This blog is mainly about books and contains brief reviews of books I have recently read. It also contains reviews of other things I love such as restaurants and various products.
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 whatreally 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.
RECENT ARCs: 1. Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen 2. The Wishing Year by Noel Oxenhandler 3. My Miserable Lonely Lesbian Pregnancy by Andrea Askowitz 4. Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan 5. Enlightenment for Idiots by Anne Cushman 6. Bringing Home the Birkin by Michael Tonello