Reading Frenzy

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkhurst

This is just the thing for anyone suffering withdrawals as reality tv has taken a summer hiatus. Lost and Found follows contestants as they wing around the globe, solving clues and collecting items--including parrots--on their scavenger hunt, with cameras recording their every move. Pairs include a mother and teenage daughter team who have recently gone through a heartbreaking experience, a newly married Christian couple who've renounced their homosexual lifestyle and are out to spread the word, two former child stars hoping to rekindle their careers, and two middle-aged, recently divorced brothers. Throw in a host who has all the warmth of Anne Robinson of Weakest Link and who's trying to get each couple to expose secrets and dirty laundry on camera, and you have an entertaining, and often thoughtful, fastpaced read.

A Student of Living Things by Susan Richards Shreve

A Student of Living Things by Susan Richards Shreve

Claire Frayn lives with her family in Washington D.C. in the post 9/11 era, sometime in the not too distant future. Life is bleaker, there are more natural and man-made disasters, and terrorism is an every day event, however Claire and her family have mostly avoided suffering the stresses of the city. That changes on the day her brother is shot on the steps of the library of George Washington University.

The family begins splintering in the aftermath of Steven's murder. He'd been involved in some fringe groups and had written some politically unpopular pieces that seems to indicate this was a political assassination. Claire, a postgraduate biology student, meets a stranger who claims to have been Steven's friend, and draws her into the search for Steven's killer.

A timely tale, certainly not a good harbinger for what life could be like ten or so years from now. However, it is timeless in its depiction of grief and family ties, love, revenge and forgiveness.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dirty Blonde and The Devil Wears Prada

Dirty Blonde by Lisa Scottoline

Fast-paced, page turner tale of newly appointed judge Cate Fante, whose latest case between a Hollywood producer and the script writer who claims his story was stolen opens up Cate's sordid personal life and results in several murders. Good cops, bad cops, a love story of course, suspense, chases and a rather implausible main character makes this a fun read. Actually I listened to this one, and Barbara Rosenblat's reading brought the book to life.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

Andrea Sachs has just graduated from college and accepted a job as assistant to famed magazine editor, Miranda Priestly in the hopes that a year of working with the fasion maven will open doors, hopefully to The New Yorker. She quickly finds that her new boss is, well, the devil in Prada and the job totally takes over Andrea's life. A fun read even if you don't care very much about fashion. The movie trailers with Meryl Streep look delicious which was my main reason for picking this one up--can't wait!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

A classic mid-1800's mystery about the theft of a famous diamond from a Hindu shrine, which finds its way to England and is given as a birthday gift to Rachel Verrinder on her birthday. The diamond, bad luck for all who come into ownership, disappears that night from Rache's room, and is no where to be found. In the course of the story there is heartbreak, death and murder, suicide and finally, love and romance and the answer to the mystery.

There are different narrators in the story, the old faithful butler Betteredge who loves Robinson Crusoe, Miss Clack the religious zealot who stashes tracts in each room, Mr. Bruff the rather dry attorney, and mysterious Indians weave around the tale.

Interested in reading this? Set aside some time, it's a slow and methodical read which can be a bit frustrating to those of us used to speeding through a book and skimming the less captivating parts. But maybe, just maybe, it'll convince you to go pick up Robinson Crusoe, of which Betteredge says "I have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life."

Monday, June 12, 2006

This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes

This Book Will Save Your Life by A. M. Homes

Novak is a wealthy day-trader living in Los Angeles, well tended by a housekeeper, a nutritionist and a personal trainer. Divorced and separated by thousands of miles from his his son and his exwife, whom he still loves, he suffers a panic attack and intense pain. After eons of being holed up in his Hollywood Hills home, he finds himself in the emergency room in a local hospital, and it's his wakeup call to the emptiness of his life. Suddenly Novak finds himself connecting with fellow Angelinos, among them a friendly donut maker, a homemaker in crisis in the grocery store, a famous reclusive neighbor, and with each new friendship he finds himself opening up more and more to life and people around him, and that ripple spreads into and enriches their lives.

Ultimately, his teenage son travels to L.A. and brings all his pent up rage and baggage. They begin to bond and work out the anger and angst and Novak moves from a life wealthy in bank account, to a life wealthy in relationships and friendships.

Critics seem to have a love/hate relationship with this book. Personally, I loved it. It was sweet, funny, thoughtful, and filled with everyday people you pass on the street but don't take time for. And Novak finally learned the joys of taking time for people, and was all the richer for it. Will it save your life? No, but it might make you think a bit about where you are and where you could be.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Perfect Circle by Sean Stewart

PERFECT CIRCLE by Sean Stewart

This urban fantasy follows 32-year-old William "Dead" Kennedy (DK), so named because of his love of punk/alternative music and because he sees dead people. Set in Texas, DK is a high school drop out who has never pulled himself together, he moves from deadend job to job, mourning the loss of his marriage and trying to stay in touch with his smart and funny daughter, while having run ins with the ghosts around him, both friends and foe, good and evil.

Except for the part about the ghosts, that sounds a bit dull. And this book is anything but. It's creepy, witty, dark, hilarious, fresh, haunting, and all over the place. Memorable characters, unforgettable ghosts, great Houston descriptions of people and places.

I don't remember where I found this author, who was born in Texas but grew up in Canada. But he's a gem of a find. Thank you, whoever steered me toward Mr. Stewart!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger

After Ridley Jones rescues a young boy and receives her 15 minutes of fame, this New York journalist receives a note and a picture that throws her whole identity in question. She bears a striking resemblance to the woman in the photo, and the note asks if she could be "my daughter." A second note arrives, along with an old newspaper clipping, reporting the violent murder of the woman in the pic. Ridley is now on a quest, through the streets of New York City and parts of New Jersey, to find the sender and the truth behind the note, and the men in her life either help or hinder her search: Jake, a handsome and mysterious new neighbor, her brother Ace, a junkie living on the streets, her exfiance, Zack who is ever-lurking and overprotective, her father who denies that she was adopted, her mysterious and deceased Uncle Max, and a sleezy attorney.

This is a pretty well crafted suspense tale from a new novelist. My favorite parts were the descriptions of New York and its inhabitants. I liked the main character, she's gritty and not always perfect, the new boyfriend was a bit formulaic, her brother the drug addict is a great character. A good, fast paced leisure read, with interesting twists and turns.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Digging to America by Anne Tyler


Two couples and their extended families meet at the Baltimore airport in 1997 as they wait for their adopted Korean babies. The families couldn't be more different, Bitsey and Brad Donaldson are a combination of yuppy and hippie (natural foods, cloth diapers) while Sami and Ziba Yasdan along with grandma Maryam are upper class Iranians (Sami was actually born in the U.S.). Bitsey and Brad have a huge and noisy extended family along with them, with buttons and banners and video cameras in comparison to the quiet and contained three Yasdans.

The families form a friendship as the result of welcoming their new Korean babies together, and the book tells of their growing affection and appreciation of one another as well as stumbles as a result of the different cultures, through a series of parties and get togethers. Sami and Ziba are anxious to be seen as Americans, and give their new daughter an English name, Susan, while Bitsey and Brad retain the Korean name, Jin-Ho. Much of the story surrounds Maryam, who outwardly attempts to fit into American culture while inwardly craving a solitary and customary Iranian lifestyle. When Bitsey's mother dies, her father and Maryam, two people who couldn't be more different, forge a rocky relationship.

This is a quiet book--there's not a lot of plot--more of it centers around encounters between the two families. It's a thoughtful look at the difficulty of being a stranger in a strange land, and the problems and rewards of two very different cultural families colliding and bonding.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue

In this lyrical and magical tale of two children, 7-year-old Henry Day is stolen by changelings and becomes Aniday, the newest member of the tribe. The eldest changeling morphs into a duplicate of Henry, and takes his place in Henry's family, in the real world. The novel begins with this switch which takes place in the 1950's, somewhere in the northeastern United States. Neither the former Henry Day, or the new Henry Day are comfortable or happy in their new roles.

Aniday, now destined to remain a childlike creature, longs for the life he lost while bonding with his new family in the woods and the tunnels beneath the woods. His closest friend, Speck, introduces him to the library at night, and slowly reveals the story of Aniday's lost family. And in a parallel story, the new Henry Day struggles to fit in while remembering a life before the changelings, as a child prodigy who's love was the piano. He builds a new life, with love and family, but is forever haunted by the childhood he's stolen, and the one that was stolen from him in a life before he became a changeling. He never really feels like he belongs, and the fear of his deception being discovered and his true identity revealed is always with him.

This is Keith Donohue's first novel, and what a book it is. The author based his story on the poem of William Butler Yeats, "The Stolen Child." Not only a book about childhood and parenthood, but also about living as an outsider in life. I think this book is destined to be an important work.

"Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping
than you can understand."