Monday, May 31, 2010

Spoken from the Heart

Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush

One-hundred pages in and I was completely invested in Laura Bush's autobiography. The writing was touching and I kept wondering how much of it was actually written by her because it was so impressive. The way she described her mother's miscarriages and her own infertility as well as the joy she reaped from working in libraries and with children was beautiful. These lines are examples of what was really touching: "For an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent, ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?"

And then, she met George again at age 30, got married in four months, and the book became really boring. She mentions that her family were long-time democrats, but somehow she never mentions that intriguing piece of her life again. She tells George she is not interested in politics, and they begin their married life by campaigning for a spot for him in Congress. And she really never speaks anymore about that. Does she suddenly become interested in politics? I'm not really sure. The last 3/4 of the book did not feel like it was "spoken from the heart," but instead from a scheduler's book with two lines about each event. It felt tedious and it felt boring. How could the life of a First Lady be boring? Somehow Laura manages to make it sound boring. And I still never really saw the bond she has with her husband. I'm sure it's there, but I wanted to see it. She's got it with her daughters and that was clear, but there weren't enough touching moments about her husband. Perhaps I was looking for too much--wanting to know what would make a liberal librarian without an interest in politics fall for George Bush. I still don't know, but perhaps that's a secret to be kept between them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Gimmeacall by Sarah Mlynowski

Has anyone not had the thought "If only I'd known then what I know now" at some point? I doubt it and Sarah Mylnowski has created a winning young adult book based on this concept. 18-year-old Devi begins talking to her 14-year-old self after dropping her cell phone in a water fountain. Yeah, the premise sounds hokey and I'll admit it took me a while to get used to the back and forth (Devi, freshman year/Devi, senior year), but as the book progresses Mylnowski does an excellent job of showing all the different ways Devi's life could play out based on the choices of her younger self. Seriously, if given the opportunity, wouldn't you call your 14-year-old self and offer advice? Recommended for teens and all who enjoy fun, girly young adult lit.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy Now?

Happy Now? by Katherine Shonk

What an amazing, tough story. Claire's husband of less than two years, Jay, has committed suicide on Valentine's Day and Happy Now? explores the terrible grief and mixed emotions Claire experiences in the aftermath. When the book opens, the tragedy has already occurred so we get to know about Jay's depression and their relationship through flashbacks as Claire struggles to understand the how and why of the situation. If it sounds depressing, it is. But in a sense, it's uplifting. It's one woman's fight to survive what some might think is insurmountable.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Last Time I Saw You

The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg is very good at what she does and what she does is write fiction for middle-aged women about issues close to the hearts of her audience. Her latest, The Last Time I Saw You, follows several men and women in the days leading up to and after their 40th high school reunion. I didn't think this was one of Berg's finer works. Perhaps I was waiting for a bigger ending, for something huge to happen at the reunion, but it was a slower, gradual climax that left me disappointed. I also found it a bit hard to keep up with all the characters she introduced so quickly. If she'd focused on a smaller number, perhaps I would have been more invested in what happened to them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Tinkers by Paul Harding

The 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner Tinkers taught me that the following LC subject headings exist: Reminiscing in old age -- Fiction and Identity (Psychology) in old age -- Fiction. Perhaps that's not interesting to anyone else, but I found it to be interesting. The short novel is also is a fine example of descriptive writing; Harding has an exceptional talent for description of place and I found myself re-reading several lines to ponder how he was able to put such perfect words together. The subject matter, on the other hand, left me unsatisfied. Yes, it wasn't going to be a happy story--the reader is essentially told that the main character, George Washington Crosby will die in eight days. And Harding then takes the reader back in time to meet George's father, Howard, and Howard in turn reminisces about his own father. It was sad and heartbreaking, but also a reminder of the power and continuity of familial bonds and love. Worth a read, if only for the exemplary writing craftsmanship.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Getting the Pretty Back

Getting the Pretty Back: Friendship, Family, and Finding the Perfect Lipstick by Molly Ringwald

This is what I would call a froufrou book and not intended for anyone but the biggest of Molly Ringwald fans. It's written as a sort of "girl to girl" advice book on everything from dating to cooking to fashion to raising children. Ringwald includes interesting tidbits about her past and her current life and is at her best when talking about her husband whom she clearly adores. It seems most of the stories revolve around him, but that's ok. I love Molly Ringwald, as a good number of women in their 30s likely do (who could not love her in "Sixteen Candles?") so it was worth the short time it took to flip through.