"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Smart Girls Marry Money by Daniela Drake and Elizabeth Ford

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Summary: Don't let love or hot sex rob you of long-term financial security. Marry Money. 

I've done it all wrong.

You're never supposed to marry and put your husband through graduate school.  Apparently I wasted all those early years sacrificing my career for him.

You marry him just after he becomes a success, while you're still young and hot. Whoops! I did marry him when we were both young and hot, but he was far from a success at the time.

You never ever make more money than he does. (even if you are putting him through school). The only way I could put my husband through school is because I was making more money than he was.

Brazilian waxes are just wrong, according to the authors.  Well, live in California for a few months, and then we'll talk.

This book was hard for me to read and finish partly because I felt the authors gave conflicting advice. Get married as soon as the man is successful, not before. Then don't have kids, because if you divorce, you become less desirable. But if you do have kids and you work, then hire a nanny because you'll never be successful if you cater to your kids' schedule. And lock your husband into marriage and make it too expensive for him to divorce you. Get a job, because that's the best way to meet men. Use your sexuality at work to advance your career, but never become more successful than the man you're pursing or married to, because then he can't perform. Lower your standards about who's acceptable, because looks fade, but mutual funds can go the distance. And the book opens with the words:
"If being in love is a valid reason to marry, then being out of love is a valid reason to divorce."
It doesn't get any more cheerful than that. Basically, arrange your own marriage, settle for like instead of love and get a good financial planner (and attorney).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Summary: A anorexic struggles with the death of her former friend while struggling to lose even more weight.

I hated this book and can tell you exactly why.

The writing is florid and over-blown:
“The snow drifts into our zombie mouths with grease and curses and tobacco flakes and cavities and boyfriend/girlfriend juice, the stain of lies. For one moment we are not failed tests and broken condoms and cheating on essays; we are crayons and lunch boxes and swinging so high our sneakers punch holes in the clouds. For one breath everything feels better.”
Lia is 18 years old and living with her step-mother Jennifer, her half-sister Emma and her father after her parents’ divorce.
“The breakup with my mother was the same old story a million times. Girl is born, girl learns to talk and walk, girl mispronounces words and falls down. Over and over again. Girl forgets to eat, fails adolescence, mother washes her hands of Girl, scrubbing with surgical soap and a brush for three full minutes then gloving up before handing her over to specialists and telling them to experiment at will. When they let her out, Girl rebels.”
But Lia is even lying to herself. She doesn't "forget" to eat. She chooses not to eat. Lia is institutionalized at an eating disorder clinic following a car accident she got into because her brain was too fogged to accurately drive and her body to weak to react or steer. When she gets out, she’s so angry at her mom, whom she addresses as Dr. Marrigan, that Lia chooses to live with her father and Jennifer and Emma.

I’m sure that the websites for anorexics and bulimics that Lia follows are real. I found them disgusting and disturbing.

I was hoping for a window into the mind of an anorexic.
“I started coming here after the first prison clinic stay because Dr. N Parker is a scam artist specialist in crazy teenagers troubled adolescents. I opened my mouth during the first couple of visits and gave her a key to open my head. Ginormous mistake. She brought her lantern and a hard hat and lots of rope to wander through my caves. She landed land mines in my skull that detonated weeks later.”
And much of the writing is like that - italics, strikethrus, lies. Instead of the chapters having headings or numbers, they look like weights. 085.00  Here's a sledgehammer.

Instead, I read about a spoiled little rich girl, who likely drove her former best friend to cause her own stomach to explode from bulimia. She feels guilty, and she should.

Lia doesn’t really want to get well.

So I’m afraid I had little sympathy for her. Her grandmother dies. Tons of grandparents do. Her father cheats. Tons of fathers cheat. Her parents get divorced. Tons of parents get divorced. But tons of girls don’t make crazy pacts with their best friend about who can be the skinniest. One friend chooses anorexia and one choose bulimia. And one freakin’ dies!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Feed by M.T. Anderson

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Summary: Teens have angst in the future. 

Imagine reading a blog by a 14-year old boy in the future. I was so bored.
“Marty was getting angry that everyone was like turding on his recommendation, and I just wanted them all to shut up somehow, I mean nicely, because suddenly I realized we didn’t really sound too smart. If someone overheard us, like that girl, they might think we were dumb.”
“We wanted to go to sleep by then, but we were on the moon, even if it sucked, and it was spring break, you know, with the action, so there was no way we were admitting we wanted to go to sleep.”

“It was meg big big loud. There was everything there.
There was about a million people it seemed, and light, and the beat was rocking the moon. There was a band hung by their arms and their legs from the ceiling, and there was girders and floating units going up and down, and the meg youch latex ripplechicks dancing on the bar, and there were all these frat guys that were wearing these, unit they were fuckin’ brag, they were wearing these tachyon shorts so you couldn’t barely look at them, which were $789.99 according to the feed, and they were on sale for like $699 at the Zone, and could be shipped to the hotel for an additional $78.95, and that was just one great thing that people were wearing.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Big Girl by Danielle Steel

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Summary: An overweight adult was neglected and ignored by her family. 

It's been ages since I've read a Danielle Steel novel. I'm glad I picked this one up. She tells a good story, even if dialogue is her weakness.

Victoria is born to Jim and Christine and looks nothing like them. Their disappointment that Victoria was not a boy and not immediately adorable causes these two shallow people to neglect their child for years. Baby Victoria is wrinkly and stout and so looks like Queen Victoria that her father names her after Victoria, as kind of a cruel joke. Victoria only realizes what an insult it was at age six when she finally sees a pictures of the aging Queen Victoria and doubts her parents' love for her ever since. When her sister Grace is born when Victoria is seven, Victoria showers Grace with all the love that she wanted and never got. Jim jokes that Victoria was the "tester cake" kid, the cake (or kid) they should have thrown away.

Their mother, Christine, is a biddable wife, who adores her husband and sees a child-free moment as an opportunity to play bridge.  But Grace and Victoria remains loving sisters despite their age gap and their looks. Of course, Grace is adorable, petite, and skinny, and looks just like her parents. Jim says that Victoria is lucky that she has brains since Grace has the beauty, while her mother tells her not to be too smart, because men don't like smart women.

Victoria also has depth and character, something sorely lacking in her parents. Victoria goes to college at Northwestern, far away from her family in California. Her father thinks she should major in advertising or marketing, his field, and scorns her teaching degree. Without their support, Victoria lands a job in New York City, teaching at an exclusive private school. But without a husband, and still a size 12 (C'mon, Danielle, really?), she has little value to her parents.
"He didn't notice a single pound she lost; nor did her mother, who was always distressed about her daughter's size, no matter what it was. The label they had put on her as a child was stuck there forever, like a tattoo. She was a "big girl," which was their way of calling her a fat girl. She knew that if she weighed a hundred pounds and were disappearing, they would still see her as a "big girl." They were the mirror of her inadequacies and her failings, and never of her victories. The only victories they saw were Grace's. That was just the way they were."
Knowing that every negative moment in her life is tied to her rejection by her parents, Victoria goes to see a therapist.
"It was why she was here. To change the image her parents had given her of herself. And she said she was willing to do whatever it took, even if the process was painful for her. Living with her own sense of defeat was worse. It had been her parents' legacy to her, to make her feel unlovable, because they didn't love her."
It's the best thing she does for herself. Danielle Steel seems to blame emotional eating and ice cream on Victoria's weight, and that likely would be it. I personally would have liked a book with a little more body acceptance, but the book ends with you beliving that Victoria would always want to be skinnier. She has given up on trying to work for her parents' love, and accepts the love she has built with a successful lawyer who adores her.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

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Summary: A teenager meets the human version of the werewolf who's been stalking/guarding her during her adolescent years.

Shiver should have been titled “Shudder.” It’s pretty weak, and encompasses most of what I don’t like about YA adult fiction. And I think the writing is terrible. But maybe the author is fourteen years old.

Grace – not-quite a high school loner, but one of a trio of barely-connected girls - is obsessed with the wolves who surround her house. Ever since Grace was attacked as a young girl, she’s been haunted by the wolf with yellow eyes and the howls she often hears at night.
Sam-the-wolf has loved Grace ever since he saved her life.
“I was a leaking womb bulging with the promise of conscious thoughts: the frozen woods far behind me, the girl on the tire swing, the sound of fingers on metal strings. The future and the past, both the same, snow and then summer and then snow again.
A shattered spider’s web of many colors, cracked in ice, immeasurably sad.”
(You went to school right? Did your teacher ever instruct you: Show, not tell.”? )

Turns out it’s not the moon that causes wolves to change, it’s the temperature. If it stays cold enough, they are wolves. When it warms up, they’re human. Except that it doesn’t work in warm weather – in Texas and Florida, they just become werewolves when the weather becomes a little cooler. But because Minnesota has such extreme hot and cold, it’s a perfect breeding ground (if you’ll pardon the joke) for werewolves.

And even though Grace was bitten as a child, her father left her in a hot car in a Minnesota summer and she got a raging high temperature, which caused her NOT to be a werewolf. This extreme heat experience, which has been making all the parenting magazines lately as an example of what NOT to do, is actually the cure for were-wolf-ism, which Grace and her friends discover and then implement.

So when a high-school classmate is bitten, the whole town goes a little crazy and starts shooting the wolves in the woods behind Grace’s house. They shoot Sam, and he comes to Grace’s house for help.
“My breath caught painfully in my throat as I moved still closer, hesitant. His beautiful ruff was gone and he was naked but I knew it was my wolf even before he opened his eyes. His pale yellow eyes, so familiar, flicked open at the sound of my approach, but didn’t move. Red was smeared from his ear to his desperately human shoulders – deadly war paint.”
And so Sam ends up living in Grace’s house while her parents totally don’t even notice. An entire person living in a house and two people don’t notice? How come I can believe in werewolves, but not oblivious parents? That’s what ruins many YA novels for me.

After Grace lands in the hospital after being attacked by a jealous ex-girlfriend werewolf, her Mom finally notices and thinks she shouldn’t date Sam anymore.
My voice was brittle. “I would say that by virtue of your not acting parental up to this point, you’ve relinquished your ability to wield any power now. Sam and I are together. It’s not an option.”
Mom threw up her hands as if trying to stop the Grace-tank from running over her. “Okay. Fine. Just be careful, okay? Whatever. I’m going to go get a drink.”
And just like that, her parental energies were expended. She had played Mom by driving us to the hospital, watching the nurse attend to my wounds, and warning me off my psychotic boyfriend and now she was done. It was obvious I was going to live, so she was off duty.” 
This book has been called The Jacob-and-Bella story, since it's about a boring teenage girl adored by a werewolf. But Twilight is much better written, which makes this book pitiful.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I Was Told There'd be Cake by Sloane Crosley

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Summary: Essays from a recent college graduate about growing up Jewish but not practicing, dating and sex, work and friendship. 

Sloane Crosley writes of her first publishing job after college graduation:
“The hours I logged in there were some of the more useless of my life. Which is really saying something. I remember almost nothing of my experience except for the tray of inexplicably unwrapped cherry frosted Pop-Tarts in the office kitchen and the one article they allowed me to write all summer: a two-hundred word reportage masterpiece on a teen fashion show at Macy’s. In it, I attempted to explore the seedy underbelly of thirteen-year-old runway models, all of whom had better skins and better social lives than I did. What came out went something like: Shoulder pads. All bad?”
The minutes I logged trying to get through the painfully dull and self-absorbed stories of another whiny New York college grad can never be repaid.

Now I know why so many other aimless twenty-something have novels out, because this ridiculous book got published. Do you know who’s reading it? All the other aimless twenty-somethings who have no jobs but think they are brilliant. This is what helicopter parenting leads to, folks: liberal art majors who think they can write and are owed a novel about how awkward it is to have sex or date or play band or have any other NORMAL experience people have.

Funny title, but even though this was a collection of essays, I couldn’t bring myself to finish even half of them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

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Summary: A teenage hacker mobilizes fellow teens after another terrorist attack.

I don’t like hackers. They seem obnoxious and troublesome, breaking into files just because they can. So a novel featuring teenage hackers, who are likely breaking the law, didn’t appeal to me. But I kept reading that Cory Doctorow’s novel Little Brother was one of the best pieces of Young Adult Fiction.

They - whoever they are - were right.

I started reading this book, not expecting to like it and ended up ignoring my kids so I could finish it. It was entertaining, suspenseful and thought-provoking.

Little Brother is set in the near future in San Francisco. Marcus and his friends sneak out of school one day to play an online treasure-hunting game – Harajuku Fun Madness.  Marcus is a snotty punk, who likes feeling smarter than and superior to the adults around him.
“The Man was always coming down on me, just because I go through school firewalls like wet Kleenex, spoof the gait-recognition software, and nuke the snitch chips they track us with.”
While Marcus and his friends are on the streets of San Francisco, a terrorist attack occurs. Terrorists have bombed the Bay Bridge, cutting off the mainland from the rest of the city. Mass panic. Their friend Darryl is stabbed in the back in the chaos after the bombing and when the friends flag down a police car for help, they are instead thrown into a van, taken off American soil and wake up in a cell, alone.

Homeland Security, yes, the Department of Homeland Security of the United States of America, suspects that these high school kids are terrorists because they were close to the bomb at the time of the attack and not where they were supposed to be. Marcus is psychologically tormented, isolated, deprived and humiliated – everything but physically tortured.
“I’d broken a lot of rules all my life and I’d gotten away with it, by and large. Maybe this was justice. Maybe this was my past coming back to me. After all, I had been where I was because I’d snuck out of school.”
Marcus is finally released after he tells the passwords and codes to every piece of technology he has on him. His cell phone, his computer at home, anything you can think of, he provides information about, terrified into spilling his guts. Marcus is released with the threat that DHS will be watching him.

My biggest complaint about many of the YA novels out there is “Where are the parents?!” It seems like kids get into trouble and hide werewolves and vampires in their rooms while the parents obliviously go along. But Marcus’s parents are real characters with real viewpoints.

When Marcus stumbles home, his parents cry with relief that he’s alive. He’s too terrified about his recent brush with Homeland Security to even tell his parents the truth. He doesn’t even know if his friends made it out as well; he’s just so happy to be home and safe.
“Believe it or not, my parents made me go to school the next day. I’d only fallen into feverish sleep at three in the morning, but at seven the next day, my dad was standing at the foot of my bed, threatening to drag me out by the ankles. I managed to get up – something had died in my mouth after painting my eyelids shut – and into the shower.”
At school the next day, Darryl is still missing. Everyone else in the group is home safely except Marcus’ best friend Darryl. Marcus starts asking questions because he owes it to Darryl to get him home. Thugs from Homeland Security confront him on his way home, ordering him to shut up if he knows what’s good for him. Trembling, Marcus vows to bring down DHS, using technology, the power of the internet and a very real distrust of the government.

The humor of this book must be my kind of humor, because I grew to like Marcus’ views on many things, even as I agree (agreed?) with his dad about privacy and security concerns.
‘ “The Bill of Rights was written before data-mining," he said. He was awesomely serene, convinced of his rightness. “The right of freedom of association is fine, but why shouldn’t the cops be allowed to mine your social network to figure out if you’re hanging with gangbangers and terrorists?”
“Because it’s an invasion of my privacy!” I said.
“What’s the big deal? Would you rather have privacy or terrorists?” ‘
It leads to some great discussions the unlimited powers that government holds.
 “It’s unbelievable today, but there was a time when the government classed crypto as a munitions and made it illegal for anyone to export it or use it on national security grounds. Get that. We used to have illegal math in this country.”
I won’t tell you how it ends, but never underestimate the far reaching powers of Homeland Security. Almost anything can be done under the excuse of national security and that is frightening.

So yes, this book is about a teenage hacker who fights the government, but it’s so much more. It’s about cryptology, history, mathematics, writing computer programming code, social revolution, “fighting The Man,”  freedom and of course, teen angst. I’m so glad I read this.

Monday, July 12, 2010

How Not to Make a Wish by Mindy Klasky

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Summary: An under-employed single woman is granted three wishes by a genie.

Be careful what you wish for... you just might get it.

Kyra Franklin rubs a prop lamp and an actual genie appears. Kyra first asks for a better job, and gets one as stage manager for Landmark Theatre, a groundbreaking theatre in Minneapolis. I love reading about local places, even if the Landmark is not an actual theatre here.

Director Bill Pomeroy is producing a "gender-shifted, iron-bound, water-stained, flashlight-lit, hip-hop-supertitled, heartbreaking production of Shakespeare's classic love story," - Romeo and Juliet. The set designer becomes Kyra's ally, and Kyra and John deal with the crazy director's ever-changing and more outlandish plans. Kyra is run ragged keeping up with the plans but is enthralled with Bill's vision and creativity.

When Kyra encounters her ex, a guy she refers to a TEWSBU (The Ex Who Should Be Unnamed), Kyra uses another one of her wishes to drop thirty pounds. The genie generously and spontaneously adds a cup size too. Kyra's new body alarms her roommates and her father, who stage an intervention because they believe she's anorexic.

And finally Kyra wishes that leading man Drew, who's playing Juliet (gender-bending play, remember?) is in love with her. Kyra couldn't look past his pretty face to his personality. After Drew is bitten by the love bug (or love genie), Kyra thinks she has it all. Hot sex with a hunk who worships her new body? Sign me up. But Kyra becomes annoyed at Drew's puppy-dog eyes, constant hovering, and his frequent use of the word, "Dude!"

Kyra will likely never be hired again if this play is launched, she can't get any work done with dumb-but-gorgeous Drew hanging around, and writing in her mandatory food diary is getting old.

How will Kyra solve this? It's a fun read, even in its implausibility.

What would you wish for?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Love Finds You in Lahaina, Hawaii by Bodie Thoene

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Summary: The story of Princess Kaiulani and her life in England is uncovered by a researcher in Hawaii.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher.

Forth from her land to mine she goes,
The island maid, the island rose,
Light of heart and bright of face:
The daughter of a double race.

Her islands here, in Southern sun,
Shall mourn their Kaiulani gone,
And I, in her dear banyan shade,
Look vainly for my little maid.

But our Scots islands far away
Shall glitter with unwonted day,
And cast for once their tempests by
To smile in Kaiulani's eye.

- Robert Louis Stevenson written to Princess Kaiulani to mark her journey to Britain.

Love finds you in Lahaina, Hawaii is a dual story. Set in 1973, Sandi Smith is a researcher sent to Hawaii to record and uncover local oral history. Sandi is also worried about news of her husband John, a POW still missing in Vietnam. She is welcomed to Lahaina, Maui, and the scenes set with the locals could only have been written by someone who knows and loves Hawaii’s unique hospitality rules. The immediate intimacy, the lack of privacy, cheerful friendliness and oh, the smell of flowers carried by the warm wind made me instantly homesick for Hawaii. Sandi is sent to speak with Auntie Hannah, who was the companion of Princess Kaiulani.

Here’s where it gets interesting for me. Princess Kaiulani was the next royal in line for the Hawaiian monarchy when it was overthrown by American business interests in 1893. Yes, you heard me. The American government allowed the house arrest of a Hawaiian queen, Kaiulani’s aunt, Queen Liliuokalani. All children in Hawaii learn about Princess Kaiulani, but this was a deeper look into her life while she was abroad.

Kaiulani’s father, Scotsman Archibald Scott Cleghorn married Princess Likelike, the sister of King David Kal√Ękaua and Princess Lili'uokalani. Princess Ka'iulani (pronounced kah-ee-oo-lah-knee) was sent away to Britain partly to groom her for the monarchy, and likely to protect her from the violence starting to erupt against native Hawaiians.

Kaiulani first meets aspiring journalist Andrew Adams aboard the ship taking them to England, where he mistakes her for her companion Hannah Duncan. Unknowingly, Andrew refers to Kaiulani as the “barbarian princess” and to pass the voyage and for petty revenge, she and Hannah trade roles for the journey. Andrew is humiliated and angry when he discovers their deception. Kaiulani doesn’t expect to see him again but their paths cross many times in England.

Kaiulani grows into a regal, often haughty princess, turning down the multiple offers of marriage because she knows that she cannot marry for love, but must most likely make a marriage of state to secure Hawaii’s interests. Kaiulani is a curiosity to the British who are fascinated by her dark skin and mysterious beauty and yet refer to her as a savage. (I imagine she experienced a little of what Pocahontas might have encountered.) But Kaiulani is NOT a barbarian, in fact she’s deeply religious, having been raised as a Christian from birth. Many Hawaiians, who struggled when missionaries led the ban on the hula and native dress, nevertheless embraced Christianity and were happily Christian living under a Hawaiian monarch.

Kaiulani and Andrew meet again at a religious revival in England. Funnily enough, Hannah again posed as Kaiulani, so Kaiulani could attend the revival. Andrew and Kaiulani renew their friendship and are separated once again, and know they cannot marry. Andrew covers the chaos of Hawaii following the death of King David Kalakaua and the forced abdication of Queen Liliuokalani. Kaiulani embarks on a PR campaign to win the hearts of the American people, but was ridiculed and mocked by the American press. You know by now that Hawaii was annexed to the United States and is the 50th state, so Kaiulani’s efforts were in vain.

Ka'iulani had returned to Honolulu later, at age 23, a deposed princess. It was said she died of a broken heart, though typhoid was blamed as the cause.

This book really is Kailuani’s story, but the character of Sandi Smith allows the story to unfold in a way that makes sense given the style of the book. Sandi did not seem to me to be a fully-fleshed out character, but how can anyone hold a candle to the vibrant personality of a real Hawaiian princess?

My primary concern about the romance between Kaiulani and Andrew is a nit-picky one, as Kaiulani was only 13 when she left Hawaii for England.

I won’t ruin the love story for you, but it is a tender one. I will also share that both Kaiulani and Sandi Smith find love, or love finds them in Lahaina.

There is an entire series of books that start with "Love Finds You in ---, ---." I can't wait to read whatever book is also set in Minnesota.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Deadly Little Secret (A Touch Novel) by Laurie Faria Stolarz

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Summary: Teenage Camelia gets involved with the town bad boy, who was accused of murdering his last girlfriend.

This book read like a Lifetime movie. Not that there's anything wrong with that, okay (I love Marlena Hall and Shannen Doherty as much as the next housewife), but it felt cliched to me.

The book opens with dark brooding Ben saving Camelia from an out-of-control car. Twilight, anyone?

Then the next chapter opens to the diary of someone who is loving Camelia from afar. The stalking part and the insane diary writer just scream Lifetime movie. One of my favorite movies has a woman unsuspectingly marry her rapist. You can't make this stuff up! Oh, wait, you can.

Then there's an encounter in biology class, where Ben touches Camelia's hand and they have a shocking moment. A moment so disturbing to Ben that he leaves school for a few days. Twilight, again. 

When Cam and her friend shop at the mall, the outfit she tried on but didn't buy is waiting for her on her bed. And the word "Bitch" is written on her mirror with lipstick. 

From the stalker's diary:
"I hate seeing her with other guys. The way she flirts with them and laughs at their stupid jokes. I saw her talking to that dirtbag. So I called her. I had to set things straight. To put her in her place. To warn her."
"What I don't know is why she acts like this. you think she'd be grateful for the gift I left her. That she wouldn't go behind my back ignoring my warning like we never even talked."

Like many Lifetime movies, there is limited parental involvement in the teen's life. Cam's parents are dealing with adult stuff, so Cam never mentions the gifts left on her dresser, the photos of her left in the mailbox, the late night heavy-breathing phone calls, the threatening graffiti, the menacing notes. Of course she tells her friends, but they're convinced that it's Ben, since everyone knew he killed his last girlfriend. But Camelia knows that there's something off about Ben. Did he kill his last girlfriend? Is he violent? Is he the one stalking her? Or is something else going on. Plot spoiler: something else is going on.)

By page 108, I knew who Camelia's stalker was. But I was wrong. Which totally redeemed this book.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: A Mormon stay-at-home mom strikes up an unlikely friendship with a Hollywood heartthrob.

Don’t be fooled by the title. This is not a light chick-lit read. It’s an intense story of intimate friendship and marriage in the style of Kristin Hannah with religious overtones.

Within 10 seconds of meeting movie hunk Felix Callahan, pregnant Mormon housewife Becky Jack makes an obscure Biblical reference that leaves everybody awkward and uncomfortable. Then she insults him and he calls her fat. Despite that unusual opening, the two become friends.

The friendship between Becky and Felix surprises everybody, including themselves. Like many friendships, it goes through times where they talk on the phone multiple times a day and times when they grow distracted by the stresses of daily life. It's usually light and fluffy, providing comic relief for both. Felix carefully avoids anything intimate.
“The conversation had turned a little chilly, and Becky backed away from the pit of unsaid things. This was not the fodder of their friendship, and Becky was feeling waterlogged with the awkwardness drowning the room.” 
Together, Felix and Becky have weak insults, inside jokes, totally separate lives and two spouses who don’t understand their friendship but do tolerate it.

Their close friendship does cause a few marital problems on Becky’s side. Becky is all set to visit Felix alone in LA for a fun weekend when Mike says that he’s having a hard time. Becky doesn’t go on her trip and drops Felix immediately. She moves on with her life, and never mentions Felix again, but feels lonely and virtuous. There was never any doubt that Mike and her four kids and her tame Mormon life are everything she needs, yet…

Then Felix’s wife Celeste calls Mike to ask permission for Becky to be Felix’s friend again. This part of the book is fascinating. Can men and women really be friends? If it bothers one spouse but not the other? Is jealousy a sign of love? What if they are really attractive? Is the appearance of impropriety enough to assume infidelity? Can you be friends with your movie star crush? All I know is that I would have a hard time sitting next to Daniel Craig if he was in my kitchen. I’d just be waiting for him to kiss me or for me to spill grape juice on him in my nervousness.

Mike recognizes that Becky's friendship with Felix is special but can’t understand why. Becky explains:
“But with Felix- it’s different from talking with my other friends. It’s a little gift for me to laugh with him – or at him more often than not. It’s fun but it also feels … important somehow. Like I’m exercising a part of my brain that’s been neglected. And I feel a little more excited to live the day.”
This was a good book, but not what I expected from the title.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I'd Trade My Husband for a Housekeeper by Trisha Ashworth, Amy Nobile

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Summary: Quotes from husbands, wives, mothers and fathers of the strain having kids can put on a marriage. 

This book is a humorous summary of how I feel about married life with kids.

  • Having kids is hard. 
  • Standards will slip. 
  • Have lots of sex. 
  • Laugh off the minor things. 
  • Make your marriage important. 
  • Don't wait for the kids to leave the house to spend some time with your spouse. 

While it doesn't really have concrete examples of what to do to make your marriage important, it will really help you if you feel like you're the only wife who has to bite her tongue when your husband takes a clean bowl out of the dishwasher to serve himself only. You are not alone.