Those Darn Vampires….

Right now I am reading Brave New World with my seniors.  This is not a light read.  I need balance.  I need light reads mixed in with my heavy dystopic, oh no look what we have become, literature.  So sometimes, yes sometimes, I read fluff.   Right now I have discovered the Sookie Stackhouse novels and am plowing through this series at breakneck speed.   If you want a book that requires not a whole lot of thinking, but will definitely keep you entertained- I recommend Charlaine Harris.  She’s funny. Think Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, kind of funny.  Go on read them, you know you want to.

 

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Review: Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

imagesSummary:  (Taken from jodipicoult.com)  When Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe’s daughter, Willow, is born with severe osteogenesis imperfecta, they are devastated – she will suffer hundreds of broken bones as she grows, a lifetime of pain. As the family struggles to make ends meet to cover Willow’s medical expenses, Charlotte thinks she has found an answer. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn for not telling her in advance that her child would be born severely disabled, the monetary payouts might ensure a lifetime of care for Willow. But it means that Charlotte has to get up in a court of law and say in public that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she’d known about the disability in advance – words that her husband can’t abide, that Willow will hear, and that Charlotte cannot reconcile. And the ob/gyn she’s suing isn’t just her physician – it’s her best friend.

Review:  I have an issue with Jodi Picoult.  All her books are the same.  And yet I keep reading them.  And I confess, sort of liking them.  This book was no different.  It alternated voices every chapter, it included the lawyer’s story which I didn’t care about and it had the big melodramatic courtroom scene.  It also had the “unpredictable” ending which I saw coming from a mile away.  But somehow, damn you Jodi Picoult, I feel for the characters.  I loved little Willow, although I didn’t for one second believe she was only five years old.  I understood Charlotte’s sacrifice for her daughter and her husband’s unwillingness to go along with it.  And yes, I teared up in the end when we finally hear little Willow’s voice.  So even though her books are formulaic and predictable, I would have to say it is a formula which may appeal to the masses.

Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster

images-2Jen Lancaster is funny.  That is the only word I can use to describe her.  She is funny.  Laugh out loud, snort your drink out of your nose, kind of funny.  Bright Lights, Big Ass is a collection of essays (with a scattering of emails throughout) ranging from topics about the Holy Trinity (Target, Trader Joe’s and IKEA) to her all-out war with a little red squirrel whose main purpose it is to antagonize her dogs.  I LOVED this book and am going to check out both Pretty in Plaid and Bitter is the New Black and her newest book, Such a Pretty Fat.  She also has a website you might want to check out.

Book Giveaway

I am giving away a package of books here:

1. images-52Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophia Kinsella

2. Something Borrowed by 3133Emily Giffin

3. The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham (aka Sophia Kinsella)

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This contest will be open until April 15th. Here are the rules:

1. For one entry please leave a comment telling me why you like to read chick lit.

2. For an additional 2 entries, you can subscribe to my blog (using the feed on my homepage) and leave me a separate comment stating you have done so.

Good luck! I will announce the winner on the 16th.

Balancing and Why I read “Chick Lit”

Okay, so I have been on a “chick lit” kick lately. I feel the need to explain this. I read literature, I read the classics, in fact, I study the classics. Right now my students are reading Hamlet and The Great Gatsby. I re-read these every year and analyze every sentence, looking for something I may have missed, tracking themes, analyzing style, etc. So, if at night, when I get into bed and pick up a book to read and escape, I choose Confessions of a Shopaholic, I feel that it is okay. They’re fun and damnit, I like them. So with that said- I will now review two books I read this week of said genre.

images-52Confessions of A Shopaholic by Sophia Kinsella

Summary: Becky Bloomwood loves to shop. So much in fact, that she has wracked up a huge amount of debt and is being hounded by both her bank and her credit cards. She comes up with a plan- Cut Back. When plan CB doesn’t work out so well, she tries a new plan- MMM or Make More Money. However, she hasn’t quite figured out how to do this, all the while still spending money. The irony of whole situation is that Becky writes for a financial magazine, advising others on how to spend and save their money wisely. When Becky catches wind of shady banking deal, she has the chance to finally make more money and also expose Luke Brandon, they guy she can’t stop thinking about who bruised her ego when she thought they were on a dream date (shopping, of course) and it turned out they were buying gifts for his girlfriend. Will Becky ruin her chances with Luke in hopes of ending the nagging credit card collectors?

Review: Okay, I will admit, this book is absolutely mindless. And yet, I am already looking for the sequel on Bookmooch. Becky is an absolute idiot when it comes to financial matters, but there is something in her that I find likable (yes, I too have been known to spend money stupidly). She is rationalizes every purchase she makes in such a humorous way that I couldn’t help but saying, “Why yes, you did deserve that gray cashmere sweater.” Becky ignores the letters she receives from her collectors, stuffing them in drawers of throwing them into dumpsters when nobody is looking. In fact, we don’t read her reactions to these letters, instead in between chapters we get the response letters, which are quite humorous. Example:

Dear Ms Bloomwood:

Thank you for your letter of 2 March. I can assure you that our computers are reularly checked, and the the possibility of a “glitch,” as you put it, is remote. Nor have we been affected by the millenium bug. All accounts are interiely accurate. You may write to Anne Robinson at Watchdog if you wish, but I am sure she will agree that you have no grounds for complaint. Our records inform us that payment on your VISA account is now overdue.”

I look forward to more mindless adventures with my new friend, shopaholic.

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The Guy Not Taken by Jennifer Weiner

Summary: This is a collection of short stories, the first three of which all follow the same family of characters at different points in their life. Fans of Weiner, might recognize Bruce from Good in Bed in the story Good Men. While not all of the stories in this collection involve the same characters, they do all share the same theme of love and relationships. From the inside cover, “From a teenager coming to terms with her father’s disappearance to a widow accepting two young women into her home, Weiner’s eleven stories explore those transformative moments in our every day.”

Review: I am a fan of Jennifer Weiner and I think this may be favorite of hers. These stories were funny, they were sad and they were REAL.  My two favorites were “The Mother’s Hour” and “Dora on the Beach”.

In “The Mother’s Hour” we meet a Alice, a suburban stay-at-home mother whose life is not at all what she expected.  Sure she has the adorable two year old, the big house and the husband who makes a lot of money, but her two year old is a bratty, whiny terror and the big house just reinforces the fact that her husband is never home and her and her daughter are pretty much alone in this.  She joins a play group and meets Victoria, a nineteen year old mother who lives in the wrong neighborhood and has different colored streaks in her hair, depending on the day.  Through Victoria, Alice eventually learns what is important in the world and reexamines her own life.  In Weiner’s commentary in the back, she mentions that the story was turned down by a women’s magazine because they wanted her to change the ending.  She says, “I decide not to.  I think, given the circumstances, and the choices the characters made, it ends about the way it should.”  I second that!

“Dora on the Beach” is about a widow who is held hostage in her own apartment by two teenage girls.  I fell in love with Dora in this story,  a lonely woman who has more excitement in the three days she is held hostage than she ever has in her life.  This is a story about humans longing for contact with one another and the “redemptive possibilities of love.”

If you are considering reading anything by Jennifer Weiner, I suggest “The Guy Not Taken” as the one to read first.

Sloppy Firsts

images-4Yes, I have found myself sucked into another teen/high school series.  Something about this one though makes me feel as though it is intended for an older audience.  The narrator, Jessica (Notso, as her dad refers to her) Darling has a little bit of that intelligent mouthy sassiness that makes me hesitate to recommend this book to my students, but will (and have) recommended to my adult friends who enjoy young adult lit.  This book is the first in a series of four,  of which I am already halfway through the second one titled Second Helpings.

Summary:  The book begins as the start of Jessica’s sophomore year.  Her best friend has moved away, leaving Jessica to face life high school with “The Clueless Crew”, three vacant minded Barbie doll type girls of whom Jessica only partially pretends to like.  Jessica feels as though she doesn’t belong in Pineville and nobody understands her the way Hope (the friend who moved away) did.  With keen observations and dark cynicism, Jessica watches as those around her seem to float through life in a protective bubble of oblivion.  And then there’s the new girl, Hy.  She seems like she could be friend potential with her New York City ways and non-mainstream interests, but then she suddenly starts giving Jessica the cold shoulder.  The only other one who seems to be on her level is Marcus Flutie, a known “dreg” and part of the reason Hope moved way.

Review:  Megan McCafferty has clearly tapped into the minds of teenagers.  This book was hilarious and heartfelt at the same time.  Jessica is a critical observer of all those around her, but with the help of Marcus Flutie, she begins to observe her own behavior as well, and sees how she is just as quick to judge those she is criticizing.  Its not as mushy, after-school special-y as that last statement made it sound.  Quite the contrary, the narrator has a fresh voice, which is often shocking in its honesty.  For example, when she discovers that the boy she has been crushing on for the last two years has finally come out of the closet her reaction is, “I know.  Shame on me.  How Slim Shady.  I know I should be happy for Paul Parlipiano.  He’s not lying to himself anymore.  Yet I can’t help but be pissed.  Not because I don’t have a chance with him now; God knows I never had chance with him, even when he was ‘straight.’  No.  I’m pissed because I can’t fantasize about him anymore.  I’ve created this stellar little imaginary world around him and now he’s ruined it.  It’s one thing to get all torqued up over a guy who doesn’t know you exist.  It’s quite another to get all torqued up over a guy who doesn’t know you exist and likes to take it where the sun don’t shine.  One is fantasy.  The other is just plain masochistic….. I’m starting to think I don’t know a thing about anyone.  Or anything.  My entire notion of sex and love is totally, completely and irreversibly screwed.”

Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner

goodnightSo it is February vacation and since I am on vacation I decided to start it off right with a little chick lit.  For me, Jennifer Weiner is a respectable version of the “paperback novels with candy pink covers” (a line she uses in Goodnight Nobody). I found this book to be entertaining and yes, even surprising.

Kate Klein lives in the suburbs of Connecticut with her husband and three kids.  She feels out of place among all the other supermoms and their designer strollers and manicures and perfect hair.  She still dreams about the “guy who got away” and what her life was like before kids.  Her days are spent schlepping the kids around and picking up dry-cleaning and Kate sees no end to the monotony.  Until she discovers her neighbor dead on the kitchen floor.  Suddenly, Kate finds herself knee-deep in a murder investigation and her life is full of excitement.  No longer is she the invisible housewife, the nobody, now she is on the trail of a murderer nestled within the suburbs.

The ending of this book surprised me, the murderer was not who I expected it to be.  I also really liked the fact that we don’t know who Kate chooses, her husband or “the one who got away”.  It screams for a sequel, which I will gladly read.