Monday, July 7, 2008

The Writing Class by Jincy Willett (4 / 5 Stars)


The Writing Class by Jincy Willet is many things: intelligently-humorous, whip-smart, well-written, entertaining, engrossing, suspenseful, and scary – just to name a few! When I grow up I want to be Jincy Willett!

This book will be a real treat for all fiction lovers, writers, and wannabe writers. The Writing Class manages to combine mystery/suspense elements with classic fiction elements making the end result a fast-paced thriller for smart readers as well as a semi-tutorial on how to write a decent story.

In the novel, reclusive eccentric Amy Gallup teaches an extension fiction writing class at the local college. At first, Amy is pleasantly surprised by the high potential exhibited by this semester’s group of students. However, her dream class soon turns into a nightmare when one of the students starts playing malevolent pranks on both Amy and on the other students. The pranks eventually escalate to murder and Amy must use everything at her disposal to try and nab the killer amongst the group. The resource with the most potential is the student’s writing and Amy examines each student’s prose for the clues.

Anyone who has participated in a writing workshop (or for that matter, in any small collegiate class) will be able to relate to the class dynamic portrayed in this novel. As is almost always the case in these courses, the class is comprised of the know-it-all, the slacker, the pretty girl, the class clown, etc. The characters are maddening, amusing, and creepy and all of the other adjectives one can remember people in school being. Ms. Willett’s descriptive talents are truly frightening (pun intended)!

Although, Amy Gallup (the workshop teacher), would admonish me for my use of cliché, I can’t help but describe this novel as a “real page turner!”

Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity by Kerry Cohen (3.5 / 5 Stars)


Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity follows Kerry Cohen's harrowing trajectory from young, insecure, and confused girl to healthy, assured, and balanced adult. And what a journey it is. This memoir will leave you breathless due to the shear candor of Kerry’s tale. Kerry bares her soul wide open and it isn’t always pretty. Of course, that’s what makes Loose girl so compelling.

Kerry spent her youth looking for love and acceptance in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways. She tried to quell her intense need and anxiety by immersing herself in shallow, physical relationships with boys. It took many years of heartbreak, broken relationships (familial, platonic and romantic), physical maladies, and soul searching before Kerry found her way out of this dark abyss. She takes her readers along every leg of this intense journey with grace, candor and perceptive insight into her own past feelings and actions.

Kerry lets the reader take a good hard look at all the pain, insecurity and intense desire for acceptance experienced by teenage girls and shows how very wrong things can go for a young girl who doesn’t have guidance, boundary limits and parental support. This memoir is as much of a cautionary tale for parents as it is anything else.

Loose Girl works as both a captivating story and as an important addition to the zeitgeist of contemporary non-fiction due to the insight it provides into the mind and motivations of a certain sub-set of teenage girls.

Loose Girl is important and relevant in much the same way that Koren Zailckas’s ground-breaking memoir Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood was – namely it can make us more tolerant, understanding and empathetic people because it is hard to be judgmental about controversial behavior once the motivation behind it is understood. Also, readers of these memoirs with similar circumstances might be able to gain enough introspection so as not to repeat the same mistakes- maybe, because as we learn by reading these memoirs, sometimes one just needs to take the journey and hope to come out okay once on the other side.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Celebrity Book Recommendations

What does Sally Field think you should read next? The answer to that is Edna Ferber's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, So Big. Here is a brief description of the book:

Winner of the 1924 Pulitzer Prize, So Big is widely regarded as Edna Ferber's crowning achievement. A rollicking panorama of Chicago's high and low life, this stunning novel follows the travails of gambler's daughter Selina Peake Dejong as she struggles to maintain her dignity, her family, and her sanity in the face of monumental challenges.

The New York Times describes it as "A novel to read and to remember."

Salman Rushdie Appearance

If you live in South Florida, don't miss the chance to see Salman Rushdie speak and have your copy of his new novel , The Enchantress of Florence, signed.

Mr. Rushdie has been described as one of the world's most important living writers. His past novels include: Midnight's Children (winner of the Booker Prize); The Satanic Verses (winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel); Fury (A New York Times Notable Book); and Shalimar the Clown (a Time Book of the Year).

The event is being sponsored by Books & Books and the Florida Center for the Literary Arts. Tickets can be obtained by purchasing The Enchantress of Florence from any Books & Books location or by pre-ordering your book by phone.

SALMAN RUSHDIE
TUESDAY, JULY 8, 2008
TEMPLE JUDEA, 7:30PM

(Doors will open at 6:00pm for will-call and purchase. Only those books purchased at Books & Books will be eligible for signing.)

Decir Que?

This week, the back page of the New York Times Book Review is devoted to an article amusingly titled, "Transloosely Literated" written by Henry Alford and prompted me to wonder how much we as readers are truly able to appreciate books originally written in foreign languages. Are we picking up on all the nuances and messages the author intended to convey? How important to the reading experience is understanding the author's intentions? The answers to those complex questions are not going to be answered on this blog, but here are some fun tibits regarding foreign translations of popular novels written by Americans:

  • The Russian title for J. D. Salinger’s classic tale of adolescence translates as “Above the Precipice in the Rye.”
  • A clerk in a Yokohama bookshop once told John Steinbeck's (author of the classic novel, "The Grapes of Wrath") wife that yes, he had a copy of Steinbeck’s “Angry Raisins.”
  • The Brazilian title of Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel “Prep” translates as “Pre-surgery Shaving.”
  • In the Brazilian edition of Jacquelyn Mitchard’s novel “The Deep End of the Ocean,” the passage “Beth truly wanted to be mad. A few bricks shy of a load. A few ants short of a picnic” was translated as “Beth felt like an ant who hadn’t been invited to the picnic.”
(p.s. the books pictured above are comical translations of the following classics: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; The Fall of the House of Usher; Watership Down; A Farewell to Arms; Pride & Prejudice; A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius; The Satanic Verses; The Call of the Wild; The Naked and the Dead)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Next Big Thing in Books

THE NEW HARRY POTTER?

It appears that the book world is finally making its foray into the new millenium and it's starting with a new book series titled The 39 Clues. No one can deny that computers and the internet are no longer just the wave of the future - the future is here and all media is now driven by and dependent on the internet and books don't want to be left behind.


The 39 Clues, is a series that will feature 10 books (the first goes on sale in September) as well as related internet-based games, collectors’ cards and cash prizes. Now it has been announced that DreamWorks has acquired the film rights and the movies will be directed by Steven Spielberg.


Spielberg, Dreamworks, & Scholastic released the following statement:"`The 39 Clues' takes creative leaps to expand the story experience from the pages of the books to multiple stages of discovery and imagination."

The 39 Clues will be about a powerful, mysterious family that lives in upstate New York. The first installment, "The Maze of Bones," was written by Rick Riordan. Jude Watson and Gordon Korman are among those who will write future volumes.
Like Harry Potter, The 39 Clues is geared towards kids and young adults, however, I hope that also like Harry Potter, the books will be appetizing to adults as well. Can't wait!
*The Maze of Bones on Sale September 9, 2008*

Go Indie!



Indie Bound is this great website whose goal is build support for independent community bookstores. Indie Bound's mission is stated as a goal "to band together with like-minded folks across the country to celebrate our independent natures, our free-thinking retailers and our unique communities".
It is a great place to find interesting, new books that you might not find at Barnes and Noble and Borders. Every week, Indie Bound lists the hottest indie bestsellers.
Check out Indie Bound at www.indiebound.org.
These are my favorite independent bookstores in South Florida:
Books and Books (Coral Gables, South Beach, Bal Harbor - www.booksandbooks.com)
The Bookstore in the Grove (Coconut Grove)
Well Read Used Books (Fort Lauderdale)

Friday, July 4, 2008

When you Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

When You Are Engulfed in Flames is another typical effort by David Sedaris. Fans of Mr. Sedaris' previous works know exactly what to expect with a Sedaris essay collection, and although they won't be completely disappointed, they might wonder if they had already read this one before.

As a huge fan of David Sedaris' previous essay collections, it is with a heavy heart that I write my fear that Mr. Sedaris has finally exhausted his repertoire. While still somewhat amusing, the stories feel recycled and tired and seem to comprise of all the antedotes we have read before.

David Sedaris needs a new shtick because after reading When You Are Engulfed in Flames, I felt the same way I do after I watched the third sequal to a once great movie.

Songs for the Missing - A Pre-Publication Review (4 out of 5 Stars)

Songs for the Missing is yet another example of Stewart O'Nan's exemplary powers of description and talent.

Songs for the Missing, O'Nan's 13th work of fiction, depicts a typical midwestern family dealing with the aftermath of the disappearance of the oldest child, Kim.

Songs for the Missing is not a mystery or a crime story, rather it is an in depth character study. Whether Kim is found or not really seems to be besides the point because we all know how these stories typically end in real life. O'Nan adroitly captures the essence of each character in the story and each character seems to really come alive on the page.

Although, I have never been to a rural, midwestern town, Mr. O'Nan's ability to write so descriptively made me feel as if I had been to this town and knew it intimately. I felt as if I had driven down the main highway, had a slurpee at the Conoco Gas Station, and went swimming at the lake.

While reading Songs for the Missing, you will find yourself so immersed in the trials and travails of Kim's family and friends that you feel as if you have lived their experience with them and will feel sad when the novel ends.

*ON SALE OCTOBER 30, 2008*

How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo (4.5 out of 5 Stars)

Liz Tuccillo deftly captures real women's experiences, thoughts, fears, and feelings in her debut novel How to Be Single.

Women who are 25 and already married or who are 38 and single (like the characters in the novel) will both be able to relate to the women portrayed in this book because deep down all women seem to share the same fears whether due to their real current situations or fear of what the future might hold. Ms. Tuccillo truly has a gift when it comes to being able to tap into the fears and anxieties of today's modern women and convey the same in her writing.

The fact that Liz Tuccillo really did traverse the globe researching how single women live all over the world adds glitz and fun to the novel. We, the reader, are treated to glimpses of how women live in Reykjavik, Beijing, Sydney, Paris, Rome, Rio de Janiero, and New York. The locales are exotic and the tales heart-wrentching and uplifting.

Like Sex and the City (for which Liz Truccillo was Executive Story Editor), How to Be Single is sure to strike a chord with women everywhere.

After reading How to Be Single, you will feel like you know Liz and wish that you really did.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy 4th of July!

The Hamburger: A History
In the spirit of our great nation's birthday, I thought I would post a brief description of a new book out which focuses on the quintessential American backyard cookout favorite - the hamburger.
Here is the book description from Amazon:
This fast-paced and entertaining book unfolds the immense significance of the hamburger as an American icon. Josh Ozersky shows how the history of the burger is entwined with American business and culture and, unexpectedly, how the burger’s story is in many ways the story of the country that invented (and reinvented) it.

The hamburger played an important role in America’s transformation into a mobile, suburban culture, and today, America’s favorite sandwich is nothing short of an irrepressible economic and cultural force. How this all happened, and why, is a remarkable story, told here with insight, humor, and gusto.
I hope that everyone enjoys their burgers tomorrow! Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I'm Back!

To my faithful readers (hi, Mom),

I apologize for my protracted absence and neglect of Bits of Lit & More. Things got kind of crazy at work and my blogging fell by the wayside. However, I am happy and excited to announce that I am back on track! There will be regular updates and posts on books and book news going forward!

Welcome back and thanks for understanding!

- Brianna

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Edgar Award Winners Announced


The best books representing the Myster and Thriller genre were recently regaled and lauded. The 2008 Edgar Awards, sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America, were announced on May 1. Here is a list of some of the winners:

Best Novel
Down River by John Hart

Best First Novel
In the Woods by Tana French

Best Fact Crime
Reclaiming History: The Assassination
of President John F. Kennedy
by Vincent Bugliosi
Best Young Adult
Rat Life by Tedd Arnold

See the complete list of Edgar Award winners and nominees:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My Miserable, Lonely Lesbian Pregnancy by Andrea Askowitz - A Pre-Publication Review (3 / 5 Stars)

My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy is author, Andrea Askowitz’s brutally honest memoir recounting the months she spent trying to get pregnant, actually pregnant, and as a new mother. As can be easily discerned from the title, Andrea did not enjoy being pregnant and she makes no effort to sugarcoat her experience. Askowitz is frank and extremely open in describing the messy and oftentimes unpleasant experiences involved with pregnancy and child birth.

What makes My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy work as a memoir is the balance that Askowitz manages to maintain between candid description of her opinions and admission that those opinions might have been skewed by her own gloom. Askowitz pulls no punches in describing her bitter disappoint with her friends, her ex-girlfriend, and her family; however, her harsh judgments are tempered by her acknowledgment that her estimations were not always fair and that she was a big pain in the neck. Askowitz’s ability to call herself out on her own issues makes her endearing and likeable.

Askowitz’s ability to be so unguarded in her writing oftentimes results in uproarious hilarity. Her recounting of her arguments and passive-aggressive altercations with her therapist will leave readers in stitches. She is candid, annoying, funny, loving, infuriating, and a whole host of other contradicting descriptions that make a person complicated and interesting.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable memoir that lifts the curtain on the rosy, glowing pregnancy façade that is usually presented to reveal the difficult, hard, and ugly side of pregnancy.

I do, however, feel a responsibility to future readers to mention that this might not be the book for those who consider themselves exceptionally squeamish, prudish, or easily offended.




ON SALE IN STORES & ONLINE MAY 1, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel (0 / 5 Stars)

Indecision is about an unmotivated man named Dwight living in New York City. Dwight is in his late twenties and is stuck in a dead-end job and a dead-end life. Part of Dwight's problem is the pervasive indecision that, in Dwight's opinion, plagues his generation. As a solution to this problem, a pharmaceutical company develops a pill that cures the patient of his inability to make decisions. The pill taker will always know exactly what he or she wants at any given moment. That is as far as I got. I could not finish even half of this pedantic and obnoxious novel.

The premise gave this book so much potential. Too bad Kunkel squandered it with his need to impress and show off. Instead of attempting to write an engaging and interesting book, Kunkel used the writing of Indecision as an exercise in vanity. Every sentence seems to scream, "See how smart I am?!" The sentences and paragraphs are convoluted and annoying; the narrator’s voice insufferable.


Everyone knew “that guy” in either high school or college who felt his superior mental acuity gave him the right to condescend to everyone around him; who thought his putdowns were witty and amusing (even if only to himself); who read and quoted philosophers; and whose sarcastic vitriol was really shielding his own issues. Well both Dwight and his creator, Benjamin Kunkel, are “that guy”.


If only there was a pill that could make me forget this book!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

BRINGING HOME THE BIRKIN ON SALE


Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag by Michael Tonello is on Sale Today!!!



Click Here to Read My Previously Posted Review


Check out http://www.bringinghomethebirkin.com/ & Enter to Win a Birkin Bag!


If you live in the Miami Area, Michael Tonello will be at Books and Books in Coral Gables on May 2, 2008 at 8 pm

It's YOU - NOT You're Books!

I recently picked up an issue of the New York Times Book Review that I hadn't yet had time to read when I came across this essay titled "It's not You, It's Your Books" by Rachel Donadio. In the article, Rachel makes the argument that two people with drastically different tastes in literature can never be together as a couple.

That gave me pause because my husband, Adam, and I are even more polarly opposite - he doesn't even like novels! Gasp! My husband is an extremely intelligent man with varied interests - reading novels just isn't one of them.

So, you might be wondering, "how can a self-confessed bibliophile - one who keeps a bo0k blog for christ's sake - be married to a man who would rather do yard work than read a novel?" "Easy", I would answer. To me, reading is a sigularly solitary pursuit. Adam and I enjoy dinners at nice restaurants, going jogging together, having drinks with our friends, traveling, etc.
Adam is smart in ways that I am not and devotes his television watching time to programs such as documentaries explaining religion's impact on the global economy while I am in the other room watching the exploits of Heidi and Spencer on The Hills.

I actually believe that our opposites are what make our domestic routine work. For example, we spend most of our evenings together in the same room, cuddled on the couch - he watches one his many documentaries and I lay with my head in his lap devouring my latest book. This way we aren't in opposite rooms watching different programs and I reap the benefit of him passing on everything he has gleaned from his television shows without actually having to - yawn -watch them!

It's HIM, not his books!

I would love to hear what other's opinions are on this subject. Look on the right-hand column and vote!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Enlightenment for Idiots by Anne Cushmant (A Pre-publication Review - 3.5 / 5 Stars)

Enlightenment for Idiots by Anne Cushman follows Amanda, a twenty-nine year old wanna-be yoga instructor who pays the bills by writing instruction manuals for the “For Idiots” series of books (as in Computers for Idiots, etc.). Like many twenty-somethings, Amanda is struggling with the realization that her life doesn’t look or feel anything like she thought it would back when she was younger. She lives in an apartment filled with beat-up furniture; has eccentric hippie roommates; is struggling to make ends meet; and she left her “perfect on paper” fiancé for a rootless photographer named Matt who makes her heart race but after three years says that he doesn’t believe in labels like “girlfriend”.


After Amanda and Matt decide to take a break from their tumultuous relationship, Amanda accepts an assignment in India where she is supposed to find enlightenment and write about it in a book called Enlightenment for Idiots. Amanda discovers more than spirituality and enlightenment in India and her life is forever changed by the monumental and unexpected discovery that she is pregnant.

Cushman’s descriptions of India are so expressive and vivid that I could almost taste the curry, see the Ganges, and smell the crowded streets of New Delhi. Cushman does a superb job of capturing the essence of India and of those who travel there to find spirituality or whatever it is they are looking for. She is masterful at capturing and conveying both the good and the bad aspects of this complicated country and it’s people – both foreign and native.

Cushman also does an exceptional job of developing her characters. This might be due in part to the fact that this novel is most likely a fictional autobiography (Cushman spent time in India writing a guide very similar to the fictional Enlightenment for Idiots). Amanda is a sympathetic and relatable figure to whom most twenty-somethings will be able to identify with. Cushman’s descriptions of Amanda’s relationship and travels through India with her friend Devi Das are touching, entertaining and humorous; as is her portrayal of Amanda’s relationship with her mother-hen-like friend, Lisa.

My only criticism of this book is that it is a bit too long. Cushman could have pared down the book by about 100 pages. I got the impression that Cushman was so moved by her own real-life travels in India that she didn’t want to leave anything out in her fictional re-telling of her adventure.

Overall, Enlightenment for Idiots is a well-written and entertaining book which highlights the joys of finding your own path and playing the hand you’re dealt with grace and acceptance that nothing is or will be perfect or the way you thought it would be. Instead of finding enlightenment, Amanda finds her true self and knowledge that acceptance of yourself and the way things are is the only true way to find nirvana.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime by Jasper Fforde (4.5 / 5 Stars)


The Big Over Easy is a tongue-in-cheek detective novel featuring Detective Jack Spratt who investigates cases for the Nursery Crime Division (NCD) in the town of Reading. After losing his case against the Three Little Pigs for the death of the Big Bad Wolf, Jack Spratt begins investigating the suspicious death of Humpty Dumpty. However, Spratt must first jump over many hurdles including the threat of the eradication of the NCD by the police force; his arch nemesis, superstar Detective Friedland Chymes; his partner Detective Mary Mary might be in collusion with Chymes; and the fact that in this world where books mean everything, none of his cases get much mention in “True Crime” or Amazing Crime Stories”.


Fforde’s writing is deft, humorous, witty, and intelligent. His wordplay is nothing short of genius. The novel is fast-paced, amusing, and engaging. As is the case with all of Jasper Fforde’s books, this novel is truly written for the book and word lover.


As funny and entertaining as The Big Over Easy is, it also manages to capture the uniquely 21st Century problem of the public’s need for constant news entertainment created by the mass media. In the land of Reading, police investigations are constantly compromised in order to make for a better story; a detective’s true worth is not his or her ability to solve cases but how much he or she can publish and whether or not he is a member of the Detective Guild; and superstar detective, Friedland Chymes, shouts the very Donald Trump-esque catch phrase, “The Case is Closed!” after every press conference.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Rowdy in Paris by Tim Sandlin (3.5 / 5 Stars)


Tim Sandlin’s fictional cowboy, Rowdy Talbot, is a conundrum of dichotomies. He is crass and honorable; sensitive and tough; sad, and funny.


In ‘Rowdy in Paris’, Rowdy Talbot’s adventure starts with a ménage a trios with two French graduate students after he wins the local rodeo bull riding contest. Rowdy wakes up the next morning to find both the girls and his prized championship belt buckle missing. Being that the buckle was the only thing that Rowdy has ever won and the fact that he feels like it is the only thing that will impress his young son, Rowdy is fit to be tied! He takes off for Paris in pursuit of his beloved buckle. Rowdy finds that things in Paris are a bit different then they are in Wyoming! For one, coffee is served in “shot glasses” and payment is required for use of “the john”. Rowdy’s flummoxed surprise with everything French is hilarious.


While attempting to recover his buckle, Rowdy uncovers a plot to sabotage McDonald’s and with the help of an ex-CIA agent hired by Starbucks (who wants to make sure that they don’t suffer the same fate as McDonald’s), Rowdy sets off to protect all that is American in France.


During the course of his adventure Rowdy gets into his fair share of bar brawls, falls in love, spies on a courtesan (who might also work for the CIA) on behalf of her husband, even begins to appreciate French espresso!


“Rowdy in Paris” is heartwarming and funny. Sandlin perfectly captures the cowboy mentality and delivers an unusual story filled with laughs.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian ( 0 / 5 Stars)


As a fan of both The Great Gatsby and of novels with unique premises, I had such high hopes for this novel and was actually awaiting it's date of publication. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed. The Double Bind felt empty to me.


However, the biggest problem that I had with this book is that Bohjalian seemed to have a very, very (let me stress VERY)hard time writing from a female point of view. This was especially glaring due to the traumatic and deeply female nature of the plot line propelling Laurel's story through the narrative. Early on, Laurel is sexually attacked while on a bike ride. This experience shapes the rest of the story and ends in a very sloppily written "surprise ending". Bohjalian's lack of insight into the female mind left everything Laurel said and did feeling hollow and somehow wrong. Some writers are particularly adept at writing from the perspective of the opposite sex; Bohjalian is not one of these writers - at least not in this book (I have heard that he has mastered this in other works).


I wonder if all the rave reviews for this book are simply a case of the emperor having no clothes or if people are so enthralled with the albeit interesting Great Gastby angle that they are distracted from the fact that at it's core, this just isn't that great of book?


If you are looking for a well written and imaginative book using characters from well-known, classic fiction pick up Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series beginning with The Eyre Affair.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Best Seller News

Best Sellers for the Week of April 14, 2008



1. Small Favor by Jim Butcher

2. Unaccustomed Earth by Jumpa Lahiri

3. Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman

4. The Appeal by John Grisham

5. Belong to Me by Marisa de Los Santos

6. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

7. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

8. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

9. A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer

10. Hollywood Crows by Joseph Wambaugh

11. 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

12. Winter Study by Nevada Barr

13. Guilty by Karen Robards

14. Dead Heat by Joel Rosenberg

15. Lost Souls by Lisa Jackson

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Sort-Of Writing Reality Show For Book Geeks


One of my favorite podcasts is Will Write for Wine (http://www.willwriteforwine.come/) and on it, Lani Diane Rich is always talking about her book collaboration with Ann Stuart and Jennifer Cruisie. The book is titled, Dogs and Goddesses and you can watch their on-going collaborative effort on-line! Just go to http://www.dogsandgoddesses.com/ and you can "watch" as they write their book! It is facinating to watch writers at work. It is a sort of like a writing reality show! They post all of their chapter submissions and their editing and re-writes. Check it out!

Book Buying in the New Millenium


Amazon Lets Readers Shop via Text Message
Have you ever been discussing a book with someone and been just dying to run home to your computer so that you can buy it on Amazon? Well, now you can eliminate the waiting part and immediately text your order to Amazon! On April 2, 2008, Amazon announced the start of it's new text buying service TextBuyIt.
Here is how it works: First you must log on to Amazon and add TextBuyIt to your Amazon account. Thereafter, all you have to do is send a text to "AMAZON" (262966) with the name of the product or ISBN code, and, within seconds, Amazon replies with the product that matches the search term along with prices. To buy, reply to the text by entering the number next to the item you want. You will then immediately receive a phone call from Amazon asking you to confirm the purchase. Done!
Technology blows my mind.....



The Fiction Class (3.5 / 5 Stars)


The Fiction Class by Susan Breen is a poignant and touching tale a woman who teaches a fiction writing class who is struggling to complete her novel, caring for her ailing mother, and trying to find love.


Each chapter starts with Arabella's fiction writing class and features the lesson for that day, such as theme, voice, and pacing. Each class's writing theme is also a life theme in the novel. The students in Arabella's class are all interesting characters themselves and feature prominently in the novel; especially Chuck, who becomes Arabella's love interest.


The strongest theme in the novel is the mother/daughter relationship that has been a lifelong source of pain between Arabella and her mother, Vera. The two have had a tortured and difficult relationship since Arabella was a child. Through the course of the book, the two women gain insight and understanding into each other's motivations and thoughts through the treasured acts of reading and writing.


Not only is The Fiction Class a good read but it is also a good course in writing instruction for the budding fiction writer wannabe. Breen puts each of Arabella's writing assignments on a separate page before each chapter. I know that I will be doing the exercises to hone my writing skills!


The blurb on the back cover of this novel summarizes this book perfectly, it says: "A heartwarming story for anyone who loves books, or has a difficult mother. And, let's face it, that's practically everybody...."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The TMZ - ish Bits of Lit Post


Okay, I admit that this is a little silly, but I love when celebrities tell interviewers what they are currently reading. In her recent April interview with Elle magazine Madonna said that she is currently reading The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak. The Book Thief tells the story of a young girl living in Nazi Germany whose only source of pleasure is devouring the books she steals. An interesting aspect of this novel is that it is narrarated by the Grim Reaper, who is a surprisingly sympathetic figure. While sad and heartbreaking at times, The Book Thief is also touching and heartwarming.

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichel (4 / 5 Stars)


I found Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by former New York Times Restaurant Critic, Ruth Reichel as enjoyable as a warm plate of risotto paired with a glass of red wine.

In Garlic and Sapphires, Reichel recounts the six years she spent contriving clever disguises to hide her identity as she galavanted around New York City’s restaurants and bistros writing reviews for the Times. Reichel’s memoir focuses on three aspects of her life at that time: her personal life as a wife and mother, her restaurant patronizing as a critic, and her life as an employee of the venerable and mighty New York Times. Reichel’s descriptions of her son are touching and heartwarming, her recounting of the extremes she went to in order to create and truly become her aliases are entertaining and amusing, and her telling of the behind-the-scenes goings-on at the Times are fascinating and fulfill the gossipy voyeur in all of us.

Reichel is a talented writer and her truly joyous love of food, cooking, and eating are evident on each page of the book. The book is peppered with Ruth’s favorite recipes and this adds a certain feel-good warmth to the tome.

My only criticism of the book is that I had to be willing to suspend my good reason in order to believe that Ruth truly became the characters she created to the extent she described. According to Ruth, she was so immersed in these characters that she found herself unable to use her own judgment and mannerisms while inhabiting that character’s persona. For example, is she was dressed as “Miriam” she was brash and rude and “Ruth” had no control over the rude things that came out of “Miriam’s” mouth. This was slightly hard to believe – but maybe I just don’t have the same amount of acting chops!

The title Garlic and Sapphires is only briefly alluded to and comes from a poem written by T.S. Eliot.

Overall, Garlic and Sapphires is a delicious romp of a memoir that I truly relished devouring – excuse the puns!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Best Seller News

Hard Cover Best Sellers for the Week of April 7, 2008


1. Compulsion by Jonathan Kellerman

2. The Appeal by John Grisham, John

3. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

4. Remember Me? Kinsella, Sophie

5. Lost Souls by Lisa Jackson

6. 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

7. A Prisoner of Birth by Archer, Jeffrey

8. Hollywood Crows by Joseph Wambaugh

9. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

10. Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

Trade Paper Best Sellers for the Week of April 7, 2008


1. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert


3. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

4. The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

5. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

6. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory


7. 19 Minutes by Jodi Picoult


8. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama


9. The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs


10. John Adams by David McCullough

Book World News

On Demand Books Signs Agreement with Lightning Source

Who is On Demand Books and What Do They Do?
Back in 2006, a device called the Espresso Book Machine was created by a company called On Demand Books. The Espresso Book Machine can print and bind library quality individual books in about 15 minutes. These books are identical to factory made books and are printed directly from a digital file. With the ability to walk up to an Espresso machine and “order” your desired book, On Demand Books intends to make the practice of warehousing book obsolete. Books top out at around 550 pages, and production cost is about five cents per page. There are currently 2.5 million books available for printing by the Espresso.


Who is Lightening Source and What Do They Do?
Lightning Source is the leader in demand-driven book manufacturing and distribution solutions to the publishing industry. Lightning Source manufactures books in demand at the request of the publishers and distributes them all over the world. What makes Lightning Source unique is that they will manufacture any quantity of books whether it be 10 or 1,000.

How Will the Partnership Effect the Book Publishing/Selling World?
The partnership with Lightning Source gives On Demand access to Lightning Source’s scanning facilities, but it also gives On Demand access to copyrighted material through an opt in/opt out clause that Lightning Source will add to its publisher contracts. This means that hopefully, in the near future anyone will be able to walk into a bookstore, head to an Espresso Book Machine and order whatever book they desire and have it in their hands within minutes! This is a reader’s dream!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Pulitzer Prize Winners Announced


The winners of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize were announced today. If you would like to view the entire list of winners click here: http://www.pulitzer.org/. Of most interest to me - and I would think to anyone who reads this blog - would be the Fiction winner.


This year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This novel has been on my to-be-read pile for awhile now. Since I haven't read it and therefore don't have a review, here is a review from Amazon.com:


"It's been 11 years since Junot Díaz's critically acclaimed story collection, Drown, landed on bookshelves and from page one of his debut novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, any worries of a sophomore jinx disappear. The titular Oscar is a 300-pound-plus "lovesick ghetto nerd" with zero game (except for Dungeons & Dragons) who cranks out pages of fantasy fiction with the hopes of becoming a Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien. The book is also the story of a multi-generational family curse that courses through the book, leaving troubles and tragedy in its wake. This was the most dynamic, entertaining, and achingly heartfelt novel I've read in a long time. My head is still buzzing with the memory of dozens of killer passages that I dog-eared throughout the book. The rope-a-dope narrative is funny, hip, tragic, soulful, and bursting with desire. Make some room for Oscar Wao on your bookshelf--you won't be disappointed."


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Chasing Cezanne by Peter Mayle (3/5 Stars)

Chasing Cezanne by Peter Mayle is enjoyable for the same reasons his memoirs recounting his life living in Provence are so pleasurable to read: namely, his rich and colorful descriptions of this gorgeous area. Mr. Mayle is not as deft at spinning a smart and suspenseful mystery. He never quite manages to create that suspenseful charge that true mystery authors know how to generate. However, I would definitely and without hesitation recommend Chasing Cezanne to everyone who counts themselves as a fan of his Provence books. Mayle’s writing is fluid and descriptive. While reading this novel, I wished that I was sipping champagne in Paris or shopping for a baguette in Aix. He is truly without parallel in his ability to convey the essence of France.

Old School by Tobias Woolf (4/5 Stars)


Old School is the perfect book for those who truly love literature. The story takes place in an all-boys private school in the late 1950's. This book features appearances by Hemingway and Frost, discusses the philosophies of Ayn Rand, and traces one boy's evolution from impressionable and easily impressed youth to a wizened, free-thinking adolescent. The boy's education comes mainly from the literature he so reveres. I loved seeing his evolution portrayed in the scene where he becomes disillusioned with Ayn Rand.


While Wolff obviously has reverence for authors and literature, he also can't help but poke fun at the personas and characters of the authors featured in the book. Robert Frost is portrayed as a pseudo-intellectual; a case of the emperor having no clothes. Wolff raises the question of why "great literature" is considered great. Is it truly great or is it imbued with greatness by what the reader reads into it or assumes was the writer's intent?


Wolff’s gift for arranging words is a true talent. Each word seems carefully chosen and gives the novel an old-fashioned feel. Wolff’s writing is gorgeous.


While Old School is a novel about literature and writing, it is also a comentary on class, religion, social acceptance, and truth and consequences. Wolff navigates the murky waters of social injustice, class consciousness and anti-semitism with grace.


There isn’t a book lover alive who would not be enchanted with the idea of living in a place where literature is treated as a religion and writers as gods. There is one unforgettable scene where the headmaster is announcing to the boys that Hemingway will be visiting. In describing the scene, Wolff writes, “The headmaster watched us, enjoying the shock he’d produced. Then someone yelled Bravo! And the room went nuts – whistles, shouts, feet drumming the floor, fists pounding tables.” In Old School writers are contemporary rock stars.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (3/5 Stars)


A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka is an engaging tale focusing on family dynamics. Anyone who has ever encountered sibling rivalry (read: anyone with a sibling) will relate to the interations between Vera and Nadia, the book's protagonist. The sister's father, Nikolai, is an 84 year old widow who has decided that the cure for his lonliness is to marry a big busted, bleached blond, Ukrainian with a penchant for furs, jewels, peach nail polish and satin underwear named Valentina so that she can immigrate to the UK. Hilarity ensues as the sisters struggle to move past their strained relationship in order to rescue their father, and his bank account, from the gold-digging Valentina. This book will tug at your heartstrings and make you laugh out loud at the same time.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunee (4/5 stars)


Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love will enjoy this memoir. Trail of Crumbs recounts the tumultuous years in Kim Sunee's life during which she was living in the South of France and in Paris with the love of her life, Olivier, the founder of L'Occitane. As charmed as her existence is, Kim still feels like something is missing. She doesn't know whether to attribute this feeling to her having been abandoned on the streets of Korea by her birth mother when she was three (she was later adopted by a New Orleans couple), to her rootless young adult life spent traversing the globe, or to something else completely unexplainable. Whatever it is, Kim knows that she must abandon her secure existence with Olivier and set off on her own. Trail of Crumbs takes the reader along with Kim as she grows up and discovers her true self. Along the way we, the reader, are treated to the recipes of Kim's favorite dishes. These dishes and all things culinary in general have been the one constant in Kim's life, the one thing she could always count on to give her a sense of belonging.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gentlemen & Players by Joanne Harris (4/5 Stars)


Set in all-boys school, St. Oswald’s, Gentlemen & Players is narrated by the school’s oldest and most beloved Classics professor, Roy Straightly, by the former caretaker’s child, and by a mysterious and nefarious troublemaker out to destroy St. Oswald’s. This malevolent narrator’s identity is kept secret until the staggering ending.


Roy Straightly loves the school and his students and hates to see tradition supplanted by more modern means of education such as the dreaded computer. A foreboding feeling permeates the air of St. Oswald’s as Mr. Straightly begins his 99th term at the school. To start with, Mr. Straightly has lost his office to the ever-invading German department; there are a slew of new teachers that don’t quite sit well with Mr. Straightly; and an odd series of mishaps and scandals begin to rip apart St. Oswald’s at the seams. Something sinister is happening at St. Oswald’s and Mr. Straightly must try to figure it out before his beloved institution is decimated by whatever evil forces are working against it.


Gentlemen & Players is a suspenseful mystery that will leave you shocked with it’s stunning resolution. Joanne Harris’ writing is deft and masterful. As a narrator, Mr. Straightly is intensely observant and immensely entertaining. This novel is steeped in academia and will be a sure hit amongst those who count Donna Tartt’s The Secret History as a favorite novel.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas (4/5 Stars)


A Three Dog Life derives its title from the Australian aborigines who slept with their dogs for warmth; the coldest nights being "three dog nights". Abigail's husband's traumatic brain injury places her in the most difficult time of her life. The warmth and love from her three beloved dogs comfort her, hence her three dog life. This new life is one that she has to build on her own; different from any life she has lived before. Abigail navigates the unchartered waters of dealing with a husband in a nursing home, the guilt, sadness and welcomed freedom of living alone, and embarking on a new life journey with such perceptive insight that it simply took my breath away.

Thomas' writing is sparse, plain, artful and so insightful that I feel that I could read anything about her or her life so long as she wrote it. Her self-awareness and ability to describe her thoughts and feelings is nothing short of brilliant. Most amazing is how she recounts her husband's newly acquired astuteness and his uncanny ability to hone in on exactly what she is thinking or exactly what is going on in her life without any way for him to obtain actual knowledge of these things. Rich's newfound ability is an unexplainable miracle.

Reading this book changed the way that I view those suffering brain damage from a traumatic injury. I no longer see them as less than whole; they are just different - altered- sometimes these changes bring about gifts not previously possessed. Rich's random comments show a gifted ability to describe his condition and a keen sense of self-awareness. Though his short-term memory loss may cause his inability to remember where he is or what he did five minutes ago, he is able to describe how he feels by saying, "I don't know who I am. Pretend you are walking up the street with your friend. You are looking in windows. But right behind you is a man with a huge roller filled with white paint and he is painting over everywhere you have been, erasing everything. He erased your friend. You don't even remember his name."

This book is a gift to everyone who reads it. I will treasure it always and recommend it to everyone I know. Thank you to Katie for unintentionally lending it to me!

Comfort Food For Funky Moods

Okay, I have been in a bit of a funk lately. One of those unexplainable bad moods that seem to last for weeks. Blah. When I'm feeling like this all I want is read fun, perky "chick-lit" type books. They are my "funk medicine". To help with this bout of funkiness I picked up two Sophie Kinsella books.

In anticipation of my trip to NYC I read Shopaholic Takes Manhattan (the picture above is of me and some of the girls in front of our hotel in Midtown Manhattan). This was the perfect book to get me excited about the trip. Kinsella takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of NYC that is fun and that captures the Big Apple perfectly!

However, I was still jonesing for a bit more Kinsella, and was right back in my funk upon my arrival to rainy South Florida, so I looked for another chick-lit pick me up. Lo and behold, what do I find but a Sophie Kinsella with a Sunflower on the cover! Brilliant! as Becky Bloomwood would say.

These books aren't going to change your life and bestow any earth-shattering pronouncements, but they are smart, well written, entertaining, and witty. I find Sophie Kinsella thoroughly enjoyable.


Here is my full review of Sophie Kinsella's latest novel, Remember Me?:

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella is a fun romp of a novel featuring seemingly power-hungry, “bitch-boss-from-hell” Lexi Smart after she comes to after a car accident and discovers that she has absolutely no memory of the last three years of her life.
The last memory Lexi possesses is of her leaving a bar with her three best friends where she was trying to forget about her “crap job”, her “crap boyfriend” (aptly nicknamed, “Loser Dave”), her frizzy hair and her teeth which have garnered her the nickname “snaggletooth”. When she wakes up in the hospital, Lexi has discovered that she has a posh pad, a gorgeous and wealthy husband, perfect teeth and shiny glossy hair. Unfortunately, she also realizes that she no longer has her friends, any fun, or anything else that made Lexi herself.
In trying to discover how she went from “snaggletooth” to “bitch-boss-from-hell” Lexi discovers her true identity and puts her life back to rights.
Remember Me? is a novel about self-discovery, priorities, and learning to be true to oneself. It is fun, lighthearted and immensely entertaining. It is the perfect “comfort food” book when a girl is feeling down.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bringing Home the Birkin


I had the good fortune of getting my hands on an advanced copy of Michael Tonello’s Bringing Home the Birkin before its scheduled date of publication. I almost felt like the lucky recipient of a coveted Birkin bag itself – one of these advanced copies sold for $1,000 on ebay!

Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello is a fun and amusing true-life tale about a man who decides to do what many of us fantasize about: he packs his (bulging) bags and moves to Europe. Michael has a job lined up and finds an apartment to die for in the trendiest section of Barcelona. Everything is moving along swimmingly and he is living his dream until his job prospect falls apart. Now saddled with a five year lease and not a prayer of receiving a work visa any time soon, Michael is desperate for a source of income to keep his ex-pat dream alive. As he fills his days arranging his full to bursting armoires and closets, inspiration strikes: why not make a little profit while cleaning house? Michael begins listing his possessions on ebay and finds that he can turn quite a tidy profit. However, his real windfall doesn’t occur until he realizes that there is a not-so-tiny subset of Americans obsessed with all things Hermes and that living in Barcelona affords him a huge advantage in obtaining discontinued Hermes scarf patterns. Soon Michael is traversing every Hermes store in Spain and stocking up on thousands of dollars worth of the coveted scarves.

Then it happens…..one of his “customers” asks for the impossible: a Hermes Birkin bag. But this isn’t just any bag. Ownership of a Hermes Birkin takes years of patiently waiting for your name to arrive at the top of their lengthy waiting list. The Birkin is the bald-headed eagle of bags – rare and not often seen. Michael makes it his mission to crack the Birkin code and indeed discovers what he calls his “formula” on instantly obtaining Birkins from the clutches of the Hermes sales people. Armed with his profitable formula, Michael crosses the world snatching up Birkins for delivery to his Hermes-starved clientele.

Michael Tonello is an engaging and amusing narrator and I loved reading of his travels to Brazil, Chile, Paris, Athens, Belgium, Germany, St. Tropez, Madrid, and many other exotic locales. Tonello is also witty and comical, especially when describing his adventures in finessing the Hermes sales people. I laughed out loud reading his “instruction manual” on obtaining Birkins from the different types of salespeople – there is the most welcomed “Grandmother”, the frustrating “Ingenue”, the hard-to-crack “Nazi”, the annoying “Incurable Romantic”, and the dreaded “Farmer”. Oh, and if you are Birkin shopping in Italy, you might need to grease the palms of the “Godfather”!

This is the perfect book for those who love travel and fashion. Tonello sums it up perfectly himself when he wrote that those who don’t like it must not like fashion, celebrities, travel, entrepreneurial spirit, humor, fine cuisine, or true love. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Books for 2008




I have decided to keep track of the books I read in 2008. There is really no reason other than I like looking back and remembering what I had previously read. As I have mentioned in previous posts, more detailed reviews for most of these books can be found on my Library Thing page - in case anyone's interested! http://www.librarything.com/profile/Bri794fsu. Here is my 2008 list:

1. Falling out of Fashion by Karen Yamplonsky
This is a Roman a Clef by the longtime assistant of Jane Magazine editor, Jane Pratt. This book will be of interest to fans of the now
defunct Jane Magazine because it gives a behind the scenes look at what really caused Jane to "quit" the magazine industry.

2. A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian tells the story of two embattled and estranged sisters who find themselves unexpectedly
forced to align forces to save their widowed father and his bank account from a gold-digging, bleached-blonde, large-busted Ukrainian
tart. This novel is funny and heartwarming.

3. Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunee
Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love will enjoy this memoir. Trail of Crumbs recounts the tumultuous years in Kim Sunee's life during which she was living in the South of France and in Paris with the love of her life, Olivier, the founder of L'Occitane. As charmed as her existence is, Kim still feels like something is missing. She doesn't know whether to attribute this feeling to her having been abandoned on the streets of Korea by her birth mother when she was three (she was later adopted by a New Orleans couple), to her rootless young adult life spent traversing the globe, or to something else completely unexplainable. Whatever it is, Kim knows that she must abandon her secure existence with Olivier and set off on her own. Trail of Crumbs takes the reader along with Kim as she grows up and discovers her true self. Along the way we, the reader, are treated to the recipes of Kim's favorite dishes. These dishes and all things culinary in general have been the one constant in Kim's life, the one thing she could always count on to nourish her soul.

4. The Heroines by Eileen Favorite
A charming if somewhat flawed and unfulfilling tale of a young girl who lives in a remote guest house where the heroines from literatures most famous novels come for respite from their chaotic existences inside their books.

5. Him Her Him Again the End of Him by Patricia Marx
This is the story of one woman's ten year obsession with an obnoxious, philandering, pseudo-intellectual man named Eugene. The narrator's fixiation on Eugene is often times laugh-out-loud hilarious as are her descriptions of her day-to-day life.

6. When the World Was Steady by Claire Messud
When the World Was Steady follows two drastically different sisters whose life paths are as divergent as their personalities. While both are British, one sister is living in Bali while trying to move past her divorce from her Austrailian husband; and the other is an uptight spinster living with their mother in England. As is the case with all of Messud's novels, what happens plotwise isn't as important as the descriptions of the inner lives of the characters. Messud's prose is lyrical and beautiful.


7. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as
Possible by A.J. Jacobs
A.J. Jacobs is funny to me in much the same way that David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs are funny. The Year of Living Biblically follows Jacobs as he attempts to gain some insight and understanding into fundamentalists. He spends one year trying to follow Biblical precepts exactly as they are mandated in the Good Book itself. The results are hilarious and provide a cautionary tale. This book is a must read in this era where so much of the World's events and headlines are directly connected to the religous beliefs of others.


8. Gentlemen & Players: A Novel by Joanne Harris
Gentlemen & Players is set in all-boys school, St. Oswald’s. An odd series of mishaps and scandals begin to rip apart St. Oswald’s at the seams. Something sinister is happening at St. Oswald’s and Classics professor, Roy Straightly must try to figure it out before his beloved institution is decimated by whatever evil forces are working against it.

9. Old School by Tobias Wolff
The story takes place in an all-boys private school in the late 1950's. This book features appearances by Hemingway and Frost, discusses the philosophies of Ayn Rand, and traces one boy's evolution from impressionable and easily impressed youth to a wizened, free-thinking adolescent.

10. Case Histories: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
Case Histories follows detective, Jackson Brodie, as he investigates three different cases.
First there is the Land family. The Land’s are a “normal”, dysfunctional, suburban family until five year-old Olivia Land goes missing in the middle of the night. Years later two of Olivia’s older sisters come across a puzzling clue to their sister’s disappearance. Brodie’s second client is a lawyer whose favorite daughter is stabbed to death while working in his office. Her killer was never identified and Brodie is hired to finally track him down. The third case centers on a woman who wants to track down her niece who years earlier as a toddler witnessed her father’s murder possibly at the hands of her mother



11. The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime by Jasper Fforde
The Big Over Easy is a tongue-in-cheek detective novel featuring Detective Jack Spratt who investigates cases for the Nursery Crime Division (NCD) in the town of Reading. After losing his case against the Three Little Pigs for the death of the Big Bad Wolf, Jack Spratt begins investigating the suspicious death of Humpty Dumpty. However, Spratt must first jump over many hurdles including the threat of the eradication of the NCD by the police force; his arch nemesis, superstar Detective Friedland Chymes; his partner Detective Mary Mary might be in collusion with Chymes; and the fact that in this world where books mean everything, none of his cases get much mention in "True Crime" or Amazing Crime Stories".


12. Rowdy in Paris by Tim Sandlin
Rowdy Talbot's adventure starts with a ménage a trios with two French graduate students after he wins the local rodeo bull riding contest. Rowdy wakes up the next morning to find both the girls and his prized championship belt buckle missing. Rowdy is fit to be tied! He takes off for Paris in pursuit of his beloved buckle. Rowdy finds that things in Paris are a bit different then they are in Wyoming! For one, coffee is served in "shot glasses" and payment is required for use of "the john". Rowdy's flummoxed surprise with everything French is hilarious.


13. A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke
An uproarious roman à clef following a year in the life of Clarke's alter ego, Paul West. Paul West is a Brit who has been transplanted to the City of Light to help a French businessman open English tea shops throughout Paris. Paul's struggles to understand and master all things French, will have you laughing throughout the entire book.


14. Celebutantes by Ruthana Khalighi Hopper and Amanda Goldberg
Celebutantes centers on the trials and tribulations of Hollywood royalty spawn, Lola Santisi during Oscar Week in Los Angeles. Lola is a mid-twenties failed actress who happens to be the daughter of one of Hollywood's biggest directors. Lola is suffering from a malady that could only be diagnosed by an LA psychotherapist: Career Deficit Disorder, or as Lola calls it, CDD. Lola is also a recovering "Actoraholic". Her penchant for affairs with Tinsletown's hottest actors has left her heartbroken and bitter. Lola is finally given the chance to turn her life around when her best friend, hot new designer Julian Tennant, hires her to convince this year's hottest actresses to wear his designs on the Red Carpet. As you can imagine, this is no easy task!

15. Oscar Season by Mary McNamara
A fast-pace mystery novel set during Hollywood's most tumultuous time of the year: the time period between the Academy Award nominations announcement and Oscar night. At first, Oscar season at the hotel seems to be business as usual for Juliette Greyson, PR Director of the Pinnacle Hotel. Well, as usual as can be for one of Hollywood's hottest hotels hosting all of the big name celebrities who come to stay for Oscar week. That is until a series of mysterious deaths start to seem all too connected to be coincidence. Is someone trying to sabotage the Oscars? And if so, why?


16. Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody
Candy Girl tells the story of a smart young woman recently graduated from college stuck in a deadend job in Minnesota. Bored and in need of a taste from something wild, she enters into an Amateur Night contest at a local stripclub and becomes hooked (for a time) on the sex trade world. Cody gives us a peak behind the curtain of this seemy underworld. Cody's writing talent is evident on the pages of Candy Girl and it is easy to see how she was discovered by a Hollywood producer; which set her on a path to write the Academy Award winning screenplay, Juno.


17. The Extra Man by Jonathan Ames
An entertaining and humorous account of two bachelors, Louis and Henry, trying to navigate through life in New York City. Louis’ sexual predilections are on the fringe of mainstream society and his frequent visits to a transsexual bar, cross-dressing business, and spanking service are laugh-out loud funny. Henry’s eccentricities are hilarious and amusing; he lives by the credence that, “Ethel Merman cures everything”. I initially found The Extra Man enjoyable and funny; however, about half way through I was over it. Yet, it continued on and on for another hundred pages or so.


18. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
Kinsella's most beloved character, Becky Bloomwood is back with all of her neuroses and eccentricities! Only this time, Becky gets to exhibit her penchant for the melodramtic in the Big Apple instead of London. Becky is charming and entertaining and her foibles and misteps are endearing as ever.

19. The Fiction Class by Susan Breen
This is a poignant and touching tale of a woman who teaches a fiction writing class, who is struggling to complete her novel, caring for her ailing mother, and trying to find love.
Not only is The Fiction Class a good read but it is also a good course in writing instruction for the budding fiction writer wannabe. Breen puts each of Arabella’s writing assignments on a separate page before each chapter. The blurb on the back cover of this novel summarizes this book perfectly, it says: “A heartwarming story for anyone who loves books, or has a difficult mother. And, let’s face it, that’s practically everybody….”


20. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
A Three Dog Life derives its title from the Australian aborigines who slept with their dogs for warmth; the coldest nights being “three dog nights”. Abigail’s husband’s traumatic brain injury places her in the most difficult time of her life. The warmth and love from her three beloved dogs comfort her, hence her three dog life. This new life is one that she has to build on her own; different from any life she has lived before. Abigail navigates the unchartered waters of dealing with a husband in a nursing home, the guilt, sadness and welcomed freedom of living alone, and embarking on a new life journey with such perceptive insight that it simply took my breath away.

21. Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag by Michael Tonello
This is a fun and amusing true-life tale about a man who decides to do what many of us fantasize about: he packs his bags and moves to Europe and finds himself self-employed by selling the impossible-to-obtain Hermes Birkin bag to those fortunate enough to be able to afford one. Armed with his profitable Birkin-buying secret, Michael crosses the world snatching up Birkins for delivery to his Hermes-starved clientele.

22. Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella
Remember Me? is a fun romp of a novel featuring seemingly power-hungry, “bitch-boss-from-hell” Lexi Smart after she comes to after a car accident and discovers that she has absolutely no memory of the last three years of her life. In trying to discover how she went from “snaggletooth” to “bitch-boss-from-hell” Lexi discovers her true identity and puts her life back to rights. Remember Me? is a novel about self-discovery, priorities, and learning to be true to oneself.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Great Website for Bibliophiles with Wanderlust!


Hi All (if anyone besides me reads this!) -

Whenever I am traveling, I like reading novels set in the city where I will be. Well, I'll be in the Big Apple next week and in looking for a fun novel set in NYC, I came across a website called http://www.bibliotravel.com/. I love it! You can plug in your desired location and a list of books set in that city come up! The books are submitted by readers of the website and you can add any books you know of missing from the list. I have already started looking for books set in New Orleans in anticipation of my trip to the Big Easy in May for a friend's wedding. In keeping with the theme of this post, I thought that I would list some of my personal recommendations for some of my favorite cities here. The books listed in red are those I have reviewed on my Library Thing page (see post on 2/25/08). You can see these reviews by clicking on: http://www.librarything.com/profile/Bri794fsu.
New York City:
1. The Good People of New York by Thisbe Nissen
2. The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud
3. Through the Children's Gate: A Home in New York by Adam Gopnick
4. Shopaholic Takes Manhattan by Sophie Kinsella
5. The Extra Man by Jonathan Ames
6. The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
7. The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
8. Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell
9. Tepper Isn't Going Out by Calvin Trillin
10. Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade by Patrick Dennis
11. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
12. Love Monkey by Kyle Smith
13. Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell
14. Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes
15. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote
New Orleans:
1. Liquor by Poppy Z. Brite
2. Prime by Poppy Z. Brite
3. Soul Kitchen by Poppy Z. Brite
4. Side Effects: A New Orleans Love Story by Patty Friedmann
5. Almost Innocent by Sheila Bosworth
6. Slow Poison by Sheila Bosworth
7. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
8. New Orleans, Mon Amour: Twenty Years of Writings from the City by Andrei Codrescu
Paris:
1. Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojurn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer
2. A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke
3. Left Bank by Kate Muir
4. Rowdy in Paris by Tim Sandlin
5. Le Divorce by Diane Johnson
6. The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most
Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn
7. A Movable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
8. The Book of Salt by Monique Trong
9. Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunee
10. The Pleasing Hour by Lily King
Madrid:
1. What's the Girl Worth by Christina Fitzpatrick
( I haven't reviewed this book, but I must mention that if you are going to Madrid, you MUST
pick up this book. Christina Fitzpatrick perfectly captures Madrid.)
Venice:
1. City of Falling Angles by John Berendt
2. Venetian Stories by Jane Turner Rylands
3. In the Company of the Courtesan by Sara Dunant
Provence, France:
1. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
2. Tojours Provence by Peter Mayle
3. Encore Provence: New Adventure in the South of France by Peter Mayle
4. French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle
5. Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Love by Kim Sunnee
Denver, Colorado:
1. Orange Mint & Honey by Carlene Brice
Barcelona
1. Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello

Monday, February 25, 2008

Best Thing EVER for Book Lovers!!


There is a website called http://www.librarything.com/ where you can catalog and review all of your books. I signed up in June of last year and I swear that I am obsessed! I don't know how anyone couldn't be once they have entered all of their books.


If you click on this link you can see all of my books: http://www.librarything.com/profile/Bri794fsu


Here is the description from their webpage:


What is LibraryThing?
Enter what you're reading or your whole library—it's an easy, library-quality catalog. LibraryThing also connects you with people who read the same things.

What's good?
Meet the world's largest book club.

Find people with eerily similar tastes.
Catalog with Amazon, the Library of Congress or 252 other world libraries.

Import from anywhere.
Get recommendations.

Tag your books and explore others' tags.
Put your books on your blog.
Enter 200 books for free, as many as you like for $10 (year) or $25 (life).


Happy reading & cataloging,

Brianna

It's Oscar Time!


Since it is Oscar time, I went looking for books featuring the Academy Awards. Lucky for me two were published just this year! I found Celebutantes by Amanda Goldberg & Ruthana Hopper and Oscar Season by Mary McNamara. Both books are written by authors with the right creditials: Amanda Goldberg is the daughter of one of Hollywoods biggest producers; Ruthana Hopper is the daughter of actor Dennis Hopper; and Mary McNamara is an LA Times reporter who has "written extensively on the inner workings of Hollywood". Both books give the reader a glimpse into high-powered Hollywood during this chaotic time in Tinsletown.


Here are my reviews of both:


OSCAR SEASON by MARY MCNAMARA (3 1/2 stars)


Oscar Season by Mary McNamara is a fast-pace mystery novel set during Hollywood’s most tumultuous time of the year: the time period between the Academy Award nominations announcement and Oscar night. At first, Oscar season at the hotel seems to be business as usual for PR Director of the Pinnacle Hotel, Juliette Greyson. Well, as usual as can be for one of Hollywood’s hottest hotels hosting all of the big name celebrities who come to stay for Oscar week. That is until a series of mysterious deaths start to seem all too connected to be coincidence. Is someone trying to sabotage the Oscars? And if so, why?


Mary McNamara spent time with the people who run the Four Seasons in Los Angeles to get a real insiders view of the preparations that go into making a high end hotel run smoothly during Oscar season. Her attention to detail makes this novel compulsively readable and intriguing.


Where this book fails is as a mystery novel. The mystery that propels the story line in Oscar Season falls flat in the end. The ending was anticlimactic and dull. McNamara never manages to truly spin a suspenseful thriller.Pick up this book for a fun behind the scenes glimpse of the inner workings of a Hollywood hotel during this glittering time of year in LA but not to indulge in a real mystery story.


CELEBUTANTES

by AMANDA GOLDBERG & RUTHANA KHALIGHI HOPPER (3 stars)


Celebutantes is everything you would expect it to be. It is fun, salacious, entertaining, predictable, and formulaic. In short, it is fun fluff filled with TONS of name-dropping. Celebutantes gives an insider’s look into the madness and weirdness that is life in Hollywood.


Celebutantes centers on the trials and tribulations of Hollywood royalty spawn, Lola Santisi during Oscar Week in Los Angeles. Lola is a mid-twenties failed actress who happens to be the daughter of one of Hollywood’s biggest directors. Lola is suffering from a malady that could only be diagnosed by an LA psychotherapist: Career Deficit Disorder, or as Lola calls it, CDD. Lola is also a recovering “Actoraholic”. Her penchant for affairs with Tinsletown’s hottest actors has left her heartbroken and bitter. Thank goodness for Lola she has the support of her BAF (Best Actress Forever), Cricket, who is waiting for her big break; her BFF, Kate, an upcoming Hollywood agent desperate to work for CAA and whose ungrateful bratty client has just been nominated for his first Oscar; and her BGF (Best Gay Forever), Julian.


Lola is finally given the chance to turn her life around when her best friend, hot new designer Julian Tennant, hires her to be his “ambassador”. Ambassadors are the people hired by designers to whoo and cajole actresses into wearing their designs on the red carpet on Oscar night. This job is easier said than done when dealing with actresses who want their dogs dyed to match their dresses, speak in the third person, and take “bathroom” breaks every five minutes.


Of course, Celebutantes wraps up in the last few pages with Lola and her entourage having a true Hollywood ending and everything ending perfectly. For thoroughness’ sake, I should mention that Celebutantes is filled with mentions of every brand of makeup, hair product, shoe, bag and designer; as well as the names of almost every major Hollywood star. It is THAT kind of book. It is also the kind of book that will have you laughing out loud and flipping pages faster than Julia Roberts can rip open the envelope containing the name of this year’s Best Actress award.