Reading Frenzy

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Chick lit or chick flicks?

"If love is the answer, could you please rephrase the question?" --Lily Tomlin

When my daughter was a toddler and I had lots of time as a sahm (yeah, right), a new neighbor gave me a bag full of Harlequin Romances. Even though I was a voracious reader, I'd never read one of these. And damn if I didn't sit and read every one of them, kicking myself after the first one. Because they were there. Because I tend to read anything at hand. Because I kept thinking they were going to get better. Chick lit really is a much better read than those old harlequins, but I think maybe I'd like them a lot better if their popularity hit about twenty years ago--give or take.

These days I don't read too much chick lit, once in awhile I pick up one that everyone raves about just to stay in the loop. Maybe I'm just too old for the genre, although I have to admit I loved
Good in Bed......But a close friend and the library director talked me into two this week that, well I wish had stayed on the shelf, or at least gone to someone totally addicted to the these books. On the other hand, I'm a sucker for chick flicks. Next time I'll wait for the movies.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophia Kinsella

From Booklist:

"Samantha Sweeting, an ambitious lawyer on the fast track to becoming a partner at her prestigious law firm, is horrified to discover an overlooked memo on her desk that ends up costing a client 50 million pounds. In a daze, Samantha hops a train and finds herself in the country. She walks up to the first house she sees and knocks on the door, intending to inquire about the nearest hotel, but Trish Geiger mistakes her for the new housekeeper. Still in shock, Samantha decides to go along with Trish and her husband, Eddie's, mistake, despite the fact that she has no domestic skills. Happily, she is aided by the handsome gardener, Nathaniel. He helps her forget about her London law firm..."

Ummm, sure. I could see that happening.

Must Love Dogs

by Claire Cook

From BookPage:

"In an age of whiny novels about 30-something "singletons" whose sole goal in life seems to be snagging a decent man, Must Love Dogs is a refreshing antidote. Yes, 40-year-old Sarah Hurlihy is edging back into dating after a particularly nasty divorce, and yes, she wants to meet the right man. But author Claire Cook flips the same tired story upside down, serving up a hilariously original tale about dating and its place in a modern woman's life. "

Okay, a little older heroine, but the wacky family and the "settle for" ending lost me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Poverty is Alive and Well

“The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied...but written off as trash. The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing. “~John Berger

“It is a tragic mix-up when the United States spends $500,000 for every enemy soldier killed, and only $53 annually on the victims of poverty.” --Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Most of us know the basics of this NY Times Bestseller first published in 2001 in which Barbara Ehrenreich chronicled her three months spent earning mimimum wage and her attempt to survive in three American cities in Florida, Maine and Minnesota. It has continued to be a topic of discussion--for example it is San Jose State Unversity's Selection for the 2005 Campus Reading Program. But knowing the general story line is not the same as reading this book which gives the reader a first hand view of what it's like to work at jobs that demean and exhaust workers trying desperately to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. Will you ever look the same at the Wal-Mart clerks, the Denny's waitresses, the people you see everyday who struggle and are stranded in entry level jobs? Not likely.

According to CNN Money last year, "The number of Americans living in poverty jumped to 35.9 million last year, up by 1.3 million, while the number of those without health care insurance rose to 45 million from 43.6 million in 2002." Poverty figures have been on the rise since this undercover expose was written. Compassion challenges us to do what we can to effect change. A little more compassion would go a long way.

Heroes and Villains

"When it comes to the point, really bad men are just as rare as really good ones." -George Bernard Shaw

Speak Softly, She Can Hear by Pam Lewis

Pam Lewis' first novel catches you from the very beginning and doesn't let you go until you turn that final page. Her character has both the terrible misfortune as well as the amazing good luck to meet both men of George Bernard's quotation. I can't wait for her next novel.

From the book jacket:

“New York City, 1965: At Spence, the exclusive Manhattan girls' school, shy, overweight scholarship student Carole finds herself drawn into an unlikely friendship with charismatic, pedigreed Naomi. On a dare, Carole and Naomi make a pact to lose their virginity before graduation. Enter Eddie, a slick Upper East Side prep school dropout, expelled from a half-dozen private schools on the East Coast. Eddie is handsome, fatally charming, and more than willing to help the girls accomplish their goal. But something about him is not quite right -- his overly familiar way with Naomi, his hair-trigger temper, the stories that just don't add up -- and on one bitterly cold holiday weekend in an isolated cabin deep in the Vermont woods, a horrifying twist develops in the girls' plan. Before the night is over, a stomach-turning secret is sealed between friends, setting in motion a series of events that will have dire and far-reaching consequences.

Sweeping across decades, moving from New York to Vermont to California and back again, Lewis tells an utterly gripping, psychologically nuanced tale of friendship between two very different women, of the life-changing burden of a secret, the lies we tell others to save ourselves, and the lies we tell ourselves when the truth is too painful to accept.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

So many books, so little time, a really overused line but......

Books to the ceiling
Books to the sky.
My pile of books
Are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I'll have a long beard
By the time I read them.
-Arnold Lobel

As I sit reading the literary tome, "Undomestic Goddess" by Sophie Kinsella, a quick check of email reveals that the 2005 Man Booker Prize long list nominees were announced. Oh dear.

  • "Saturday" by Ian McEwan
  • "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • "Arthur & George" by Julian Barnes
  • "The Sea" by John Banville
  • "Beyond Black" by Hilary Mantel
  • "A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian" by Marina Lewycka
  • "The People's Act of Love" by James Meek
  • "The Accidental" by Ali Smith
  • "The Harmony Silk Factory" by Tash Aw
  • "All for Love" by Dan Jacobson
  • "On Beauty" by Zadie Smith
  • "Shalimar the Clown" by Salman Rushdie
  • "Slow Man" by J. M. Coetzee
  • "In the Fold" by Rachel Cusk
  • "A Long Long Way" by Sebastian Barry
  • "This Thing Of Darkness" by Harry Thompson
  • "This Is the Country" by William Wall