Saturday, March 27, 2010

Week 12: Chasing Harry Winston – Lauren Weisberger (304 pages)

I took another foray into the land of “chick-lit” this week. Sadly, I was not overly impressed with this trip. Sure this was enjoyable, on the surface – but these characters were not well-developed and just became a bit screechy as the book moved along. I cannot truly say I would want to be friends with any of the three main characters of this novel. Part of the fun of reading, for me, is determining whether I would actually like to hang out with the protagonist(s). This book failed to get me connected in that way.

Lauren Weisberger writes her third novel – after the fabulous “The Devil Wears Prada” and ‘Everyone Worth Knowing” basing it in her favorite city, NYC. The main characters are best friends from college. Leigh (book editor, engaged to an ESPN personality – but she is not happy), Emmy (serial dater, longs for a baby and a great man), Adriana (Paris Hilton of Brazil…dates the rich and famous). These ladies, feeling that they are in a rut, make a pact to each do something drastic in their lives in the coming year. I won’t spoil it for you – but the book follows them through the year and marks their progress.

Continuity was one of the problems I had with the book. Often, in the middle of a chapter, Ms. Weisberger would advance from present to past with just a paragraph change and a bad transition. That had a jarring effect on my enjoyment. I felt I had to read back a couple of sentences to ensure I had not missed something. Though – I had interest in the ladies of the novel – it was more to see if they would fail, rather than rooting for them to succeed. That’s never a good feeling! I don’t know if I can blame Ms. Weisberger completely, but having read “…Prada” and really loving that book – I had an expectation that this book would be as well-written and developed as her debut novel.

This is a good book for an airplane flight – just enjoyable enough to block out those passengers that are annoying you, but not too great for in-depth inspection. You may say it is only “chick-lit” what did I expect? As I said in week 5 just because it falls into that category doesn’t mean it has to be mindless. Unfortunately – I cannot say that about this book.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week 11 : When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead (197 Pages)

I am not sure how to begin to write this review, this is a complicated, fun, deep and at sometimes depressing children's book. It is also, at the heart - a mystery. So there is only so much I can tell without giving away the story. It is also one of the best children's books that I have read and I can't wait to share it with my daughter when she is a bit older.

So - here is a very high-level overview. Set in the 70s, Miranda is a 12-year-old girl that is obsessed with Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle In Time" (another favorite of mine). She is the daughter of a single mom who is destined to be on the $25,000 Pyramid. One day her best friend, Sal gets punched in the stomach out of the blue and her whole world changes.

The storytelling in this book is quite well done. Stead kind of does of show and tell in the story. She slips in that Miranda was named after the "Miranda's Rights", she casually mentions that she does not eat grapes because her mother does no approve of how migrant workers are treated, the fact that there is a fully operational dentist office in the school that Miranda attends is casually mentioned. It is those little pieces of information that keep the reader intrigued and that make the book hard to put down. As a matter of fact - this would be a great book to re-read, because as the end came, I could see how the puzzle comes to shape. I saw that things that were casually mentioned actually meant quite a bit to the story.

I suggest reading this book! It is phenomenal and then we can discuss it in depth.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Week 10: The Opposite of Love - Julie Buxbaum (384 pages)

What is the opposite of love? Many say it is hate – but I find that it is apathy or fear or the inability to love…that is what the main character of this book Em finds out as she faces challenges in her life. This is a very believable portrayal of a 29-year old woman that has to find the strength within herself to move forward with her life.

The book opens on Em, a young New York lawyer who seems to have it all together. She has a job, a boyfriend, and some great friends. Everything appears to be great – but the first line of chapter 1 is telling: “Last night, I dreamt that I chopped Andrew up into a hundred little pieces, like a Benihana chef, and ate them, one by one.” Something’s going on and the story takes us on that journey from the word “go”.

This book is more than mere chick lit, though – it certainly has its moments. I would say that it is an intelligent read. Em struggles with an ass of a boss, a grandfather who is struggling with Alzheimer’s, a very cold and distant relationship with her father and the breaking and repair of her relationship with her boyfriend. The pace of the story kept me connected, the humor kept me laughing and there were times that I even got a little misty as truths were revealed.

This book provided the perfect amount of escapism. Julie Buxbaum’s debut novel showed that she can mix humor and pathos perfectly. This was an enjoyable read.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Week 9 – Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris (336 pages)

I am a fan of a vampire story and I have been for as long as I can remember. My earliest attempt at vampire literature was “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” when I was about 12 years old. This book scared the wits out of me, but I was hooked.  In my 20s I got into the Anne Rice “Vampire Chronicles” and fell in love with Lestat! A couple of summers ago, I found myself caught up with grown women and tweens alike when I fell in love with Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series of books.  So – when a friend suggested that I read this book for my project, I was all about it. I have never been afraid to suspend my disbelief – and suspend it I did so that I could immerse myself into this novel.

This is the first in a series of books also known as the “Sookie Stackhouse” series. There is a very popular TV show on HBO that is based on these books as well, “True Blood”. I will admit that I did not jump on the band wagon when the show debuted and I still am not a viewer. If there is source material in the form of a book out in the world, I really try to check it out before I get another impression from a different medium.  This book follows Sookie, a waitress/bar maid in the small town of Bon Temps, LA. Vampires have been “accepted” as part of society in these United States and it seems that quite a few of them are bound and determined to fit into mainstream society. Sookie makes the acquaintance of one such vampire, Bill Compton. Bill is nearly 140 years old and has been “dead” since 5 years after the Civil War. These two strike up an unlikely romance in this very prejudiced Southern town.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the fact that it was just a tween romance that you could get swept up in. This book touched on how whites treated blacks, how vampires were vilified even after the government gave them rights to be an active part of society, it was a murder mystery and there were some great laugh out loud moments as when Sookie obtains a bodyguard called Bubba who it turns out is Elvis Presley (though the author never says his name – that would make Bubba upset)!

Stronger language and violence than the Twilight series (this precedes those books by 7 years or so) it is a captivating read and similar to Lays Potato Chips – it is going to be hard to “eat” just one.