Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This Beautiful Live, by Helen Schulman

Well done book. Richard and Liz Bergamot's New York world is pretty perfect, and their children's too- private schools, lots of extracurriculars, a warm and loving family with economic secutiry and a stable life. When their 15 year old son Jake is sent a pornographic video by a younger girl he rejected, he forwards it to his best friend, in a mistake that leads to disaster for everyone involved. Reminded me a bit of Anita Shreve's Testimony- teen sexual activities recorded and shared, and the fallout that can ensue, but was much better.

Ed King, by David Guterson

Phenomenal update on Oedipus Rex. I had major doubts about how the classic tragedy could be updated, but the exceptional Guterson did it so well. A 16 year old au pair and her employer seduce each other, and she abandons the baby in a wealthy neighborhood, wishing the baby the best. Ed King grows up not knowing he is adopted. He has teenage years of being reckless - it is hard to not give plot spoilers, so I'm going to stop because the deft way Guterson brought the tale to modern times was really brilliant, and moving the drama into the hubris and grandiose ambitions of software barons was a genius stroke.

Few Eggs and No Oranges, by Vere Hodgson

This was an absolutely incredible diary by a woman living in London throughout WWII- it was astonishing in the courage that people had during unimaginable terror and deprivation, and breathtaking in how seriously wonderful the English spirit was during those times. Long- 624 pages- but I could not put it down. Her daily entries breathed with life, and the detail with which she recorded the progress of the war taught me more about WWII than I have ever known. Stunning. Everyone should read this.

Blueprints for Building Better Girls, by Elissa Schappell

Excellent short story collection, exploring the worlds of women, as lovers and 'sluts', daughters and mothers, wives and mistresses- the interconnections between the stories made it almost novel-like, as each story really built upon previous stories, to create a very vivid and powerful collection.

Miss Buncle Married, by D. E. Stevenson

Sequel to Miss Buncle's Book, and still charming, if a little too sacharine. Miss Buncle (plot spoiler lol!) marries, and moves to a new village, where further match-making and life-changing ensue.

Miss Buncle's Book, by D.E. Stevenson

Lovely, fanciful and warm novel. Miss Buncle, when strapped for cash, decides to write a book- thinly veiled about her village and neighbors. Its publication is a surprise success, and the ramifications of her descriptions of her neighbors and friends lead to upheaval within the village. Charming.

Gossip: The Untrivial Pursuit, by Joseph Epstein

Unpleasant book about gossip. While Joseph Epstein often writes about topics I am interested in, such as the social implications of gossip, or class structure in America, he seems such a snob and a jerk, and this was the most offensive yet of his name-dropping, nasty books.

MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

Interesting premise. When Rachel and her husband move to Chicago, she misses her best friends from New York, and makes a concerted effort to try to meet friends. While meeting and making friends outside of college is so much harder, I hate to say the book really turned me off. I wouldn't want to be friends with her, and although the things she treid were interesting, not being able to like the author stopped me from enjoying the book itself.

The Night Eternal, by Guillermo Del Toro

OK ending to the Strain trilogy. The first book was so good, and the second so horrific, but this one left me a little flat.

Shiny Objects : Why We Spend Money We Don't Have in Search of Happiness We Can't Buy, by James Roberts

Excellent book on consumerism, happiness, and how they relate. Full of interesting charts with accessible references to peer reviewed studies, this was a nice new take on a topic I've read a lot on. Would recommend.

After the Armistice Ball, by Catriona McPherson

Well done between the wars mystery. Classic set up- society heroine, missing diamonds, a death, but very neatly done- I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Twisted, by Sara Shepard

Great new Pretty Little Liars, somehow taking and expanding on the original A premise, and continuing one of my greatest guilty pleasure series reads.

LBD: It's a Girl Thing, by Grace Dent

Funny English YA, but nowhere near as good as Dent's FANTASTIC Diary of a Chav series. This was sweet and well done, but lacked the characterization that really made Diary of a Chav transcend the genre.

Lost In Time, by Melissa De La Cruz

Pretty ludicrous addition to the Blue Bloods series. The mythology at this point is so strained, and Jack and Schulyer's relationship feels unreal, and Mimi's visit to Hell was laugh out loud bad.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever, by Jeff Kinney

Number 6 in the very funny Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Greg and his family are trapped by a blizzard, after the usual shenanigans of a Wimpy Kid book- quick and cute.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick, by Joe Schreiber

Fast paced and outlandish but funny and enjoyable YA. Like Carl Hiaasen or such. Perry is reluctant to take his family's visiting Latvian exchange student, Gobija, to the prom, but when she whirls him into NYC for a series of assassinations, he finds there was more to her than he thought. Going to be a movie, and I bet it will be a fun one.

The House on the Cliff, by D.E. Stevenson

Lovely D.E. Stevenson book. Light and cozy romance with a great dose of real-estate porn- struggling actress Elfreda inherits a family estate, and learns to leave Lond'ns bright lights for country pleasures.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, by Jerry Pinkney

Just about the most beautiful childrens' book I have ever seen.

The Velvet Room, by Zilpha Keately Snyder

Just a lovely children's book. Migrant farm family has a car breaksdown near a farm with an abandoned mansion nearby. When her father finds work on the farm, Robin finds her way into the round, velvet curtained turret room, and finds an escape in books. This was just really lovely.

The ABC Murders, by Agatha Christie

My first e-book! I read this on my awesome new Kindle-fire, which I love more than words can say. I chose to read an Agatha Christie first, to combine the familiar with the new, and it was a match made in heaven. Great classic Christie, amazing new format. so cool.

The Scrapbook of Francie Pratt, by Caroline Preston

A moving graphic novel following the protagonist through the roaring 1920’s, from Cornish New Hampshire to Vassar to decadent ex-pat writer’s refuge Paris and back. Frankie is a heroine to remember, and the vintage details in the “scrapbook” add depth and interest to the story.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson

Excellent YA fantasy with an unusual heroine and vividly imagined, vaguely Spanish/South American setting. I couldn't put this down.

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

Well done YA Sc-Fi. Amy is frozen with her parents for a 300 year journey to terraform a new planet, but is woken 75 years early in suspicious circumstances. This was an exciting blend of scifi and romance and philosophical points about what compromises might be necessary for the human race to survive.

The Village that Slept, bu Monique Peyrouton de Ladebat

This was a strangely addictive children's book about 2 children who wake, dazed and amnesiac, high in the Alps after a plane crash. They find a baby among the wreckage, and then take shelter in an abandoned village for 18 months. Strange, dreamlike, and quite haunting.

The Mystery of the Haunted Pool, by Phyllis Whitney

Cool little children's mystery, very reminiscent of Nancy Drew, with hidden gems and pirate treasure and secret hiding places.

Missing Melinda, by Jacqueline Jackson

Really lovely hidden children's gem- twin sisters Cordelia and Ophelia move into a new house, and promptly begin a mystery involving the disappearance of a valuable old doll named Melinda. Delightful .

The Twisted Thread, by Charlotte Bacon

Ok but familiar feeling college girl secret society murder mystery- reminded me much of The Sixes, by Kate White.

Easily Amused, by Karen McQuestion

Light and quick read. After inheriting a house in the suburbs, dizzy girl gets absorbed into the neighborhood and finds Mr. Right, blah blah. Predictable but comforting. Comfort food lite, like Cheetos.

Comfort and Joy, by India Knight

Light and charming Christmas book. Upscale Bridget Jones-y characters, celebrating Christmas over many years. Rather like One Day without the tear-jerkyness.  

Bad Kitty Meets The Baby, by Nick Bruel

Not as delightful as earlier entries in the series, but still fun and charming. I do love Bad Kitty, I'm just not sure about this title.  

Lost Girls, by Alan Moore

Now, usually when I say something is porn on here, I mean food porn, or lifestyle porn, or most often real-estate porn, but this was just straight up hardcore comic drawn porn. Ick.

Martha Stewart Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations

Beautiful, unachievable lifestyle porn. Ugh.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides

Quickly making the Top Ten Books of 2011 lists (Publisher’s Weekly and Amazon, so far) Eugenides’ latest is clearly a great read. But is it a great book? That I’m not sure of.
I have to say that The Virgin Suicides is one of my all time favorite books, so my expectations are insanely high, so grain of salt- hell, pillar of salt.
The college and post-college experiences of Brown students Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell rang true, and parts were heartbreakingly real, but I never felt fully absorbed in the story, and the lyricism that defined Virgin Suicides was not present.
What hit me hardest with this book was the heart-panging recognition of first love, all night conversations about philosophy or semantics or religion, how devastatingly accurately Eugenides portrayed those (ludicrous in retrospect) days when it seemed like ideas and ethics and books mattered at all- when friendships and relationships could be broken by reactions to Barthes or Derrida, when it seemed normal and natural for conversation to revolve around theory. That broke my heart, the dreadful mirror he held up to the college experience, but he never took it to the next inevitable point- when all of these people compromise (as they will have to)- when Madeleine finds there are no jobs for Victorianists, when Mitchell realizes that unless he goes Unibomber style, he will be one of the great hypocrites of the earth, and when Leonard will (again, seemingly inevitably) commit suicide.
I might sound bitter.
Ok, this book fucked with me.
But, for all that- the book stayed firmly in lucky, intelligent, mostly wealthy white people territory, and while that is fine, and no necessary detriment to great literature (see, Salinger, Updike, WHARTON, for god’s sake), the characters never bled for me or made me weep.
It was a great read. I don’t think it was a great book.

Fever, by Lauren DeStefano

A fantastic follow-up to the phenomenal Wither.
In this novel, unwilling bride Rhine and house servant Gabriel have escaped the luxurious prison of her husband’s mansion, only to find that the world outside the gilded cage is even darker and more dangerous than it had been inside. With their freedom the only thing they truly have, their struggle to remain free is all the more poignant. After being captured in a surreal and vividly painted brothel/circus, Rhine must use all of her strength to save herself, Gabriel, and a young straggler they pick up along the way. Without giving spoilers, it’s hard to describe more of the plot, but once again, DeStefano’s writing reimagines the familiar ground of YA post-apocalyptic dystopian near-future America, and creates a fully imagined world fraught with danger, but touched by hope. Different in tone from the nearly claustrophobic Wither, Fever is a fantastic sequel that doesn’t feel like “the middle book” at all- while leaving me panting for the next in the series!

A Killer's Christmas in Wales, by Elizabeth Duncan

This was a bit of a dissapointment plot-wise, but I really enjoy the North Wales settings of Duncan's EXTRA-COZY mysteries, and although the characters don't ring to life, and the plots are a wee bit threadbare, still, the thrill to my heart of the murder happeining at Conwy Castle, and the frequent mentions of the train from Chester to Llandudno etc keeps me reading her books. Rhys Bowen's Constable Evan series was better, but seems to have stopped.

A Dark and Stormy Night, by Jeanne Dams

Pretty blah country house mystery. I have no problem with mysteries featuring older protagonists, but some of the characters in this spent more time worrying about slipping on the stairs than about the killer loose in the house, and that kind of put me off. I was hoping to adore this,  as I love a good locked door country house storm-isolated inheritance plot, but I did not, and will not try another by this author.