Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, by Debra Ginsberg

Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress
Pretty terrible book about (surprise) being a waitress. Much like Caitlin Kelly's Malled, this went on and on about what it is like to be a waitress (or a retail worker) with no surprises- you mean, waitresses bring food to people at tables? no way.
But, at least Ginsberg actually seemed to like, in many ways, what she did, and tried to make an interesting book out of it.
But stil, ugh.

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

The Help Quick but uninspiring and predictable read.

Spoiled, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

After her mother dies, 16 year old small-town Indiana girl Molly Bix discovers that her birth father is Hollywood action star Brick Berlin, and moves to LA to live with him and his other daughter, celebutante Brooke Berlin. Culture clashes and sibling rivalry lead to tabloid shenanigans and ultimately personal growth.

Spoiled was a quick treat of a read, with a light skewering of Hollywood and a refreshingly clean and good natured tone.
Well drawn supporting characters, including Molly's mother Laurel, added some depth, but the two sisters at the heart of the plot really made the frothy tale work.

Looking forward to the authors' next book!

The First Year

The First Year Depressing documentary about 1st year teachers in South Central LA. Gah.

Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens
Satire stretched too far and too long.
When a plane carrying the Miss Teen Dream contestants crashes on a tropical island, the 13 surviving girls create a new society based on more than lipgloss, and when it turns out that their adventures are tied in with dire doings by Ladybird Hope, a Sarah Palin-esque eeevil politician/leader of the Miss Teen Dream empire/Corporation henchperson, the girls use newfound confidence to overcome. A boatload of lost reality tv pirates and some clever spoofs on advertising helped lighten it, but this was just so message heavy it choked me going down.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

French Leave, by Anna Gavalda

French Leave
I can't help but feel that maybe I was either expecting too much or too little from this, or that something got lost in the translation from French, but I don't see why this was such a massive European bestseller and so highly praised.
Bohemian bourgeois siblings abandon their family (and one brother's striving, annoying wife) at a wedding, and set off on a road trip to meet up with another brother, who is working as a guide at a chateau. The 2 sisters and 2 brothers have a fun weekend, and... that's the book.
It's one of those books where I feel like the failure is mine somehow- if so many people love it, I must be missing something (see: A Visit from The Good Squad, by Jennifer Egan, or Room by Emma Donohue- oh, no, you can't, because despite starting them both about 5 times, I could not force myself to finish them). At least this was very short?

Exit Through The Gift Shop

EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP Funny, thought-provoking, bizarre, and overall fantastic movie about... street art? commercialization of a counter-culture movement? imposters?
Aspiring film-maker Thierry Guetta begins compiling hundreds of hours of footage of street artists creating their ephemeral work. Gradually, some of the biggest artists, like Shepard Fairey, realize that his filming is capturing some rare and valuable scenes of them at work. When Guetta meets the anonymous god of street art, Banksy, Banksy convinves Guetta to try his own hand at creating art, and to turn over the footage to Banksy.
In an unbeleivable switcheroo, Banksy the artist becomes the film-maker, and Guetta the (addled? insane? genius?) film-maker reinvents himself as a top street artist- who then opens a VERY successful commercial exhibit.
This was just wonderful.

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America, by Albert Brooks

2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America
Interesting and creative near future satire, from THAT Albert Brooks, the actor/writer.
In 2030, medical advances, including cancer being cured, have extended the length of life to a point where younger Americans feel they have no opportunities, but are only working to support "the olds", and the dismal American economy thrums along on support from China, and social unrest haunts the nation. President Bernstein is already at a loss as to what to do, and then a 9.1 earthquake in LA sets a number of plots into motion.
This was good, but too much was going on to get genuinely involved in any one thread. Clever, but not a stand-out.

The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone)Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale, by Susan Maushart

The Winter of Our Disconnect: How Three Totally Wired Teenagers (and a Mother Who Slept with Her iPhone)Pulled the Plug on Their Technology and Lived to Tell the Tale Good read! Maushart convinces her 14 year old daughter, 15 year old son, and 18 year old daughter to join her in a 6 month electronic fast, and writes about the experience. They didn't go all Robinson Crusoe, but they got rid of computers, smartphones, tv, gaming systems, etc, while leaving the phone landline in place, and the kids were free to use electronics at school or friends' houses.
The most impressive thing to me was how her son, after a couple of weeks of withdrawal from technology, rediscovered his interest in making music, and by the end of the 6 months, he has a job to pay for private saxophone lessons to catch back up to his old school band friends, and is playing piano as well.
Maushart's voice was very funny and approachable, and nonpreachy, which made it a very enjoyable experiment to read about.

Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail, by Caitlin Kelly

Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail Terrible whine of a book. Author Kelly is forced to take a part time retail job at a North Face store, despite CONSTANTLY reminding the reader what a fantastic and successful journalist she is, and she is SHOCKED that is is low-paid, unsatisfying work. SHOCKED. Which makes me think that she might not be that good of a journalist, either, if she hadn't noticed at some point that PEOPLE HATE TO WORK RETAIL. There's not really a lot else to say about this, but I finished the book (why???) and grew to dislike her so much I wish she was working in a mall near me so I could go mess with her.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie, by Wendy McClure

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie Touching and bizarrely fascinating account of Wendy McClure's somewhat obsessional visiting of the world of Little House on the Prairie museums, pageants, tours, books, the tv show, and more.
Amazing, actually, that the fantasy of befriending Laura and "showing her" the modern world is so widespread- I had truly always thought that was my own personal (and strange) memory- I remember so clearly wishing so much that I could show Laura things like a washing machine, or even the sink with running water, and not only did McClure have the same fantasy, but she discovered many other people who admitted to the same odd fixation.
I had no idea that so many sites from the books are done up as museums and such now, and feel no need to go to any of them, but it was a really satisfying read, and really well done.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Bake-Off, by Beth Kendrick

The Bake-Off 2 sisters, one mixer, one mess. Fun breezy and fast read. Sisters Linnie and Amy have been distanced for many years, but when tricked into pairing for a baking competition by their beloved grandmother, they find that by working together, they can use both science and art to make something wonderful. Predictable but kind of delightful.

Ten Beach Road, by Wendy Wax

Ten Beach Road Fun summery read. Like Wax's 2010 summer read, a disparate group of women become close and help each other to find what they need. This one had bonus real-estate porn, as they fix up a dilapidated Floria mansion.

The Time Traveling Fashionista, by Bianca Turetsky

The Time-Traveling FashionistaIncredibly bad YA. The concept- that vintage fashions could transport the wearer into another time- was good, and the drawings scattered through the book were lovely, but the actual time-travel was so badly done, and the dialogue so stilted that it ended up being a breath-takingly bad book. Sad.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Slugfest, by Rosemary Harris

Slugfest: A Dirty Business Mystery
Fun and quick mystery in Rosemary Harris's gardening series. This was enjoyable but not memorable, but that really might just be me. Not super into any books I've read lately!

Hourglass, by Myra McEntire

HourglassPretty bad paranormal YA romance. Emerson Cole sees characters from the past, called "rips", has Powers, all the boys want her- and so on. And on. And on.

Perfect Timing, by Jill Mansell

Perfect Timing: When you meet the man of your dreams on the night before your wedding, it's hardly... Light and fluffy UK real estate porny romance that diverted wildly from its initial (daffy) premise. Fun but not really well done.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

In The Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic, by Professor X

In the Basement of the Ivory Tower: Confessions of an Accidental Academic
FANTASTIC nonfiction. Professor X is an adjunct English instructor at a state university and at a community college, and his take on the problems in academia was thoughtful, born of experience, and heart rending.
From students who are inadequately prepared for college level work to students who are forced to earn a 2 year degree to move up in fields that traditionally didn't require an associate's degree, X sees the problems (and opportunities) of the changing face of college students, and clearly outlines the challenges facing students and instructors.
Fascinating and wonderfully written, though provoking, and timely.

Zero Day, by Mark Russinovich

Zero Day: A Novel

Functional techno-thriller. Islamic radicals fund hackers who plant viruses intended to bring down western society, yadda yadda. Pretty good.

A Test of Wills, by Charles Todd

A Test of Wills (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) Unpleasant and implausible mystery set after WWI. Suffering from post-traumatic syndrome, Inspector Ian Rutledge is unsure of whether he is ready to return to work at Scotland Yard, and unfortunately his first case back hinges on the testimony of another PTS scarred veteran who no one believes. This would have been much more interesting if it weren't for elements of the paranormal which rendered it implausible, and an ending that made the entire book ridiculous.

Fabulously Fashionable, by Holly McQueen

Fabulously Fashionable: A Novel Funny, light and well done bit of UK chick-lit froth. Isabell Bookbinder seeks a career in fashion, shenanigans ensue. Charming and fast.

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

TERRIBLE movie about a morning news show. Every cliche you could think of and then it just got worse. This was such shite, it was almost breathtaking. I would have turned it off but by the time I realized how appalling it was, I was almost fascinated by it.



Dreamy Sofia Coppola movie- ennui in luxury, as she does so well, with an ambiguous ending that was (to me) not as successful as the ambiguous ending to Lost in Translation. Still, lovely and atmospheric.