Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Review: You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl

Sigh. Yes, I read a book titled You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl. Not only did I read it, but I picked it for book club! Just to clarify, I submitted a long list of what I thought were excellent choices, and I stuck this one at the end of the list. The other books were all intense (Room, for example), and I thought this one might bring some levity. So all the other books were rejected ("too depressing"), and this one made the cut.

I loved Celia Rivenbark's Stop Dressing Your Six Your Old Like a Skank and We're Just Like You Only Prettier. I laughed and laughed and laughed! But this book? This one was actually horrible. I apologized profusely to my book club for having it on my list. There was absolutely nothing funny about it. It was embarrassing, actually.

The problem? Rivenbark tries much, much too hard in this "humor" book, to be funny. In her other books, I thought I would like her as a person. In this book, I knew for sure I would run the other way. She is waaaayy too snarky. She swears way too much. She sounds like a 10-year-old just finding out that some words are "naughty." It's embarrassing. I mean, I was embarrassed for her as an author. I just wanted to call her and say, "Please stop."

I think only one person besides me finished the book for book club. A few people read some and called it quits. As one member said midway through, "When is this going to get funny?" It doesn't.

And so that is all the time I am devoting to Rivenbark. I'm not even going to take the time to put a picture of the book in my post. I will probably never read another one of her books. The end.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Review: More Like Her

I absolutely loved Liza Palmer's Conversations with a Fat Girl, so I was excited to get a chance to review More Like Her. First off, I have to say that the blurb on the back of the book threw me off. It didn't really reflect the essence of the novel, making it sound more about "what goes on behind white picket fences" and less about the main character, Franny.

The novel really is about Frances and her journey to self-discovery. The character Emma, who is murdered by her crazy husband, is lightly drawn, as are Franny's two friends, Lisa and Jill. And that's absolutely fine, because Frances is a fantastic character. As I recall from her Conversations, Palmer has an uncanny ability to capture the thoughts and insecurities we probably all have at times. How do I measure up? Why can't I be more like so-and-so? Am I flawed and abnormal? Why is this all so easy for everyone else?

Franny has spent a lifetime putting up walls, and as events unfold, she understands that she has to start allowing her real self to be shown. But as she says, "Freedom, with all its possibilities, just feels cold and lonely. I want to go back to my tower. I need those walls. I need the protection."

You know how it is when you discover something about yourself that is obvious to others but not to you. You kind of want to shove it back down, but you know you need to look it in the face. So often our self-perception is just warped, sometimes we just have quirks that need tweaked. This novel is really about self-revelation—and choices. Knowing what to keep and what to discard, what to refine and what to tear down.

Liza Palmer is chick lit without the fluff and feathers. She knows real people. Her characters are people we know—are us— and they talk like real people, too. If you haven't read her, check her out!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: The Distant Hours

Kate Morton is waaaaay up there on my list of favorite contemporary authors. I loved The House at Riverton, and I think I love The Distant Hours even more.

The novel begins with a lost bag of mail and a letter delivered to Edie's mother 40 years too late. Edie is fascinated to learn that her stodgy mother once lived in a castle with a famous author and his three daughters. From here the novel journeys to Milderhurst Castle, past and present, and into the lives of the three spinster sisters: Juniper, Percy, and Saffy. Edie and her mother are also wrapped up in the story, as are a cast of other characters who skirt on the edges of their lives.

The Distant Hours is a gothic novel full of mystery, suspense, romance, and hauntings. It isn't a ghost story, but it feels like one in a heart-palpitating, edge-of-your-seat kind of way. Morton is a superb writer and mesmerizing storyteller. Her prose is lyrical and her characters so well-drawn that I can still see them clearly, weeks after finishing the book. This is one of those books that I thought about during the day and couldn't wait to get to in the evenings. I read the last part slowly, reluctant to come to the end and leave the fascinating Blythe sisters.

Morton manages to let the castle keep some secrets and yet tie up the stories in a satisfying way, and I love that. Although the story is terribly sad in many ways, she manages to wrap it all up in an optimistic fashion. She does a masterful job balancing the haunting quality of the book with the practicality of modern day Edie, who is a young woman scorned in love.

I highly recommend this novel! Fortunately, I still have one more Morton novel, The Forgotten Garden, to enjoy.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Review: Baby Lit Series

Reviewing baby board books is not something I would normally do, since my youngest is 11. But when Gibbs Smith, publisher, offered review copies of Jane Eyre: A Counting Primer and Alice in Wonderland: A Colors Primer, I absolutely could not resist.

Both are by Jennifer Adams with art by Alison Oliver, and I am madly in love with them. I only wish the publishers had also sent me Pride and Prejudice: A Counting Primer and Romeo and Juliet: A County Primer as well. I mean, these books are just cool. Everything about them is right, from the feel of the thick pages to the colors to, of course, the text and artwork.

Jane Eyre, being a bit of a spooky novel at times, is a bit of a spooky baby book. Little might have no clue what's going on, but I can imagine my kids having the line on the 3 Candles page stuck in their heads throughout childhood: "It is always dangerous to have a candle lit at night." Imagine them having been read this dozens of times in their childhood and then, at age 14, actually encountering this scene in Jane Eyre! Fantastic!

As much as I love the novel Jane Eyre, I have to admit I am more smitten by the Alice in Wonderland board book. The art is fabulous. If I had a baby, I'd probably buy a second copy of the book just to frame all the pages. I mean, seriously. Look at the Cheshire cat and the caterpillar:


I am so happy that I have a brand new baby nephew to share these books with. These books are reviewed as "a must for every savvy parent's nursery library," and I must say that my brother and his wife are bound to be savvy parents. They need these.

Quick. Go buy these for every new baby in your life!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Kiss River

I think I have come to the end of my Diane Chamberlain reading spree. I can only take so much guilty pleasure before I just start feeling like I'm blushing way too much.

Kiss River. I'll say what I said in my last Chamberlain book review: "It's a good, satisfying tale of improbable events." This one was kind of crazy, with all kinds of things going on from German U-boat attacks to an orphanage in India to a search-and-rescue gone awry. There's a whole lighthouse component that I never quite figured out, a psychological study of promiscuity, a bad tattooed-guy and three old guys who play poker every day, and a lot of seafood. My head is kind of spinning just thinking about it all.

Somehow, though, this one didn't resonate with me in the way the other Chamberlain books did. This is the one that made me say, "Enough." I'm on to meatier things now, like Celia Rivenbark's You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl.

Oh dear. I really need to get back to Books with Substance before I turn into a big ball of fluff.

(Should you read Kiss River? If you need a total escape from reality with all kinds of twists and turns and weird, disconnected events. Sure.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Sunday Salon: March in Review

Books Read in March (click for reviews)
  • Brooklyn (Colm Toibin)
  • The Lost Book of Mala R. (Rose MacDowell)
  • Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)--multiple re-read!
  • Kiss River (Diane Chamberlain)
  • The Distant Hours (Kate Morton)

Favorite Book of the Month
• The Distant Hours. Oh my goodness! This was so utterly fantastic. I just finished it last night, so the review will be forthcoming.

Books Read Aloud (with 11-year-old)
• Genghis Khan and the Mongol Horde (Harold Lamb)
• The Wheel on the School (Meindert DeJong)

Added to My Ever-Growing TBR List
• So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

Cool Book Tool
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Currently Reading
You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl by Celia Rivenbark