Friday, July 2, 2010

A Bump in the Road: From Happy Hour to Baby Shower by Maureen Lipinski

I have made the comment recently that I read more fiction than non. After reading A Bump in the Road: From Happy Hour to Baby Shower by Maureen Lipinski, I think I need to clarify that statement.

I don't tend to finish fiction. Why? Because most of what I read is terrible. Bad plots, badly drawn characters, and the worst offense--authors who cannot put their main characters in peril. Fiction is supposed to be cathartic, allow readers to experience things we would be too scared to otherwise or would never have the opportunity to. Nothing irritates me more than when an author is too gentle with the plot for the sake of the main character.

Yes, Stephanie Meyer, I am calling you out.

So lately, I have been gravitating towards memoir because it feels more authentic. However, Jen Lancaster made some fiction suggestions on her summer reading list. Looking for a change, I decided to try some out. First up was Lipinski's book, a story about a young woman in Chicago, still enjoying her marriage's honeymoon stage, who accidentally gets pregnant. The novel follows Claire through each trimester as she struggles with the sudden changes, the morning sickness, managing her life, and coming to terms with the fact that nothing will be the same again.

At first I struggled to get into the book. I found Claire to be silly and unrealistic (really, who can drink that much?), but once she got pregnant, I could relate to her much better. This novel reminded me of my own unexpected pregnancy in so many ways. This novel excels because it has just enough realism and outlandish moments combined.

Now, it's not perfect. There are some cliches, some characters who aren't fully developed (overbearing mother-in-law, perfectionist friend with bad marriage, slutty friend with heart of gold, etc.) But it's good enough for me to look forward to the sequel I requested from the library.

I recommend this book for non-literary snobs, especially women. I don't see guys getting into this. Well, it's not really for them anyways.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster

I do not tend to be a big fan of non-fiction, but I make the exception for humor writers. In my opinion, Jen Lancaster is pretty dang funny, but humor writing is a "funny" thing. One person's side-splitter is another person's curled lip and/or eye roll. I am a huge fan of sarcasm and shock (well, not too much shock--I'm pretty modest.) But I love when people can tell the stories of crazy things that happen to them, especially when they can be honest about themselves and their short comings.

Last summer I read Lancaster's Bitter is the New Black and Such a Pretty Fat. It is not necessary to read these books before Pretty in Plaid, but all three books are pretty quick reads. In Pretty in Plaid, Lancaster writes about growing up, using the context of her favorite/most memorable outfits. This book will particularly appeal to those who can relate to 80's fashion, etc. In every story, Lancaster writes about herself with honesty and humor. She has a really strong view of the world, but she is open about her flaws.

I recommend this book for women who want to laugh. This is definitely not a book for the guys and not for children. While Lancaster is modest about sex, she does have a foul mouth and she drops several f-bombs. She is funnier than heck though and all her books make a great summer read. You can learn more about Jen Lancaster on her website

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich
Genre: adult fiction

There aren’t many things better in this world than a good book; unless, it’s a series of good books. I am a big fan of series. I love the sense of familiarity one gets with the characters, the storylines, and the author’s style.

So when I was browsing recently through a Borders bookstore, I was thrilled to see the latest edition of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Fearless Fourteen.

Yup, you heard right. This is the 14th book in the series. Before you begin to feel daunted about reading 14 books, don’t. These books are the equivalent of a 30-minute sitcom on television. To call them a quick read would be an understatement.

However, their accessibility does not diminish the joy these books can bring to a lazy, Saturday afternoon or a stolen moment in the bathtub. Allow me to fill in a little of the back-story before I review the latest installment.

The series begins with One for the Money, in which readers meet our unlikely heroine Stephanie Plum. Driven by monetary desperation, Stephanie forces her slimy cousin Vinnie to give her a job as a bounty hunter, a position she has no business taking. During the first couple books, readers cringe constantly at Stephanie’s ineptitude: she gets her gun stolen by a skip, she falls for a wanted man, and she manages to attract every weirdo in the Trenton, New Jersey area, including a couple who want her dead.

After book four, one gets used to the path of disaster Stephanie wages as she doggedly goes after her bounty. However, the plot lines are rather predictable and not as enjoyable as the wacky cast of characters in the series.

Over the series, Evanovich has truly crafted some memorable, if not entirely believable, characters. First, there is Stephanie herself, a stubborn, smart-talking thirty something with an indelible independent streak. Stephanie has managed to attract not one, but two super hot, yet difficult men. First, there is the lean, hard Joe Morelli, bad boy turned decent cop. And then there’s the hot, Latin Ranger, who’s short on words and long on sexual allure.

In addition to the male love interests who keep her flummoxed, Stephanie has collected a troop of interesting sidekicks. The most prominent is her partner, Lula, a former “ho turned file clerk. Lula is a lot of woman, sass included. She is a great friend to Stephanie and they share an honest, often wacky friendship.

There are far too many characters to describe, but trust me, it’s worth it to crack open the series to get to know them.

In Fearless Fourteen, Stephanie experiences her typical trials when she tries to get her latest skip, Loretta, to do the right thing and turn herself in. However, her plans are waylaid when a bank robber kidnaps Loretta. Now, it’s Stephanie’s job to protect Loretta’s son and save Loretta’s life. As is typical with the rest of the series, everything works out well, but not without damage to Stephanie’s current vehicle and self esteem.

I wonder how long Evanovich can maintain the series, given its rather predictable formula. At the end of every book the plot is resolved, yet the everlasting love triangle of Stephanie, Joe, and Ranger is not. It might get a little old eventually, but now it is still highly enjoyable.

Recommended, but for those who need an intellectual recess

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Business Matters, July

Firstly, I've joined in with my friend Sarah's book review blog: "Are you really reading another book." I will post the link on this website for those of you who are interested. I am very excited that she asked me to contribute to her blog. We were co-editors of our high school paper and we have always worked well together. Our personalities are different, but our love of literature and good writing is identical.

Secondly, I have given up, at least temporarily on the Obama book right now. It's summer and I need something fun to read! I will try again soon...soonish.

Currently, I am reading Twilight and I just read the most recent in the Stephanie Plum series: Fearless Fourteen. I am planning on reviewing that soon, but the other book is so dang good that I haven't gotten around to my review.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Or the actual title: The Audacity of Hope--Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama.

I bought this book the same time I bought the cake book and I'M STILL READING IT! I had to take a break because it was a little heavy for the end of the school year. So I read some Sue Grafton and Harry Potter to ease my mental faculties. And I'll plunge right back in this week.

Don't get the wrong idea. It's not a bad book. He's a very good writer; it's just intense and he's all over the place. If you read his first book, Dreams of My Father, and are expecting something like that, then you will be disappointed. This is more of a treatise on what's wrong with our country and our attitudes and how we can become more enthusiastic and hopeful about our future.

So, I'll get back to the book and report back soonish.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

I Was Told There’d Be Cake, Essays by Sloane Crosley

To be honest, I bought this book based on the title. Yes, I’m one of those people, those people who browse through Borders and pick books based on the covers. I particularly like the smooth paperbacks. I’m a sucker for bright colors.

To save a little face, I did read one of the essays before I actually bought the book. I also read the back cover and the reviews. The claim is that if one likes David Sedaris (Me talk Pretty One Day), one will enjoy Crosley’s book. Also, the back mentions that she wrote the cover essay for the worst selling edition of Maxim magazine. Sounds like my kind of woman.

Sloan Crosley writes from the perspective of twenty-something, potential intellectual who’s striving to be meaningful in New York City. What’s refreshing about her is that she knows she’s full of crap. She writes about herself with an honesty that has to be difficult to maintain.

Crosley writes about her idyllic upbringing in Westchester, New York, struggling to find her place after graduation, and navigating through the uncomfortable and odd experiences all young women of a certain age endure: the weddings of people you don’t really like anymore.

One of the memorable essays is “You on a Stick”, which tells the story of a random friend from Crosley’s past who asks her to be a part of her wedding. Eventually, the author is promoted to Maid of Honor, without her prior approval incidentally. Crosley agrees to be a part of the wedding mostly based on guilt. The reader has the impression that she is just a bit curious about how this will all turn out, sort of like the over-used car wreck analogy.

Like anything in life that one assumes will be simple, the wedding turns into a big, expensive pain in the bum. To be truthful, this particular essay waxes on quite a bit, but there are little gems in there: Crosley being drafted into making the ribbon hat at the wedding shower, her abdicating her Maid of Honor duty of giving the toast to an ex-gymnast with a lisp who ends up fainting. All good stuff.

Crosley shares other little tidbits with readers, like her collection of ponies from ex-boyfriends. This essay begins the book and confirmed for me that I’d actually want to keep reading. She confesses that she ends up getting rid of the ponies because she’s afraid of how people will judge her for them when she dies. While I don’t have a collection of ponies, I can identify with covering up peccadilloes simply because of the fear of possible humiliation.

There are a couple essays that Crosley could have left out: “Lay Like Broccoli” explains why the author is vegetarian. It’s not particularly funny or interesting. This could just be my bias talking; maybe choosing vegetarianism for some people is interesting, but I’m not enthralled.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading Crosely’s first collection of essays. She comes across as likeable and more importantly, human. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, and she doesn’t seem to expect readers to either. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.