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Showing posts from December, 2013

Book a Week with Jen Three: The Wrap Up

Last night, as I finished up reading Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman , I started thinking about what I'd say in the review. Then I remembered - oh right - I'm already done the series. That's how this installment of Book a Week with Jen has gone. It wasn't exactly an afterthought, but it wasn't an undercurrent of the year. When I first took on this challenge in 2007, I threw myself into the project. I was at a very dark spot in my life, and forcing myself to read a book a week, I wrote about those books and my life, and it helped me heal. This year wasn't awful, but it started off rotten. I ended a long term relationship, briefly moved back in with my mother, then lived in a scarcely furnished house (the house I had bought in 2007 then turned into a rental because that relationship was supposed to be "it") while I put my life back together. I had an off year work wise at the exact time my expenses rose because I was living alone again. I nearl

Book 52 of 52: Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt

What a heart wrenching story.  Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt is about the aftermath of his daughter Amy dying suddenly of a rare heart condition while running on her treadmill. Two of her three small children saw it happen. After her death, Rosenblatt and his wife move into Amy's home and help her husband cope with the loss and with the children. The story is told in short vignettes, which mirrors what grief does to your system. Everything is scrambled, and flashes of the past, when that person is alive and whole, mix with the profound feeling of loss that they're never coming back. Mix in that this is a story of a father who buried his daughter, and how the children try to cope, and you have an incredibly sad yet beautiful book about love, loss and family. Rosenblatt doesn't make the book entirely about darkness, and I think that's why it works. The children are still children and do funny things. His daughter seems to have been a remarkable person, and he lets

Book 51 of 52: Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson

I started  Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson before I flew from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. It was supossed to be my in-flight reading. But I ended the flight by playing word games on my phone while glancing at my fellow passenger's in-seat TV, which was showing the end of the Eagles game. And I don't like football. It's not that it's a bad book, but it's a sprawling, messy one - and not in a good way. There's too many narrators, which make for too many story lines. The book starts in the middle of what happened to these characters, which can make for good tension in a book as what really happened unfolds, but that tension was buried under too many plots moving in too many directions. I kept seeing it as a movie. It would make a good one if someone clarified the story, and made those plot lines more clear while trimming back some of the ones that go nowhere. I almost DNFed the book, but I brought it with me to California, and was more

Book 50 of 52: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

This is the second time I've read Pat Conroy's  The Prince of Tides , but I can't remember exactly when was the first. The novel was published in 1986 when I was six, and the movie came out in 1991 when I was eleven. I'm guessing I read it sometime when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. It's a heavy novel, and not just for a tween. WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD (which seems somewhat silly for a 27 year old book, but still). The story takes places in two times, the bulk of which is the childhood of Luke, Tom and Lila Wingo. Tom narrates that story from the present, which of course was the 1980s, by telling it to his sister's psychologist after his sister has once again tried to take her life. Their childhood was a disaster, and they lived at the mercy of their father, who beat them and their mother, and that mother, who felt she sold herself short by marrying a shrimper. There's also sexual assault and a very graphic rape. I found myself slowing down

Book 49 of 52: Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is not a novel with a traditional narrative. Yes, there is a narrator - Bee, an 8th grader whose mother has vanished - but she's only a small part. The rest of the book is made up of letters, emails, faxes and even some IM chats, all winding back to who is this Bernadette, why she had become a kind of hermit, and why did she suddenly disappear, as curated by a teenager. It's an okay read. I feel very three out of five stars about it. Enjoyable, but not earth shattering and very Seattle (that's why they lived after some mysterious event, and Bernadette's husband works at Microsoft). It'd make a good beach read, less so a "sink on the couch and read because it's cold out" read. I was more intrigued about where the book came from. I bought it on Half.com, and knew it was a used library book. It's even stamped as a "Readers Choice," which makes me wonder why it was culled from the library s

Q&A: Fred Minnick, author of Whiskey Women

Good news, whiskey lovers! Book 26 of 52: Whiskey Women is now out, as is my review in American Way magazine. Promotion has been a whirlwind for author Fred Minnick, who took time out of his busy schedule, which also includes preparing for the birth of his son, to answer a few questions. Ever wonder what it's like to do a book signing at Costco? Read on. JAM: According to the wordsmith Beyonce, girls run the world. Tell us how that's true in whiskey today. FM: Today, women are the CEOs, CFOs, marketers, blenders, distillers and owners of many whiskey brands. They are running every aspect of the whiskey industry. And the funny thing is, they’ve always been in the thick of the whiskey business. JAM: So women have been in charge for some time... FM: Women have always been a part of whiskey. Even before whiskey was coined as such, Sumerian women invented beer and Mesopotamian women invented distillation. When we get into the brands we see on shelves today, women once ow

Book 48 of 52: Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts

I almost didn't read this one. Nora Roberts been disappointing me lately. She's published three series recently. The first was the Bride Quartet ; the second the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy . I've read a lot of what makes good romance, and conflict is key. There always needs to be some kind of conflict that is pushed the hero and heroine apart, and the plot turns as they overcome those challenges. For those two series, the conflict was...just not really there. For Brides, it was "OMG! We run a wedding industry but we are so resistant to love!" For the Inn BoonsBoro Triology, it was "we're building an inn! AND THERE'S A GHOST." Yes, that oversimplifying both series, but they weren't that great. It felt like Roberts was off her game, and that she was writing copies of books she'd done before, just with a lot more brand names mentioned over and over again, and hooking them into series because that made financial sense. So I'm glad to