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."