Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Book #98 of 2010

Book #98 of 2010 was one I snuck in because I had to return it to the library (no more renewals). The book was "Wife Goes On" by Leslie Lehr.

After years of plodding through a not-terrible-terribly humdrum marriage, all the while feeling that life - real, exciting, satisfying - was out there somewhere, Diane is finally free to explore what's next, even if it means starting over with a mountain of debt, tw kids, and an inexplicable sense of optimism...

Beautiful Lana came to Hollywood to make it as an actress. Instead, she found a role as arm candy for a movie star husband - until his very public affair made her fodder for every gossip rag in town. Playing the humiliated spouse isn't Lana's idea of a career, and there's no place like Hollywood for staging a dramatic comeback...

Back in High School, homecoming queen Bonnie and football star Buck were the golden couple everyone envied. Now, as Buck walks out the door leaving Bonnie with two young children, her storybook marriage is in tatters, and she's not at all certain of the next chapter.

Hard-edged divorce lawyer Annette knew the odds going in, but once she fell for Jackson, she closed her eyes and took the leap. She always hoped they'd make it, but some secrets can't be ignored, no matter how much Annette wants to try.

A raunchy twist on the "First Wives Club" with a dash of "Sex in the City" set in California. The plot was often scattered and unbelievable. Plus the ending was saccharine sweet and Hollywood perfect.

So back to "Adam & Eve" which is proving to be a more involved read.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book #97 of 2010

Book #97 of 2010 was "The Quickening" by Michelle Hoover.

From the time Enidina Current and her husband, Frank, move into the hardscrabble farmhouse a day's wagon ride away from Enidina's family, their closest neighbors, Jack and Mary Morrow, perplex them, though their proximity and shared farm work often bring the two couples together. Sharing the narrative, stoic Enidina struggles through several miscarriages before finally bearing twins, while the more delicate Mary reels from disappointment, most of all in her volatile husband. Moving through the Depression, the families are driven farther apart from each other, even while Mary's youngest spends most of his time in the Current household, until an accident and a betrayal drive the final wedge into their lives.

This is a very gritty and raw novel about the ugliness of being human - the jealousy, the anger and all of the darkness. Hoover does a great job of contrasting her characters against the harsh Depression of the 1930s. The decisions made in this novel will linger in your mind long after you finish it.

Up next is "Adam & Eve" by Sena Jeter Naslund.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book #96 of 2010

Book #96 of 2010 was "The Other Family" by Joanna Trollope.

When Richie Rossiter, once a famous pianist, dies unexpectedly, Chrissie knows that she must now tell the truth to their three daughters: their parents were never married. Yet there is one more shock to come when Richie’s will is read. It seems he never forgot the wife and son he left behind years ago—Margaret, who lives a quiet life of routine and work, and Scott, who never knew his famous father. Now two families are left to confront their losses and each other, and none of them will ever be the same.

I don't know that I have ever read a book so chock full of unlikeable characters. I found myself aghast at the behavior of Chrissie and her daughters (save for Amy who seemed to have some heart). I will give Trollope credit for leaving the book open-ended so the reader can make their own assumptions. Unfortunately, I don't have much hope for any of them.

Up next is "The Quickening" by Michelle Hoover.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Pregnancy and Baby Loss Awareness Day

Today is Pregnancy and Baby Loss Awareness Day - a day we surround our loved ones and ourselves in love as we remember those babies whose light faded too quickly. I hesitated to post anything about it because I always fear people think I should be over losing my pregnancy last year. And for the most part I have let go of the grief and - admittedly - the jealousy I felt towards other people (the latter being the harder of the two). But you know what? I don't need to justify my feelings to anyone nor does anyone else who has experienced a loss. If I still cry when I think of Myrtle Bean in 5, 10 or 20 years so be it. How do you forget seeing a tiny beating heart - the heart of your child to be?

You don't.

So to all those who have loved and lost and continue to remember ... I send you my prayers, my love and the light of God to shine in your heart.

To Myrtle Bean, my love forever and a day.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Books #90 through #95

Book #90 was "This is Where I Leave You" by Jonathan Tropper

The death of Judd Foxman's father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family-including Judd's mother, brothers, and sister-have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd's wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd's radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public. Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch's dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family. As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it's a weeklong attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd's father died: She's pregnant.

I agree with those who said this book reads mire like a film script. In fact, I was casting the characters as I was reading it - and this isn't necessarily a positive thing. It struck me as a failed attempt to write a "real" book hence the script feeling. Tropper seems inordinately obsessed with sex almost like a perpetual frat boy (maybe Tropper is more Wade than Judd). His long-winded descriptions of sexual encounters are boring and mostly gratuitous. (I'll give him the scene where h ...more I agree with those who said this book reads mire like a film script. In fact, I was casting the characters as I was reading it - and this isn't necessarily a positive thing. It struck me as a failed attempt to write a "real" book hence the script feeling. Tropper seems inordinately obsessed with sex almost like a perpetual frat boy (maybe Tropper is more Wade than Judd). His long-winded descriptions of sexual encounters are boring and mostly gratuitous. (I'll give him the scene where he catches his wife though I could do without the fingernail part.) There are worse books you could read but there are certainly better.

Book #91 was "Nightmare" by Robin Parrish.

Ghost Town is the hottest amusement park in the country, offering state-of-the-art chills and thrills involving the paranormal. The park's main ride is a haunted mansion that promises an encounter with a real ghost.

When Maia Peters visits during her senior year of college, she's not expecting to be impressed. Maia grew up as the only child of a pair of world-renowned "ghost hunters," so the paranormal is nothing new. In fact, the ride feels pretty boring until the very end. There, a face appears from the mist. The face of Jordin Cole, a girl who disappeared from campus a few months ago.

Convinced what she saw wasn't a hoax and desperate to find answers to Jordin's disappearance, Maia launches into a quest for answers. Joined by Jordin's boyfriend--a pastor's kid with very different ideas about the spirit realm--Maia finds herself in a struggle against forces she never expected to confront.

If you like "easy read" paranormal books, you will probably like this one. (Meaning a Stephen King fanatic would hate it but the casual ghost story reader would be satisfied.) I like that Parrish put real haunted locations in the book. It was a scary enough book to make me have trouble sleeping when I finished it.

Book #92 was "How to be an American Housewife" by Margaret Dilloway.

A novel about mothers and daughters, and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn't been what she'd expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways. Offering an entertaining glimpse into American and Japanese family lives and their potent aspirations, this is a warm and engaging novel full of unexpected insight.

I liked the different perspectives - mother and daughter - presented in the story. Slightly reminiscent of Amy Tan and her novels about the cultural and generational differences between mothers and daughters (with the focus being on a Japanese family in this case). I was also surprised that, even after WWII war, marrying an American soldier was considered a viable option - better than marrying below your caste.

Book #93 of 2010 was "The Vanishing of Katharina Linden" by Helen Grant.

It isn’t ten-year-old Pia’s fault that her grandmother dies in a freak accident. But tell that to the citizens of Pia’s little German hometown of Bad M√ľnstereifel, or to the classmates who shun her. The only one who still wants to be her friend is Stink Stefan, the most unpopular child in school. But then something else captures the community’s attention: the vanishing of Katharina Linden. Katharina was last seen on a float in a parade, dressed as Snow White. Then, like a character in a Grimm’s fairy tale, she disappears. But, this being real life, she doesn’t return. Pia and Stefan suspect that Katharina has been spirited away by the supernatural. Their investigation is inspired by the instructive—and cautionary—local legends told to them by their elderly friend Herr Schiller, tales such as that of Unshockable Hans, visited by witches in the form of cats, or of the knight whose son is doomed to hunt forever. Then another girl disappears, and Pia is plunged into a new and unnerving place, one far away from fairy tales—and perilously close to adulthood.

An odd book that stretches across several genres and does so in a satisfying way. I love Pia and her quest to make people forget about her Grandma's demise. She's probably one of my favorite book characters from the past several months.

Book #94 was "The Storm Chasers" by Jenna Blum.

As a teenager, Karena Jorge had always been the one to look out for her twin brother Charles, who suffers from bipolar disorder. But as Charles begins to refuse medication and his manic tendencies worsen, Karena finds herself caught between her loyalty to her brother and her fear for his life. Always obsessed with the weather-enraptured by its magical unpredictability that seemed to mirror his own impulses- Charles starts chasing storms, and his behavior grows increasingly erratic . . . until a terrifying storm chase with Karena ends with deadly consequences, tearing the twins apart and changing both of their lives forever.

Two decades later, Karena gets a call from a psychiatric ward in Wichita, Kansas, to come pick up her brother, whom she hasn't seen or spoken to for twenty years. She soon discovers that Charles has lied to the doctors, taken medication that could make him dangerously manic, and disappeared again. Having exhausted every resource to try and track him down, Karena realizes she has only one last chance of finding him: the storms. Wherever the tornadoes are, that's where he'll be. Karena joins a team of professional stormchasers - passionate adventurers who will transform her life and give her a chance at love and redemption- and embarks on an odyssey to find her brother before he reveals the violent secret from their past and does more damage to himself or to someone else.

Nothing phenomenal about this book but nothing horrible either. I liked reading about the stormchasers and their quest for finding the storm. But the ending left me a little disappointed because it was too neat.

Book #95 was "Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention" by Katherine Ellison.

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and former foreign correspondent Ellison describes life after she learns that her 12-year-old son, Buzz, suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and that she’s got it, too. Looking back, the Stanford graduate sees the signs, even in her choice of profession. Who needs Ritalin when you can cover coups? Ellison expertly weaves together her family’s story (at one point her son grabs a huge butcher’s knife, waves it at her, then holds it against his own throat) with interesting information about impulsive behavior (the ancient Greeks used leeches to treat it because they thought it was caused by too much red blood). She gives her take on treatments they tried, and gives thumbs down to food additives (they appear to increase hyperactivity) and stimulants (at least for Buzz, they cause terrible insomnia), and thumbs up to neurofeedback, meditation, and a new pet dog.

As the parent of a child with ADHD, I was particularly attracted to this book. While our experiences differ (and I don't have ADHD myself ... oh look shiny things! ... what was I saying? ...) there are some definite shared experiences. I wish Ellison had focused more on her relationship with Buzz - she talked a lot about methods tried with him but not as much about him.

Phew, writing all that wore me out. I am only four books away from my goal of 100 for the year. Right now I am reading "The Other Family" by Joanna Trollope.

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Book #89 of 2010

Book #89 of 2010 was "The Girl who Chased the Moon" by Sarah Addison Allen.

Seventeen-year-old Emily Benedict, intent on learning more about her mother, Dulcie, moves in with her grandfather, but is disappointed to find that her grandfather doesn't want to talk much about Dulcie. She soon discovers, though, that many still hold a grudge against Dulcie for the way she treated an old sweetheart before dumping him and disappearing. Luckily, Dulcie's high school adversary, Julia Winterson, back in town to pay down her deceased father's debt, takes a shine to Emily. She's working another quest as well: baking cakes every day with the hope that they'll somehow attract the daughter she gave up for adoption years ago.

While the overall storytelling is good the big family secret is just ridiculous. It's reveal ruined the whole story for me. Its too bad because otherwise I might have given the book four stars.

Up next is "This is Where I Leave You" by Jonathan Tropper. I am actually almost done with it and I so far I can tell you is that Tropper is exceptionally obsessed with sex.

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