Saturday, June 4, 2011

Good Reads

I have been super busy with life and am sorry to say I've neglected this blog. I finally gave in and started logging my books on Good Reads, though, and I would be most delighted to connect with you there, too--look me up!

I'd like to use this blog for the stand-out books I read. I read maybe one fantastic book a month (and 10 or so not-so-fantastic books) so I'll still be around!

Meanwhile, I run a book club that has been going incredibly well. If anyone has suggestions for future discussions, I'm totally open!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Science of Single

The Science of Single: One Woman's Grand Experiment in Modern Dating, Creating Chemistry, and Finding Love by Rachel Machacek

When I read about this book, I got the feeling it had a new twist--someone had actually looked at the science of love and figured out how to date in a way that you easily find the right chemistry. That's not what this is--it's actually just the same dating book that's been written thousands of times. 30-something single woman sets out on a year-long dating experiment to see what tactics work best--online dating, singles events, blind dates, etc. There was nothing original about this book, except perhaps that it took place in Washington DC (usually it's New York--home of the most writers by sheer volume and surely per capita as well). I enjoyed the references to DC landmarks and bars (although I've never lived there, I love DC and have had many good times there) and Machacek is a likable heroine. So, while it's nothing new, it's entertaining nonetheless.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

This one lives up to its reputation of one of the best debut novels in recent years. Rachman has created vivid portraits of several staff members at an English language newspaper in Rome, and the chapters each read like short stories--packed with punch. In between the chapters, each one focusing on a different staff member's personal life, we learn the history of the newspaper--50 years of history. The book is as funny as it is sad, and always incredibly sharp.

History of a Suicide

History of a Suicide: My Sister's Unfinished Life by Jill Bialosky

Bialosky's younger sister took her own life 20 years ago and the writer has only recently begun to come to terms with the loss. This memoir reads like a tribute to a beloved sister and friend and it's truly heartfelt; however, I felt there was a bit more personal information than the reader needed. The book was most interesting when Bialosky talked about the experiences of others in her Suicide Survivors Support Group and the research she's done on suicide. Bialosky has still not figured out the why by the end of the book, but perhaps the comfort is knowing that no one can ever really know why. By the long list of requests at the library for this book, it's clear the subject resonates with many and for that, it's a noble read.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Virtually You

Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality by Elias Aboujaoude

Aboujaoude, a California psychiatrist who specializes in obsessive-compulsive disorder, presents perhaps one of the best written books (one of the only?) on the dangers of society's Internet dependence. Although he presents studies and uses some medical terminology, this book is very readable and even enjoyable. He gives real-life examples of the ways in which Internet addiction has affected people--breaking up relationships and pulling people away from reality. He touches on the differences in people's actions online versus offline (the "e-personality" really can be quite different from the offline personality in some cases), and really gives the reader pause to think about how dangerous the Internet can be for our mental health.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Crime: Stories by Ferdinand von Schirach

This is a very interesting book as it reads like a collection of short true crime stories, but they are all fiction. The author is a German defense attorney so the 11 cases are all based on true stories--he has just added all the backstory so that the reader can actually feel compassion toward some of the criminals. I'd recommend it to all Law & Order fans!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Can't Think Straight

Can't Think Straight: A Memoir of Mixed-up Love by Kiri Blakeley

I've got to hand it to Blakeley--after a 10-year relationship, her boyfriend tells her he's gay, and she carries on with her life. However, the carrying on that includes hooking up with all kinds of slutty men is not admirable, and I found myself pitying her more than rooting for her to learn the big life lesson I'm sure she meant to learn. I'm not really sure she learned any lesson, though. Disappointing.

Half in Love

Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide by Linda Gray Sexton

Linda, daughter of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton, writes an affecting story about growing up with her mother's mental illness. She then details the mental illness that struck her after her mother's mental illness--an illness with which she still battles. It's a page-turner, as enthralling as a novel.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I was in tears twice during this book which speaks for not only the compelling subject matter, but for the nuanced writing that offers a powerful look at an intense marriage. At one point, Hadley loads a suitcase full of three years of Hemingway's work to bring to him because she is certain it is the most loving thing she can do, but the suitcase is stolen. The pain of both Hadley and Ernest in this scene is just devastating--and it's this type of intensity that surrounds their five year marriage. To be sure, McClain has added the emotions to Ernest Hemingway's first marriage, but it is a marriage that could belong to anyone who has ever loved with all his being, only to wonder how to keep such an almighty love afloat.

At the end of the novel, "Hem" calls Hadley while writing his memoir "A Moveable Feast," a time of his life in which she is a central figure, the support that buoys his early writing career.
"Tell me, do you think we wanted too much from each other?" he asks.
"Oh, I don't know. It's possible."
"Maybe that's it. We were too hooked into each other. We loved each other too much."
"Can you love someone too much?"

McClain sprinkles other literary figures from 1920's Paris into the story including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and James Joyce. She says she tried to stay as true to the facts as she could, which makes this book all the more intriguing.

The Paris Wife is incredible-- one of the very best books I've ever read.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dating Memoirs: Three decent choices

I went on a dating memoir binge and found three pretty decent ones. (That is to say, most of this variety are bland). Here are some good prospects for Valentine's reads.

Straight Up and Dirty by Stephanie Klein

Klein married young and got divorced in her twenties. Her memoir explores her time with the "wasbund" and the dating she dove into a month after the divorce. She ultimately discovers (with a therapist's help) that she has much to learn about herself before she can truly be in a healthy relationship. It's a common tale told with a light-hearted and often funny voice.

I Don't Care About Your Band: What I Learned from Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Faux Sensitive Hipsters, Felons, and Other Guys I've Dated by Julie Klausner

Klausner, a writer for VH1's Best Week Ever, is in her thirties and she's dated all kinds (as the sub-title suggests). She's not completely jaded, though, she declares at the beginning that she "love(s) men like it is my job.”

Dating Amy: 50 True Confessions of a Serial Dater by Amy DeZellar

Another thirty-something navigating the dating scene, an unemployed DeZellar moves to Seattle and begins a blog about all the dates she goes on throughout a year. She doesn't see 50 different men (some stick around for more than one date), but this one's a silly and quick read about just how easy it is to suffer a really, really bad date with what had been a promising prospect.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

After starting and stopping this novel no less than four times, I finally finished it. It took about 100 pages for me to actually get involved with the characters simply because there are SO MANY characters. Being the first book of a series, I understand why so much is presented so early, but it was still frustrating and confusing for me. The financial scandal and the journalism issues weren't really that interesting to me, despite my interest in journalism. The mystery, the disappearance of a young girl in the 1960's is what's interesting, and once that story line becomes the focus, it's a race to the finish. I'm not sure I'm interested in Lisbeth Salander to continue the series, but I may pick it back up. I'm hoping there's another cool mystery--if there's not and I discover that after 100 pages, I'm done!


Tangled by Carolyn Mackler

A girl-next-door with normal self-esteem problems, an Upper East Side princess with a professional modeling and acting career, a popular jock, and a computer nerd--a Breakfast Club collection of teenagers whose lives become "tangled" after a Caribbean vacation. Mackler was fantastic with The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things, but her latest isn't up to par. The characters are all cookie cutter and the big issues--Depression and death, are handled as lightly as if they were well, not actual matters of life and death.

Perhaps I'm too harsh on YA fiction. (And perhaps I'm too old to be reading it.)