Saturday, August 30, 2008

I'm Leaving, on a Jet Plane

This manatee is waiting for me with open arms in Belize. We should be swimming together like Tom Hanks and Darryl Hannah in Splash on September 6th. We leave tomorrow morning and packing madness has commenced. Before greeting my manatee friend, we will first be here:

and here:

and here:

I'm so excited!!!! I'm bringing the second Twilight book, New Moon with me (which I've already read half of) and Upside Down Inside Out by Monica McInerney. Wish me luck and lots of adventures, I'll be back September 15th!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


SERIOUSLY PEOPLE. How can something so wrong feel so right? I read this book in 2 days, and I'm ashamed to say I think I might not be able to wait until tomorrow to start the next one (and it's after 11pm already as I write this). Which makes me annoyed, because it is now obvious that I'm going to have to cough up the exorbitant cost of the third and fourth books in hard back, as B&N doesn't carry them in the more affordable paper back yet.

I'm not even going to critique this book like I normally would. Why bother? This book is horrible on many levels, but WHO CARES because I loved it anyways. Never before has the term guilty pleasure been so accurately illustrated as in this book. It's basically vampire chick lit. Granted the characters are a little younger than your average chick lit book, but not really, because Edward is actually like 300 years old. Which maybe makes it a little less shameful that I have a mini crush on him? Maybe? Probably not. Sigh.

I’m so embarrassed by my love for this book. I think it maybe all boils down to the romance factor? It’s so ridiculously romantic and I am a total sucker for romance. There’s a lot of moody staring at each other and the sexual tension is thicker than the fog in Forks with him all, “I love you so much but I’m a vampire and can’t get too close for fear that I’ll suck your blood!” And maybe most importantly, he carries her like a princess on more than one occasion. Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had a huge crush on the idea of a guy carrying me “like a princess”. Photo illustration of said technique:

I ask Jeff to do it all the time and he relents maybe once a year but then totally wrecks it by moaning and groaning about how I’m breaking his back. Oh Real Life, how I hate thee.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Things I love and hate at the same time

1. Million Dollar Listing
Explanation: I haven't watched real TV in months. Sure, during the Olympics I became temporarily addicted to watching things that I would never watch normally, like volleyball and dirt biking, but during that time, I never strayed from channels 5 and 99. And before that it had been weeks since I'd spent 4 hours after work on the couch watching whatever, in my elastic waist pants. Which is weird because I used to do that all the time. But something about reading more frequently coupled with nice weather helped me to break this habit. But then yesterday a number of things happened at the same time- it rained, it was cold, it got dark at like 5:00, I was tired, Jeff had to work late, and I had just finished my book. These circumstances led me to turn the TV on at 7:30pm or so, and I did not turn it off until 11:00pm. During this time I discovered what is simultaneously the most hideous and most fantastic show ever- Million Dollar Listing. I love it and I hate it so much! Those guys are such tools! But I couldn't tear my eyes away. Something you might not know about me is that I do the BEST impressions of people. I think I was a parrot in my former life. For real. I wish I could record a sound bite of me doing an impression of Chad because it would be SPOT ON. And awesome. I'd like it even better if it could be a video and I could wear my hair like him and dress like a total douche like he does.

2. Exiled
Explanation: This was another TV Land discovery last night. This show is on MTV and features spoiled youngsters who are uprooted and exiled to remote parts of the world to learn from a new culture. HAHAHAHAHA. This show is so terrible. I was PISSED that I only caught the last 10 minutes of Amanda trying to make it in Africa, carrying water on her head, making huts out of cow dung and getting bit by bugs. Then she calls her Dad using this satellite phone to say (again an audio byte would be very helpful here because I could do a gooood impression of this), "Daaad, this sucks, I like totally hate it here. They tried to make me touch POOO! I just wanna (hiccup, sob) come home." Oh Amanda, how I love to watch you suffer. I hate myself for loving this show.

3. Let's Keep this Funky
Explanation: While flipping channels last night during the commercials, I saw a confrontation between Puff P Diddy Daddy (whatever) and a woman on some TV show. They were rehashing an old business argument and when the woman started to get pissed, Diddy Daddy said, "Hey. Hey! Let's keep this funky okay, let's keep this funky". At which point the woman gets more pissed and says something like, "Oh I'm keeping it funky, YOU better keep it funky." This was all said in a very serious manner, like the way someone else would say, "Okay guys, let's keep this civil". Next time Jeff and I get in a debate about something, I'm going to ask him to keep it funky. He will hate it but I will love it.

4. Twilight
Explanation: Yesterday on my way home from work I swung by B&N and picked up the first two books in the Twilight series for my upcoming vacation. Then at 11:00pm after finally turning off the TV, I cracked the first book open. And oh how I hate myself for loving this book already.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where You Once Belonged

Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf takes place in the same small Colorado town as Plainsong. The style of writing is very similar and it almost feels like a continuation of the other in that it takes place in the same tiny town and there are even one or two recurring (minor) characters. That said, where Plainsong was heartwarming, this book was heartbreaking.

Where You Once Belonged follows the story of Jack Burdette as told by Pat Arbuckle, both life long residents of Holt, Colorado. Growing up, Jack is basically a prank pulling jerk-off that gets away with too much as a result of his stellar football skills. Eventually though, the pranks get more poisonous and after committing a major crime that impacts the whole town, he flees Colorado. Only to return 8 years later and stir things up all over again.

I really love Haruf's writing style. It's so simplistic and honest feeling. Haruf's books have the feeling of listening to your Grandfather tell you a story; the way he starts sentences with "So" and "Anyways". The story is told in first person, which is a departure for Haruf. I think it had more to do with the story than the narration style, but in almost all ways, I preferred Plainsong to this book. That said, it wasn't like I couldn't still respect this novel.

Haruf has a way of describing human interactions that are commonplace but making them seem very relevant to the story. It's so rare that authors do this. While he describes playing in the river with two young boys, I found myself wondering "Is he only describing this scene because it's foreshadowing something - are the boys going to drown in the river?" But that's not why he does it. Sometimes he takes his time describing these scenes just to give you a more full picture of the characters and their connections to each other. It made me realize that so many authors only tell the parts of the story that seem directly related to the plot. You don't often find an author willing to tell you some of the every day in detail.

This is going to be a weird analogy, but it feels right to tell it so I"m going to. I still sometimes remember the scene in the movie "Friends with Money" where Jennifer Aniston's character is shown washing her face before bed. They show the entire thing - putting a headband on, pumping the face soap in her hand, lathering the soap and scrubbing all the parts of her face while she looks at herself in the mirror the whole time. And there's no background music, it's just quiet like it is at night when you wash your face. For some reason that scene was so poignant for me. Like I knew her character and understood her better after watching her do something so simple and private. Reading his books gives me the same feeling. Is that weird?

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Let me start this review by thanking my friend Darrah, for loaning me this book. Because if she hadn't loaned it to me, I probably never would have read it. I've walked by this book in various bookstores many times without picking it up because somehow, I had it confused with This House of Sky by Ivan Doig.

I read This House of Sky for a class in college about 10 years ago and HATED it. It was all about horses and the old timey Midwest and I just remember being bored to tears (for those who don’t know me, I have a strange, but strong aversion to everything horse related). The cover photos for the two books are vaguely similar, so I always avoided picking this book up thinking I’d already read it (and hated it). Then last week, I was at Darrah’s house and she loaned me a few books and at the last minute added Plainsong to the pile. And thank God she did because this might be one of the best books I’ve ever read. I truly loved it. It was really beautifully written and so timeless. And best of all, it wasn’t about horses at all! I mean, there was like one page about a horse, but I will easily forgive Kent Haruf that one page, because the rest of the book is sooo good.

You know how so many movies these days are like 2 or 3 hours long? It’s like a movie can’t be considered legit unless it’s long. It’s gotten so that all movies are longer than they need to be just to seem substantial. Sometimes I think books are headed the same way. I know that I’ve sometimes found myself discrediting skinny books recently. Like the quality of the story is somehow linked to the heft of the book. Plainsong is relatively short, only 301 pages, but I felt like it packed a similar punch as East of Eden, which was twice as long.

Here’s the description from the back of the book:

“Ambitious, but never seeming so, Kent Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. From simple elements, Haruf achieves a novel of wisdom and grace…”

The characters are so endearing. I can’t even tell you how much I loved Raymond and Harold. Really, I loved all the characters in this book. So much. I teared up like 5 times, but not because it’s so sad, although parts of it are. I mostly cried because it’s so heartwarming. I can’t believe I just typed heartwarming, but I DID. And I MEANT IT. I think I’m going to immediately start one of his other novels that Darrah also loaned me – Where You Once Belonged.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Into Thin Air

Here are all the reasons why I should've hated this book:
1. I don't really like hiking.

2. I don't like being cold. Jeff says there is about a 2 degree temperature range in which I am completely without complaint. I think it's 74-76.

3. I don't camp.

4. Everything about this book screams, "Warning! I am a dude book! Do not read me if you like reading books with pink covers about girls dating boys in New York!"

5. It is non-fiction.

I know that disliking camping and hiking is supremely uncool and makes me out to be a total priss. In my defense, I sometimes enjoy hiking. Particularly if it's a gentle slope, under 3 miles round trip, and someone brings snacks. Walking, however is an activity I can get behind. In fact, right now I'm training for the Breast Cancer 3Day which means that in a few short weeks I will walk 60 miles in 3 days. See - I'm not a total priss. I carry heavy ladders and move giant furniture almost on a daily basis, I use an orbital sander like a pro, and I really love the outdoors. I just love showers equally. What I'm trying to say, is that I can get down with some hard labor. I'm just not exactly a peeing-in-the-bushes type of girl. Which is why it's SO WEIRD that I loved this book!

This was my second book for the New Classics Challenge. I started it on Monday night and finished it last night, huddled on the couch with the cat and a big blanket, way past my bedtime. For those who don't know, Into Thin Air follows the true story of Jon Krakauer's trek up Mount Everest in the Spring of 1996, which would later be deemed the deadliest season in the history of Everest. By the end of the book, many of his fellow climbers and friends will be dead.

Honestly, my only complaint about this book is that it was really hard to keep track of all the people in the story. There were SO many people involved in this tragic climb and Krakauer references them all like we would reference our many coworkers and friends, but since I didn't already know these people, it was difficult to remember who was who. Other than that, this book was pretty awesome.

For some reason that defies logic, I love the show 'Beyond the Limit' on the Discovery Channel, which follows a team of trekkers up Mount Everest on their summit attempt. I loved all the familiar references in this book - The Hillary Step, Advanced Base Camp, South Col... I'd already heard them talk about these things on the show! Plus, many of the climbers are from Seattle -just like me! I was practically an insider! That's maybe not so much true, but whatever.

His writing is very articulate and his style makes you feel like you can actually see what's happening first hand. Reading his descriptions of the "thin air" made me feel like I couldn't breath. I cried for a minute at the end, because it's SAD, and REAL and you feel almost like you know the people on the trek by then. At the same time, you have to remind yourself that when you make the decision to climb Mount Everest, you kind of know you might die and you've decided it's worth the risk. You sort of admire and simultaneously shake your fist at the characters. Needless to say, I'll be sticking to my 3 mile hikes, as close to sea level as it gets.

If you haven't read it already, I highly recommend it.

Thank you

For all the good advice on vacation reads. I think you may have tipped the scales in favour (that one's for you Maggie Rae) of Twilight. Hopefully it won't combine with my malaria pills to give me creepy vampire dreams. Sexy vampire dreams, fine. But creepy ones? No thank you. Thanks to Maree who let me know that the new Marian Keyes book is about domestic violence. I still want to read it, but probably not on vacation. I miss the good old days of Watermelon and Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married! Lastly, thanks to Mary Anne who offered her manatee sitting services. I'll keep you posted.

Also - continue to send suggestions until this weekend if you want. I'm headed to B&N on Saturday.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vacation Reading

I'd like some help choosing my vacation reads. I leave in 12 days for Guatemala and Belize! I only want to bring light and entertaining books for this trip as my main priorities are consuming tropical beverages, seeing some ruins, napping in hammocks, and touching a manatee (I asked Jeff if we could bring one home and keep it in the neighbor's Koi pond. Jeff said we could keep it in the back yard and he'd hose it down like a beached whale).

My point is, I'm looking for a good, guilty pleasure read (or 2 or 3). The favoured front runners at the moment are:

1. The latest Marian Keyes book - This Charming Man. I heart Marian Keyes. I can't explain it or even justify it, but it's true.

2. One of Monica McInerney's books - I've read The Faraday Girls, Family Baggage and The Alphabet Sisters. Are any of her other books worth picking up? Has anyone read them?

3. The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer. I've heard some harsh criticism but I've also heard that it's totally addictive. Thoughts?

Has anyone read any good YA (young adult) books that they might recommend for a vacation? Or maybe a good mystery?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Life of Pi

Life of Pi came out quite a long time ago, but I took my sweet time boarding the Yann Martel train. To be honest, the plot line seemed interesting, but I couldn't see how a story that long could come from what is basically "boy and tiger survive in a life boat together". That said, everyone who reads it always has a strong opinion one way or another and in the end, my curiosity got the best of me. That, and my friend Darrah loaned it to me and I'm never one to turn down a free loaner book.

The book follows the story of Pi Patel, who grows up in Pondicherry, India as the son of the local zoo keeper. He is deeply religious and the first 200 pages or so of the book follow his religious growth as he becomes Christian, Hindu, and Muslim (simultaneously). I found this section to be a little bit boring. The zoo stuff and animal tidbits were kind of interesting, but the lengthy descriptions of religious awakening gave me more than one flash back to the bore that was The Alchemist. I kept wondering, "When are we going to get to the ship sinking and tiger befriending part?".

Because here's the thing. For some reason I can't explain, I was really thinking this book was going to be about Pi getting stranded in a life boat with a FRIENDLY tiger. Maybe it was the cute cartoon picture of the tiger on the book cover. I was clearly ignoring the sad picture of the boy in the fetal position laying in the stern. I didn't think they'd be BFFs right away, but certainly by day 7 or 8! I had visions of the tiger spooning poor Pi in order to keep him warm in the night, catching fish for their breakfast in the morning, and enjoying many an adventure on the high seas together. So you can imagine my disappointment when nothing even remotely close to this happened.

I didn't love the lengthy descriptions of knot tying and raft making, it felt a little like reading a how-to manual, only minus the helpful diagrams. There were pages of "Pulling the oars in one after the next, I worked them through the armholes of the life jackets - in one armhole, out the other, so that the life jackets became secured to the four corners of the raft. I tied each one shut... I found one of the buoyant ropes in the locker. With the knife, I cut four segments. I tightly lashed the four oars where they met and tied the lifebuoy to each side of the square. I wove the lifebuoy's rope through the life jakcets... BLAH BLAH BLAH. You get my point, no? Why not just say, "Then I made a raft out of oars and life jackets." I feel that this would have been sufficient. I also didn't love all the blood and guts; I spent at least 1/4 of my time reading this book with a grossed out expression on my face.

Despite all my complaints, I was eventually able to get over my misguided preconceptions and I got really sucked into the story. I even had weird dreams last night about being shipwrecked with my cat. I got nervous when Pi was starving, super excited when he found the food rations, was all “what the ef?” when he met the Frenchman, and totally freaked out when he found a weird island made of algae populated by meerkats. Then, finally, I felt sweet relief knowing he would be okay (despite having been assured of this fact by the author at the very beginning of the book).

But then at the very end, everything takes an artful twist and Yann Martel totally messed with my head. I was left asking, “Was the whole story an allegory for what really happened? Really??” I refuse to believe it. I take the story of the tiger over the other story any day. Even if tiger and boy do not row off into the sunset together as I had hoped.

PS: I had a much better review written, at which point Blogger pulled a fast one on me and deleted it. I tried to recreate the brilliant review, but it falls a bit short. Thanks for nothing, Blogger.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Daniel Isn't Talking

Umm.... so I guess I lied when I said it would take me a while to finish this book. I finished it kind of quick like. Not necessarily because I loved it, more because it was the most depressing story ever and I badly wanted to keep reading it in the hopes that it would get happier. It did. But not much.

This novel by Marti Leimbach is about Melanie Marsh, an American living in London with her British husband and two young kids. Her youngest, Daniel, is 2 years old and not talking and deep down she knows something is wrong. It didn't say on the back of the book, but having some experience with autism, I knew immediately that this would be the "devastating diagnosis" referenced in the jacket description.

The book follows her story of coping with the diagnosis of autism and how it blows apart her marriage. Eventually she sort of puts her life back together and the "devastating" part becomes slightly less devastating, but that is not to say that this book is in any way uplifting. Because for serious. This book is a major downer. Which I suppose should have been a giveaway knowing the subject matter. And that's not even to mention the fact that Marti's other book is called Dying Young. It's possible that I've never heard of a more depressing title for a book.

This book felt so real and sad. The story of their marriage falling apart is almost more sad than the autism. I'm not saying that Melanie deals with the diagnosis well, but her husband Steven? I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and wring his neck. I actually started to hate him. I know this was just a book and not even a true story, but I kept asking myself - why are men so poorly equipped to deal with emotional situations? A generalization and perhaps a stereotype, but one based on some fact I think.

Thankfully, at some point in the book a new character enters the picture - Andy. He helps Melanie cope and teaches Daniel to talk. Andy is the ray of sunshine that brightens this book up a bit. That, and Melanie's weird brother Larry who lives with an older woman named Wanda in a trailer where they have adopted a bunch of special needs parrots. But I digress. The book is well written and an amazing story of a woman's ability to cope, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it unless you're ready for some major angst and heartbreak.

Now I'm off to go watch some Olympics.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I'm having a hard time committing to a book. Here are my excuses:

1. The Olympics are on! And it's exciting! I haven't turned the TV on in forever, but lately I feel that my oxygen supply is somehow connected to the TV power being on and the channel tuned to either 5 or 99.

2. I'm experiencing some reading malaise. Girl with a Pearl Earring has temporarily killed my reading buzz. Since then I've tried to start 2 or 3 books and felt uninspired by them.

3. We are painting our bedroom this week and this takes a lot of my evening time up. Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Jill, didn't you just paint your bedroom like 2 weeks ago?" and I would answer, "Yes, yes I did." I might also add, "I SPEND MY WHOLE LIFE PAINTING AND REPAINTING ROOMS IN MY HOUSE!!!" This color seems to be a winner at least. That last color was baaaaad. One more night of touch ups and we should be able to sleep in our big kid bed again. This is a relief because sleeping in a double bed with Jeff and the cat? Not fun.

4. I just finally started a book that I think I can finish. It's called Daniel Isn't Talking and I borrowed it from the work library shelf. That said, see above reasons for why it might be a few more days (or even through the weekend) before I post a review.

Thank you for your patience.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Girl with a Pearl Earring

I finished Girl With A Pearl Earring last night and I will sum up all my thoughts on this book in one word. Yes, just one word:


If you want more words to round out the meh-ness of this book, let me know but I really don't think more needs to be said. Oh wait! I do have one specific complaint. Why did I think there would be all sorts of saucy romance between Griet the maid (aka Girl with the pearl earring) and the painter? Twas not so. Tres disapointment. She was all "I must grind the bone to make white paint for my master." and I was all, "Less bone grinding and more bone jumping!" If you get my drift. Which I'm pretty sure you do.

PS: I think you did the wrong dance to the rain gods last week. It was more than a wee bit damp at this last wedding. Next time I'll be more specific.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Wedding Bonanza Continues

Well, the third and final wedding of the year for us is this weekend. Jeff and I are off again today, this time to Bellingham for his sister's wedding. The rehearsal dinner is on a boat in the open ocean tonight so now I ask you to not only say a prayer to the rain gods (which worked last weekend by the way), but also the wind gods. I don't want to barf my chowder all over the side of the boat. In fact I think it's safe to say that no one wants that.

I just started Girl With A Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier so I'll probably bring that along. Although, truth be told, I'm not sure I'm in the right mood to get into it... there may be a trip to Village Books in my future.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Happiness Sold Seperately

I got this book by Lolly Winston at my book swap party and just finished it last night. Overall, I liked it more than I expected to. The book is essentially all about a struggling relationship, infertility, and infidelity.

It follows the marriage of Elinor and Ted, who at 40, have been trying for two years to get pregnant and can't. It's torn their marriage apart and eventually led to Ted having an affair. I've mentioned before that I’m really uncomfortable reading books that center around cheating, but this book didn’t incite quite the same squirm-effect as others on the same subject have. I think because it was handled in a more realistic and honest way. It focused less on the deceit and sneaking around, and more on the sadness that led Ted to cheat and the way they try to work through it. I mean, the dude talks to his mistress on his home land line that he shares with his wife. While she's home. It was so much more believable. He was basically your average dude with no stealthy cheat-skills and in the end is embarrassingly honest about the whole deal.

It tells both sides of the story so well that it’s easy to sympathize with all the characters, and even though I’ve never been in this particular marital mess pile, I think anyone in a serious, long term relationship can relate to the kind of conflict and issues that play out in this book. Maybe not to this level of mess-pileyness, but still. It addresses how despite everyone’s best intentions, you can still be in a bad place, and how sometimes you say something rude to the person you love and mean it, but regret it at the same time. How unspoken things can turn into resentments, even when you don’t want them to.

Ultimately, I was happy that it didn’t take the easy way out, the plot took a few unexpected turns and the author didn’t tie it all up at the end with a pretty pink bow. The author also has another book, Good Grief that I’ve picked up and put down at Barnes and Noble before, but if I see it at Half Price Books I’ll pick it up next time; sort of the literary equivalent of "definitely rent it, but you don't need to pay the $15 to see it in the theatre". You know what I mean?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Book Club Picks

It's ironic that I'm posting a list of book club recommendations because I've never actually been in a book club. But more than one person asked, so I figured I'd do it. Below is a list of books I really enjoyed and a short description of why I think it would make a good pick for a book club. I also included pictures of the book covers, since the book jacket often plays a role in what books I pick up at the store. Disclaimer: I'm not going to recommend anything hoity toity, so if your book club likes to read Hemmingway you can just stop right here.

1. Motherless Brooklyn - I read this about 4 years ago, so my memory is a little hazy, but I do remember that it is an excellent book. The narrator is Lionel Essrog, a "detective" suffering from Tourette's syndrome, and the way the author weaves the Tourettes into the prose manages to be both ugly and beautiful. Lionel's story is sad and yet hilarious and the plot centers around him trying to track down the killer of his boss, Frank Minna. From Amazon: "Minna enlisted Lionel and his friends when they were teenagers living at Saint Vincent's Home for Boys, ostensibly to perform odd jobs (we're talking very odd) and over the years trained them to become a team of investigators. The Minna men face their most daunting case when they find their mentor in a Dumpster bleeding from stab wounds delivered by an assailant whose identity he refuses to reveal--even while he's dying on the way to the hospital."

2. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - I read this years ago, and it's so much better than you think it's going to be! It has epic proportions and is painfully romantic. But it's not just a corny romance, it talks about war, family, and Italian culture and it's really quite sophisticated. I also think that it's been long enough since the movie came out that it might be possible to read this now without always picturing Nicholas Cage mooning around Italy pretending to play the mandolin. Except I just reminded you, so maybe not.

3. The Shadow of the Wind - Such a good book. It takes place in Barcelona in 1945 after the war. the back jacket says "Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer's son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author's other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax's books in existence. Soon Daniel's seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets - an epic story of murder, madness and doomed love." It's totally one of those books that immediately after finishing it you want to debrief with a group. The cover makes it look a little like a dude-book, but it's not true. It's the kind of book you'll stay up past your bedtime reading because you must know what happens next.

4. Kite Runner - Really, really good and perfect for a book club. Downfall? Everyone in your club has probably already read it. Maybe you should try his newer book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, I've heard great things about it and I'm sure you have too. In fact, if your club does choose his new book, let me know before hand and I'll read it at the same time.

5. Middlesex - All I need to tell you is the first sentence of the book: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license...records my first name simply as Cal." Real quick I'll tell you just one more thing - this book isn't good just because the story is good, the prose is truly beautiful as well.

6. A Trip To the Stars - This was my favorite book about 7 or 8 years ago and it still holds a special place on my bookshelf. Here's the back description: "At a Manhattan planetarium in 1965, ten-year-old Enzo and his young aunt, Mala, are separated, an event that profoundly alters the rest of their lives. In an epic tale of love and destiny, A Trip to the Stars charts their paths over the next fifteen years as they search for each other and, in the process, discover themselves. As Enzo and Mala cross continents and seas on their separate journeys, they encounter a dizzying array of people: an arachnologist in New Orleans, an asteroid specialist, a wounded B-52 navigator in Vietnam, a professional mind reader, a maverick NASA astronomer, and countless others... This is both a love story and a coming-of-age story that shows us what happens when we lose what matters most." It's super romantic, a little magic, crafty and smart. I'm not going to tell you that my Mom didn't like it because that might sway you. Oh wait.

7. The Girls - Conjoined twins, joined at the head. Do I even need to say anything else?! In case I do, here is a quick plot summary: "Conjoined twins Rose and Ruby Darlen are linked at the side of the head, with separate brains and bodies. Born in a small town outside Toronto in the midst of a tornado and abandoned by their unwed teenage mother two weeks later, the girls are cared for by Aunt Lovey, a nurse who refuses to see them as deformed or even disabled. She raises them in Leaford, Ontario, where, at age 29, Rose, the more verbal and bookish twin, begins writing their story—i.e., this novel, which begins, "I have never looked into my sister's eyes." Sounds like it's going to be hokey, but it's NOT.

8. The Namesake - see my review here. I think all age groups would like this one, particularly if you had/have a complex relationship with your parents and/or adult children.

9. Special Topics on Calamity Physics - see my review here. I particularly recommend this to book clubs that consist mainly of women ages 25-35. I really, really liked this book.

10. The Handmaid's Tale - see my review here. Make sure to read the comments though, because not everyone liked it like I did.

11. The History of Love - a friend recently mentioned this book, which I read a year or two ago. My only hesitation in recommending it is that if my friend hadn't mentioned it to me, I'm not sure I would have remembered it. But once I did, I also remembered that it was very good. The back jacket description doesn't give much away: "Leo Gursky is barely surviving, tapping his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he's still alive. But life wasn't always like this: 60 years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. And though Leo doesn't know it, that book survived, inspiring fabulous circumstances, even love." This is a short book, but it packs quite a lot into its short stature (like me!). There's a bit of mystery, more than a bit of sadness, and the story of Leo and a young girl named Alma (who narrates a big chunk of the story and tells the story of the "fabulous circumstances" alluded to in the above description) interweave and connect in a way that's captivating.

If anyone or any group decides to take any of my suggestions, I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Do Celebritities Read?

Why is it that when celebrities are asked about their favorite books or authors, they almost always say something pretentious? Is it because the last time they read a book it was for high school honors English, or does Gwyneth Paltrow really love Crime and Punishment? Who's favorite author is Dostoevsky? Seriously.

Jodi Foster just loooves 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire and lists The Complete Greek Tragedies: Euripides as one of her top 6 books. Alec Baldwin's favorite book is To Kill A Mockingbird. This is a good book, but didn't we all read this in the 7th grade? Maybe Alec had to reach way back when he got hit with this question, maybe he was a little "busy" in high school. And I've decided that every agent must advise his/her client that if they can't think of anything, to just say Catcher in the Rye. Practically every other celebrity lists this as their favorite book when asked. Again, good book, but if you polled 100 people on the street, would 50 of them say it was their favorite book?

At least Halle Berry tells it like it is and admits to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. But again, have any of these guys read since the 8th grade? I know they're busy being famous and all, but where is the shame in liking something a little more... current?

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Handmaid's Tale

I read this book for three reasons. One, I got it at my book swap party; two, it’s on my list for the New Classics Challenge; and three, I've had it on my TBR list after reading a few different reviews. I think a lot of people have already read this book, so I’m coming to the table a little late for dinner, but I thought this was a really good read. It combined my secret love for the occasional sci fi book along with a good story. But this isn’t space ship sci fi, it’s more like “what if the world we’re accustomed to was turned upside down and a new government emerged based on religion where fertile women become ‘Handmaids’ and are forced to produce babies for elite barren couples?” What then?

Offred, the narrator, is a Handmaid who remembers her life when she had a husband and a job, and life was mostly as we know it now. Fast forward like 5 years and her family has been taken away and she’s assigned to a wealthy couple to help them reproduce. Women aren’t even allowed to read for fear that it will give them power; they’ve made all public signage into pictures. Creeeepy. It’s terrifying because one second you’re reading it and you’re all, “That would never really happen!” But then you’re like, “but, wait - COULD it??”

I don’t always love Margaret Atwood’s writing style. It can be a little choppy and cryptic. I think it’s on purpose, but it still bothers me. I spent the first 20 pages or so rereading each sentence hoping that it would help me figure out what the eff was going on. I like for authors just to tell me what the eff is going on in the beginning. But maybe I just think that I'm someone who likes knowing what’s going on, because I’m still watching Lost, aren’t I?? Perhaps I love a slow unveiling more than I think I do.

If you haven’t read this book, I think it would make a fantastic book club read – it’s relatively short, entertaining and after reading it you will be glad that there are others who just finished it so you can do the whole “What do you think really happened with the…” and “How much did you hate when...” thing. You know that thing.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Weddings and Sunburns

If I was a Native American in the Kevin Costner days, my name today would be She With Red Nose. It looks kind of like I have a prosthetic nose that was picked out in the wrong color. Jeff walked by me while I was putting on copious amounts of cover up in an attempt to fade out the burn line on my nose, and muttered under his breath, "Mr. Potato Head nose". Then he ran away snickering but covering his bum for fear that I would give him the wedgie of his life.

The wedding was lovely, the sun came out and everything looked straight out of a Martha Stewart Wedding magazine. Everything except my sunburned nose. Oh well, it wasn't MY wedding. I did learn something new about my husband though. He is spectacular at singing along with anything involving a falsetto voice. His specialties? Little Richard, Justin Timberlake, and Prince.

On the reading front, I finished The Handmaid's Tale, so look for a review shortly.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Westward ho

We're off again for another weekend adventure. This time to Orcas Island for Jeff's cousin's wedding. Do a dance to the rain gods so it dries up 'cause nobody likes a soggy wedding. I'm bringing The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I started last night. Have a good weekend and I'll post when I get back!