Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It Looked Different On The Model: Epic Tales of Impending Shame and Infamy, by Laurie Notaro

Hilarious collection of essays, ranging from getting stuck while trying on a too small blouse in a boutique to a disastrous road trip with a 10 year old nephew. So funny.

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, by Alex Gilvarry

Very amusing story of a Philipino fashion designer who gets stuck in Guantanamo accused of being part of a terrorist ring.

The Fallback Plan, by Leigh Stein

Wildly depressing quarter-life crisis novel. Esther Kohler had a depressive breakdown during her last semester of college, and has since returned to live with her parents. She spends her days taking prescription pills and smoking pot with a pair of loser-type guys she's known all her life, and then takes a job as a nanny for a couple whose youngest daughter died of SIDS. Esther has an affair with the father, feels terrible for the mother, and at the end, has a bit of what seems to be a breakthrough, but the whole of it, despite being wonderfully written, was too glum for a bright yellow cover. Also, when writing about depressed women in their 20s named Esther, be careful- inviting comparisons with The Bell Jar is bold, but not wise.

Treasure Island!!!, by Sara Levine

Very funny, off-kilter book about a slacker in a quarter-life crisis who decides to try to find the meaning of life in Treasure Island- she tries to adopt it's "core values" of "boldness, resolution, independence and horn-blowing."
So random.

Made me want to read Treasure Island, actually.

Exposed, by Kimberly Marcus

Pretty blah YA novel in verse. Photographer Liz is distressed when her lifelong best friend accuses Liz's brother of raping her.
In verse.

Extra Virginity : The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil , by Tom Mueller

Interesting but slightly overwrought nonfiction about the "sublime and scandalous world of olive oil." As much as I do enjoy microhistories, a major potential problem is always the possibility of the author losing sight of the big picture, not to make a joke, and Mueller here lost the forest for the olive.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Falling for Hamlet, by Michelle Ray

Great modern day YA adaptation of Hamlet- with a twist.
Set in contemporary Denmark, the goings on inside the palace and especially Prince Hamlet's tumultuous relationship with Ophelia are tabloid fodder, and their lives are papparazzi stalked and every move is known. Getrude and Claudius are just as evil as always, now with better technology to do harm with, and the story is very faithful to the original, except for the major (and fantastic) change- Ophelia lives.
So well done.

Spin, by Catherine McKenzie

When Kate has an interview for her dream job as a music writer, she knows she should have a good early night and be fresh and ready for her interview in the morning, but instead, she ends up getting horribly drunk- so drunk that not only is she late to her interview, but she gets sick during it.

She doesn't expect to hear from them again.

When she does, though, the magazing offers to send her to rehab- if she will use the time to spy on and report about troubled starlet Amber Shepperd at the expensive, exclusive facility.

This was so well done as Kate begins to realize she did have a problem, and as she opens up to herself and the other people at rehab, she and Amber become friends, and Kate has to question all the decisions she's made to get to this point.

Well written, funny in parts, and surprisingly and impressively thought-provoking, this is a great read.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, by Owen Jones

Wonderful and thought provoking book. Jones writes with both passion and scholarly precision, and the book examines how it is possible that is it acceptable, and even encouraged, to treat working class people with such disdain that politicians openly call them a "feral underclass" and fancy London gyms teach Chav-beating classes. Thatcherite policies are discussed clearly, and their impacts on once proud communities are shown with compassion, as Jones takes to task the national trend to blame the poor for their poverty, and demean them.

The Rivals, by Daisy Whitney

Sequel to The Mockingbirds, last year's date rape blah blah blah. Set again at Themis Academy, Alex Patrick- DATE RAPE SURVIVOR - is now the head of the improbable Mockingbirds, the secret society that governs the school in the absence of any adult authority figures. This time,  an esc├índalo de la droga threatens... something, I'm just not sure what though. ANYWAY, some of the students at this bizarre boarding school have become addicted to some kind of ADHD medication called Annies, and it makes them able to debate even better than before! and to dance! And Alex is asked to investigate the 'cheating ring' of drug using debaters. And when she gets her Julliard-hoping piano playing fingers broken by a bully, no one cares. (I didn't either).
I wanted to like Mockingbirds, but didn't. This I hoped would redeem Mockingbirds, but it only served to reinforce my original feeling that Daisy Whitney writes some of the worst and most pretentious YA around.

It's a Waverly Life, by Maria Murnane

UNBELIEVABLY bad. Blech. This was one of the worst patronizing condescening pieces of crap i have ever come across. this made me angry that it was published. plotless, soulless, absolutely pointless, pallid, putrid, and if it had a smell it would be cheap perfume. Waverly is an incredibly annoying writer of an advice column- you know what, just don't read it. Or do. I DON'T CARE. All I care about is that this piece of garbage ate like 2 hours of my life, and I WANT THEM BACK.

When My Baby Dreams, by Adele Enerson

Fantastic picture book! This is so cute, and totally inspiring. I am not sure if my baby loves it as much as I do, but it was so much fun to try to replicate one of the pictures from the book- if she ever falls asleep again, I might try some others!

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, by George Orwell

Wildly depressing but wonderfully written. Gordon Comstock is a failed poet, scraping by in a dingy bedsit, and although he claims to despice money, he is obsessed with it. He can't afford to take out his girlfriend, Rosemary, and they have one of the most depressing relationships I have ever read about. His wealthy friend Ravelston tries to do him favors, but Gordon seems determined to ruin himself. When Rosemary becomes pregnant, Gordon must return to work at an advertising agency, doing work he despises, and he throws away his unfinished manuscript for his magnum opus, London Pleasures. They get a small flat, and he buys an aspidistra. Freaking DEPRESSING.

Queen Lucia, by E. F. Benson

Very amusing but bitchy social satire. Lucia's  vanities and pretenstions are skewed in this, but it had a really kind of deliciousness too it. Will look for more in the series, apparently there are a whole bunch.

A Charitable Body, by Robert Barnard

Not very good mystery, set in and about a grand country house now open to the public. Plot too strained and muddled to relate.

Death in High Heels, by Christianna Brand

Ok mystery set in a Bond Street dress shop. It was turned into a movie that I dont need to see.

Wolves in Chic Clothing, by Jill Kargman

Fun fluffy bitchy New York socialites Pygmalion thing. Julia Pearce is working in an exclusive jewelly shop, when she is noticed by the heiress for the company, Lell. Lell decides to make Julia the new It girl around town, but Julia's social successes cause trouble between them, especially when Lell's new husband gets into Julia. Bath book- I wouldn't recommend it, but it was a great bubble bath book.
Actually, I really think I've read something else by these two. Going to look that up now.

A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson

This was just wonderful. It has been SO LONG since I have just enjoyed a book this much- and it was such an unexpected treat. I usually don't read romance, and hardly ever read historical fiction, but this was just enchanting. Exiled Russian Countess Anna goes to work at an English country house, and to say much more would be plot spoiling, but I LOVED it, and want to read many more by Ibbotson. YA, but I think if she had spiced it up a bit, it would have been a HUGE adult read too. As is, it is just lovely.

150 Pounds, by Kate Rockland

This was a fun light read that was really enjoyable. Blog stars Alexis Allbright, of Skinny Girl fame, and Shoshanna Weiner, of Fat and Fabulous meet on Oprah, and face off about their opposing viewpoints on weight and health. After their appearance on tv, though, life changes lead to Alexis gaining weight and to Shoshanna losing weight, until they are both 150 pounds, and they meet again on Oprah. This was pretty predictable, but it was really nicely done for a genre I usually don't even pick up.

Breakdown, by Sara Paretsky

I don't know how I never read Sara Paretsky before, but this was surprisingly good, I though. A group of teens attempting to reenact a ritual from a popular YA vampire series in a cemetary late at night come across a murder, and private investigator V.I. Warshawski uncovers a series of links going back to WWII... Well written, well plotted, and engrossing. Not the usual bestseller contemporary crime fiction, at all- yes, Patterson, I mean you.

Level Up, by Gene Luen Yang

Excellent YA graphic novel. Dennis is an excellent gamer, but guilt over his dead father's ambitions for him make him force himself to deny videogames and to  go to medical school to become a gastroenterologist- some magical realism in the form of angels from a greeting card added a surreal element, but this was a powerful and well drawn book.

Teenage Waistland, by Lynn Biederman and Lisa Pazer

Pretty bad YA about a group of teens who get lap band surgery in a clinical trial of using the weight loss technique on teens. The characters were well drawn, but too much trauma drama, and the great endings for everone felt very forced.

Lunatics, by Dave Barry

Freaking HILLARIOUS caper romp of a book- after a disagreement over a call on a girls soccer game, two men enter into a series of retaliations that escalates to truly ludicrous points, and they become international terrorists/freedom fighters, and accidentally heroes and canditates for President. This was so funny, I would love to read it again.

Police at the Funeral, by Margery Allingham

Classic golden age mystery, good plot, and interestingly, in this one Albert Campion didn't anny me as much as he usually does.