Monday, December 28, 2009

How the World Makes Love

How the World Makes Love... And What It Taught a Jilted Groom by Franz Wisner
Well, I missed Honeymoon with My Brother, apparently a bestseller, but I enjoyed the less popular follow-up, How the World Makes Love. Nearly 40 and still struggling to get over the breakup of his 10 year relationship that ended when his fiance literally literally dumped him on his wedding day (by not showing up), Wisner sets off on travels to learn more about how other countries view love. He visits Brazil, India, Nicaragua, Czech Republic, Egypt, New Zealand, and Botswana and interviews natives about their love lives and their thoughts on love, marriage, and sex. What he finds is very different customs, slightly different attitudes, and one unifying theme--hope. Most people have the hope that true love exists, rather or not they have found it. And we see this hope sparked in Wisner as he chronicles his relationship back home in LA amidst all his travels. Many of the tidbits he found in the various countries are interesting, but I was a bit bored with his own commentary.

Hide & Seek

Hide & Seek: How I Laughed at Depression, Conquered My Fears and Found Happiness by Wendy Aron
This book was fantastic. Aron writes about her struggles with recurring depression as she hits 40, but she somehow makes it funny. Perhaps it's her background as a TV sitcom writer, but she knows how to add humor to sad stories (i.e. a stay at a mental hospital). After we get some background on Aron's condition, she heads into her experiences trying various self-help classes including a self-esteem class, an anxiety class, Weight Watchers, and a creativity class. She really tries to help herself and, in doing so, she is likely able to help others struggling with their own depression and self-esteem. A must-read for anyone who has struggled with depression, anxiety, and/or self-esteem issues.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Darkling I Listen

Darkling I Listen: The Last Days and Death of John Keats by John Evangelist Walsh

It is not known what exactly killed John Keats at such a young age, though the popular diagnosis is consumption. Reading Darkling I Listen, though, makes me wonder if he didn't die of a passionate heart. Although Walsh focuses on the last 100 days of Keats' life, spent miles and miles away from the love of his life, the most interesting passages focus on Keats' relationship with Fanny Brawne. Many of the 39 surviving love letters he wrote to her are dissected to exhibit a man completely consumed with the best and worst emotions related to love. He was jealous, he was insecure. In one letter he tells Fanny that if his illness doesn't kill him, his love for her will. It was a short love affair in the scheme of things--2 years, but Fanny lived 45 years after Keats' death and somehow managed to keep her relationship with Keats a secret to all--including her husband and three children--until she was on her own deathbed. Although Walsh uncovers some interesting points of history in Keats' life and work, the book probably holds little for anyone but those already interested in Keats. And anyone who has seen the movie Bright Star, which follows the intensity of Keats' and Brawne's intense affair, of course.


Cleaving by Julie Powell
Ok, Julie & Julia was cute. And Julie Powell's relationship with her husband, Eric, was the cutest part of all. She portrayed him as the super supportive and encouraging husband who put up with all her breakdowns and crazy ideas with nothing but love. So when I found out that Julie cheated on him, multiple times, I had to find out why. She documents their marital problems in her follow-up to Julie & Julia, Cleaving, while also telling her story about learning the fine art of butchering meat.

Full disclosure here--I am a vegetarian and am disgusted enough by meat to not only not eat it, to steer clear of the meat department at grocery stores. So, I skipped a LOT of this book. Each time she went into incredible detail about cutting up pigs was when I skipped straight ahead. The part I did read dealt mostly with her obsessive affair and it was fascinating to see what actually drove her to do that. I could almost understand why she did it. Almost. Really I found myself screaming at her inside for being so stupid and blind to her husband's love. I'm not sure I would recommend this to anyone unless they really, really enjoy meat or have been the adultress in a relationship and can relate to her emotions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Only in New York

Only in New York by Sam Roberts

Roberts is the Urban Affairs Correspondent at the New York Times and he does a podcast on the Times' website. This book is a collection of 40 of those podcasts. These stories about the people, places and history of New York are fascinating. He's funny, smart, and full of interesting facts about the greatest city in the world. While the casual New York visitor might not find the stories "fascinating," I believe many would be of great interest to anyone who's lived in New York longer than a month. Did you know the average speed of the 34th street cross-town bus is 3.4 miles an hour? That the law that requires dog owners to pick up after their dogs was enacted in 1978 while Ed Koch was mayor (and he does not have his own dog because he doesn't want to pick up after it)? This is definitely recommended to anyone who loves New York. And if you don't love New York, we probably wouldn't agree on too much.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bitter is the New Black

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
I really wanted to like this book. For may reasons, among the most important 1.) Lancaster is from Indiana 2.) She was a Pi Phi 3.) She lives in Chicago and most of the stories in this memoir take place in Chicago and 4.) It's billed as a comedic memoir. Alas, I hated this book. Lancaster isn't shy about saying she's a, well, female dog with a capital B. But that doesn't make it any more ok that she's so mean and rude and heartless. I enjoy good memoirs, and I really enjoy funny memoirs, but I couldn't laugh at any of this because the writer is simply not likeable. She wouldn't ever be my friend. If anything, it's terrible that she did get a book deal and that somehow she was given contracts for even more books full of heartless snark.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Gift

The Gift by Cecelia Ahern
Cecelia Ahern, Irish author of P.S. I Love You, writes a good story. However, The Gift is loaded with "Christmas Carol" type lessons that make it, frankly, annoying. Perhaps I just expected something filled with more Christmas cheer and all I got was a truly unlikable protagonist and a rather strange angel. I wouldn't recommend it, though, unless you really like cutesy lessons about what matters most in life.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Her Fearful Symmetry

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

This was easily one of the strangest books I've ever read and that probably makes it worthy of a prize in itself. I'm intrigued by ghosts and the supernatural and I found Niffenegger's description of the supernatural quite interesting. What didn't work for me was the relationship between the young twins and that might be a reason why twins would relate best to this book. It was too hard for me to relate to them when they slept together holding hands and refused to pursue careers that were different in any way. Martin's character, struggling with OCD, was written quite well, but I didn't much see a reason for him being a part of the story. There were a lot of really great ideas in this novel, but it almost seems as though Niffennegger tried to throw in four great novels into one and it doesn't quite work.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Superfreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
If you enjoy statistics, pop culture, and current events, you probably enjoyed Freakonomics. And you'll likewise enjoy Superfreakonomics because it is--and doesn't pretend to be anything but--a continuation of Freakonomics. Nothing was earth-shattering in this book, but there were some interesting anecdotes. Most interesting to me was the chapter on altruism and apathy in which they exposed the falsity in the New York Times story about the "38 law-abiding citizens" who watched Kitty Genovese get attacked twice. Although I did see a story about this on 20/20 which exposed the errors in the 1964 front-page story, it was still interesting to read more about this. Levitt's and Dubner's tone is again comical while presenting interesting stories about economists and the research they're doing on everything from prostitution to global warming. It's a quick read, good for dinner discussions, if not because of the intrigue but because it's already another bestseller.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Finally. A true challenge to The Secret! That woman and all her millionaire associates are laughing all the way to the bank, and that stupid book is still selling like hotcakes. Ehrenreich sets off to disprove the new wave of positive thinking psychology and the business surrounding it. Her qualifications are good, as well, as she is a breast cancer survivor. Although her views are never kept a secret within the pages, she offers valid points and food for thought for optimists, pessimists, and realists alike. She makes an excelletn point on page 172: "Why advocate for better jobs and schools, safer neighborhoods, universal health insurance, or any other liberal desideratum if these measures will do little to make people happy? Social reformers, political activists, and change-oriented elected officials can all take a much-needed rest."

I mean, honestly. You visualize yourself as a millionaire and it happens? Look at what happened to Wall Street when they got to "positive" and lofty in their goals! Ehrenreich is simply realistic. She doesn't pretend any earth-shattering research and certainly no news that hasn't widely been reported in the media, but she offers an interesting view of the facts.

Ehrenreich wrote, "Happiness is not, of course, guaranteed even to those who are affluent, successful, and well loved. But that happiness is not the inevitable outcome of happy circumstances does not mean we can find it by journeying inward to revise our thoughts and feelings. The threats we face are real and can be vanquished only by shaking off self-absorption and taking action in the world. Build up the levees, get food to the hungry, find the cure, strengthen the 'first responders'! We will not succeed at all these things, certainly not all at once, but we can have a good trying."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Juliet, Naked

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

How can you not love Nick Hornby? He's funny, he's honest, and his writing flows like a Rolling Stone article. Likely because he writes about pop culture in his other life, and his interest in it comes through in all his novels. This one let me down a bit. I guess I was looking for a deeper look into obsessive fandom or for more of a love story and I didn't get either. It's still Nick Hornby, even if Hornby not at his best, and it still tells an interesting story. But, eh, I wouldn't recommend it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
Looking for good chick lit? Pick up Emily Giffin! Better yet, pick up Something Borrowed. I enjoyed Love the One You're With, but forgot about it a few minutes after putting it down. Giffin's first novel might just be her best. Sure, it's a common theme--friendships and affairs and true love--but Giffin is such a gifted writer that the reader is never quite sure where the story is going--and that's a good thing! I couldn't put the book down.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Strength in What Remains

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

Wow. Deo, an African-turned American, has one inspiring story and Kidder does a phenomenal job of telling it. He comes from Burundi in 1993, escaping Civil War and the genocide in Rwanda and arrives in America with absolutely nothing (well, he does have $200) and no English-speaking skills. Kidder takes the reader from Burundi to America to Rwanda and back to America to tell the remarkable story of how this young man survived and then thrived in New York City, climbing up from making $15 a day as a grocery delivery man to attending Columbia, and then Harvard grad school, and, ultimately, medical school. Having lived in New York myself, I was shocked that he was able to survive living in Harlem crack houses and sleeping in Central Park bushes. But after the atrocities he experienced in his native land, his plights in New York were hardly inconveniences.

Not only is Deo's story inspiring, the generosity of the people he meets in America who help him is truly heart-warming. To think that people could care so much about another human being that they would welcome him into their homes and ensure he received the education he desired is incredible. And to see how Deo gives back all he has gained since he first escaped the horror in Burundi is enough to give anyone faith in humanity. A beautiful story that I feel is a must-read for everyone.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Me vs. Me

Me Vs. Me by Sarah Mlynowski
I had low expectations for this book--it is a complete chicklit novel and claims to be nothing more, but I was pleasantly surprised! Mlynowski took a common theme--career vs. love--and a common desire--what if I didn't have to choose?--and adds an interesting spin. Gabby, our somewhat likable heroine, doesn't have to choose--she sees what her life would be like with both decisions. It's a plot that most writers couldn't pull off, but Mlynowski does a great job of laying out both scenarios and literally making it hard to decide how she'll wrap it up. I'd recommend this to all chicklit fans, but it probably wouldn't appeal to anyone older than 30 or younger than 20.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America

State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America
Edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey

This is an interesting collection. The premise sounds great in theory--have 50 different writers provide glimpses into each of the 50 states with an essay. Having only lived in two states myself, I of course skipped ahead to Indiana and New York, rather than read the anthology from cover to cover. Indiana was by Susan Choi, an acclaimed writer I've actually never heard of, though apparently she was born in South Bend. I was disappointed in her focus on her relationship with her father and the stereotypical observations (conservative bumper stickers and yard signs such as "Pray to End Abortion") about the state. Where was Fort Wayne? Where was Indianapolis? Where was the hospitality and warmth that really is here in the heartland? It wasn't in Choi's essay and she really showed her disappintment in not being able to write about new York.

Good for the reader, Jonathan Franzen instead got the space writing about New York. His was an innovative essay. He pretended to be interviewing New York State, and of course she was a conceited woman with little time to talk because she was simply too busy. And she had a harried, fast and smooth-talking publicist. It was a comedic look at the state and he did a great job with it. Also interesting were the state rankings in the appendix such as crime rates, educational expenditures, etc. Nothing too surprising here--seems they could've found more interesting rankings.

At any rate, probably worth a read if for nothing else than for seeing what was written about your own state. Hoosiers might want to stay clear, though.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Walls' memoir about growing up in a family with four normal kids and two dysfunctional parents has been a bestseller for the past few years and after a friend talked about reading it a second time, I figured it was time for me to give it a first try. Her childhood was interesting, to say the least, with an alcoholic father with big ideas and an artistic mother who suffered frequent spells of depression which left her holed up and unavailable to her children. How Jeannette and her siblings get by with litte food and little else is an amazing story, and it's good to see how Jeannette especially awakens to the realization that her parents are failing her and ultimately rises above and makes the life she wants in New York City. I don't think it's worth a second read, but a first read--sure, why not?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Barack and Michelle: Portrait of An American Marriage

Barack and Michelle: Portrait of an American Marriage by Christopher Andersen

Why is Barack Obama President of the United States? Yes, he's brilliant, eloquent, compassionate, driven... Most of all, Americans see themselves in Obama, and that is why he is our President--he speaks for all of us. And his wife, well she speaks for us, too. And together--well, they are the power team that Hillary and Bill could never be because the romance wasn't quite so evident. As Andersen summed it up: "Barack and Michelle have proved themselves to be remarkable--as man and woman--, as husband and wife, as father and mother. But it is in those things that make them so accessible, so human, that we recognize ourselves--and, if even for a fleeting moment, like what we see. Theirs is, in every way, an American marriage."

Not only does this quick-moving and anecdotal biography tell the story of how two like-minded JDs fell in love, it tells the basic life story of both Barack and Michelle. If you've read Dreams from my Father, you likely know most of the story of Barack. You might not know as much about his days as a "stoner." And you may not know so much about Michelle's upbringing. For anyone looking for the basic background of this power couple, and perhaps a dose of reality (surprise! they have had many arguments and struggles that threatened their relationship)--this is a great read.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It Sucked and then I Cried

It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita by Heather B. Armstrong

This one was recommended as a very funny memoir and indeed it was funny, but Armstrong came across more like a whiny, ungrateful new mom than funny for the majority of the book. I'm not sure who I'd recommend it to. I'm thinking the best audience would be women who have had difficult pregnancies and hard times as new mothers or for their husbands (because the men should get insight into how tough it can be, right?). However, Armstrong is really not very likeable. Her husband comes across like a saint, though--a true trooper supporting her through all she went through!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

An Abundance of Katherines

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

I really wanted to love this book since I loved Paper Towns so much and the premise was so interesting. 17-year-old child prodigy Colin has dated 19 Katherines and each one has dumped him. When Katherine XIX (as he refers to her) breaks his heart, he sets out on a journey to not only reinvent himself, but to find the mathematical solution that will predict how long a relationship will last. It's cute because he really wants it to show that Katherine XIX will come back to him. At any rate, once the funny premise was introduced, it wasn't all that interesting to me. Teenage boys might find it interesting, though.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Redemption by Karen Kingsbury with Greg Smalley

This was my foray into inspirational fiction, or as Borders calls it "Christian fiction." Several patrons recommended this particular book so I figured it was as good as any to try out. I have to say I was pleastantly surprised. I thought it would be all church, all the time, but this one started right out with an affair! And although two outcomes were wrapped up very neatly through the majority of the novel, I went back and forth on which way the story would ultimately end which made it a quick read as I was eager to see what happened. I felt there were too many Bible passages awkwardly stuck into the story and feel it would've been much better without that, but I imagine those devoted to this genre keep coming back because of that.

In the end, the story wasn't even wrapped up as nicely as it seemed to be headed. And that's because this is book 1 of a series. I'm not convinced I need to keep reading to find out what happens to Kari, but I'd still recommend this book if you aren't put off by Bible verses and cheesy relationships.

P.S. It takes place in Bloomington, Indiana!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Love is the Higher Law

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

I'm mixed about this book. I think it did a good job of showing the emotions September 11th evoked in so many people and I think most people are ready to see this. I also think the writing was well done and the characters were developed in a short novel. However, being that the book was from the perspectives of three teenagers (albeit one in college and two seniors in high school), I thought the narrative was far too advanced for a YA audience. It had a Dawson's Creek flavor to it with the big words and existential philosophy that I just don't think is a part of 18-year-old's lives. And I couldn't get over thinking that there was no way those thoughts were really going through their minds. It's clear Levithan used this novel to come to grips with his own emotions about that sad day and I don't fault him for that. But in that way, this is more a novel for adults than teenagers.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

This is How

This is How by M.J. Hyland

A truly sad story about a man slowly losing his mind during a horrible breakup and a quarter-life crisis. Unfortunately for the protagonist, Patrick, his nervous breakdown causes him to unintentionally (or intentionally, you decide) kill a fellow boarder at a bed & breakfast and, ultimately, end up in a series of jail cells. What he experiences and thinks while in jail is insightful, but in the end I closed the book feeling relieved and grateful for my own freedom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Paper Towns

Paper Towns by John Green

Wow, John Green is hardly older than I am but he's already written three very popular young adult novels. His latest, Paper Towns, just happens to be funny and charming and engaging--all in one pretty package that I devoured in one day. The characters are likeable and sure to hit close to home for any high school students, and the underlying mystery of what happened to Margo propels the story and left me on the edge of my seat to the very end. A great book to recommend to the 12-15 age group!


Home by Marilynne Robinson

To read reviews of this book, one would think it must be one of the grandest literary ventures of our time. Alas, I found it to be boring, slow, and void of any excitement or new lesson. The thought of two middle-aged siblings coming back to help their ailing father, while settling into old patterns and reconciling their past while also reconnecting with each other as their present selves is interesting, but the story wasn't interesting enough for me. Of course I was rooting for things to work out for Jack in the end, but regardless of how the story did indeed end, I wasn't unhappy to read the last line.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Second Chances

Second Chances by Jane Green

I read Jane Green as quickly as I ate Hershey's kisses when I was 22, but I set her aside for other chicklit authors and different genres before I'd been out of college even a year. I went back to her after a co-worker raved about Green's recent titles and I was ready for some lighter reading. This was definitely "light" and, despite the sad catalyst for the book's events (a man is killed in a terrorist attack--bringing his childhood friends together, now in their late 30s), it was pretty enjoyable. It wasn't completely predictable as I feared, but it also didn't stay with me. Junk food reading is what it is, but anyone who picks up Jane Green shouldn't be expecting much more anyway.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

True Compass

True Compass by Edward Kennedy

This is a MUST-READ for anyone with even a passing interest in politics. Although it's obvious that Kennedy has experienced much in his record-setting congressional career, reading this still had me shaking my head several times in awe about how he has been a part of so much of our country's recent history. Although I was looking for more insight into his personal life (namely, his first marriage which he doesn't even touch besides to say that they didn't know one another well enough when they jumped in), this is really a book about Washington and universal health care. I'm not sure how anyone could read this and not want to champion universal health care themselves. His memories of his parents and siblings are tender and I was left crying at the end of the book. I can't recall crying after reading a book for a very long time. That's the mark of a winner!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm So Happy For You

I'm So Happy For You by Lucinda Rosenfeld
This was a quick and enjoyable read with a fairly complicated and surprising ending. The book looks into the complexities of female friendships and all the jealousy and backstabbing that can also be a part of even the best friendships. I was afraid it was going to be a typical chicklit novel with a predictable ending, but Rosenfeld is a good writer and she had me until the very end!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot

Jackie, Ethel, Joan: Women of Camelot by Randy J. Taraborelli

Here's the thing I've learned about Randy J. Taraborelli after reading this title as well as his recent biography of Marilyn Monroe (see below to find out why I just had to read another biography written by this author)--he tells a good story. His biographies read like novels. This was another long biography--justifiably so considering it covers the lives of three women and their large, news-making families--that reads very quickly and keeps an exciting pace. The way Taraborelli is able to do this is a little suspect, though. I realized that a large portion of the biography includes dialogue and exact quotes, not only from news articles (understandable), but from so-called private conversations. I know the exact wording doesn't matter so much so the poetic license he took is probably ok since it makes the story more interesting. At any rate, all journalism fact-checking aside, this was another wonderful biography about three incredibly interesting women.

What I found most interesting about this book was the content on Joan. Much has been written about Jackie and, to a lesser degree, Ethel because theirs are the most outright tragic stories with the assassinations of their husbands. Joan, however, suffered quietly with an unfaithful husband and a constant fear that she might lose him or someone else close any day. Her emotional struggles are painful to read about, because she comes across as the most likeable Kennedy wife. I'm eager to read Ted Kennedy's biography now to see what he writes about his first wife. Also interesting in this book is the counter-assertion to Taraborreli's more recent Monroe biography that JFK and Marilyn had an affair that was much more serious and lasted for much longer than just one night. Also, Taraborelli casually brushes off the rumors about Jackie and Bobby's alleged affair. What really happened in the lives of the Kennedys in the 60s? At this point, no one will ever really know. But it's interesting to read about what we do know, just the same.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Beautiful, heartbreaking, soaring, intense--these are the words that come to mind when I think of the triumph that is The Time Traveler's Wife. I wish I'd read the book before the movie, but the premise never really appealed to me--in theory. So, I went and saw the movie and HATED it--it was literally one of the Top 10 Worst Movies I've Seen In a Theatre. However, I wanted to believe all my friends who claimed the story was unbeatable and that I would truly love it. So, I picked up the book.

The pieces that made no sense in the book--the time traveling jumping that really made no sense, even if time travel was possible--seem irrelevant in the movie. The story flows and we're able to see a real love between Claire and Henry. (In the movie, I just kept wondering why on earth she was waiting around on such a boring, unreliable man.) The tragedy of the story pained me, and drew me in like a true love story should. It's one of those rare books that looks at what love can be--what love should be. And it's a love I was sad to stop being a part of when it was all over.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Prairie Tale

Praire Tale by Melissa Gilbert

Wow, where do I start. Perhaps my biggest question is: Where was the ghostwriter? Gilbert has lived an interesting life and had her share of personal drama, but it honestly didn't come across as very interesting. For a real fan of Gilbert, it might be worth the read, but otherwise--don't bother.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is the queen of YA novels right now, and with good reason. If I was in middle school, I'd be jumping up and down waiting for her next book. As it's been 15 years since I was in middle school, I just enjoy the step back to a simpler time. I read this book more because I like Sarah Dessen's blog than anything (we'd be bffs for sure if she lived in Indiana, but perhaps it'd be more fun if I lived in North Carolina). Not as good as others I've read, but it followed the same formula that worked for her before which is why it has been such a hit. Anyway, I got annoyed knowing full well what was going to happen, but that's why I think it's time I leave the YA behind for a while... It's not you, Sarah. It's me.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Best Friends Forever

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

I didn't expect the finest of writing, but this book was totally disappointing. Predictable? Check. Cookie cutter characters? Check. Cheesy, too clean ending? Check. I'll admit I was semi-hooked at the very beginning, wondering what exactly had happened to pull these "best friends forever" apart, but after 50 pages or so, it was downhill fast.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe

The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J.Randy Taraborrelli

I'd never read a biography of Marilyn Monroe and I'm pretty sure I've never seen a film she's been in. I've simply heard murmurings of her sad life and after reading more about the Kennedys, I was intrigued enough to pick this one up. Taraborrelli is a very gifted writer--although the book was nearly 500 pages, I glided easily from page to page and was always curious to find out more about Monroe's life. At a time before Prozac, hers was a depression treated with booze and barbituates. Her obsession with JFK was intriguing at the same time it was simply scary. This is surely a must-read for Monroe fanatics and also for anyone interested in pop culture and/or psychological disorders. Truly a winning piece fo writing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley has written the book I have long wanted to write myself. A collection of funny and nostalgic essays about growing up in the suburbs and then living in New York City. The essay about her start in publishing could have been written about my own experience--minus quitting on September 11th (wow). Crosley is a wonderful writer and the stories are incredibly hilarious. If you haven't lived in New York, some of the jokes might be lost on you. But there is plenty of wit that's universal. Recommended to anyone who enjoys comedic writing.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Masters of Sex

Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple who Taught America How to Love

The cover makes this look like a pornographic book, which made reading it while on work breaks an interesting experience. ("What on earth are you reading?!") I was interested in learning more about Masters & Johnson since they had such an effect on the way Americans view sex and related matters. However, I was mistaken when I thought there was a more psychological aspect to their research and that they really looked more at the link between love and sex. That's what I really wanted to read about--and especially to see what type of relationship the couple themselves had. What I found is that they really didn't study love and love itself eluded both researchers for most of their lives. In fact, there are several quotes from both about not knowing what love is. The fact that they themselves were married to each other for twenty years makes it in fact quite sad. I was intrigued reading about the various romantic relationships each was a part of in their lives, but otherwise this was a very dry account of their professional careers. Parts were interesting and I learned a lot more about their research than I knew before reading, but it wasn't particularly enjoyable. Again, if they'd been able to find love themselves, it would've been more enjoyable.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

First Family

First Family by David Baldacci

Ok, this book was so good that it's 3 am and I'm up writing a review about it because I've just spent the last 5 hours unable to put it down until the last sentence! I know I'm a little late to try out Baldacci, but the psychological thrillers sometimes scare me (I know, I know) and/or are too cheesy for me to take seriously. The premise for this one intrigued me, though, so I thought it a worthy title to try. Wow. Not only is the plot moving, the characters are as intriguing as they are numerous. Yet, with all the intricacies going on, it all comes together smoothly, though not at all predictably. He spares the reader the cheese factor by only throwing the romance in our face for three pages.

Totally recommended. Recommendations for Baldacci's best are also appreciated!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bobby and Jackie

Bobby and Jackie: A Love Story by C. David Heymann

First I must say: This book is fascinating. But then I must add that I haven't read a biography of either Jackie or Bobby so it was 90% new information for me. I suspect 90% was the same information that's already been shared in other Kennedy biographies, but it was packaged in a quick and accessible volume. This was not about the policies Kennedy worked for as a senator and Presidential candidate from 1963-1968. It was about the juicy stuff that happened primarily in Bobby & Jackie's personal lives.

My only complaint is that we didn't see much more of why Bobby was Jackie's "love of her life" and vice versa besides the obvious reason a relationship began. I suppose some of that is shared in other biographies that focus more on each other their personalities and lives. Regardless, this really was a love story and like most good love stories, I thorougly enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Teacher Man

Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

One Fall Sunday, my mother was in town (New York) and we ventured down to a Book Festival in Bryant Park, right behind the 42nd Street Library. Being that my mother is and was a big fan of Frank McCourt, we made sure to sit in on the panel discussion he was a part of as soon as we got there. I hadn't read any of his books, but as soon as he opened his mouth, I immediately wanted to read everything he'd ever written. He was hilarious, insightful, kind, and inspiring. When I spoke to him during the autograph session, I gushed a bit and he cast off praise with his Irish wit. When I learned of his death last week, I felt like a friend had died and I have a feeling anyone who has ever read his books or seen him speak felt the same way. He was accessible. He made himself accessible.

At any rate, Teacher Man was his final work of autobiography and although not as shocking as Angela's Ashes, it's just as moving. His advice to a new teacher at the end of the book, "Find what you love and do it," is so simple, yet so true. And what struck me the most about the story wasn't even the multitude of ways he reached so many different types of students at so many diverse schools in New York City. It was that he was fired--twice. That he did not finish his PhD. And yet, he succeeded. He kept high spirits and continued reaching children. I've never been a high school teacher, but I'm still inspired. Thanks, Mr. McCourt. Or, as the kids called him quite often, "Teacher Man."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Open House

Open House by Elizabeth Berg

I'd read one of Berg's more recent books, Dream While You're Feeling Blue, and really enjoyed it so she had been on my long "to-read" list for a while but I wasn't quite sure which book to tackle next. Then, a co-worker recommended Open House and I knew I had to try it out. I was not disappointed. Berg is a strong writer and she creates believable, likeable characters and places them in common situations. This wasn't the typical "woman finds herself after terrible breakup" book, though. I read it in one night because I really wasn't sure how it would turn out. I wasn't disappointed, but it also was a bit of a surprise which is more than I can usually say for "women's fiction" titles. Highly recommended. I'd like to recommend the author as a whole, but with only two books under my belt and a strong warning from aforementioned co-worker that her others don't deliver the same punch as Open House, I'd better not do that. Yet.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Summer Affair

A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand

Hilderbrand is a bestselling writer with an impressive list of titles so I thought I'd give her a try. This will most likely be the last novel I read by this author. I'm sure there's room in the bookstores for another title of the 40-somethings-growing-tired-of-marriage-thus-starting-affairs genre if it gives this tale a new spin. This book reads as you would expect it to. No surprises. No surprising insights into human nature. Sample line: "Daphne was like an unsightly piece of toilet paper that Claire had dragged out of the ladies' room on her high heel."

At least the main character's first love becomes a world-famous rock star. That's kind of fun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I'm with the Band

I'm with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie by Pamela Des Barres

This has been on my list for years--since Almost Famous became one of my favorite movies to be exact. If you've been a fan of music--whether a Paul McCartney girl or a Taylor Hanson girl--you've read or been told to read this book. What no one had told me is how poorly written it is. How annoying the writer is. How it reads like a 12-year-old wrote it but it's written by a 50-year-old. It's insulting and it makes me pity the writer. She had sex with Mick Jagger. So what? The only redeeming part of the book was to see how human she was and that she actually had feelings for all these musicians. Which is really what made her so pitiful. And in the end, I just was sorry that she'd wasted my time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Brain Wider Than the Sky: A Migraine Diary by Andrew Levy

Andrew Levy was my American Lit and Creating Writing Non-Fiction professor at Butler. He was one of the very best teachers I have ever had and he inspired me to write. I was thrilled to pick up his latest book--a memoir about his years of suffering from migraine headaches. There's just something about his writing--the way he can describe the ordinary in such a beautiful way--that makes me want to be a better writer myself. His writing reads as though it's effortless and this particular book loads a multitude of research on migraines. As an English professor, Levy doesn't leave out examples of literary figures who have written about migraines--Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson just to name two. With a 20 page bibliography and 45 pages of notes, his research is quite impressive--but it still can't compete with the grace and skill of his writing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

This book was beautifully written and, although not a thrilling premise, was a quick read with a moving plot. Toibin captured perfectly the feeling of having two "homes" and how when you are caught up in one, the other seems almost like a fantasy. For that, this book is a literary achievement. The ending was rushed and a little disappointing if only because we didn't get enough of her time in Ireland to really wonder what her decision would be. All in all, though, a fantastic read--highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Late Bloomer's Revolution

The Late Bloomer's Revolution by Amy Cohen

Really, really loved this memoir! Anyone who has been discouraged with dating and not living the traditional life of marriage and kids at a certain time would appreciate this book. Cohen is as funny as she is insightful. She's incredibly likeable and I found myself rooting for her through the entire book.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I checked this out because it's a recent Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction. Often times, prize winners don't hold my interest but this book was wonderful. It's written as several short stories about different characters; however, Olive Kitteridge is the tie that binds it all together. We get to see her character from different perspectives and through different situations through many years. I highly recommend this one!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Beautiful, truthful, heart-breaking... This novel was full of truths and at least one statement that was cause for introspection on every page. The unbearable lightness of being is that we only live once and we can't really know what would happen if we made different choices. But love... love will mold our lives. Love will be the thread that ties us together--it is the universal truth. Even though the heaviness of the Communist invasion in Czechloslavakia hung through the second half of the novel, it was the relationships between the characters that stayed central.