Month: January 2013

Book 6 of 52: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

On this blog, I try to review books the day that I finish them. Here, I want to record that gut reaction. It’s what I think makes this blog different than, say, a review of a book that I’ll write for American Way magazine, or do an interview with the author.

But I waited 24 hours before even thinking to write about Andrew Sean Greer’s The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. I wanted to give myself some time to digest it. I even dreamt about it last night.

The book opens with Greta Wells in New York City in 1985. Her brother, Felix, has recently died of AIDS. His partner is dying, too. Her boyfriend of 10 years had an affair with another woman, then left. She is in such a steep depression with nothing else working that her doctor recommends electroconvulsive therapy – what used to be called electroshock therapy.

After she has her first treatment, she goes to bed and wakes up in her room in her apartment in New York City, but something is very different: the wallpaper, the furniture, herself. She has long red hair. She’s […]

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Book 5 of 52: The Lady Most Willing by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockway

I’ve never been shy about my penchant for romance novels. I’ve covered it many times on this blog before. After interviewing Eloisa James for two different articles, I got into her books, which surprised me since historical weren’t really my thing.

It took me a few years, but I finally worked through her entire catalogue. In December, she released The Lady Most Willingalong with Julia Quinn and Connie Brockway. As the title says, it’s a “novel in three parts,” and each writer took over the duties of writing a third of the book.

In the novel, Taran Ferguson, a Scottish laird, decides that his nephews have taken far too long to get married, so he kidnaps a few women from a local ball, tosses them into a carriage, and drives them up to his castle with the intention of trapping everyone inside during a snow storm and hoping the nephews would each pick a wife from the bunch.

This being a romance, of course that happens. Each author took one couple, and by the end of the book, there’s a group wedding and, we assume, everyone lives happily ever after.

My […]

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Book 4 of 52: The Introvert’s Way by Sophia Dembling

I first heard Susan Cain’s “The Power of Introverts” TED Talk while driving to Emmaus, Pa., for a meeting with my editors at Runner’s World magazine. I had geared myself up for what I considered an “appearance” – not just in putting on pants that did not have an elastic or tie waist band, but in having worlk discussions with people face to face, not over email.

I always enjoy these meetings, which usually involve running and lunch (so, yes, there is an elastic waist band involved though I do not show up in running clothes), but I always feel drained at the end, and I knew that I would expel a lot of energy in the next few hours.

The shortest route to the offices is a complex one, and I still rely my GPS to get there. I was so enthralled in Cain’s talk that I had to pull over. Someone, finally, had put words to why I prefer working at home, think the idea of co-working is insane, and why sometimes I just need to stay home on a Saturday night […]

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Book 3 of 52: Wildwood by Colin Meloy

When I found Wildwood by Colin Meloy staring at me from a shelf at Kramer Books in Washington, DC, I had two thoughts:

1. This has nothing to do with the Wildwood I write about.
2. The Decemberists guy?

Despite my aversion to Colin Meloy’s band – and especially his voice – I gave it a shot anyway. I read Strathmere’s Bride, another book that had nothing to do with a Jersey Shore town I cover. I should probably also read the best selling one about a different town.

Wildwood is about Prue McKeel a Portland kid (of course) whose baby brother Mac is stolen by a murder of crows. They take him into the Impassible Wilderness, where people shouldn’t be able to go. But Prue can’t let birds take her brother away, especially when she was watching him at the time of the kidnapping, so rides her bike with a Radio Flyer wagon still attached into the woods, followed by a classmate, Curtis, who tags along despite her telling him to stay home.

It has all the elements of recent popular YA serials: an epic adventure, an alternative world […]

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Book 2 of 52: Truth in Advertising by John Kenny

Truth in Advertising by John Kenney is about Finn Dolan, a copywriter for a big New York City ad agency. He fell into his job and stayed there for eight years. He’s obviously in love with a younger woman at the firm. His respect for his industry is just about nill, right at the time when he’s expected to put together a Superbowl ad for a diaper client in just a few weeks while his father is dying in a Mass. hospital.

The book starts out as a send up of advertising:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your great teeming masses of middle-managers who are unable to move the process forward or make a decision! These Carlos and Maries and Trents and Tracys and Carls! Give me your resentful and angry, your worried and deeply frightened, your petrified of the next round of layoffs and of those insufferable human resources women with their easy detachment and heartless smiles. You’re eligible for Cobra and the family plan is just $1800 a month. The afterlife for HR people is a Clockwork Orange-like reel of everyone they’ve ever […]

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Book 1 of 52: Clear Cut: One Woman’s Journey of Life in the Body by Ginny Jordan

I had a hell of a medical year in 2012. I spent many hours in doctor’s offices and labs, having one test, another, a repeat of the same. I had nine vials of blood taken from me at one time and, when that wasn’t enough, another three. I’ve had to face the possibility of very bad news too many times to count. Fortunately, it seems that I can put the worst of those fears aside. Maybe. More tests must be done.

So I came to Ginny Jordan’s Clear Cut: One Woman’s Journey of Life in the Body
 I already feeling like my body had betrayed me. Hers has too. Jordan has undergone two mastectomies – 17 years apart – surgery for Meniere’s Disease, and had her ovaries removed. I felt ashamed of myself for self-pity on my year of horrible testing compared to what she’s lived through. Despite the aching pain throughout, it’s a beautiful memoir. I don’t usually go for these types of books, but she choose her words very carefully, poetically, and the lyricism in her prose is enchanting instead of overwrought, even about such difficult topics.

In a passage about […]

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For the New Year: Romance novel workout

I’m well into my first book of the series and should have a review soon. Until then, the ever wonderful and witty Sarah Wendell over at Smart Bitches Trashy Books has put something together for those of you who are adding fitness to your New Year’s Resolutions: the Romance Novel Reader Workout.

She posted Part I today, and it is very clever: you do strength training exercises, like planks and squats and push ups, every time something happens in the chapter. For example, whenever “A tingle or spark goes up the arm of one or both characters if they touch,” do 10 jumping jacks (and I would like to point out that I accidentally typed “humping jacks” first there. So you know where my mind went while reading her post). At the end of the chapter, you re-do whatever exercises you did while reading.

I’ll also add that reading a romance novel while on the elliptical or stationary bike is a great way to stay on the machine longer, though I don’t recommend doing that while running. It’s too jarring, at least for me.

Sarah’s first book was part of the second series of “Book a Week with Jen.” Since […]

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