Wednesday, July 23, 2008

#61 - Love Walked In

Book No: 61
Title: Love Walked In
Author: Marisa De Los Santos
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published: 2006
Obtained: 2008/Paperbackswap
Completed: 7/21/08
No. of Pages: 307
Rating: 5/5*****

Oh my goodness, I cannot believe how much I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down, laughed, cried and read it over two days time, to the exclusion of just about everything else.

Cornelia Brown is a tiny sprite of a woman who loves old classic movies; in particular The Philadelphia Story. When Martin Grace walks into her coffee shop one day, looking so much like Cary Grant it’s unbelievable, Cornelia goes out with him and begins to fall in love. What she doesn’t know is that Martin has a few secrets he has yet to share, and when one is revealed to be is eleven year old daughter, Clare, Cornelia begins a journey that changes her entire life.

This book was pitch perfect, with two amazing characters in Cornelia and Clare, people you just wish you really had in your life. The secondary characters were all wonderful, and fleshed out people. The movie and poetry references were so clever and I was completely bewitched by this book. I was also very pleased to know there is a sequel, entitled Belong to Me, and I have it and have already devoured half of it. I’ll be back with that review shortly. My first 5***** book of the year (I’m cheap with that rating)

#60 - Zel

Book No: 60
Title: Zel
Author: Donna Jo Napoli
Genre: Fairy Tales
Published: 1996
Obtained: 2008/Amazon
Completed: 7/18/08
No. of Pages: 227
Rating: 3.5/5*****

Zel is a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale. In this one Zel is actually placed in the tower by her mother, after she meets a young man in the market one day. Zel’s mother is a witch, who loves Zel more than anything, and wants to keep Zel with her always and cannot bear the thought of sharing her with anyone.

I liked a lot of the touches in this book, especially the one that dealt with how Rapunzel dealt with being locked up alone in a tower with no company. I did find the storyline of the mother more than a little creepy; I guess I couldn’t understand any mother doing such a terrible thing to her child. Overall it was a interesting take on a classic tale.

Monday, July 21, 2008

#59 - The Yummy Mummy

Book No: 59
Title: The Yummy Mummy
Author: Polly Williams
Genre: Chick Lit/Contemporary Fiction
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2008/Kindle
Completed: 7/18/07
No. of Pages: 384
Rating: 4/5*****

The title definitely screams chick lit, but this book was much more deeply layered than I expected, and quite enjoyable.

Amy Crane is a new mother, living with her six-month old daughter Evie and Evie’s dad Joe, Amy’s boyfriend. Amy is struggling with a bit of the baby blues and questions about her relationship with Joe, and whether or not they would be together if it weren’t for their daughter. She’s also caught between two sets of friends, her birthing class group, which consists of earth-mother types, and her newer friends, a group of Yummy Mummy’s. You know the type; lost their baby weight in ten days, have live in help so they can lunch, get their hair done, shop etc. When Alice, Amy’s newest friend takes on project Amy, she succeeds in turning Amy into one of the YM’s; as well as a MILF (Acronym for Mom’s I’d Like to ****). While Amy slowly begins to find her balance Joe is pulling farther away from her. Then there is the complication of the very hot Pilates instructor who has Amy in his sights.

Lots here to laugh at, but anyone who has gone through new motherhood will identify with many of Amy’s feelings, doubts, and qualms about her new life. There is quite a bit of poignancy here too, and Amy is someone you really care about. Another good summer beach read.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

#58 - Grimm's Fairy Tales

Book No: 58
Title: Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Author: The Brothers Grimm
Genre: Fairy Tales
Published: unknown
Obtained: 2008/Kindle
Completed: 7/14/08
No. of Pages: 560
Rating: 3/5*****

I read this as part of the Fairy Tale Tag challenge at Play Book Tag. What I didn’t know is that the Brothers Grimm didn’t actually write all these fairy tales- 64 of them- but actually collected them as a way of saving the oral traditional tales told throughout centuries. That would explain why many of the stories seem a little repetitious; they are often the same basic story told in different ways. While I enjoyed reading some of my childhood favorites, I was astonished at how violent some of these stories are. Disney may get bashed for sanitizing stories, but to be honest I would feel a little queasy reading some of these unvarnished stories to young children. It took me 2 weeks to get through all the stories, and many of them were a bit silly I did overall enjoy the experience of revisiting some old favorites.

#57 - T is for Tresspass

Book No: 57
Title: T is for Trespass
Author: Sue Grafton
Genre: Suspense
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2007/paperbackswap
Completed: 7/13/08
No. of Pages: 387
Rating: 4.5/5*****

This is the 20th book in the Kinsey Millhone alphabet series, and after some not so great entries in the series this one was one of the best.

When Kinsey’s elderly neighbor Gus, a cantankerous old man, takes a bad fall, Kinsey and her landlord Henry do all they can to help him. This includes investigating the home care nurse Gus’ niece wants to hire to care for him at home. All seems okay at first, but when Kinsey begins to suspect elder abuse things go from bad to worse. As readers we know from the start that there are indeed evil deeds occurring; the fun of the book is the cat and mouse game played by Kinsey and the villainous Solana Rojas. A few side cases keep Kinsey busy also, but the main storyline is gripping in its accelerating horror in what seems like an ordinary life, and the hope that Kinsey puts the pieces together before its too late.

#56 - Sweetwater Creek

Book No: 56
Title: Sweetwater Creek
Author: Anne Rivers Siddons
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2005
Obtained: 2007/
Completed: 7/11/2008
No. of Pages: N/A
Rating: 4/5*****

This was a sweet and enjoyable coming of age tale set in the Carolina’s low-country. Emily Parmenter is twelve years old, living on her family’s plantation with her distant father and two older brothers. Her mother disappeared while Emily was a toddler and her adored older brother Buddy committed suicide, leaving her bereft and lonely. Her only salvation comes from training the family’s well known Boykin hunter spaniels. Emily seems to have an innate talent for this and her life is in a simple pattern of school and working the dogs, her only friends her beloved dog Elvis, her Aunt Jenny and the housekeeper Cleta. Into this quiet world comes the golden Lulu Foxworth, a debutante in need of a place to recover from what appears to be a nervous breakdown. In order to impress the wealthy Foxworth family Walter Parmenter invites Lulu to spend the summer working with Emily training the dogs. Lulu jumps at the chance and soon spins her magic web around the family. With her arrival comes life and laughter to an empty household, but it also brings dark secrets that ultimately changes everything. Permeated with sadness the story is also about friendship, love, betrayal and finding one’s way in the world.

#55 - The Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club

Book No: 55
Title: The Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club
Author: Laurie Notaro
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2002
Obtained: 2007/Kindle
Completed: 7/11/2008
No. of Pages: 240
Rating: 4/5*****

I seem to be on a roll, reading laugh out loud funny books by incorrigible women, first Jen Lancaster and now Laurie Notaro. This is Notaro’s first book and I literally laughed until I cried. The book is a collection of essays she wrote for the Arizona Republican; chronicling a few years in her life, through college and trying to become, more or less, a responsible adult. No one escapes unscathed; she targets not only herself, but friends, family and strangers. Her description of her teeth getting stuck in a caramel apple, while driving, is priceless. Another funny bit of great beach reading. I love summer!

#54 - Marley and Me

Book No: 54
Title: Marley & Me
Author: John Grogan
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2005
Obtained: 2007/
Completed: 7/11/08
No. of Pages: 291
Rating: 3.5/5*****

I am not a big fan of animal books so I was prepared to not like this book, but it was a choice of my F2F book group. Although I love dogs, I didn’t want to read a memoir about ‘Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog”, sure it would be a sentimental remembrance that just wouldn’t appeal to me. So imagine my surprise as I was utterly captivated by the story of Marley, if not the world’s worst dog, surely a difficult one. A very large, headstrong and virtually untrainable Labrador retriever, Marley was also lovable, steadfast and the true definition of man’s best friend. His absolute joy for life and his love of his fmily came through on every page. Marley was not an idealized version of a dog, a Hollywood Lassie or Rin Tin Tin both of whom probably never sniffed anyone’s crotch. He had the heart of a puppy through all of his 12 years, but at 90 pounds his exuberance was often of a destructive nature. Marley hated thunderstorms, loved the ocean, was protective of his family and always ready with a big slobbery kiss. I give a lot of credit to the Grogan family for seeing the good in their beloved dog, he is the kind of adorable puppy that when grown often ends up back in a shelter. For all the love Marley gave them, they returned it in equal measure. A funny and thoroughly enjoyable memoir.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

#53 - Where Are You Now?

Book No: 53
Title: Where Are You Now?
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Genre: Mystery
Published: 2008
Obtained: 2008/
Completed: 7/8/08
No. of Pages: 289
Rating: 3 /5*****

Mary Higgins Clark is a ‘comfort’ read for me. I’ve read all of her mysteries since her first book Where are the Children? came out, about 25 years ago. In the last several years her books have been hit or miss with me, although I found this one to be one of her better stories. The mystery involves the disappearance of Carolyn MacKenzie’s older brother “Mack”. Ten years ago he disappeared without a trace, yet he calls home ever Mother’s Day to tell his family he’s okay. Now an attorney Carolyn has decided to find out what led Mack to walk away from his family. In starting this investigation Carolyn opens up a Pandora’s Box of trouble and long buried secrets. While the writing was not top notch, the mystery was fairly well done, although some of the stereotypical cop behavior was a little over the top. Still I was entertained, even though I had figured out most of ‘whodunit and why’ about half way through the book.

#52 - Kitchen Confidential

Book No: 52
Title: Kitchen Confidential; Adventures in the Cultural Underbelly
Author: Anthony Bourdain
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2000
Obtained: 2003/Bookbox
Completed: 7/7/08
No. of Pages: 302
Rating: 3.5/5*****

Anthony Bourdain has become the celebrated bad boy of the restaurant business, and in the process has become a star of the Food Network, some of whose famous chefs he ridicules in this book, written before said stardom. That however does not take away from the enjoyment I took from this strangely beguiling memoir. I say strangely because Bourdain is clearly an Alpha Male, who has lead a wild and crazy life, crawling up the restaurant food chain to become the Head chef at Les Halles, a celebrated NYC establishment. This book is outrageously profane and full of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Having worked in the business myself for over 20 years, I can attest to the truth of many of his stories about life in the kitchen. The story telling is gritty but also extremely funny, and inside all the machismo I think there beats the heart of a nice guy, although I’m sure he would have you believe otherwise. The downside is you’ll never eat in a restaurant without thinking about what’s going on in the back of the house, and wondering what exactly went into the meal you are eating.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

#51- Bright Lights, Big Ass

Book No: 51
Title: Bright Lights, Big Ass
Author: Jen Lancaster
Genre: Memoir
Published: 2007
Obtained: 2008/Kindle
Completed: 6/30/08
No. of Pages: 400
Rating: 3.5/5*****

She’s bbaacckkk! Jen Lancaster, of Bitter is the New Black fame, continues her totally irreverent view of the world in Bright Lights, Big Ass. Picking up pretty much where Bitter ended, Jen continues skewering anyone she finds pretentious, and gives you more of her wry and frequently convoluted take on the world. She and Fletch are slowly getting back on their feet after their financial meltdown and are still living in the city, which Jen make sure you know is nothing like Sex in the City. After receiving her advance to write what would become BITNB, Jen is still working temp jobs so she can write, still spying on her neighbors and still shopping-although her holy trio of stores is no longer Bloomies, Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus; it’s now Target, Trader Joe’s and Ikea. Her writing can sometimes seem way over the top, but her acute observations make you laugh in spite of yourself. Some of the best ‘beach reading’ I’ve done in a while. (Well since last week when I finished Bitter is the New Black). Also her wonderfully delicious and long subtitles really helped rack up the points for the Alphabet Soup Challenge!