Thursday, January 27, 2011

4. The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

I saw The Man of My Dreams while browsing at the library. I had previously read books by Curtis Sittenfeld and enjoyed them, and this one looked like something that I would enjoy. It was a short read and one that I liked and I give it a B.

From Amazon:
Hannah Gavener is fourteen in the summer of 1991. In the magazines she reads, celebrities plan elaborate weddings; in Hannah’s own life, her parents’ marriage is crumbling. And somewhere in between these two extremes–just maybe–lie the answers to love’s most bewildering questions. But over the next decade and a half, as she moves from Philadelphia to Boston to Albuquerque, Hannah finds that the questions become more rather than less complicated: At what point can you no longer blame your adult failures on your messed-up childhood? Is settling for someone who’s not your soul mate an act of maturity or an admission of defeat? And if you move to another state for a guy who might not love you back, are you being plucky–or just pathetic?None of the relationships in Hannah’s life are without complications. There’s her father, whose stubbornness Hannah realizes she’s unfortunately inherited; her gorgeous cousin, Fig, whose misbehavior alternately intrigues and irritates Hannah; Henry, whom Hannah first falls for in college, while he’s dating Fig; and the boyfriends who love her more or less than she deserves, who adore her or break her heart. By the time she’s in her late twenties, Hannah has finally figured out what she wants most–but she doesn’t yet know whether she’ll find the courage to go after it.

I think that each woman who reads this story can find a bit of herself in it. While Hannah isn't the most likeable person, she is an honest character and one you can relate to. I have to admit that there were times that I really didn't like her, but there were also times that I felt so bad for her. The story was a bit "clunky" at times, where there was just a big info drop, but I kept reading. The ending was also a bit of an info dump, written in letter form, so while it wasn't the best written book in the world, it was an enjoyable one to escape with for awhile. While some might say this was chick lit, I would classify it more as women's fiction

3. Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern

I enjoyed another book by Ms. McGovern and the subject of this book really grabbed at me. I enjoyed it, and while it took me longer than I like because of how busy I've been, it was great. I give it an A-.

From Amazon:
Like The Lovely Bones and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Cammie McGovern’s breakout novel is at once a hypnotic thriller and an affecting portrait of people as real as our next-door neighbors. In Eye Contact, two children vanish in the woods behind their elementary school. Hours later, nine-year-old Adam is found alive, the sole witness to his playmate’s murder. But because Adam has autism, he is a silent witness. Only his mother, Cara, can help decode his behavior for the police. As the suspense ratchets, Eye Contact becomes a heart-stopping exploration of the bond between a mother and a very special child.

I loved the characters in this book and how Adam is autistic. Since subbing, I have had a lot of experience and one on one contact with autistic children, I have to admit that I am enthralled by seeing what great strides they can make. Seeing how something as traumatic as losing your friend to murder and seeing it happen, but then throwing in the mix that he is autistic makes for a great suspense read. I look forward to reading more of Ms. McGovern in the future.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas

I found The Slap by browsing my library's new release shelves. The cover and the title drew my attention, but after discovering that it takes place in Australia, I have to admit to almost putting it back. I am glad I didn't because I really came to enjoy it. I give it an A-.

From Amazon:
Winner of the 2009 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap is a riveting page-turner and a powerful, haunting rumination on contemporary middle-class family life. When a man slaps a child who is not his own at a neighborhood barbecue, the act triggers a series of repercussions in the lives of the people who witness the event-causing them to reassess their values, expectations, and desires. For readers of Jonathan Franzen and Tom Perrotta, this is a compelling account of modern society and the way we live today.

I thought the book addressed a lot of questions like what are people to do when a child isn't being disciplined by they parents when there is clearly a need and who do we stand by between an argument between family and friends. I loved the way the story was told through 8 different people who were at the barbecue and getting to see how they feel about all of the events. I was somewhat shocked at some of the descriptions of drug use and felt that they probably could have been left out of the story, but all in all it was very engaging. For a dirty, raw look at the suburbs (or at least those in Australia) I would check out The Slap. I am glad I broke my kinda rule about not reading foreign books!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

1. The Grift by Debra Ginsberg

I really enjoyed other books by Ms. Ginsberg, so even though this subject was different from what I usually read, I decided to give it a chance. I am so glad I did! I really enjoyed The Grift and give it an A-.

From Amazon:
What happens when a pseudo psychic suddenly gets the real gift?Marina Marks has been on the grift as a psychic since she was a child, forced into the business by a junkie mother who was always desperate for her next fix—and willing to use her solemn dark-haired daughter to peddle an extra buck. As an adult, Marina has earned a handsome living preying on the dreams and fears of her clients. She doesn’t believe there is such a thing as psychic ability, but she does believe in intuition. Her gift is the ability to gain the trust of her clients and subtly raise her fees as they become more attached to her and her readings.But when Marina moves her “intuitive counseling” business out of muggy, cloying Florida to the milder environs of southern California, her past follows her. As she takes on new clients—a trophy wife desperate to bear a child, a gay man involved with a closeted psychiatrist, and a philandering businessman who’s smitten with her—a former client resurfaces in an eerie way. Suddenly, Marina is in love for the first time, but it is a romance whose roots lie deep in her past and threaten her efforts to reinvent herself.As Marina’s life gets more and more entangled with those of her clients, she makes a startling discovery: she suddenly has the actual ability to see the future. After predicting a murder exactly as it happens, she becomes the sole suspect. Now she’s the desperate one—desperate to clear her name and to discover the meaning behind her visions.

While I normally shy away from paranormal books, I loved the aspect of a psychic who knows she is a fraud but then becomes a real psychic. There was a good mystery included in the story and a lot of red herrings. I was able to figure out who the bad guy was, but not before I made some incorrect guesses. I really hope Ms. Ginsberg continues to write books.

Friday, December 31, 2010

111. The Spare Wife by Alex Witchel

This is another book that I finished in 2010. I just wanted to post a quick review, and I am not even going to put a blurb about the book.

This was a fun escape read about the famous and wealthy in Manhattan. Those are always enjoyable reads to me, and this one was no different. I liked that the ending was not one where everything was wrapped up in a nice and neat package, but that there was a realistic edge to it. I give it an A-.

I believe I have read this author before, but it was a long time ago. I will keep her name in my mind for future reads!

110. A Most Uncommon Degree of Popularity by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

I enjoyed Ms. Seidel's previous book that I read, so I decided to give this one a try. It was a good read, though I did have some eye rolling moments. I give it a B.

From Amazon:
Your own daughter... one of the popular girls?
On the first day of middle school, Lydia Meadows, a former lawyer turned full time mother, is startled to discover that her daughter Erin is one of the popular girls, a tight foursome whose mothers are also great friends. Lydia has always thought of popular girls as ambitious little manipulators who enjoy being cruel. But Erin is kind and well-adjusted. Maybe this popularity thing won't be so bad after all.
Then a new student ruthlessly targets Erin to boost her own popularity, and Lydia helplessly wonders what to do when her daughter's phone stops ringing. And the uneasiness among the girls begins to affect the friendship of the mothers-even though they are all grown women who should know better. Has their driven energy, once directed toward their careers, turned into an obsession with the social lives of their daughters?

In one word, yes. These mothers, especially Lydia, are way too involved in their daughters' lives, even to the point of letting it come in between other relationships. Now I am not a mother, so maybe I don't know, but these were the exact definition of what "helicopter moms" are. Besides this, I enjoyed the book. I actually finished this book last week, though I just got to posting this review and want to keep my ytd totals correct.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

109. Blind Submission by Debra Ginsberg

As I mentioned earlier, I liked The Neighbors Are Watching so much, I immediately checked out what other books Ms. Ginsberg wrote. While I really liked Blind Submission, I didn't love it as much as The Neighbors Are Watching. I give it a B+.

From Amazon:
Books can be a dangerous business...
Angel Robinson loves books, loves reading, loves anything to do with the written word. But when Blue Moon Books, the Bay Area bookstore where she worked since college, is squeezed out of business, Angel is forced to find a new job. She lucks into a position as the assistant to the world-renowned literary agent Lucy Fiamma.
Angel soons learns that working for Lucy is no picnic. The agent has a blockbuster ego to match her blockbuster success and Angel must juggle both her boss's prima donna demands and the strange quirks of her authors. But Angel soon becomes indispensible to the agency and develops a keen understanding of big projects and the writers who create them.
What she doesn't realize is just how far one of them will go to get published.
One day a chapter from a mysterious manuscript by an anonympus author arrives at the office. Set in a New York literary agency, the novel, titled Blind Submission, centers on the ambitious assistant to a successful literary agent. Angel is pulled in by the plot- but her initia; curiosity soon turns to panic. As the story unfolds-with chapters e-mailed in one by one- it becomes clear that the mystery author is writing the story of Angel's own life, including secrets she thought were deeply hidden. Someone is watching her, even plotting against her. Could it be her backstabbing coworker, her jealous boyfriend, or her seductive new client?
When the novel's plot turns to murder, Angel knows that if she doesn't discover the author's identity before the final chapter is written, more than just her career will be cut short.

I loved getting the inside view point of how an author becomes published and loved even more Angel. While I love everything about books, including their smell and feel, I have absolutely no desire to write them, just like Angel. While I admit that the mystery of the book first drew me in, I thought it could have been left out. I have a feeling that Ms. Ginsberg added it in to make the book be so not The Devil Wears Prada. It was still a good book, and Ms. Ginsberg does a wonderful job describing what makes a book lover a true book lover!