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.


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: 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 & 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 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: 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

"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.