Reading Frenzy

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Jeepers Creepers

Creepers by David Morrell

Remember sitting in the dark with a flashlight reading something that scared you out of your wits? Psycho—read in a strange basement in Seattle when I was about 15 was terrifying…..Some of Stephen King’s books made me awfully uneasy: Cujo, The Shining, Pet Semetary. And when I first moved to Connecticut and read Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night I think it was the combination of dark days and old buildings that resembled the descriptions in the book that gave me nightmares.

Just a few miles from here an
old psychiatric hospital that has been empty for years. Since its closing there have been tales of “explorers” searching out abandoned rooms and tunnels looking for ghosts. So when this book crossed my desk I had to take it home even though this could have been the wrong week since I’m by myself mostly, but I didn’t get the scare I thought would. Great cover, great premise—five urban exploreers set off on a dark and stormy night to explore an abandoned boarded-up hotel set for demolition and run into “danger, terror and death,” but it didn’t fulfill its promise. More gore than scare maybe--and ultimately unsatisfying. But hey, it got good reviews, maybe I wasn’t as much in the mood as I thought.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Plowing through family conflicts

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian : A Novel by Marina Lewycka

84-year-old Ukranian immigrant widower, Nikolai is in love--with a large breasted, 36-year-old gold-digging Ukranian whose visa in England is about to expire. Love and marriage transpires and the comic battle is on to separate them by Nikolai's warring daughters, Nadezhda and Vera before Valentina either murders their father or wrings every last cent out of the old man who she has bullied into submission.

Underlying this witty tale is the story of a family that survived atrocities in Russia, and of secrets that are better buried. It is the story of two sisters who come to understand their differences and the reasons behind them. The author was born of Ukrainian parents in a refugee camp in Germany at the end of the war, and grew up in England. She's a natural writer, and this first book won the Orange Prize 2005 and was a nominee for the Booker Prize.

On the road again.....

No, not Kerouac, although maybe that would be a great idea, I've never read it. Now that circumstances have changed and I'm driving an hour a day, I've finally succumbed to books on disc and I'm loving it.

Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art by Gene Wilder

My knowledge of Wilder started with Gilda Radner, so it was wonderful to travel along his life for some insight of what makes up this funny, insightful and genuinely nice man. It was a great view of what it was like to be in the movies and in theatre, and of his struggle with his inner demons, his battles with cancer--both his own and Gilda's--and his takes on his fellow actors--none of it meanspirited.

Loud and Clear by Anna Quindlen

Maybe because I REALLY like Anna Quindlen, this book spoke volumes to me. In this selection from columns from the New York Times and Newsweek, she covers topis from motherhood to 9/11, from Harry Potter to the problems of abuse in the Catholic Church. Her writing is clear and concise, and the only problem in listening to her in the car is you can't stop and write all those excellent lines down. At the end you just wish you could call her up and say "let's have lunch."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Next time I'll just have the piece of cake

"The chief excitement in a woman's life is spotting women who are fatter than she is." ~ Helen Rowland

JUST DESSERTS by Patti Massman and Susan Rossman

Did I really order this? It did show up on my desk at the library under my request, so I had to have gotten the title from someone......After a week of reading about Nazis and infidelity and betrayal, I figured, what the heck.

Southern Californian housewife Diana Lowe is 50 pounds overweight and saddled with a husband who is repulsed by her--and leaves her for his assistant. Diana, who'd already begun watching her diet when the first notes of marital problems surfaced, cuts fats in earnest and the weight sheds in spite of her addiction to a particular brand of candy bars. Life suddenly changes as she gets down to a size 6 and finds a gorgeous and ravishing new body--she travels to Europe, is courted by a wealthy playboy and a gorgeous masseuse and finds a new career. Does her husband come back? Does she want him or the handsome, successfull, supportive, famous next door neighbor who's been her friend through thick and thin (pun intended). Take a guess.

Library Journal says, "One-dimensional, jet-setting characters, wooden dialog, tedious dissertations on calculating dietary fat, and designer everything make this effort irritating reading, even for fans of the genre." That about covers it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Serial Killer in Nazi Germany


Axel Berg, a homicide detective with the Munich police department is on a desperate search for a serial killer who attacks beautiful young women. Berg has to contend with Nazi Brownshirts, a boss who wants someone--anyone--charged with the murders, preferably a Jew, violent political rallies, and his own unstable personal life complete with wife and family and a Jewish mistress. Anti-semitic sentiments abound--at home, at the police department and generally through the city. Hitler is at the beginning of his rise to power and violence agains Jews are becoming the everyday occurance.

Kellerman, who usually writes contemporary mysteries about an L.A. cop and his orthodox wife, took a side road on this novel. The darkness of this time plus the unsettled and helpless feelings that some Germans felt in dealing with the rising hatred for Jews comes through effectively in this book.

What a tangled web

Envy by Kathryn Harrison

Will Moreland, a New York therapist leaves his wife at home to attend his 25th college reunion. It becomes quickly apparent that a lot is happening—he’s estranged from his famous twin brother, he meets up with an old flame who may or may not have had his baby, he’s still very much in mourning for his dead son and he and his wife are having difficulty connecting in the wake of this. In a confrontation with an ex-girlfriend at the reunion, she makes the comment, “You are an excellent example of why it is that people think shrinks are nuts.” She may be right.

Will spends a lot of time obsessing about just about everything in his life, and at times his thoughts and actions frustrate the heck out of the reader. Throw in a missing brother whose actions caused far reaching ripples so many years ago—some of which are just coming to light--and you have a mesmerizing look at a complicated family. Did I find it compelling? Well, mostly.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Parental Angst

"The first half of our life is ruined by our parents and the second half by our children. " ~ Clarence Darrow

Breaking Her Fall by Stephen Goodwin

I picked this book up at Costco and read the back cover, and there was no way to leave the store without this book in my basket:

"On an ordinary summer night, Tucker Jones picks up the phone expecting to hear from his fourteen-year-old daughter Kat. Instead it's another parent who reports that Kat is not, as promised, at the movies, but at a party--and makes a shocking allegation about her activities there. Furious, Tucker races to the party to find Kat already departed. But his interrogation of the teenage boys still present doesn't end until one of them crashes into a glass table top. In a second, Tucker's rage turns to remorse. Soon he is under arrest. He could easily lose his home and his business. But, most importantly, will he lose his daughter?"

Goodwin captures the parental fears that we experience when something goes profoundly wrong in our children's lives. He's the mother hen, wanting to keep all harm from his daughter--and son--and he learns the hard way that it's just not always possible to keep our children safe. It's a complex book, lots of subplots, and the reader delves not only into Kat's world in the aftermath, but into her father's life as a single dad and his relationships with his mistress and his best friend as well as her mother's story. It brings home the fact that the world us fifty-somethings grew up in is not the world of today.

Untraveled Territory

"Why this is very midsummer madness." ~ William Shakespeare

"Magic Street" by Orson Scott Card

I hadn't heard the term, "urban fantasy" until just recently, maybe because I read so little fantasy, but I loved "Ender's Game" so I picked this one up. Magic in modern cities, what an interesting concept. Besides, our bookshelves are lined with Terry Brooks, R. A. Salvatore and Robert Jordan as my husband is a major fan, so what the heck, thought maybe I'd be able to engage in a little fantasy over the dinner table. But this is a far cry from Shannara, I think.

Take a black, upper middle class neighborhood in Baldwin Hills, California and a little Midsummer Night's Dream and you have a fascinating mix of coming of age story, dreams and fairies, and the triumph of good over evil. Since I'm not particularly adept at suspending my disbelief, this isn't going to become my new addiction, but it was definitely fun--just wish I'd run through Shakespeare's play before reading it.