Monday, January 31, 2011

Left Neglected

I found myself actually feeling guilty for laughing out loud through this book. Not that the situation is funny, but the way that Sarah Nickerson adapts to her situation is very funny with her portrayal of a positive role model to a debilitating situation.

There is a very fine line between fiction and non-fiction in Lisa Genova’s latest, Left Neglected. The character of Sarah Nickerson is so well drawn that the reader has to recheck themselves from time to time to know that though Sarah is challenged by a real condition, Sarah herself is a fictional character.

Being the overachieving type A personality that not only has to prove to herself that she is a wonder woman, she must also prove to the world that she can have it all. That is until one day she pushes her multitasking to the breaking point and is injured in a wicked car crash. Upon coming out of her coma she comes to find that the left is no longer recognized by her brain. And it’s the left of anything, the room, a book, a picture, etc. Her appendages are intact; it’s just her brain that will not acknowledge their existence. I actually had to read the description a couple of times to grasp the full description of how this traumatic injury works. But without confusing it anymore, I don’t think that I would do it justice to re-explain it. Fascinating is the word that comes to mind when you read how the brain works, or doesn’t work, in this situation.

With determination and wit, Sarah battles to get back her life. The one where she was in charge, where her career came first and all the other pieces just seemed to find their place. But when push comes to shove and the idea of always having to wear elastic waist pants becomes Sarah’s new normal, she has to question if this is the life that she wants. Is her mother’s reappearing and taking over the child rearing of Sarah’s little peanuts something that she can tolerate? Is her husband’s borderline job going to be enough to see them through? Sometimes we need to find a new normal and whether it’s by choice or by a freak accident we are in a situation and need to make new decision.

Putting ourselves and our children back to a new normal might just be what we all need. Even if it does mean keeping track of utensils when going to the bathroom – OK, you will really need to read the book to get that last part, but it truly was one of the funniest parts of the book, other than the fact that Sarah kept wanting her mother to stand on her left side and needing to mentally write Dear Left Hand messages to her own body.

As I said, it is a funny book, but at the same time it’s uplifting to know what the human spirit can withstand when it needs to.

Even though this is only January, I think this will be one of my favorite books of the year. Sarah will stay with me for a long time, just like Alice Howland did in Still Alice. Great job Lisa Genova.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ghouls Ghouls Ghouls

For goodness sake, give Gilley a Scooby Snack and call it a day.

I really had high hopes for this book since Victoria Laurie seemed to have broken away from the Scooby Doo feel with her last book Ghouls Gone Wild. But I got my hopes up too soon. This book was little more than Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle. Unfortunately, we have all seen this episode before.

When Daphne, oops I mean MJ Holidays is called out to investigate a haunted castle in Ireland as part of a new episode of her Ghoul Getters show she brings her friends, including the recurring Gilley, a character that will forever be burned into my mind as Shaggy.

Not only are they expected to find a supposed treasure, but there is a phantom that blocks their way. Not just any phantom, this is an imported phantom that was brought to this location in a medallion that has somehow lost its stopper. Now think I Dream of Jeannie – phantom style. It is up to MJ and her intuitive abilities to track down the gold, send the phantom back to the medallion, find a missing producer, trap a kidnapper and last but not least find enough food so Gilley will stop whining.

Sounds like a taunting ordeal, but hey, we have all seen this show before, sometime back in the 70’s when we were sitting in our beanbag chairs drinking Ovaltine.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People

First of all if you enjoy the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith, than you are going to enjoy this book. Though taking place in different parts of the world and the actual business of each lead character is different, the overall feel of both books are very much the same.

Mr. Ali has recently retired and finds himself bored, more than that, his wife can’t stand the fact that he is constantly under foot and he has to find something to fill his days and leave her alone. So, what is a self respecting Indian man to do, well, he opens a matching making business in Vizag, India.

The Marriage Bureau for Rich People caters to the wealthy of the area. But finding the right match is not always easy when you have caste, religion, dowry, age, skin color and height to contend with. Love marriages are an abomination so it is up to Mr. Ali and the relatives to get this right or else the whole family could be judged as unworthy and no marriage could ever take place.

Persnickety parents aside, Mr. Ali takes his job very seriously and when one day Aruna, an older once rejected woman comes to his enterprise for employment he find the perfect office girl. She has a knack for this business and see’s matches where Mr. Ali does not.

Due to her father’s past illness, Aruna has to support her family and in doing so has given up on her own hopes of furthering her education and ever getting married. But thankfully not all suitors are living in the past and fight for their right to make a love match, no matter what those around them think.

Farahad Zama keeps this story moving forward with just enough tradition to keep the reader interested in what is to become of the matches and the people that have brought them together.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cat O'Nine Tales

Entertaining, it’s that simply put. Jeffrey Archer has a talent for putting a nice little twist in his short stories, that has either the reader heading for a total, “hey, wait a minute, what did I miss” or a redemptive,” it’s about time” moment.

I’m not here to discuss his criminal entanglements, but if he can entertain me with the antics of his fellow inmates the more power to him.

Don’t expect the long novels that he has been known for in the past, this is a collection of short stories that should be taken in short bursts and for the majority of them, there is a twist, an “oh, that was different” flash that has you smirking at Archer’s cleverness.

Take your time, don’t rush through, don’t judge the author, just know that no good deed goes unpunished and that each of his characters get what is due to the. In one way or another.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space

Lisa Scottoline makes me laugh. Not her Rosato and Associates series, that is just plain good, but her collection of columns that she writes for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Be it mothers, daughters or dogs to the most delicate issue of personal pruning, Lisa and her daughter Francesca will have you laughing and amazed at how a self examined life is never dull.

This is the second book of articles after Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog. These two women can take the everyday life of very funny women and have the rest of us nodding and guffawing along with them in constant amazement of how amusing our lives can be.

Pick up these books, they don’t have to be read all at once, each column is unique and just enough of a tidbit to keep you laughing or thinking for the day. And once you devour these books, go to her website for a look at her new column for the week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Diva Paints the Town

Well, imagine my surprise that I actually liked this book. I have to admit that after the last one, Diva Takes the Cake, I wasn’t all too fond of Krista Davis; but hoping that this book would redeem the series, I took the plunge and was delightfully surprised that Ms. Davis overcame her need to overly describe each and every nuance of the rooms and settings that the reader was introduced to.

Once again, Sophie Winston has over committed herself and her small event planning business. She is the head of Rooms and Blooms, the Old Town, Virginia’s annual home and garden show. But right in the middle of this even, her reclusive neighbor dies leaving a request that Sophie prepare a very specific meal for his benefactors. OK, that is strange, but no stranger then all the others things that she has been hired for and since the economy took a turn, she cannot turn down a paying job. Tasked with a specific meal, room arrangement plans, packages containing keys, puzzle pieces, Sophie’s mind goes into overdrive immediately.

But this is just too much secrecy for Sophie and when the bodies start piling up she knows she is in way over her head and with her boyfriend Wolf having to lay low because of his own ties, Sophie and her band of over the top friends must work this one out on their own.

Add to this her nemesis Natasha suddenly having to turn Mordecai’s home into a show piece for the home tour, Sophie is definitely in way over her head. But there is romance in the air and that is always enticing.

I enjoyed this fast paced read all the way until the very end which I felt was a bit rushed and jammed together. I actually had to reread the last couple of chapters to cement how each character tied the ending together. Though good and it did eventually did make sense, I suggest that you slow down and put the pieces together one at a time and decided for yourself which parts are necessary for the story and which parts just confused the ending.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Before I Fall

Within the first chapter of this book I was ready to put it down; I had no desire to enter yet again into high school mean girl angst. Oh, poor me, I am so popular and you are a nothing, but feel sorry for me because I had to earn my way to the top. Yada, yada, yada.


On a day that seems like all others Samantha Kingston, a high school senior, will die. She had always believed that when you die your life will flash before you, but that is not what happens. After the car accident she wakes up in her bed, only to live the same day over. From her sister waking her up to her roses on Cupid Day, everything is the same. By living the same day over and over she gradually realizes that she has the power to change things. To re-become the person she used to be, the kind and caring Sam she had been before she had to live up to the expectations of others; even if that meant getting past the current boyfriend to see her childhood friend Kent as her hero.

This is definitely a young adult book, the storyline is simple and yet you find yourself cheering on Sam and by the end you want her to have one more day. The day she could come completely back to her family.

The one part of this book that resonates with me is Lauren Oliver’s interpretations of comas. What if they really are the two parts of our brain fighting each other over what is real and what isn’t. That is a fascinating idea. Probably a little more in depth than what is usually handled in young adult, but still an interesting point.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Aunt Dimity Slays the Dragon

Aunt Dimity is my guilty pleasure. There is just something so fun and relaxing when I settle down and open one of Nancy Atherton’s books. Her reoccurring characters make the visits to the small English village of Finch a much needed break to my hectic day.

Lori Sheppard’s life has become boring and predictable. Her husband’s life as an international estate planning attorney fills his days, her twin sons have their school and ponies to keep their interest but yet Lori has nothing but her day in and day out village life - and her journal with otherworldly Aunt Dimity.

So when a Renaissance festival encamps in the field behind Lori’s cottage she is drawn into the drama and spectacle of the lively event. But Lori being Lori sees nefarious deeds and when good King Wilfred seems to have “accidents” Lori feels that it is her job to get to the bottom of this and to save the day, even if she does seem to be falling out of her wench’s costume.

As I said, the Aunt Dimity books are fun reads. Some books are better than others, but yet each book builds on the last so you see each character (finally Bill gets a leading role) again and again and it feels more like a homecoming then just another book in a long series.

Treat yourself, start at the beginning and see who Aunt Dimity really is, how Reginald is an intrinsic character and be introduced to Lori a kind hearted woman who is constantly needing to be reined in before her wild imagination gets the best of her.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Heart Shaped Box

I don’t know why I was expecting more from this book, but what I came away with was a sense that Joe Hill was just as bored with his characters as I was with reading about them. Long story made even longer, this would have made a good short story or even a novella, but trying to drag a reader to the end of a monotones narrative is a letdown for both the reader and the writer.

To take what has already been written, Judas Coyne, a middle-aged rock star collects morbid curios for fun, so doesn't think twice about buying a suit advertised at an online auction site as haunted by its dead owner's ghost. Only after it arrives does Judas discover that the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, the stepfather of one of Coyne's discarded groupies, and that the old man's ghost is a malignant spirit determined to kill Judas in revenge for his stepdaughter's suicide.

I was bored, the climatic moments weren’t that stellar and overall the main characters soon became a caricature of themselves.

Will I read Joe Hill again, I do have 20th Century Ghosts on the shelf, but I can’t see myself making that a priority right now.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

No Book Challenges

Ever since the realization hit that I am not very good with book challenges I am officially done with them. No more remembering to post on the challenge website, no more lists of what should be and what needs to be. No more worries of which book to read so it will fit snugly into a certain challenge.

No more.

I am entering into my year of selfish reading. I will read what I want, when I want and if the book is not a good match within the first 10% I will toss it. If the writer is not doing their job in entertaining me, then I am not going to waste my time.

This is a big step a big big step.

My bookshelves are now packed with books that I want to read, the library has an ever growing supply of new releases and I also am vowing to "not buy any new books this year". If PBS doesn't have it and the library doesn't have it, than I don't need it.

Some days I find strength in the strangest places and today is one of those days.