Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book #44 of 2010

Book #44 of 2010 was "Get Lucky" by Katherine Center.

Sarah Harper is on the New York fast track at a top advertising agency until she grows a conscience overnight and sends out a companywide e-mail debunking her popular bra campaign. Fired, she flies home to Houston, where she crashes with her older sister, Mackie, and Mackie's husband, Clive. Turns out Mackie has problems of her own: after years of trying to have a baby, she announces she's done. In an effort to do something good for a change, Sarah offers herself up as a surrogate. In the nine pregnant months that follow, Sarah juggles unexpected feelings for her brother-in-law and expected feelings for an ex-boyfriend, and instead of the pregnancy bringing her and Mackie closer, it drives them apart.

I was going through this book thinking it wasn't my favorite of Center's novels. I couldn't relate to the main character (Sarah) and I wasn't sure about all of her foreshadowing - if disaster was going to happen just get to it already. Then I got to the end and everything made sense. It wasn't that the book ended neatly and all-too-perfectly. In fact, that might be why I liked the book so much -- Center has an incredible knack for writing about real people who live real lives. The ending helped me look back over the entire book with a different attitude (and I teared up a bit at the end too). Kudos to her and her writing - I expect more great books in the future.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Book #43 of 2010

Book #43 of 2010 was "Making Up Your Mind" by Jill Mansell.

It's not always you who gets to choose when you're making your mind up|Lottie Carlyle isn't looking for love when she meets her new boss, Tyler Klein. Living in a beautiful cottage with her two adorable - sometimes - kids in an idyllic village in the Cotswolds, on good terms with her ex-husband and with friends all around, she's happy enough with her lot. But Tyler's perfect for Lottie and quickly she falls for him - and he for her. Unfortunately, there's a problem. For reasons that are totally unfair, Lottie's children HATE Tyler. When a rival for Lottie's affections comes on the scene in the shape of charmer Seb, the children adore him, and he's certainly a distraction. But he's not Tyler - and he's not even at all what he seems.

I am a sucker for Mansell's novels. Lovely, light and funny all in one. I am sad to see there are several more available in England that are not available here in the U.S. Anyone going to England soon?

Next up is "Get Lucky" by Katherine Center.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Books #41 and #42 of 2010

I promise you my children are fed and clothed (mostly).

Book #41 of 2010 was "24 Karat Kids" by Dr. Judy Goldstein and Sebastian Stuart.

When Dr. Shelley Green joins Madison Pediatrics, a medical practice catering to the rich, peculiar parents of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, this self-described "schlumpy girl from Jackson Heights" is unprepared for the self-centered eccentrics who parade through her office. First-time collaborators Goldstein and Stuart have created them all in this chick-out-of-water comedy: a six-year-old with strep devastated to miss her Bergdorf manicure, a show-biz mom who wants a nose job for her eight-month-old son, and ultrapampered busybody Amanda Walker, who takes Shelley under her gilded wing. In the name of developing the "persona" to fit in with the posh parents from her practice, Shelley dives into the world of designer stores, spends weekends in the Hamptons with Amanda and her upscale friends and considers a dalliance with rich, hunky Josh Potter—a man entirely unlike her schoolteacher fiancĂ©, Arthur.

I enjoyed the snapshots of the privileged patients (and their neurotic parents) that visited the office but the ending was ridiculous.

Book #42 of 2010 was "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" by Alexandra Fuller.

Pining for Africa, Fuller's parents departed England in the early '70s while she was still a toddler. They knew well that their life as white farmers living in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia at the time) would be anything but glamorous. Living a crude, rural life, the author and her older sister contended with "itchy bums and worms and bites up their arms from fleas" and losing three siblings. Mum and Dad were freewheeling, free-drinking, and often careless. Yet they were made of tough stuff and there is little doubt of the affection among family members. On top of attempting to make a living, they faced natives who were trying to free themselves of British rule, and who were understandably not thrilled to see more white bwanas settling in. Fuller portrays bigotry (her own included), segregation, and deprivation.

Fuller has a gift for imagery and a love for Africa that clearly shows in this memoir.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Book #40 of 2010!

Book #40 of 2010 (aka known as the reason I was up until 1 a.m.) was ... "The Last Child" by John Hart.

A year and a day have passed since the abduction of 12-year-old Alyssa Merrimon, and her twin brother, Johnny, has never felt more alone. His father abandoned the family soon after the disappearance, and his mother has all but vanished into a haze of drinking, drugs and abusive sex. The police detective who investigated the case hovers over the remnants of the family like a watchful angel, but his attentions are unwelcome; he hasn't found the girl. In fact, Johnny's only true friend is his frail young classmate Jack, and even he wavers between supporting Johnny's faith that Alyssa's alive and knowing that she's gone forever. But then a clue falls from the sky -- literally: A biker hit by a car and thrown from a bridge lands almost at Johnny's feet. "I found her," he says in his dying words. "The girl that was taken."

I will have to add a review later because I can't seem to formulate my thoughts on the book. I was bored with it in the beginning but then I got hooked. To be continued ...

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book #39 of 2010

Book #39 of 2010 was "Anything But Typical" by Nora Raleigh Baskin.

Baskin tells this luminous story entirely from the point of view of Jason, an autistic boy who is a creative-writing whiz and deft explainer of literary devices, but markedly at a loss in social interactions with “neurotypicals” both at school and at home. He is most comfortable in an online writing forum called Storyboard, where his stories kindle an e-mail-based friendship with a girl. His excitement over having a real friend (and maybe even girlfriend) turns to terror when he learns that his parents want to take him on a trip to the Storyboard conference, where he’ll no doubt have to meet her in person.

This is a young adult novel that was recommended to me by someone who, like me, has a child with autism. Baskin writes as authentically as a NT (neurotypical) can about life when you have autism. Her portrayals of both Jason, his parents and those around Jason (and their interactions with him) were very realistic. I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants a little insight into autism or just a well-written young adult novel.

Up next is "The Last Child" by John Hart.

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Book #38 of 2010

Book #38 of 2010 was ... "Bright Side of Disaster" by Katherine Center.

Jenny Harris is nesting in her Houston home with her fiance, Dean, awaiting the birth of their child, to be followed by their wedding. But Dean grows more distant, especially after a coworker dies in a plane crash, and Jenny ends up becoming a single mother. Determined to take good care of her child, she tries to forget about Dean, relegating him to the past. Coping with a baby takes all Jenny's time, so when her perfect single neighbor takes an interest, Jenny is flattered but exhausted. Then, when she finally decides to take a chance and get to know him, Dean comes back into her life.

Center writes realistically about parenting which is why I keep coming back to her books. Her characters are flawed and their stories are never perfect. I happily look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Next up is "Anything But Typical" by Nora Raleigh Baskin ... a young adult novel told from the perspective of a boy with Autism.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Book #37 of 2010

Book #37 of 2010 was ... The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues.

I kept hearing about this book so I decided to read it despite this not being my favorite genre. I am glad I did because it was intriguing and interesting throughout. There were a few minor road bumps -- obviously the sex crimes play heavily into the story and can be very disturbing to read. Also, I found it odd when the author wrote extensive technical details about the computer that Salander purchased. But this didn't detract heavily from the overall book and I will read the follow-up novel.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A picture, a complaint and two books

First, the picture:

Thankfully it only cost about $110 to have lunch with the princesses and get our official picture. What a deal, huh?

Second (and the above was not the complaint), I am still tired.

And now the two books ...

Book #35 of 2010 was Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell.

Bestselling novelist Orla Hart owes her life to her friend Millie Brady, whose rotten boyfriend has just left her. So Orla invites Millie to Cornwall, where Millie looks forward to a summer without any dating whatsoever. But Orla envisions Millie as the heroine of her next novel and decides to find Millie the man of her dreams. Except the two women have drastically different ideas about what kind of guy that should be.

With Orla and Millie working at cross-purposes, and a dashing but bewildered hero stuck in the middle, the summer will turn out to be unforgettable for all concerned...

I have read several of Mansell's novels and I have to say this was my least favorite. I can usually finish one of her books in a few days but this took almost a week. I didn't find the characters terribly appealing and the plot was a bit sluggish.

Book #36 of 2010 was Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

British novelist Evaristo delivers an astonishing, uncomfortable and beautiful alternative history that goes back several centuries to flip the slave trade, with Aphrikans enslaving the people of Europa and exporting many of them to Amarika. The plot revolves around Doris, the daughter of a long line of proud cabbage farmers who live in serfdom. After she's kidnapped by slavers, she experiences the horror and inhumanity of slave transport, is sold and works her way back to freedom. The narrative cuts back and forth through time, contrasting the journey to freedom with the journey toward slavery.

I liked the story from Doris' perspective but I didn't find Bwana's perspective as interesting. In fact I skimmed most of it.

Overall, I had a much harder time reading over my vacation than I normally do. I thought I would finish a few more books. Oh well.

Next up is the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Seven days in ...

and I am ready to be done with vacation. Is that sad? Two more sleeps to go and then we head home ...

(For those who don't know, we have spent the last week touring Southern California. We are finishing up in San Diego before flying out on Monday.)

Things I have learned this week:
1. Going out to eat for three meals a day every day is an idea that is great in concept but not so great in reality.
2. My kids are afraid of Mickey Mouse. And Donald Duck. And Chip and Dale. So basically anyone in a costume ... but not princesses because as Molly says "they are real."
3. There are lots of people in Southern California. Lots of people who all drive on the same road you are on at the same time.
4. (And most importantly) Nine days is way too much time to be spending with your family in a small hotel room.

See you all back in the Eastern Time Zone!

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