Monday, November 30, 2009

American Teen

Interesting 2008 documentary about the senior year of high school for 5 students in Warsaw, Indiana. High school looks so much worse now than even I remember it- the texts, the online humiliation seem to add a new level to the lord of the flies nature of high school.

How It Ended: New and Collected Stories, by Jay McInerney

Superb collection of short stories from one of my favorite writers. Revisiting much of the same ground (NYC, Tennessee) as his novels, and in some cases revisiting familiar characters like Russell and Corrinne from Brightness Falls, and of course, inevitably, Alison Poole from Story of My Life (who was also used as a character in Ellis's American Psycho), McInerney brings his stories and characters to life, thwarted as some of them may be. Some find some wisdom, 9/11 has happened, there are wars and protests and middle age and past middle age- new territory for a writer who wrote so incandescently about being young in New York, before some buildings blew up and everything got different. Favorite stories: My Public Service, How It Ended, Getting In Touch With Lonnie, I Love You, Honey, Penelope on the Pond (the Allison Poole/Rielle Hunter/John Edward's mistress character), and The Last Bachelor.

American Salvage, by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Phenomenal collection of short stories. Nominated for the National Book Award, each story in this collection was set in rural Michigan, which, to be honest, sounds a bit of a depressing place, but the stories themselves were incredibly powerful. My "favorite", if you could call it that, was The Solutions to Brian's Problem- the title alone hints that Brian has a hell of a problem.
Rough and inspiring.

Family Album, by Penelope Lively

Interesting and well written, if slow paced novel about a family of 6 children and their parents, and their relationships with each other, with Ingrid the au pair who never quite moves on, and with the family home, Allersmead, which was more of a character than some of the children. Feminism and femininity, memory and myth, and whether truth is in the head of the thinker are all kind of addressed in a dreamy, very polite style.

The Sunday Philosophy Club, by Alexander McCall Smith

Well, I've finally read one of this absurdly prolific writer's books, and can't say I loved it. Can't say I hated it either, it was well written, made Edinburgh seem very civilized and appealing, but it was also 1. incredibly slowly paced 2. frustratingly and unnecessarily high-falutin', and 3, I COULD NOT STAND the 'heroine' of the book, which makes me suspect I would not like the rest of the books in the series. Isabel Dalhousie, I want to smack you for your unforgivable nosiness, judgemental ways, condescension, laziness, pride, snobbery, and probably for the way you dress. Also, you are no Nancy Drew - the lack of a satisfying conclusion made me long for a good fast thriller where everyone swears and everything blows up.

Blackwork, by Monica Ferris

Needlework-themed cozy mystery, with a solid plot and interesting characters.

Viola in Reel Life, by Adriana Trigiani

Ok enough YA. Brooklyn native Viola is a fish out of water when her documentary-maker parents send her to a midwestern boarding school for a year while they cover the war in Afghanistan, but (surprise) she finds that making new friends and becoming more accepting is A Good Thing.

Alphas, by Lisi Harrison

This may have been the worst book ever. Lisi Harrison's manipulative and misogynistic tween writing has hit a new and exceptionally low low. I felt brain cells leaping off cliffs to get away from this drivel as I read it. Wildly depressing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In A Perfect World, by Laura Kasischke

Phenomenal book. This was so good.
Flight attendant Jiselle marries Captain Dorn, and settles down to take care of his 3 children. A strain of flu, known as the Phoenix Flu, with a kill rate of about 1 in 3 spreads over America, and the world, and Jiselle and the children inhabit a world in which electricity becomes unreliable, cars useless without gas, the whole unsustainable life thing, coupled with rage from the rest of the world...
Haunting, and I've read a LOT of near-future disaster scenarios. So quietly done, this had all the impact of the noisiest.

But Not For Long, by Michelle Wildgen

Well, this was very good, and interesting, but as I read it immediately after the absolutely fantastic In A Perfect World, which dealt with much of the same ideas and issues, it paled in comparison.
Hal, Karin, and Greta live in a co-op kind of living situation, in which they agree to eat locally, cook for each other, etc, and this enables Hal and Karin to work at non-profits and feel good about themselves, while Greta has left her alcoholic husband and is kind of drifting. The power goes out- and stays out. There's an air of confusion throughout the book, which makes sense in that the characters themselves are isolated from news, but it was frustrating as a reader to have no explanation for what finally crashed the grid.
Good read, but for a near-near-future take on crashed grids and unsustainable lifestyles, read In A Perfect World by Laura Kasischke.

The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton

Perfection. What else is there to say.

Big Easy To Big Empty

Short but powerful documentary about government failures (and worse) leading up to and after Hurricane Katrina.

Pebble Mosaics, by Deborah Schneebeli-Morel

No idea why I took this out, and i certainly have no urge to make pebble mosaics, but if I did have such an urge, this was definitely a well done craft book.

Bad Apple, by Laura Ruby

Interesting, well written YA. Tola is the focus of a rumor storm after her art teacher is dismissed after accusations of an inappropriate relationship, so it's a little suburban trauma-porn, but her character was unique enough to make the book stand out.

Bought, by Anna David

Although it looks like straight up chick-lit, this was actually pretty serious, and it was a good book. Emma wants to be a serious journalist, but her job just has her covering press lines at Hollywood events. She ends up looking into the world of modern day courtesans in L.A., and realizes how easily lines can blur. Good read.

Dream House, by Valerie Laken

Re-read, and even better on the second reading. Really, one hell of a good book.

Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?, by Louise Rennison

The latest (and last?) in the Georgia Nicholson series. I loved the first ones so much, the middle was a bit iffy, and while I enjoyed this, I'm kind of glad it's over. Still love Angus the cat though.

I Love You Miss Huddleston, by Philip Gulley

Sweet and funny memoir of growing up in Indiana- much of a Bill Bryson's Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid flavor. Very nice.

Monday, November 2, 2009

False Impression, by Jeffrey Archer

Clever art theft/fraud thriller set during and immediately after 9/11, which might be a bit of a crass plot device, but it was pretty well done.

Murder at Longbourn, by Tracy Kiely

Absolutely fantastic locked door mystery/Jane Austen tribute thing. I usually get very annoyed with the Jane Austen take-offs, but this was so well done, and the mystery itself was fair play, I can't wait for her next book.

Scary Stuff, by Sharon Fiffer

A Jane Wheel cozy mystery, antiques and family secrets and Halloween- ok.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter, by Lisa Patton

Fun book! Leelee's husband suddenly gets the urge to move from Memphis to Vermont to run a bed and breakfast, but when Leelee is left to face Vermont winters and to run an inn on her own, she finds she's much more competent and capable than she had ever thought. I usually don't enjoy books that twang on about Southern-ness, but this was an enjoyable light read.

Much Ado About Anne, by Heather Vogel Frederick

Very sweet YA/Children's book. A sequel to The Mother Daughter Book Club, this time the girls read Anne of Green Gables, and the plot of the book vaguely mirrors the plot of Anne. Lovely.