24 August 2008

37. Confessions of a Contractor

Thank you to G. P. Putnam’s Sons for the opportunity to read and review this funny book which mixes home renovation with sexual opportunities, both taken and refused. And before I read the author, Richard Murphy’s bio, I knew that he had renovated a house or two. While I have never wrangled with $20,000 decisions, I have made decisions that ruined my budget and I was generally pleased that I had. And I would have shot my last (or maybe any) contractor before he touched me, much less slept with me.

So add one contractor, two illegal immigrants, two women, one angry husband, an ex-girlfriend, and a slew of well-meaning, for good or bad, friends – you have a Los Angeles contractor’s best nightmare. Henry Sullivan tries to manage all of the above, while completing intricate and chaotic renovations in the two women’s homes. He has a host of entertaining old friends and meets some rather interesting new friends. While most of the relationships have sexual overtones, they are all very amusing. Henry narrates his way through one summer – one that was supposed to be a vacation. Falling in love with two women was not what he had planned. Especially since one is married.

I enjoyed the narrator, Henry, and loved his friends. I was happy to see that CBS is picking up the book for an hour long pilot drama. Check out the book's webpage!

TITLE: Confessions of a Contractor
AUTHOR: Richard Murphy
PAGES: 273
TYPE: fiction
RECOMMEND: I loved it.

36. Snail Mail, No More

I thought that Martin and Danziger had a great premise on this book for children ages nine through twelve. Unfortunately, at times, the technology and the changing nature of the two correspondents, get lost in the other issues which are being added to the key story. Tara and Elizabeth were best friends when Tara moved away. After corresponding via snail mail, the two girls get email and eventually chat. Their correspondence via snail mail is chronicled in P. S. Longer Letter Later also by Martin and Danziger. This book was good enough that I will probably try to find the earlier story to complete the series.

The girls’ lives are changing rapidly and they are both making new friends. Even with email, it is hard for the girls to maintain their friendship without jealousy or anger. There are plenty of opportunities for the girls to support one another – a baby is born, someone dies, divorce, and illness – all of these things happen. Perhaps the strength of the book is how the girls do manage to handle their changing lives and relationship.

TITLE: Snail Mail, No More
AUTHOR: Ann Martin & Paula Danziger
PAGES: 320
TYPE: fiction, Ages 9 - 12
RECOMMEND: I am a little on the fence on this one! Worth the read.


18 August 2008

Tuesday Thingers

Today's question: LT and RL (real life)- do you have friends in real life that you met through LibraryThing? Have you attended any LT meet-ups in your area? Would you be open to attending meet-ups or is LT strictly an online thing for you?

For me, there is not too much of an overlap in LT and RL. In fact, there is only one other person I know besides my daughter who has an active account on LT. That amazes me!! WHY?? I love all things books, love all things which make up nerdery - this is my husband's word for all the blogging and posting and cataloging that I do, for the most part related to LT.

I would love to attend a meet-up in my area. Thinking about location, I wonder where in the world such a meet-up would be - New Orleans, Atlanta, Tallahassee? All within driving distance, but might require an overnight stay. Sounding better and better.

What is funny about this question, is that when I talk to my daughter and three sons, I refer to people whose blogs I have read for five years as my friends. And I will never really meet them. They think that is so funny. To tie this in with LT, I got a postcard last week and my daughter asked me who it was from and I said, "Oh a friend from LT" - you know who you are! Thank you very much. I loved it. So here's to new friends and happy reading!


17 August 2008

35. One More Year

While I do not normally read short stories, I found One More Year by Sana Krasikov intriguing simply because of the topic and the multicultural aspects of the stories. Krasikov was born in the Ukraine and grew up in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. Certainly with the problems in that area of the world, my heart goes out to the author and I hope that any family members she may still have in Georgia are safe. An instructor I know was visiting family in Georgia when the fighting broke out and, while terrified, hopes to return home to his wife and child as soon as possible. Merely thinking about this situation leads one to consider the immigrants who are central to this collection of short stories and who have half of their hearts in two countries.

Krasikov provides us with eight short stories – with each story dealing with a character that has left one place for another, hoping for a better life for themselves or someone they love or even, perhaps, to escape a life they can no longer bear. The courage of change – to leave what is impossible for what is possible. Hope for a different place with a different result. Unfortunately, the hope is often greater than what is possible and the character is faced with even greater obstacles. Choices are somewhat limited. Still, many of the characters held on to hope in spite of the difficulties.

An excellent interview with the author can be read at Three Guys One Book. She has a great deal of maturity for a newly published author and I look forward to her first novel. I must admit that I liked the cover on the ARC better than the current cover.

I love it!!!!

TITLE: One More Year
AUTHOR: Sana Krasikov
COPYRIGHT: August 12, 2008
PAGES: 196
TYPE: fiction, short stories
RECOMMEND: I enjoyed the stories and hoped to see beyond the end.


34. American Wife

Thank you to Random House for the opportunity to read and review this delightfully wicked book loosely based on the life of Laura Bush! I am not sure what you have planned for September 2nd, but I would get in line at your local bookstore to buy this book. Or you can beat the crowds and pre-order online from Amazon.

Author Curtis Sittenfeld, who also wrote Prep: A Novel and The Man of My Dreams: A Novel, has caused quite a stir with her latest novel, American Wife: A Novel. In case you have not heard the buzz, her novel follows the life of Alice Blackwell. Alice grows up in small-town Wisconsin with a life often filled with confusion, some level of privilege, and a tragedy that overshadows the rest of her life. Even without the advance press, the reader realizes very quickly that Alice = Laura. After college, Alice works as a librarian (beginning to catch on?). She meets and marries Charlie Blackwell, who continues to push ahead politically even as his wife begs him to stop. A wicked description of the sex life of the soon-to-be-president was hysterical! Even so, it seems a bit sad that Alice, who is our narrator, seems to only watch as life happens to her. She is often not an active participant. There is a bit of a surprise at the end, when finally she sorts through the difficulties of private and public life to make a statement of her own!

Sittenfeld adds in just enough current events, like 9-11 and the war, to give credence to this delightful work of fiction. The story of Alice’s grandmother sent me straight to Google, but I could not confirm! Alice’s car accident in high school which tragically killed a classmate did actually happen to Laura Bush, but I suppose we will never know if the details are at all similar.

If the reader is seeking an autobiography of the First Lady, this might not be the best place to start. However, the writing is concise and the stories are intriguing. I thought perhaps 500 pages would be tiring, but it was slow only a bit in the middle. Another thing that has me wondering is why people are so upset about the book – if it is fiction, then get over it and enjoy the ride. If the author touches too close to home, so sorry.

I love it!!!!

TITLE: American Wife: A Novel
AUTHOR: Curtis Sittenfeld
COPYRIGHT: September 2, 2008
PAGES: 551
TYPE: fiction
RECOMMEND: Delicious.


07 August 2008

33. Tan Lines

After reading the first line of J. J. Salem’s novel, Tan Lines,

There are eight thousand nerve endings in the clitoris, and this son of a bitch couldn’t find any of them. p. 3

I knew that the book might not be the pick-of-the-month for the church book club. Even so, if you can get past the sex, drugs, rock and roll, and often funnily foul language – this is a fantastic book.

Reading Tan Lines reminds me of a few things. First, if you are from the Northwest Florida area, the Pensacola Beach regulars are lovingly called “beach trash” which implies in all its Southerness that these folks are often socially flawed but endearing and loved none the less! This description might be used to describe many of the characters found in the novel. Second, upon reflection, Tan Lines reminded me of an updated Valley of the Dolls, published in the 1960s. In this Jacqueline Susann novel sex, drugs, name-dropping, and social climbing were the downfall of key characters.

So who are the primary characters in Tan Lines?

Lisa Pike – self-described “twenty-first-century fashionista feminist” p. 21 Lisa is a public persona with a personal life collapsing all around her.

Kellyanne Downey – an actress wannabe who has found herself as the kept mistress of a much older man with few acting prospects in her future.

Billie Shelton – an indie rock star whose star is quickly fading.

In spite of life choices which have lessened their connectedness, the three friends try to get together each summer and this summer it is in the Hamptons where they will mingle with the rich and famous. Unfortunately their choices this summer lead to betrayal, hurt, and even murder.

This book was delicious. My favorite thing was the author’s inclusion of many contemporary people and comments – from bands to name-dropping to current events. My favorite quote – talking about the glut of reality TV shows (which I must admit to watching) is “It doesn’t matter how fake things are. Haven’t you heard? Reality is the new substitute for truth.” p. 90

Once you get into the story of the summer in the Hamptons, it is easy to overlook language that might be offensive to some but may be used to set the tone for the book. I would advise you to at least give it a try. It might just turn out to be one of your “guilty pleasures” as suggested on the book cover. For a male author, J. J. Salem might have gotten these three strong females just right!

TITLE: Tan Lines
AUTHOR: J. J. Salem
PAGES: 306
TYPE: Fiction
RECOMMEND: I could not put this book down.

05 August 2008

Tuesday Things

Today's question is only marginally about LibraryThing but I thought it might be a fun question anyway. It's more about blogging. Everyone who participates in Tuesday Thingers has a blog- some have a book blog, some have several, some have blogs that are more personal, etc.- and we've all chosen to participate in this particular way of networking to build traffic, get to know each other, etc. So my question is: what other weekly memes or round robins do you participate in? Is this the only one? Why Tuesday Thingers and not some other weekly Tuesday meme? Or do you do more than one?

So far this is the only weekly meme that I participate in. However, I enjoy it very much so I have been thinking of joining others. Thank you for providing a good link to get started. It is always fun to read what others have to say and I always try to comment on quite a few each week. We all know how wonderful it is to come back to your blog and see notes from new friends. And, I agree that it must be difficult to think up a new question each week. But maybe you could move to questions about reading in general which is of course related to Library Thing in a most intimate way! This is a great group and I am glad that this was my introduction to memes.

04 August 2008

2008 Update

I made a personal challenge to read 52 books in 2008 – or at least one book per week. Half the year is gone and I have read 30 books, and 8443 pages. Of these books, only six were non-fiction. A few fell into the historical fiction genre as well. Most importantly, six of the books were Advanced Reader Copies for which I am grateful. 66% of the authors were female. Many were award winners! So far it has been a great year of reading.

In the 1% Reading Challenge, I have completed only 2 of 10 books. I guess I need to get going on that list.

To make it even better, it is wonderful to share with all of the people in the Tuesday Things book ring. So many recommendations that I think I will make my goal this year. Thanks to all of the publisher's who are willing to take a chance on a librarian blogger!

32. So Long at the Fair

Thank you to Doubleday for the opportunity to read and review this galley of So Long at the Fair.

Author Christina Schwarz, who also wrote Drowning Ruth, tells the story of a marriage and an affair. Jon and Ginny struggle with the minutiae of their relationship, while each of them also struggles with the past which has shaped their future. Two things make their lives even more difficult – Ginny is trying to get pregnant and Jon is having an affair with a co-worker. While this might be enough drama for some, the author tells us another story. It is the story of Jon and Ginny’s parents – told in alternating chapters of the book. Does the past dictate the future? Is the marriage on the brink of disaster?

To be honest, I found this book a little confusing. Even so, I enjoyed it. And I liked it enough to read it again with a who’s who chart! Why? Because the emotion and struggles are so well developed by Schwarz that the novel is worth a second read for full understanding. The characters are likeable and the suspense builds to a satisfying conclusion.

Here is a short excerpt from the book from USA Today. Or here at the Random House author/book page.

TITLE: So Long at the Fair
AUTHOR: Christina Schwarz
PAGES: 244
TYPE: fiction
RECOMMEND: Um, very good, but make a family tree.