Monday, August 30, 2010

Week 34: Forever... - Judy Blume (224 pages)

This project has been quite a journey. I have discovered new authors, new genres, and new outlooks. But I have also revisited some books from my past - just to see how they hold up. Sometimes a book makes such an impact on you that you are afraid to go back and re-read it for fear that it may mean something entirely different, or worse - you realize that your young brain did not realize that it was just a poorly written book. So, after receiving a book recommendation from favorite author Judy Blume a few weeks back - I decided to go back to my youth and check out FOREVER...

This book, written in 1975 when I was a mere 4 years old, was a controversial one from the start. It is a frequent target of censors and it appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 at number eight! So to get your hands on this book as a teen or even a pre-teen was a coup. Alot of my friends had to sneak to read this one. I was lucky to grow up in a house where we were able to read pretty much what we wanted. I thank my parents for that gift and it is one that I am trying to pass to my daughter.

The story follows Michael and Katherine making sense of young love and their first sexual encounters. Katherine is adamant that she wants the act of losing her virginity to mean something - she doesn't want to lose it purely for the sake of physical satisfaction or for curiosity. The thing that drew my attention then and got my attention again as I read the book was how much Katherine and Michael discussed their decision. They talked to each other, they talked to friends, their friends talked to each other. There was so much communication. When the decision is finally made to go forward - Katherine quickly learns that her idea of "Forever" would quickly fade.

If you didn't read this one as teen, please take a few hours to get absorbed in this world. If you have a daughter over the age of 14 - suggest that they check it out as well. This is a book from my youth that definitely stood the test of time.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Week 33: Dead As A Doornail - Charlaine Harris (295 pages)

There is something about the vampire genre, it should be studied by scholars to understand just what appeals to the modern American woman and why. Truly, it is totally ridiculous that I and hundreds of thousands of others not only bought this book but have made the entire series into best sellers and are riveted by the HBO series. I heard an interview with the series creator who said something along the lines of: they're about the conjunction of sex and death, of course everyone's obsessed with them. 

The book is fine.The plot is crazy (someone is shooting shape shifters, Sookie is saved again by her fairy godmother, her ex-boyfriend(s) are still after her, and there is a battle to the death for pack mastership). The characters are the same ones you saw before. Sometimes you laugh out loud (Sookie wonders if her hot boss's shirt really needs all those buttons). Sometimes you cringe (Sookie matched her nail polish to her coat in one scene and her lipstick to her earrings in another). And sometimes you wish the author would keep her opinions to herself (no, Ms. Harris, staking a vampire should not be used as an analogy for lynching; the first is cartoon-ish, the second a deep and painful American tragedy that should never be made light of by anyone who doesn't understand it). 

This is not the best book I have ever read. It's not even the best in the series. But it's funny and engaging and not terribly insulting and I am not going to feel embarrassed about reading it. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Week 32: Dead To The World - Charlaine Harris (291 pages)

So this is the fourth Sookie Stackhouse book that I have read and this is the best of the series so my opinion. Sookie finds herself in the position of protecting Area Five Sheriff (vampire) Eric Northman as he has somehow lost his memory and forgotten that he is generally an ass. He is being hidden at Sookie's for a fee (negotiated by her wily brother, Jason) and they become close.

At the end of book three, Sookie was so upset with the vampires and their issues that she had banished her then boyfriend Bill and Eric from her home. But finding Eric by the side of the road brings out the compassion in Sookie. This book is interesting in that some of what goes on in this book is happening currently in the TV Series, but other - more compelling stories have not been told and may not ever be told.

Jason's story is an attention-grabber and looks as if it may lead to new and different complications for him and the residents of Bon Temps. These stories are relatively well-written and are fun to read in the summer months. Next week I will be reading number five in the series - not because I want to read back to back vampire stories, but because the way this one ended...I can't wait to see what happens. These books are like the best potato chips - though less fattening!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Week 31: This Is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper (352 pages)

This project leads me to many different sources when choosing books. I get recommendations from friends, from websites and from articles. But this book recommendation came from a social networking site - TWITTER. I follow many people on Twitter, athletes, entertainers, musicians and even authors. Favorite author, Judy Blume, raved about this book when she was travelling this summer. She tweeted that this was a truly laugh out loud book that had some weight and depth as well. With such a glowing recommendation from a wonderful author - how could I not pick this one up?

This story is told from the point of view of main character Judd Foxman. He is at a crossroads in his life, his wife is sleeping with his boss and his father has just passed away. If that is not enough to deal with, his father's last request was for the family "sit shiva" (a seven day mourning period that begins immediately after the funeral of a loved one). This was going to put Judd in direct proximity with his three siblings Paul, Phillip and Wendy and his famous mother Hillary - people that he works his hardest to spend as little time as possible. 

Judd is in a dark place and the last place he wants to be is in his mother's home while going through his issues. The book is broken up by days with chapters broken up by hours within those days. The author really evokes the time spent in the shiva situation and you can feel tensions between family members. As you can imagine, going back to your home town - old friends are re-introduced, secrets are revealed and self-discovery is gained.

This could have been a downer of a book, but Tropper is genius at making us laugh at situations we would not traditionally call laughable. Judd is not wholly lovable and I really liked that about the character. He has a sarcasm that borders on the hilarious, but really he is just trying his best to be the best man that he can be. This book follows his journey. 

The language in the book is harsh and their are some surprising situations, but it is so worth the time that you put into it. I highly recommend it. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week 30: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Ann Brashares (352 pages)

This is a book that has been sitting on my bookcase since about 2002. I am not even sure where it came from, since I am pretty sure I didn't purchase it. I would glance at it and think to myself that I should pick it up, but I never did. Then for a while in 2008, HBO showed the movie nearly everyday and I wound up seeing various bits and pieces - so I thought there was no need to read it as I had basically pieced the whole story together. This week was a busy one, with my daughter's 10th birthday celebration and lots of extra work activity...I had a book lined up - but I thought that it might be too heavy for this week. I scanned the bookshelves and I saw this book staring me in the face. I decided to roll the dice. I am glad I did - this was a fun coming-of-age story.

Intially this was a hard book for me to get into - it took a while to determine the narrator of the story and the story of the traveling pants and how they came to be was a little rushed, but once that was sorted out - it was fun to take the ride with these four 15-year-old girls and their summer antics. Each girl has a distinct personality, Lena (aloof), Bridget (implusive), Carmen (thoughtful), and Tibby (rebellious and snarky) - and as each comes into possession of these magic jeans that fits each one of the fabulously (even though some are larger than others) we explore their adventures.

The jeans travel across the world from Greece, to Baja California to South Carolina and even to their home state of Washington, DC. Each of the girls have a life-changing encounter in this summer of the pants and the reader is invited on the journey.

Brashares does a fine job of character development, although I felt that the Bridget character was the weakest of all of the girls. This was a lovely story and when I looked up the author online, I noticed that there were four of these books, narrated by each member of the group, I assume. I am not sure that I am compelled to run out and buy subsequent books, but this first book was a great summer read.