'm not a lover of Pollyanna crap, and this ain't that.

The premise of So Much for That:  Hard-working, plays-by-the-rules New Yorker, Shep Knacker, wants to accumulate enough money for the Afterlife, what he calls his dream of leaving it all to move to the island of Pemba in Africa. But as life does, he's thrown a curve ball in the ninth inning. And so the story unfolds. This book contains a fabulous take on health care in America and the dilemma of hard-working, tax-paying citizens that often feel screwed to the wall for following the rules. It's tough and honest and so well written.

Shriver's writing is up to snuff in So Much for That just like the other two books of hers I've read:  We Need to Talk About Kevin (it won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2005) and The Post-Birthday World. Wanna-be fiction writers should read her books for a lesson in the use of foreboding. She is a wonderful writer. Read it!

Book ReadSo Much for That
Author: Lionel Shriver
ISBN: 978-0-06-145858-3

Monday, April 5, 2010

Something Blue

I was out of library books so pulled a book from my Amazon shelf (books I sell on Amazon) to read. The winner? Something Blue by Emily Giffin. Not sure if I'd actually call it a winner. It was okay. Didn't read her first book Something Borrowed. Probably won't.

This is chick lit at its best? best representation? whatever, it's chick lit, which I read sparingly but do admit to getting sucked in to while reading it. In fact, I turned off the TV Saturday night because I couldn't find anything to grab my attention and my daughter and grandson where here and already asleep by 9 p.m. (how weird is that?) so it was a different weekend to begin with, and I finished the book.

If you love those Shopaholic books (I don't), you'll love this.

Book ReadSomething Blue
Author: Emily Giffin
ISBN: 978-0-312-32385-1

Monday, March 29, 2010

So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz

I loved Christina Schwarz's book All is Vanity about a writer who struggles with writer's block and on a larger scale about telling stories and whose story is it to tell. I even liked her first novel, Drowning Ruth, maybe not as much as the critics and Oprah, but I just didn't feel it for So Long at the Fair. Maybe it was because two stories were being told 40+ years apart. Maybe because some of the characters didn't get introduced and developed soon enough for me. I don't know. It was good but not my favorite book of hers.

What author do you love? What book of theirs is your favorite?

Book ReadSo Long at the Fair
Author: Christina Schwarz
ISBN: 978-0-385-51029-5

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Change in Altitude

I finished reading Anita Shreve's latest book, A Change in Altitude, the other night. As usual, she delivered. Even though, or maybe, because of, her slightly dark writing style, the story sort of creeps into your being and stays with you. The characters are believable, the writing gorgeous, and in the book, the setting, Africa, stark, at least to me. I'm not usually a huge fan of foreign destinations in books, especially ones that seem so remote and out of touch to anything I can relate to, but Shreve makes the characters' lives seem real and something to care about.

In A Change of Altitude, when the group climbs Mount Kenya, I could almost feel the agony, from the shear physical difficulty to the altitude sickness, to the wanting to get down and be done with it, not that I've ever climbed a mountain like that or anything.

Need to take a trip and never leave the farm? Take a little virtual trip to Africa and read A Change in Altitude.

Book ReadA Change in Altitude
Author:  Anita Shreve
ISBN: 978-0-316-02070-1

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Cheater, a Stinker

Book ReadThe Cheater:  Do You Know Where Your Husband Is?
Author:  Nancy Taylor Rosenberg
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1902-9

Okay, I like to read new authors from time to time to see if I find a winner, and if I do find one, I read all of their books. So I picked up The Cheater, subtitled Do You Know Where Your Husband Is?, by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg at the library. It was on the New Books shelf and if nothing else, I know for sure I haven't read a book if it's sitting there. I've been known to buy books or check out books that really look interesting. No wonder. They look like something I'd really like, and sometimes that's because I've already read them!

No chance of that happening again with this book or this author. I thought the writing was stilted, formal, and a tad on the preachy side, informing her darling audience about eating regularly so the body doesn't store fat cells, for example. If I wanted to read a diet book, I'd read a diet book.

That type of writing is not an enjoyable read to me, when the writing makes you stop and say to yourself, "Hmmm, I'm reading a book... that someone wrote... and not very well at that." Good writing should move the story along and not be obvious. Anyway, I guess that's what I think good writing should be. It's like watching an actor who's obviously acting. Yuck, flip the channel already.

I'd say read this book if you like a good thriller because the components were there even though they were so far-fetched I nearly stopped reading it a couple of times. It was original, I'll give it that but totally unbelievable.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] is Scandalous

Book ReadWhat Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal]
Author:  Zoe Heller 
ISBN:  0-8050-7333-7

I'd seen the movie Notes on a Scandal starring Judi Dench as Barbara, the dreary, sad history teacher, and Cate Blanchett as Sheba, the younger, pretty art teacher, but the book, of course, delved deeper into the diary Barbara kept and the pathetic little life she led. If ever the phrase "get a life" was appropriate, this is it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Celebrate National Grammar Day and March Forth

In case you haven't heard, today, March 4th, is National Grammar Day and to celebrate, Grammar Girl has written (and performed) a song, March Forth:  The Grammar Song.

Take a few minutes today to diagram a sentence or if that's not your thing, skim a funny book about grammar gone wrong. I suggest one like Cake Wrecks by Jen Yates. This fun "picture" book has tons of photos of cakes that were disasters in one way or another, like...

I guess Hannah is the favored child in this bunch; I mean large font... good grief.

And the labor pains aren't the only problem contractions in this hot mess.

And lastly, this person really didn't want a fuss. "Really, I don't want any thing on my cake. Nothing."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Elinor Lipman, You Need to Write Another Book or Two

Book Read:  Isabel's Bed
Author:  Elinor Lipman
ISBN: 0-671-01564-8

I had saved Isabel's Bed to read, and now that I have finished it, I've read all of Elinor Lipman's books. So... you know what that means. She needs to write more! I always enjoy her books and this one was no exception.

Lipman writes tight novels that are full of colorful characters, several of whom per book, I'd like to be friends with. Of course, I'd rather befriend Harriet than Isabel in this one because drama ain't my bag in real life, but it's sure fun to read.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Book That's a Breath of Fresh Air

Isabel's Bed by Elinor Lipman. This is one of the few books she's written that I haven't read yet, so to rid the old, creepy serial killer from my head, I decided this was a perfect pick.

I stumbled across the author Elinor Lipman when someone told me about Laura Lippman, the mystery writer. I saw Lipman's books sitting on the library shelves, through the years, next to Lippman's (Lipman's came first of course... pm vs. pp), but I ignored them. For one thing, some of Elinor Lipman's book covers look ridiculous.

<---This one does not.

Some of her book covers have goofy cartoon-looking people and a font that, when you're looking for a good mystery to read, just can't be taken seriously. But when I finished all of Laura Lippman's books, I picked up one of Lipman's and was instantly hooked. She's fabulous!

I read The Way Men Act first, and I'd recommend it as a first Elinor Lipman book to read. Isabel's Bed is proving to be just as enjoyable.

And did you know that Elinor Lipman wrote Then She Found Me? The movie by the same name starring Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, and the lovely Colin Firth is loosely based on the book. It's one of my favorite movies.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

GR = Gary Ridgway/Green River = Creep

Book Read:  Green River, Running Red, The Real Story of the Green River Killer--America's Deadliest Serial Murderer
Author:  Ann Rule
ISBN:  978-0-7434-6050-7

I just finished Green River, Running Red by Ann Rule. I usually read at night, in bed. Well, I was about 100 pages from the end last night and thought I'd just stay up and finish it. But this part of the book covered the interviews the detectives had with Gary Ridgway about the 48 women he admitted killing, mostly from 1982 to 1985 in Washington state. I am fascinating by these slasher books, but this one really got me. The details he gave were too much right before I was going to sleep. I had to stop reading. Then I had a fitful night's sleep any way. No nightmares but I woke up several times thinking about the jerk. Awful. Horrendous. Yuck.

So, I got up this morning and after checking email, doing a little online farming (pitiful, yes, but fun), etc., I sat down with another cup of coffee and finished reading. To get the bad taste out of my mouth from this horrible ending (actually it was a good ending to the book, just a horrible thing to have happened), I called my friend Marilyn who, like me, loves a good slasher, especially Ann Rule's. She hasn't read GR,RR, so I may send it to her. She remembered Gary Ridgway though from the news and that it seemed to drag on. It did. He was finally arrested in 2001 but wasn't sentenced for 2 more years--a life sentence for each count of murder to run consecutively. So he'll rot in prison. Good.

What book have you read that creeped you out?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ann Rule Rules!

Let me just say it and get it outta the way. I love Ann Rule! In case you've been living under a rock or just don't read true crime books, Ann Rule is the leading true crime writer.

I haven't read one of Rule's books in several years; maybe that's why I've felt out of sorts. Hmmm. Anyway, I started reading Green River, Running Red night before last and just love it. Hear me out. I don't love serial killers, but I find it fascinating to read about why people kill. This story made national headlines, and I've seen the movie, The Capture of the Green River Killer, featuring Tom Cavanagh, so there's no surprise of who dunnit.

Oh, this picture of Ann Rule was taken when I attended one of her book readings/signings in Denver several years ago.

In case you've never read one of Ann Rule's books, like I said, the end is usually no surprise. In the GRRR, I know that Gary Ridgway was found guilty of killing all of these girls/women in the Seattle area and dumping their bodies, at least at first, in the nearby Green River. No, reading a true crime book is more about the whys. It's the journey, not the destination. 

Do you read true crime books? Do you have a favorite?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Now & Then... Read

And nearly forgotten. This was an interesting enough story but I guess just not my cup of tea. Like I mentioned, I'm not a huge fan of time travel (well, other than The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. That was an excellent book!). Anyway, I liked that in the end, Anna and Joseph had to travel back to their future lives even though both wanted to stay behind in the 1800s, sort of like Reese Witherspoon in the movie Pleasantville staying in the 1950s because she'd done it all in the present.

Book Read:  Now & Then
Author:  Jacqueline Sheehan
ISBN:  978-0-06-154778-2

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan

Okay. I started reading Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan and just got into a chapter that, I must say, was put in the right place. I mean, if this nonsense had happened in the story right off the bat, I'd have closed it and reached for another book.

Time travel.

I'm not a fan of science fiction or fantasy. Give me the real stuff. Relationships. Mundane life. Heck, I'll take murder. Just keep it real. But the story had moved along enough that I was interested in the characters thus far so will continue reading it. And the writing is good.

Do you like time travel or other phenomena that may or may not (admit it, probably not) really happen?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Elinor Lipman and Elizabeth Berg Articles

I just finished writing articles for Suite 101 about two of my favorite authors:  Elinor Lipman and Elizabeth Berg. The only problem with having favorite authors is having read all of their books. Could they write a little quicker? Please?

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Hour I First Believed -- Wally Lamb writes another winner

SPOILER ALERT:  This entry contains details of the book 
you may not want to know if you haven't read the book.

Book Read:  The Hour I First Believed
Author:  Wally Lamb
ISBN:  978-0-06-039349-6

When all is said and done, this book was a pleasurable read. The first part was about the fictional character, Maureen, a part-time nurse at Columbine High School, and the shootings there by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris in April 1999. The second part was all about the aftermath of Caelum and Maureen Quirk's lives after her version of the ordeal. Hell on earth, I'd say. And it just kept getting worse.

It was an interesting study of cause and effect, how different people deal with the same situation. And talk about a couple of people with a string of bad luck. Good grief. Between Caelum's drinking, avoidance, family history that gets unearthed by a woman he has a fling with, and Maureen's inability to cope with life after the Columbine tragedy, her drug abuse, subsequent manslaughter charge and then imprisonment and finally untimely death, the book keeps the reader turning the page.

But maybe it should be subtitled:  If It Weren't For Bad Luck, They'd Have No Luck at All. Lamb likes to use song lyrics as book titles after all.

And in the end, it is hopeful and shows that a life can turn around even after decades of despair.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Don't Judge a Book by its Movie -- Heartburn

Well, in this case, you can judge a book by its movie. I read Heartburn about a week ago and just finished watching the movie. Nora Ephron also wrote the screenplay so the movie followed the book very closely. Of course, as usual, the book went into more depth and off on tangents and gave actual recipes, short as they were, where the movie glossed over things, stayed on point, and only a few snippets of recipes were discussed.

All in all, since, as I mentioned, I read the book over too long a period to keep the characters straight in my head from one sitting to the next, and I watched the movie all in one chunk, I'd say I liked the movie as well, if not better than the book. Strange but true. The only other time I can say that was with the short story Brokeback Mountain and the movie. Both good but I think the movie really captured Annie Proulx's writing. Very well.

What book/movie have your read/seen that really stuck with you? Is the movie ever as good as the book for you?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wally Lamb's The Hour I First Believed Hitting Too Close to Home

When I started reading Wally Lamb's latest novel, I really didn't know what it was about. Well, it's about the Columbine shootings in Colorado in 1999. Lamb plops a character, Caelum Quirk, into the fray as an English teacher at Columbine High School, and his character's wife, Maureen, is a part-time school nurse there, to boot.

The facts of the Columbine killings are dead on. I know, I was living in Denver at the time, and every time one of the victims' names is mentioned in the book, I can picture the double-page spread and the pictures the Denver Post published to memorialize them.

Bottom line, it's creepy reading. Lamb is a really good writer, and he makes a believable case for this Quirk guy to have been there. He provides an inside look at a day that only a handful of people really experienced firsthand.

I finished Part One, Butterfly, last night. I'll start reading Part Two, Mantis, tonight. I'll finish the book, but I'll be glad when I'm finished.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Editor's Choice Award (blushing but so proud) and I Started Reading Another Book

First things first! I just opened this email from Suite 101:

Congratulations! Your article "National Grammar Day Is March 4" was chosen by the Editor of the Section in which it appears this week because it exemplifies the quality content, excellent presentation, and high standard we are striving for at Suite101. The check mark icon associated with this Editor's Choice award appears on the article itself, and wherever it is listed on the site, and will continue to do so from this moment forward. Keep up the great work and enjoy this well-deserved recognition.

Oh... ta da! 

And I picked up Wally Lamb's book The Hour I First Believed the other day at the library. I can't believe I let this one slip through the cracks for this long. It was published in 2008! Good grief. I love his other books, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True.

It looks like another good one. Have you read it?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Heartburn Is Done

Book Read:  Heartburn
Author:  Nora Ephron

I finished Nora Ephron's book Heartburn last night. Good book but it wasn't as satisfying as I'd have liked. Maybe it was the length of the book. Short.

And I'm actually looking forward to watching the movie on this one, which is a favorite thing of mine to do; read the book then watch the movie. (And it's on hold for me at the library; I just need to go pick it up.) In this case, I think the movie will let me visualize (no duh, huh?) the characters better and frankly, help me keep them straight.

I would recommend reading this book in one or two sittings as opposed to the way I did it--stretched out over almost a week at night, tired, with a few evenings off when I was just too tired to read. A rarity but I think I missed some things by not chewing on it all at once.

Oh, and it has some good recipes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Who said (or wrote) this first? Julia Child, Nora Ephron, Julie Powell?

Okay, so I'm reading along last night in Heartburn and on page 113, a passage stopped me in my tracks. Granted I was lying in bed so I didn't have far to stop, but tell me if this sounds familiar to anyone else:

"...What I love about cooking is that after a hard day, there is something comforting about the fact that if you melt butter and add flour and then hot stock, it will get thick! It's a sure thing! It's a sure thing in a world where nothing is sure; it has a mathematical certainty in a world where those of us who long for some kind of certainty are forced to settle for crossword puzzles."

This almost identical passage was voice-overed by Julie Powell in the movie Julie and Julia, right? Right! I think Julie was making a chocolate cream pie dealie and Nora is surely referencing a gravy-type thing since she mentions stock, but it was the same concept, almost exactly, if I recall. So, since Nora Ephron, who wrote 1) the book I'm reading now, Heartburn, in 1983 AND 2) the screenplay for the movie Julie and Julia sometime much later, like in 2006, did Nora write it in this book first then decide to "borrow" her earlier words to let Amy Adams as Julie Powell, who wrote first the blog The Julie/Julia Project, then the book Julie and Julia, say in the movie? Did she? I wonder?

Or could Julie Powell have stolen the concept from Nora Ephron and written these words in her book, Julie and Julia? I read that book too but don't remember it, per se.

Or is there a chance that Julia Child wrote it in one of her cookbooks or memoirs? I've never read any of them but Nora Ephron references Julia Child all over the place in Heartburn so maybe??? Did Nora AND / OR Julie 'steal' from Julia?

Who wrote/said it first? If anyone knows, please let us know!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Long and Short of It

After reading Stephen King's long book (Under the Dome, 1074 pages), I must have subliminally wanted to read a short book. I've had Nora Ephron's Heartburn sitting on my nightstand for months, and it was on top of the pile, so I picked it up to read next.

I recently watched the movie Julie and Julia, which Nora Ephron wrote the screenplay for. I knew she wrote Heartburn, but have never read it. It's high time.

It's as tiny as Under the Dome was big, in length anyway. 153 pages. So far, it long on funny though. For example, on page 43, she wrote:

"I looked around the subway car. A Japanese man was taking pictures of the passengers. He was undoubtedly a tourist, but he was making everyone in the car uncomfortable. I tried not to look at him, but it was impossible. Once I saw an exhibitionist on the subway, and I tried not to look at him, too, but the funny thing about exhibitionists--and the reason I'm never really offended by them--is that you can't help sneaking a peek now and then to see if the damned thing is still sticking out."

And I really like the picture of Ephron from this 1983 edition. She more recently wrote the funny book, I Feel Bad About My Neck. I wonder, since she's wearing a turtleneck in the photo, did she then too?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Begging and Pitying Under the Dome

Spoiler Alert! Do not read if you don't want to know
how Under the Dome ends.

Book Read:  Under the Dome
Author:  Stephen King
ISBN:  978-1-439-4850-1

I finished reading Under the Dome and I must say I think it went out with a whimper. With all the drama and chaos throughout the book, I thought the ending would be more of the same. The ending was still powerful though, just not in the dramatic way of most of the rest of the book.

Big Jim did get his, but in such a lackluster way. I really wanted the town to be able to watch his demise.

Barbie and Julia got together, which was inevitable and well done. Their working together to save themselves and the remaining dozen or so citizens of Chester's Mill was courageous and smart and a fitting end. Using something as human as begging (mind to mind, mind you) with the forces that brought the dome to their town worked more magic than all the missiles on the outside of the dome. And the pity of one lone leatherhead saved the day.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Big Jim Rennie's Ol' Ticker is Acting Up

Big Jim Rennie, the second selectman of fictional Chester's Mill, Maine, in Under the Dome by Stephen King, is having trouble with his heart. YES! I don't usually root for people, even if they are just characters in a book, to have such ailments, but this feller deserves a big fat heart attack if anyone ever did.

How will it happen? Will his heart explode and splatter against the dome or is this just pie-in-sky, wishful thinking on my part? Time will tell.

I'm on page 819 at the new chapter, Blood Everywhere. I predict he'll bite it and soon!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lori and Gertie love Under the Dome too!

Lori commented that she is also reading Under the Dome. Thanks, Lori! Her comment is so funny and true. Lots of people die under the dome, for sure. And I'm wondering if you (and everyone else reading it) are rooting as loud as I am for Big Jim Rennie to GET IT and get it good? What a piece of work!

This book is such a whopper, I'm only on page 626 (but yay, I did make it past the half way mark!) but hope to finish it before the next library deadline of January 26. I think I can. I think I can.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stephen King's lovely language

I don't usually read Stephen King books. I read Carrie however many years ago, and it scared the pee-diddle outta me so have steered cleared of them for the most part. I really, really, really enjoyed On Writing, but that's not his usual type of book, now is it? Oh, I saw the Rock Bottom Remainders perform in Denver. That was excellent in a bookwormy kind of way.

But I am really enjoying Under the Dome. King's a really good writer, tells a great tale, even though it's unlikely that this dome dealy would really happen. I'm a long way from page 1074, but in the meantime, how about some good writing from Under the Dome, page 316:

"There was something wrong in here, too. Linda was sure of it. The place felt more than creepy to her; it felt outright dangerous. When she saw that Jackie has unsnapped the strap on her service automatic, Linda did the same. The feel of the gun-butt under her hand was good. Thy rod and thy gun-butt, they comfort me, she thought."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What, me worry?

Alfred E. Neuman had it right. Why worry?

I reluctantly took my cat bookmark out of the book (page 215, page 215, page 215) and stuck it in my purse. Then I dropped the tome (Under the Dome) (yes, I'm a poet and don't know but my feet show it, they're LONGFELLOWS!) into the outside slot at the library. It fit after all.

Went inside. Walked to the Best Picks display and there it was, another copy of Under the Dome sitting, waiting for me. Checked it out. Stuck the cats back in (page 215). Brought it home. And got my exercise to boot (lugging the thing there and another copy back home).

Off to read more about the "clustermug" that the dome has created in Chester's Mill, Maine.

What are you reading?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Under the Dome... Stephen King does it again

I picked up Under the Dome by Stephen King, and that's a feat in itself (this sucker is nearly 2-1/2 inches thick with more than 1,000 pages), at the library a few weeks ago. I didn't start reading it right away, but I should have. It's a library Best Picks book, so when I went online to renew it, I found out it's not renewable. Dang.

So, now I'm into it, sucked in, on page 111 at the chapter called The Good of the Town, The Good of the People, and it's due tomorrow. I read fast but not that fast. What to do? What to do?

Well, I plan on taking it inside and handing it to a librarian because for one thing, I really don't think it will fit in that skinny slot out front. And maybe I can ask if they can check it in and reshelf it... immediately? Please?! We'll see.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I love to read, man!

All my life I've loved to read. My first memory of reading was asking my dad to read the comics from the Sunday paper to me because I didn't know how to read yet. Sure, I could look at the pictures and imagine what Dagwood said to Blondie, but I wanted to know what those letters said, spelled out in the balloons above Beetle Bailey's and Sarge's heads. I picked it up--that mysterious world of the printed word--soon thereafter and was proudly part of the group Mom deemed as having "her nose in a book."

I've spent my whole life reading. I've always read for a living one way or another. I've done everything from typesetting to proofreading to copy editing to technical writing (gag me with a computer manual), and have always been happiest when I go to bed at night and read for at least an hour before going to sleep. In fact, last year in 2009, I read 53 books, mostly fiction but some nonfiction slipped in by choice and a few by bribery (I was paid to read them).

My personal list of books I've read isn't earth-shattering. My tastes run from Nick Hornby to Anita Shreve to Lorna Landvick to Elizabeth George. It all really depends on what I'm in the mood for. Nonfiction choices tend to memoirs like the first book I finished in 2010, Valerie Bertinelli's latest, Finding It. I'm nosy, plain and simple. I also recently read Melissa Gilbert's Prairie Tale (what a slut!) and can get lost in tales of long ago told by great storytellers like Erik Larson (Thunderstruck, Isaac's Storm, Devil in the White City).

Book Read:  Finding It And Satisfying My Hunger for Life Without Opening the Fridge 
Author:  Valerie Bertinelli
ISBN:  978-1-4391-4163-2

So, this first entry of my new blog includes the first book I finished in the new year (I started it last year):  Finding It by Valerie Bertinelli. I thought it was okay, just okay. If I had to rate it, I'd give it a 6 out of 10 stars. I didn't read Losing It, which chronicled her battle to lose 40 pounds using the Jenny Craig program. Finding It is about maintaining her weight, which, as she says, is harder some days than it was losing it in the first place. I image so. I don't know. I could stand to lose 40 pounds and admire the fact that she did it so publicly.

But this was a lightweight book (literally too, with 270 pages, of which many were called Notes to Myself where she wrote little ideas that occurred to her at some point, sometimes relevant and sometimes sort of out there, which is allowed, I suppose in an autobiography format). Interesting but could be skipped.


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