Monday, February 27, 2006

Me Times Three

Me Times Three by Alex Witchel (audio)

Perhaps I should have read the hardback version of this book because I didn’t care for the audio. It seemed a bit slow and the story felt like it was dragging on forever. I did like the main character who is smart and interesting, working at her first New York job as a magazine editor. The title implies that this is a breakup book and while that story line is there it was only part of the story. She also spends many pages dealing with the illness and eventual death of her best friend to AIDS. This book was a bit more on the downer side then I expected but is interesting social commentary on 1980s upper middle class self proclaimed American royalty. -Flourish

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Goodnight Nobody

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

Where has my mind been this whole time? In my search for the perfect entertaining chick lit I must have run across Jennifer Weiner’s name about nine hundred and forty two times and each time I did I passed over her name and a little rapid fire thought would go through my head that I’d already read her books. Nope, I was wrong. But I could have sworn that I had! I read Goodnight Nobody and thoroughly loved it! It’s one of the best books of the genre. Jennifer’s character is so very real and so loveable. She is you, she is me, she is your best friend. She worries over her weight gain after childbirth, she curses occasionally, and she struggles to retain her adult identity while raising three kids under the age of five. She is delightful and fun and I found myself rooting for her the whole time. This book is a murder mystery set in the perfect suburbs where all the mommies wear ironed clothes, do pilates on a regular basis, and feed their children organic everything. Our heroine has a hard time keeping up with this Stepford Wives world and heck, she doesn’t even want to. This character ranks right up there with my favorite, Savannah Reid from G.A. McKevett’s books. I’m going out to the library tomorrow to see what other of Jennifer’s books I can round up. I hope to see you there! -Flourish

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sisters Mortland

The Sisters Mortland by Sally Beauman

This unusual novel sucks you right in from the beginning with the story told from the perspective of a young girl during the summer of 1967. She is the youngest of three sisters and we enjoy watching her progress through a carefree summer surrounded by a cast of interesting characters. One of these is an artist painting a portrait of the sisters as a means to pay his room and board. This portrait nearly becomes a character of its own. The story abruptly shifts its point of view to that of a local village boy and friend of the family he carries the story through until the last bit of the book where another of the sisters takes it up. Although initially jarring, these perspective shifts truly help to define the story. There is a secret here. Ok, there are lots of secrets here in a family that tries to do nothing but pretend that everything is alright. I mustn’t give too much away because I really want you to read this one. It’s a mesmerizing story I promise you won’t be able to put down. –Flourish

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Flea Market Decorating

Flea Market Decorating by Better Homes and Gardens

This is one of a handful of decorating books that I have on my bookshelf. I just love looking at this book! Not only is it crammed full of fabulous pictures of inspirational original junk setups and designs, but it also has lots of descriptions and explanations in the text. I replicated the ball and claw curtain rod finials idea myself and loved it. I cut down old wooden broom handles, drilled holes in the ends and screwed on a couple of faux ball and claw pieces that came off of an abandoned table from the side of the road. I chucked the rest and believe me those were the only usable parts on the thing. Can you say “gold toned”?

I also have the stacked luggage as per the cover photo. This is an excellent idea for extra storage. You don’t have to get matching luggage, just go on down to Payne City or the Big Peach or your local antique mall and roam the aisles until you find a marked down, vintage piece of luggage in graduating sizes. Stick with those browns and they’ll all go together just fine. Oh, and make sure there is no interior smell. What can I say? This is one of the most useful decorating books I’ve ever read. Go on down to the library and check it out. –Flourish

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Everyone Worth Knowing

Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger (audio)

I hope Lauren continues to write chick lit. Her characters are thoroughly enjoyable and her writing is excellent. I really enjoyed this book a lot. Our main character is so well developed that you can’t help but feel like you’ve gotten to know her and she’s become your good friend. She’s without a job since walking out of her loathsome banking stint but ends up in the antithesis of party planning in New York City. It’s neat to see an average gal like you or me end up in some fancy smancy high end career and see what she makes of it. She doesn’t cotton to a lot of the nonsense that goes on around there. She’s got a cute little dog, a faux boyfriend, a gay writer uncle, and a romance book club (think Harlequin here). Better even than her first book, The Devil wears Prada. -Flourish

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Long Way Down

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Four very different people. One roof on a New Year’s Eve night in London. I’m sure you get the picture. Each chapter is told from a the point of view of one of the characters: a early twenties young American whose life feels over because of his band breakup; a fifty year old single mother of a severely disabled son; a teenaged terror dealing with her missing sister; a fallen from grace TV personality. All of these people feel hopeless and ready to chuck it all up and over the rooftop. This is the first of Nick’s books I’ve read although I have enjoyed the movie versions of About a Boy and High Fidelity. He does an excellent job of capturing the voices of these four very different personalities but in so doing caused me to find a couple of the characters a touch irritating. It was a bit like reading a diary so vivid that you nearly feel like you are there. Nick is of my generation and his writing somehow captures the essence and feeling of the time. I may look up his other books too because I suspect that I’d like them even better. -Flourish

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Shopaholic & Sister

Shopaholic & Sister by Sophie Kinsella (audio)

This main character is crazy. I’ve never seen anyone shop without abandon. She meets her long lost sister who turns out *gasp* not to like shopping. The sister is actually a pretty granola groovy gal actually, who does in fact have her own hang-ups. The two are at odds throughout the book but somehow learn a bit from each other through the course of shopping, activist meetings, and one harrowing afternoon in a mountainside storm. I haven’t read any of Sophie’s other Shopaholic books although a guest reviewer discussed the first one, Confessions of a Shopaholic. I really enjoyed The Undomestic Goddess so I thought I’d give this one a whirl. I’m kinda glad I did. I just love listening to those British accents. Lighthearted and lofty, not to be taken seriously, but total hilarity and escapism. If you go into reading this book knowing these things and with the right attitude you will thoroughly enjoy it. -Flourish

Friday, February 10, 2006

Washingtonienne

The Washingtonienne by Jessica Cutler

Narcissistically overwhelming and certainly no Sammy’s Hill. There are hardly words enough to describe this book tragedy except to say that it is based in actual fact on the experiences of the young author and her sexual and illegal drug exploits in the D.C. area. Turns out that she blogged about all these misadventures and used initials to mildly veil her conquests. I couldn’t figure out if it was just sad memoir or a how to guide for all the gold diggers out there. But the flap sums it up best: “Jessica remains unemployed in Washington, D.C.” This is code that she continues to have sex with older, married men for money, drinks until she passes out or vomits, and pops pills as soon as the sun goes down. I normally wouldn’t waste my time reading a book with a woman’s bra encased bosom on the cover but my library copy came with a large band that obscured the image. Bad writing, horrid story, please don’t waste your time with this one. -Flourish

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lipstick Jungle

Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell

Another great hit by the author who started the power girl trend with Sex and the City. This book is a fabulous adventure story of three fortysomething working women who rise to power in Manhattan. We see them through over a year’s worth of conflict at home and work but make no mistake about it dear reader, these women are in charge of their lives. They hold powerful jobs that command respect and attention. Because of their status their workload is tremendous, often causing their home lives to suffer. Yet they deal with it. They’ve got the desire to work and succeed and create more than they do to just relax on the weekends. It was quite a different and enjoyable look at the female power elite of the Big Apple. For a change of pace from the ordinary, highly recommended. -Flourish

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Month-by-Month Gardening in Georgia

Month-by-Month Gardening in Georgia by Walter Reeves and Erica Glasser

Believe it or not spring is in the air! A couple of years ago I found myself with a brand new mortgage and a sea of green that needed to be delt with. I had never tended a garden of my own in my whole life, nor had I ever mown my own lawn. This was a whole new experience for me and I was determined to keep that swath of green outside my front door instead of letting it turn to brown. So I went on a hunt down for some sort of book that would help me. It turns out that there truly is a book for just about every type of garden out there. In my case, I settled on this fantastic basic book about gardening in Georgia. Whats so great about this particular book? Well, much as the title implies, it actually tells you on a month by month basis what you're supposed to be doing in the garden or yard as the case may be, a true help for the first time gardener. If you're trying to garden in Georgia, I highly recommend this book. -Flourish

Friday, February 03, 2006

Southern Living

Southern Living by Ad Hudler (audio)

Did I just enter the Twilight Zone? I had no idea that this story was about Macon, Georgia. It sure was interesting to match up the renamed people and places with their real live counterparts (i.e. Truman Highway was obviously Eisenhower Parkway). The story is told through the eyes of several different Selbyites (Maconites) including the upper crust, well to do Northern Selby housewife, the white trash Kroger worker, and a recently transplanted Yankee straight out of the great white North. Just incase you nice folks haven’t figured it out by now I fit into the latter category which is what made reading this book a bit of a train wreck. After five and a half years of living in this pitiful, tiny, cultureless, southern town, I feel like I’m losing my edge. This book is true ya’ll* (there, you see what I mean!). This is the town that time forgot, complete with old southern ways fancily dressed up as traditions that mask the racism that exists here in the heartland.

Now don’t go thinking that it’s just the white people being raciest by keeping their children out of public school and driving their children daily to the Private (insert church affiliation here) Acadamy. Just try opening the phone book some time to the schools section in the yellow pages! If your kid is still in the womb you better get his name on the waiting list if you don’t want him to go to school with the Africans*. It’s also the black people who consistently separate themselves from the white community. They continue to accept low paying jobs that harkens back to slave days. Living off the government has become a way of life and I have seen more government subsidized housing here than any place I’ve ever lived. They continue to perpetuate this squalor existence rather than seize the opportunity to better themselves with free education, including FREE college paid for by the Hope Scholarship via lottery dollars. Babies are constantly born to these folks and AIDS is epidemic here in the black community.

What is a Yankee transplant to do? It’s tough to make friends here if you don’t a) go to church or b) have children. I’ve got nothing in common with most of the people who are from here but Thank God* there are others like me that I can band together with, or at least bitch about the people around us. What to tell you? If you're from middle Georgia, you'll probably like it. Amen*. -Flourish

*sarcasm

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Kindness of Strangers

The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle

You’ve gotta admire Katrina for taking a risk. Not every author is willing to fictionalize such difficult subject matter as child sexual abuse. She seems to have invested a good amount of time researching her subject matter and indeed there is a long list of knowledgeable folks in the acknowledgement section at the end of the book. The story is told in chapters rotating in point of view from each of the main characters, a mother, her two sons, and a family friend of her youngest son. A child abuse scandal is exposed in a community where such things are unimaginable and the characters are forced to deal with the ramifications. Emotions run the gambit from disbelief to acknowledging the possibility of such horrific things of their friends and finally to accepting the reality of the situation all the while living their daily lives. They thought they had it bad before by having to deal with the recent death of their husband and father but that was only a precursor to the horribleness of the boy who was forced into sex with his father and other random strangers at sex parties.

We experience the deep pain and trauma of this boy and come to better understand the tricks of the mind needed to cope with such atrocities. But it is a bitter pill to swallow and throughout the course of reading this book I had to lay it aside three different times and pick up something lighter to wash away the layer of scum that lay upon my heart from reading the words. This is not a feel good book although by the end I did come to love and root for the characters.

Katrina chose to include the love stories of the characters at the same time this crazy stuff was going on. The shift from reading about the child sexual abuse to reading about the perfectly normal longings and feelings of consenting adults was too jarring and frankly creepy. It’s difficult to switch from disgust and indignation to lust and longing. Yet I understand why she wrote it this way. It is a way to show that we do not live in a vacuum and we are diverse, flexible creatures dealing with the horror while at the same time feeling an attraction for someone new in our life. These things can happen at the same time or at least with in a short amount of time with each other. For example, Katrina shows how difficult it is to come to grips with both as the disgusting abuse photos invade the mind of the teenage son as he struggles to make love for the first time with his girlfriend. Overall, well written but highly disturbing. -Flourish