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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1 comments:

Strawberry CAKE said...

Hey you got it posted...are you shaving your hands now?

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