Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Life In France - Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

If you know anything at all about Julia Child, you know she has a distinctive and awesome voice.  In this book, her voice is so clear you can actually hear it when you read - or at least, I can.  As the title indicates, the story is about her life in France, which is where she learned to cook and helped to write Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1 & 2.  I love this book, because her voice is so clear and because it's full of the details I love - where they lived, what they ate, who they spent time with, etc.  This book makes me want to live in France - especially France of the 50's.  Julia has a great sense of humor and adventure, and both come through loud and clear.  I actually read this book for the first time after reading Julie & Julia, and I love them both.  The movie is also great - I love Meryl Streep and think her Julia was dead on. 

The Probable Future - Alice Hoffman

The Probable Future tells the story of the Sparrow women - a family of women who all receive a "gift" on their 13th birthday.  The first Sparrow woman, Rebecca, no longer feels pain.  Some women can tell when someone is lying, some can run faster than a deer, some can walk through fire or stay under water for 20 minutes.  The youngest Sparrow, Stella, can see death - she can look at most people, and tell how and when they will die. 
I like Alice Hoffman because all of her books have an element of magic and an element of romance - it's not cheesy, in-your-face romance, it's subtle.  She also wrote Practical Magic, which is an excellent book and a good movie (although the book is better, as is usually the case). 

This book doesn't contain have much language or any sexual content, although most of her books do have some of one or the other, or both. 

BossyPants - Tina Fey

**A note before we begin - if you are uncomfortable with laughing so hard that you snort, cry, shoot liquids out your nose, fall on the floor or potentially wet yourself, this is not the book for you.**

I'll just go ahead and say it - Tina Fey is freaking hilarious.  I finished this book in the course of one evening - not unheard of for me, but not exactly common either.  I laughed so hard that I think I may have actually bruised internal organs.  If you love to laugh so hard it hurts, you must read this book.  There are some cuss words, and some pseudo-sexual content (she doesn't describe specific acts or anything like that, but she does make some sexual references). 
The book talks about her life, her family, her work on SNL, impersonating Sarah Palin, her work on 30 Rock and her "beauty tips and secrets".  All in all, a fab read - although the cover freaked me out a little.  I mean, why the giant man arms looking like they belong to you, Tina?  WHY? 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dead Reckoning - Charlaine Harris

Dead Reckoning is the latest in the Sookie Stackhouse/TrueBlood series.  I love this series, and I LOVE the show on HBO.  I mean, talk about hotness. 
That being said, Reckoning was not my favorite in the series.  It felt like one of those in-between books for me - the kind that asks a lot of questions, and resolves one or two but leaves you wondering what the cuss is going on by the end of the book...and then you have to wait another year for the next book.  In my opinion, this is different than a cliff hanger - a cliff hanger is one big moment at the end of the book that leave you going "What the cuss just happened?!?"  This kind of book just leaves you feeling frustrated because you have this list of questions, and only one or two questions from the last book got answered in this one. 
Also, this book made me wish more than ever that Sookie would get back together with Bill - and I realize this makes no sense to those of you who haven't read the series, but this is the 10th book people. I can't summarize quickly.  For those of you that have read it, I want Sookie to go back with Bill.  Yes, I know he messed up, but he truly loves Sookie and is devoted to her.  Eric has too, too much going on - you find out in this book that he has even more going on then we knew about. 
If you haven't read any of the TB series before, the books have some graphic violence (vampires, people!) and some graphic sexual content (again, vampires!). 

Room - Emma Donoghue

Let me start of by saying this straight out - this book freaked me the freak out.  It's not exactly a "scary" book, but it's very intense and emotional.  Room tells the story of Jack and Ma.  You quickly figure out that Jack is a 5 year old boy, who lives in a single room with his mother.  Why is this?  Because his mother was kidnapped when she was 19 years old, kept in a modified shed, and impregnated by her captor, a man they refer to as "Old Nick".  Jack has never been outside, and doesn't understand outside exists.  He has a TV, but believes the things on it - airplanes, stores, even other people - only exist inside the TV. 
Ma decides it's time for them to make a break for it, and the plan involves convincing Old Nick that Jack is very sick, and then telling him later that Jack died.  Ma wraps his body in the rug from Room, and tells Jack that when Old Nick takes the rug away to dispose of the body that Jack must escape, find help, and bring the help back for her.  Heavy, right?
In the interest of not spoiling things, I'll stop there. 
I think this book freaked me out simply because this could and HAS happened.  I mean, when I read The Passage it freaked me out, but I didn't actually believe that zombie/vampires would someday take over and force the remaining humans to live in compounds.  When I read What the Night Knows, I was freaked out, but didn't really believe the spirit of a psycho killer would come back to finish his work.  THIS ACTUALLY COULD HAPPEN. 
I also be honest and say that the idea of living 24/7 in an 11x11 room with a 5-year-old freaked me out.  I mean, Mama needs her quiet time. 
I would say, if you're a woman, or a Mom, this book is not an awesome idea.  It was moving and touching at times, but for me, the freak-out factor was too high for the moving/touching to compensate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fly Away Home - Jennifer Weiner

I just re-read this one and reminded myself how much I love it.  To be fair, I pretty well love all of JW's books, but still.
Fly Away Home tells a story that has become all too familiar in recent years - Sylvie, the wife of a powerful NY Senator, who runs her husband's life (keeps track of his schedule, helps him write speeches, waits for his eggs at a buffet) - is completely shattered when it comes out that her husband had an affair with an aide, and then helped said aide get a job afterwards.  The book jumps between chapters told in Sylvie's POV - what does she do now, should she leave her husband, hire a paid assassin? - to chapters told in the POV of one of their two daughters.  Diana is a seemingly perfect woman - ER doctor, avid runner, married with a child - but she's having an affair with her medical intern, because she's desperately lonely and her husband is...well...oblivious.  Lizzie is fresh out of rehab and trying to prove to her family and herself that she can be helpful, responsible, and learn how to live a life free of recreational substances. 
Fly Away Home is touching, hilarious, and all-around amazing.  I don't know a married woman out there who hasn't seen one of those "Senator/Representative/Governor So-and-So has confessed..." stories without trying to put herself in the place of his wife.  This story is fantastic because it tells the other side of the story, the one we never hear. 
This book contains sexual content, swears and some "crude" humor. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Let me start out by saying, and I cannot overstate this, that The Help is the best book ever.  I love, love, love this book - so much that I've recommended it to pretty well everyone, and given it as a gift to several people. 
The Help is set in Mississippi during the civil rights movement - just prior to the march on Washington DC by Martin Luther King Jr.  Our first main character is Skeeter - she should be a debutante, content to play bridge, attend club meetings and get married.  She chose instead to go to Ole Miss - and not just to meet a man.  Now she's back home, living on the plantation, with a mother determined to see her married before she dies and an urge to do something...different.  Our next main character is Aibileen, a black maid raising her 17th white child, while still grieving for the loss of her son.  She is devoted to the girl she looks after, even though she knows the child will most likely grow up to be a bigot, just like her parents, neighbors and friends.  Our last main character is Minny, also a black maid, but much different than Aibileen.  Where Aibileen is soft-spoken and mild, Minny is all fire and sass - and she's been fired more than once for talking back. 
Skeeter is driven to the end of her rope by her friend Hilly's "home health sanitation initiative" - a drive to convince every white family who has black "help" to have a separate bathroom for them to use.  Skeeter wants to be a journalist, but most of all, she wants to write a book.  She decides she wants to write a book about "the help" - the black women who come into their homes, cook their meals, do their wash, raise their children.  She is driven in part by the deep love she has for her own maid, Constantine, who disappeared without a trace while Skeeter was in school.  The best and most dangerous part about this book is - she's going to tell the stories of these women by hearing it from their own mouths - the good, the bad, the horrible, the loving.  If any of them are discovered, it could mean death. 
The Help is touching, funny, horrifying, intense...all at once.  There is some mild language (especially racial slurs) and a very small amount of graphic imagery, but in my opinion, this is a book that everyone needs to read.  Go to your local bookstore, Kindle, Amazon, library, whatevs - but get it now and read it.  Go forth!