Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Every Day is Like Sunday

Before I Fall
This Y.A. book is Groundhog Day with something at stake. Samantha Mackler is a popular high school student who relives the last day of her life over and over again. As the day starts, she has a troubled best friend, a plan to sleep with her boyfriend for the first time, a friend-boy who loves her, a couple of classmates who have been bullied by her group for years, and a young, hot teacher. As the do-over days pile up, Samantha sorts through every possibility, trying to make the day end differently.

 It was a fascinating concept, well-executed by the author. Reliving the same events with different outcomes gave you a full picture of Samantha’s character, and she was a normal girl. She was nice and cruel and thoughtless and caring and just trying to grow up. I love that she was never a saint - that even knowing the outcome wasn’t enough to make her stifle her impulses all the time.

The repetition was never boring. I loved trying to see which combination Samantha would try next and figuring the potential outcomes. Not fluffy reading, by any means, but really good. I highly recommend.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Spirits in the Material World

I’ve been so busy reading The Hunger Games that I haven’t stopped to write about anything else. I don’t know why no one told me how good they were and hid them from me at the bookstore. I’m just kidding, people have been telling me to read them since the first one came out, but I’m glad I waited until they were all out so I don’t have to wait impatiently to get to the next part. I was trying to explain the plot of The Hunger Games to my sister and I realized how stupid it sounds to enthusiastically talk about children being hunted for sport and people with their tongues cut out and oh my heavens I could not make these books sound more unappealing, could I?

It happens all the time. An online friend and I went off a message board and into email because we realized that our excitement over books about people dying on Mount Everest was perhaps unseemly and maybe a little disconcerting to others. (Some delicate people don’t like to talk about crazy people who climb mountains without oxygen and die. Sissies.)

One of my favorite books is Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity's Death. A young-ish woman, Lori Shepard, is reeling from the death of her mother and the end of her marriage. She’s pretty clearly depressed, living in one room and working temporary jobs to get by. One day, she gets a letter from a local law firm that summons her to their office. She finds out that Aunt Dimity, a woman her mother had used as the basis for Lori’s bedtime stories and someone Lori had never known was even a real person, has died. In her will was a request that Lori travel to England and write the introduction to a collection of these Aunt Dimity stories. It’s a really sweet story, a British cozy with a little mystery added in.

So, here’s the part that I can’t leave out, but makes me sound like a lunatic with my recommendation. Aunt Dimity is dead, yes, but she’s also a ghost who “speaks”to Lori by writing in copperplate print in a journal. I totally understand why Atherton included it – It was a great hook for a series, but it really serves no purpose except to make me sound like an idiot for loving a ghost story that really has absolutely nothing to do with a ghost. Aunt Dimity shows up on the page, Lori recaps exactly what we’ve just read, and we move on from there, with no advancement in plot. Maybe it’s like a “Previously on” for people who only read a few pages at a time?

Anyway, read the book. Nobody hunts any children in it or cuts out any tongues and they talk a lot about cookies.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Book Stack


Currently Engaged

In the Wings

Monday, August 15, 2011

Miss Misery

I was looking at my Amazon recommendations this morning and apart from a huge chunk of Jill Mansell books, (I haven’t read any, but they look like fun and I don’t want to knock any off the list until I’ve tried one. I don’t know what happens to the books I wipe off my recommendation list, but I feel bad for them when I push the “not interested” button and I worry that I might be sorry I’ve rejected them. This is also why I have so many people on my eHarmony list who I will never, ever contact, but I can’t seem to delete.  Unless they list “working out” as a hobby. Dude is dead to me. And back to the anywho.) apart from the Mansell books, most of my recommendations are for those books with the fuzzy picture of a lady’s head or fuzzy pictures of people’s backs with the beach in the background. I don’t know what I’ve ordered that made Amazon so sure that I no longer wanted to see people’s faces or why think that I think it is okay for people to be so fuzzy all the time, but those books do not look like any fun at all.

Those fuzzy faceless people look like they are having miserable times. They have lost children and husbands and houses. They have just had to come back to their childhood homes and reconcile with their aging parents who were never accepting of their choices, but will soften in old age to at least explain why. It is possible, from the proliferation of book covers showing people from behind (of course) and from the neck down, that they have had horrible injuries at the businesses they lost before they had to move in with their aged parents. It is hard to find love when you are a headless torso, y’all. And they do all want to find love. A quiet, depressing sort of love, where everyone understands that the bottom can fall out at any time and you could wind up headless and fuzzy.

And just like the slag heap on my eHarmony site, I’m sure there are diamonds in the pile. If I tried to describe the plot of my actual, truly, not-even-faking-for-the-book-club-and-the-cleaning-lady favorite book Pride and Prejudice, it would sound a lot like a book with two fuzzy back-of-heads, one blond and one brunette. And I think one edition I have actually does have just a headless torso to show the dress style of the period. But Pride and Prejudice is hilarious. I don’t know if you’ve read it, or just seen the movies, (Skip the Keira Knightley version. She’s great and all, but Jennifer Ehle's  is outstanding and I can’t even remember who played Darcy in Keira’s version and we all remember Colin Firth coming out of that lake and now I have to go fan myself some. Yum.) It’s a genuinely funny book, where life can go wrong, but it’s okay to keep laughing. Gallows humor is better than po-face anytime.

I don’t have a solution for weeding the not-even-a-little fun books out of my recommendation piles, but I think I may just clean sweep them and look them up if I get a great recommendation.  I may do the same thing at eHarmony, too. Sorry, Paul who lives 300 miles away and lists oxygen and water as things he can’t live without – If you ever find a girl who thinks that is clever, you snatch her up and never let go.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Confess

I’m going to let you in on a secret. I sniff disdainfully about romance novels, but sometimes I buy these books by Amanda Quick. I can’t bring myself to link to them and forever join my name with hers, but y’all, I can’t even pretend that I buy them ironically. I love them like I love my cat. The saddest part is that the author is really Jayne Ann Krentz, and she can’t even bring herself to put her name on them. 

These are not just romance novels, they are historical romance novels. So the sexy parts have a lot of fancy skirts and cravats getting in the way and they call each other things like “diamonds of the first water,” which means super-hot. All the women are eccentric and wear glasses and the men are all manly and hot with scars. I’m thinking Jayne maybe wore glasses during her formative years and dreamed of a manly man with scars who could see past her ocular imperfections. Oh, and I’m forced to admit that the people in these books have powers, too. Like psychic powers. A few years ago, this would have been the embarrassing part, but after all the supernatural books out now, it’s more surprising when Bob’s not a werewolf.

I had some credit at the used book store the other day and found one that I hadn’t read, named something Klassy like The Mistress or The Affair. I bought it, of course, but I slipped it between copies of Beyond the Chocolate War and Beezus and Ramona and looked meaningfully at my mother when I checked out so the clerk would think it belonged to her. I’m sorry, Mom.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

That's Right (You're Not From Texas)

I finished the Calvin Trillin book on Texas, and it was good, but not as thrilling as his writings on travel & food. When writing about Texas, a lot of authors mistake the grand bravado of gestures to be the story. The fact that a Texas businessman has a giant desk and giant hat and talks about giant deals isn’t a story – it isn’t even story detail. That’s what our businessmen do, from used car dealers to Ross Perot. It’s no more exciting than telling me that your subject has brown eyes.

So, the most interesting part of book (really collection of essays) for me was in writing about a man whose body was found in a river. The authorities borrowed a super-strong magnet from a military base and drug it around the river, looking for the gun and a Rolex. They didn’t find the gun, but they found another person’s Rolex in this small-town river. I had never heard of the magnet thing before for searching in water and I so want to borrow one and head to the lake. I’d probably find 15 pennies and a shotgun shell, but even that would be kind of neat. I’m easily pleased.

I don’t want to turn you off on Calvin Trillin, though. He was a travel & food writer for dozens of years and has written some of the funniest books on food I’ve ever read. On a trip to rank barbeque, he found a place with barbequed mutton. The sign outside said, “Mary Had a Little Lamb. Won’t You Have Some Too?” Love. He’s infinitely quotable and I would sell my mother to go on an eating tour with him in New York. Read The Tummy Trilogy to start.