Monday, July 31, 2006

Book Review: The Betrayal of Work

The Betrayal of Work by Beth Shulman

A great book with numerous statistics on the 30+ million people who are living on minimum wage. Shulman states, "It is a story about workers who are the embodiment of the work ethic. It is about workers who perform tasks essential to Americans' lives, yet seem hidden from their view. It is about workers who pay their taxes and do their jobs with great dedication and care, yet get little in return. They are workers on the margin. They are America's invisible working poor."

This book reminded me a lot of Barbara Ehrenrich's Nickel and Dimed where Ehrenrich attempts to live on minimum wage. I appreciated Shulman's work more since Ehrenrich admitted that she "cheated" when times were tough. Shulman didn't attempt to live on minimum wage but she does present several stories from those invisible Americans who are.
I watch Oprah every now and then if her show looks good. Friday's topic was "Paying the Price: Inside the Lives of People Living on Minimum Wage" and Oprah interviewed Shulman and Morgan Spurlock who is best known for his documentary Super Size Me. Spurlock has a show on F/X called 30 Days where he challenges others to experience life outside their comfort zones for one month. In one experiment, Morgan and his fiancée, Alex, left their home in New York and tried to survive for one month in Columbus, Ohio, living on minimum wage.
Shulman discusses many misconceptions about the working poor such as low-wage workers are "lazy." While Morgan and Alex were living on minimum wage for 30 Days, they experienced just the opposite. "I worked harder bussing tables than at any desk job I ever had," Alex says.

A great part of Shulman's book is that she discusses ways we can alter our society to help our working poor such as making sure they have access to health insurance which is a huge expense if they lack it. Another is to work on raising the minimum wage from the federal rate of $5.15 an hour which many states like Washington and California have done.

Overall a great book and a great show to pair the book with.

Kim's Grade: B+

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Book Review: For The Roses

I read For The Roses years ago, but the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie "Rose Hill" that is loosely, loosely based on the book aired this week and I decided I wanted to read it again. I have very fond memories of the book and remembered enjoying it very much.

The book takes place around 1880, but it starts twenty years earlier when four young boys living on the streets of New York band together and form a little gang of sorts. One night they find a basket in an alleyway that has a baby girl in it. The boys decided to raise the baby and move west to Montana where they form a family and take up ranching. Turns out the baby they found had been kidnapped from a wealthy British family when they were in America on business. The father never stopped looking for his daughter and an employee of his followed leads out to Montana to see if the heroine, Mary Rose, could possibly be the kidnapped baby.

It's a unique plot and a very sweet story about family, whether related by blood or not. The love story is also enjoyable because there isn't a lot of drama and theatrics that often plague romance novels and annoy the reader because the characters are so stupid and keep secrets from each other.

Julie Garwood is a wonderful historical romance novelist (and an awful comtemporary novelist) and she wrote four sequels to For The Roses, one for each of the brothers: One Pink Rose, One White Rose, One Red Rose, and Come The Spring.

Lindsey's Grade: A

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Book Review: Winner of the National Book Award

I'm not really sure how to review this book. I thought it was cleverly written. I cared about the characters. But I strongly disliked the book.

On the front of the book someone said this was the funniest book they had ever read. That person needs therapy. This book was not funny. Sure, it had its satirical and sarcastic moments, but overall it was incredibly depressing. But then again, this book was also described as "original."

Um, this book was about two sisters who are completely different from each other. One's a slut, one's completely celibate. Yeah, that's totally original. Obviously that person has never read Cammie McGovern's "The Art of Seeing" or Jennifer Weiner's "In Her Shoes" or any of the other 1,230,493 books out there that deal with this subject. Soooo original. The story revolved around the slutty sister's marriage to a man who was pure evil. Now, Slutty McSlutterton had her own deep issues, but there was nothing redeeming or the least bit slightly humorous about this guy. A total, total jerk. Psuedo-Nun sister had him pegged from day one but eventually came to like him in some strange way. I hated that.

The characterizations in this book were great. There was no neat category that Slutty would fit into, and Pseudo-Nun was annoying enough that she was believable. But it felt so incredibly pretentious and condescending that I have to wonder who the author was writing to! Definitely not the average American. I'm a fairly intelligent person but I felt like I wasn't smart enough to appreciate what this book was trying to do. So basically I'm confused about how to feel after reading this book. It was okay, but it was unenjoyable. A paradox.

Lindsey's Grade: C

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Book Review: Scandal In Spring

I love Lisa Kleypas. She's a fantastic writer and I always enjoy her books. If I had to name her best skill it would have to be that she is masterful at writing heros that are pretty much the embodiment of feminine fantasy. Tall, dark, handsome, strong... you get the point.

She does it again in "Scandal In Spring," the last installment in her Wallflowers series. That series has been very good and a personal favorite of mine. The hero, Matthew Swift, is a typical Kleypas hero, the kind of man any woman would want. And the heroine, Daisy, is equally as pleasant.

The book flowed well and the interactions between the characters was enjoyable to read, but there wasn't much of a zing to the story. The end, which in romance novels is always where some mystery/secret/criminal plot climaxes, felt a little sloppily put together and rushed. It just didn't seem to be a worthy end to what was a pleasant story. I would recommend the book, though, but only after the other three Wallflower books were read, because the rest of them were better in my opinion.

Lindsey's Grade: B

Book Review: Never A Lady

The main problem I had with this book was that the author seemed to assume that everyone who would read this book must have read the prequel, "Not Quite A Gentleman." I had read it, but I didn't remember all the detail, which the author made vague references to a lot in this book.

Other than that, this book was okay. I started off pretty slow and kind of boring, and there really wasn't much of a plot to push the book along. The writing was good, though. You know, I say that a lot about romance novels, and some people might not believe me that a book can have good writing and a horrible plot, but it's true. Case in point, I just started reading Catherine Coulter's "Riptide" and I honestly can't finish it because the writing is so BAD. But I digress.

To make a long story short, the hero and heroine in this book live in Regency London. He's a viscount, she's a working class fortune teller. They are very attracted to each other. She thinks their class differences will never allow them to be together (although, this seemingly unsurmountable barrier just kinds of goes away at the end when he proposes and she accepts. Maybe she just thought she'd never get a proposal from him, I don't know). She overhears a murder plot. It possibly involves him.

It was pretty blah, however, the you-know-what scenes were pretty steamy. They weren't so bad that it was gross, and they weren't so run of the mill that you'd skip over them (which I often do). But as I've mentioned before, that's hardly enough to build a book on.

Lindsey's Grade: B-

Book Suggestions!

The Times Online came out with the 100 Best Summer Reads in both Nonfiction and fiction. They are worth checking out if you are still searching for that one book that will satisfy your entire summer hunger! I'm still searching for mine but I've come across some good ones so far!!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Update: The Historian

I was on the road a good twenty hours the last couple of days and managed to finish listening to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Lindsey reviewed this book not too long ago and really enjoyed it so I looked forward to it as well. Book Sense named it the book of the year for 2005 and I now understand why. It is a story about searching for Dracula across three generations and told from numerous perspectives. It is rich with history and is very engrossing. The ending is well worth it.

The only problem I had was that there was a different reader for each character and it was difficult not to laugh at some of the horrible accents. However, having several readers gave the story an old-time radio feel to it. The book was about ten hours to listen to versus 650 pages of reading so I feel that by listening to it I was able to get through it much faster than if I was to read it.

Kim's Grade: A A great summer read! If you like Da Vinci Code style books then you'll LOVE this one. Its much classier!

Temporary's Grade: B+

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Book Review: Birth of Venus

Barnes and Noble says that people who bought Sarah Dunant's book also bought Tracy Chevalier's "The Lady and the Unicorn." I find that kind of funny because when I was reading this book I kept being reminded of "The Lady and the Unicorn." They are both set back in old times (Dunant's book was in late 1400's) and revolve around a world of art. And they are both very, very good books.

At first I wasn't crazy about the heroine in this book because, even though she was supposed to be a strong and independant woman, I found it kind of annoying because historical novels are always about strong, independant women who break the mold of their times and refuse to conform to societies roles for women. A nice theory, but definitely cliche in books. However, Dunant redeemed herself in Alessandra in that she wonderfully captured her process of maturing as her life became more and more... difficult, I guess you could say.

But what I really loved about this book was that it wasn't just a story about a girl, but rather a story about a city. Florence was as much a character as anyone else in the book, and while I don't know a whole lot about Florentine history, the period that Dunant wrote about was absolutely facinating. Her religious theme was also beautifully constructed and perfectly executed. I wasn't happy at the end of the book, but I was very satisfied with the way it was written.

Lindsey's Grade: A

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Book Review: Affluenza

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic by John de Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor

My friend Jamie recommended this so I picked it up while at the library. I watched the PBS series of the same name and after both the book and series I would only recommend one of the two. It doesn't matter which one but the two together is just a repeat of the same information. I was hoping that the book would be an extension of the series and present new information.

So, the book is about how our American society has approached a consumption epidemic and teaches us ways to rid ourselves of it. It is full of interesting and sometimes shocking statistics on American credit card debt, household waste and spending. The book is divided into three sections: symptoms, causes, and treatment and helps the reader evaluate if they have "affluenza." I appreciated the treatment section a great deal because it provides resources and ideas on how to live with less and still be happy. It was a great book to read last week since I also watched Oprah's debt diet all week long and also learned many tips on where to cut spending and cut debt. Its easy to cut back and if you care about our environment, your financial future and American economic stability then this book is the way to go.

So far Jamie is 1 for 1 on her recommendations and her next one is The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. We'll see how that one goes soon...

Kim's Grade: A Fast, fun, light and informative.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Book Review - Men of Salt

Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold by Michael Benanav

The cover caught my eye in the library and was the reason behind why I read this. Benanav had read that trucks were going to replace the camel caravans that transport huge salt slabs across the Sahara and decided he wanted to travel on one before the caravans became extinct. His journey is through the brutal Tanezrouft region of the Sahara; an area four times the size of England and one known as "The Land of Thirst" and "The Land of Terror." Benanav describes the many traditions and lifestyle of the azalai (camel herders) and details the difficulties of salt mining. With a geography of nothing but sand dunes it is impressive that the azalai can remember where each well is located and where to find diverging paths.

This is a great, relaxing adventure about a lifestyle that has survived the last 1,000 years and Benanav describes everything extremely well. One of the aspects I appreciated most was that he is NOT an academic, mearly someone who read about the salt caravans and wanted to travel on one, and very much a simple man.

Kim's Grade: B+ Short, sweet, and adventurous.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Book Review: Angels Fall

I'm always excited for Nora Roberts books to come out, and I bought this one the day after it was released. And while I do like her books a lot, she really is not a very versatile writer.

To begin with, her characters are almost essentially the same person from book to book, just with different names, occupations, and hometowns. Both the hero and the heroine are always smart and witty, and the women are so strong and independant that they don't want to accept any help from anyone. But of course the men always want to be the protector and get pissed when the women don't turn to them. To be honest, I get pissed, too. What's the point of being in a relationship with a person if you can't go to them when you have a problem?

And her writing never changes either. I really think that if you were to hand me a nameless, authorless book, I would be able to tell if it was a Nora Roberts book. The dialogue is the same in every book and I often wonder if that is the way Roberts and her friends talk to each other. I don't talk like that. It's hard to describe the style, but if you read enough of her books you'd notice it, too.

Anyway, on to the book review. Although the writing and the hero were stock Roberts, the heroine's character was actually a refreshing change. Instead of being so perfect that you'd hate her in real life if you were to meet her, Reece was neurotic, obsessive-compulsive, and extremely paranoid. To me that made her real, but at the same time I had a hard time accepting that a man who seems to have absolutely everything going for him and is probably a woman-magnet would really want to get involved with such a wack-job. It stretched the imagination somewhat, but romance novels are written by women for women so of course the men are sweet yet strong and all that.

As for the story, the heroine, Reece, moves to a small town in Wyoming and she's not there long before she witnesses a murder. Problem is, there's no evidence of the crime, no one goes missing who could be the victim, and her history of mental instability causes almost everyone in the town to think she made it up. Except the hero, Brody, of course. He's perfect and supportive at all time (a.k.a., a fictional male). Not the best plot Roberts has created, but not bad either. I thought I knew who the killer was about halfway through the room, but I was wrong. However, the instant she offered a teeny clue as to who the killer was, I knew. You read enough mysteries you start to hone in on little details the author mentions that are completely irrelevant unless they're going to pop up later on.

Lindsey's Grade: B

Book Review: Wicked Widow

This was the second Amanda Quick book I read in a week, probably my fifth or six total, but I've learned that once you read one Quick book, you've read them all.

She always does historical romances that involve some kind of mystery, and the characters are pretty stock. Since I don't have much else to say, I don't want to waste time reviewing this book.

Lindsey's Grade: B-

Book Review: The Woman at the Washington Zoo

The Woman at the Washington Zoo by Marjorie Williams

You know the book sections of magazines like People and Entertainment Weekly? That is where I heard about this book. At first I wasn't interested in reading it but I kept remembering their story, by which I mean that this book was organized by Marjorie's husband AFTER she died of liver cancer.

Marjorie was well known for writing wonderful political profiles of people in Washington D.C. and wrote for Vanity Fair, Slate, and the Washington Post. The first third of the book is a selection of these profiles and includes ones on Barbara Bush, Jeb Bush, Vernon Jordan, and "the marriage" of former President Clinton and Al Gore. These profiles were amazing, exciting, and informative.

The second section includes various essays on her thoughts and her family. It was her thoughts that surprised me the most. I didn't expect Williams to discuss anything on 90's feminism and yet it became a reoccuring theme. She, like I, was confused as to where feminism was heading. Why didn't leading feminists get angry during the Clinton-Lewinsky ordeal? Why did they continue to stand behind him?

The last section covers her life with cancer. It includs essays on her experiences with treatment, and coming to terms with the fact that she wouldn't be there for her two young children. She was an extremely strong woman, who appreciated every moment she had and lived with liver cancer for three years when she was told she wouldn't last six months.

Kim's Grade: A An excellent political read and a moving piece on struggling with cancer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Book Review: Memories of my Melancholy Whores

Memories of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This beautiful, perfectly-wrought novel tells the story of an old man who has never loved anyone, never had a true friend, and who has never made love to a woman that he hasn't paid. It is at once a novel about finding love at old age, after a long life ill-spent, and about coming to terms with the ghosts of one's past. I loved it in its awkwardness.

"After a lifetime spent in the arms of prostitutes (514 when he loses count at age 50), the unnamed journalist protagonist decides that his gift to himself on his 90th birthday will be a night with an adolescent virgin. But age, followed by the unexpected blossoming of love, disrupts his plans, and he finds himself wooing the allotted 14-year-old in silence for a year, sitting beside her as she sleeps and contemplating a life idly spent." Publishers Weekly

Kim's Grade: A

Monday, July 10, 2006

As I was reading this book, I couldn't help but think that the characters seemed awfully familiar. Turns out I had read the first book in this series of three (this one being the last). Obviously I didn't find it very memorable. And sadly, the same is true of "Late for the Wedding."

It was actually a pleasant little book to read. The writing is good but just kind of shallow. There was no real depth to the book, which is not uncommon in romance novels. And to be honest, sometimes I don't want to read a deep book, I just want something light and fluffy. This book definitely fits that bill.

Don't let the title fool you, though. "Late for the Wedding" doesn't describe a bride or groom hurrying to meet their true love at the alter. Instead it is in reference to a number of Society deaths that have all occuried in rather close together, all of which resulted in the termination or rearrangement of wedding plans. Thus the groom is "late" because he was thrown off the roof of a building. Amanda Quick always writes Regency mysteries, and in this book her investigator characters Tobias March and Lavinia Lake are on the case to find the people responsible for these killings-for-hire. Of course, they have a tendre for each other, as well.

All in all, an easy read that is a fun way to pass the time but utterly forgettable.

Lindsey's Grade: B

The "O" Face

I read another Harlequin Blaze this weekend, and no, I didn't buy this one at the grocery store although I easily could have. If you look closely at the cover of this book you'll notice the particular key that the woman is pointing to. Yep, it's an O. Yep, O as in orgasm.

This deep, insightful book was about a poor, poor woman who lost her ability to...well, you know. So she seeks out her first love to help her out since he's got a reputation of pleasing the ladies. Of course, they fall back in love and live happily ever after in the course of her sensual reawakening.

Books like this one just prove that romance novels - good romance novels anyway - are not all about sex. Because when an author writes a book that is centered around sex, it's not very satisfying (no pun intended). And the romance is a little unbelievable when they spend all their time in bed.

But this book wasn't all bad, because the writing was actually decent. And by writing I mean sentence structure and dialogue, because the plot was pretty lame.

Lindsey's Grade: C

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Book Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusack

This is a beautiful, haunting, humorous, horribly sad, amazing book. The story, narrated by death, is set in WWII, and follows a few years from the life of Leisel, a German girl who is taken in by foster parents in a poor section of Germany after her brother dies and her mother is taken away.
The book primarily follows the life of Leisel, her best friend Rudy, and several other children. Seeing such a horrible time in history through the eyes of children is what makes this book so haunting. Playing soccer on the street, stealing apples so they can eat that day, riding bikes around piles of burning books - it's children being children amidst such ruin... This book really got to me. About half way through, the narrator (death) reveals a good portion of the ending, and even when I knew what was coming, I still cried through the last 15 pages. I was just so drawn into the story, so invested in the characters that I couldn't help but cry for Leisel and what she endures.
I will admit that at times the writing could be a little cheesy, as the book is targeting a young adult crowd. But getting beyond that is easy with such a compelling story. It's nothing earth-shattering, or ground-breaking, but it's human. I would really highly recommend this book. As for me, I'm going to try to read something lighthearted now... 5 sad books in a row will do that to me, I suppose...
Right, anyway..
Jen's Grade: A+

Friday, July 07, 2006

Who Benefits From a Flat World? Book Review: The World Is Flat

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman

I'm done with this book. I have to admit that I skimmed the last 200 pages and below I'll explain why.

The idea behind this book is that the world is "flattening" with developing countries catching up to developed ones in areas of technology, education, and economic stability and growth. Where it used to be the civilized vs. the savage, the imperialists vs. the colonies now the world is flattening or, to use a word Friedman stears clear of, globalizing. Now you can have your taxes done in India, have your Catscans analyzed in Australia overnight, or have someone in Singapore help fix your laptop via phone. You can ride a bullet train in Japan and still have clear wireless service as you Google the sites of Kyoto. Everything is becoming more accessible and efficient therefore leading to a world that is flat, where everyone has similiar options. But is this a good thing?

The first section discusses the ten events he sees as leading to this flattening process. I found it very interesting, learned a lot about the evolution of the internet, and would recommend reading this area.

I would summarize the rest of the book as in-depth examples to support Friedman's "flattening" world. Many of the examples, such as the growth of Walmart and UPS, were ones I've previously read. There is an interesting discussion in which Harvard professor Michael J. Sandel points out that Friedman's notion of "flattening" was actually first identified by Karl Marx. Marx believed that globalization would lead to people uniting in global revolution to end oppression and it seems Friedman is blind to the oppression globalization creates. Later on Friedman mentions seven rules for companies on embracing the globalization process instead of fighting against it, what about the rest of us?

I decided to skim the rest of the book because I understood his argument and didn't need to have him constantly reinforce it through examples. I also saw his view of globalization was one-sided and doesn't address those countries where "flattening" has yet to occur for the masses. Too often it seemed that Friedman's world consisted of the US, EU, Japan, China and India. And so I have some questions and concerns.

Questions to Friedman:
1. What will a "flat world" mean to the world's poor?
2. What cultural values (or absence thereof) are contributing to the West's decline in education and excellence?
3. How will further globalization effect cultural distinctions?
4. What will a "flat world" mean environmentally - particularly for those countries on the verge of an economic explosion?

Kim's Grade: B I think this would be a great book to discuss with a class.

Taking a Chance

I just bought Sarah Dunant's "The Birth of Venus" last night, used, for about $4.40. I picked it up because it's gotten good reviews and I like to buy highly publicized books used because I'm curious but that way I don't have to worry about wasting money in case I don't like them. I did the same with "The Historian" and it turned out pretty well. However, I hestitated for a moment before buying this book since Kim read Dunant's latest, "In the Company of the Courtesan" and found it less than great.

I haven't started it yet since I'm reading some other books first. But have you ever bought a book you weren't sure about, only to find out you loved it? Or maybe bought a book you heard was great but ended up hating it?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Book Review: The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, was quite an interesting read. My opinion of it in the end was mixed, but the more time that goes by, the more I like it. Ultimately, it is the story of Esther Greenwood and her move into crazy town. Part of the reason I like the book is that her craziness is easy to understand. It happens so gradually, so easily that I almost fell into it with her. Overall, I don't think it was that depressing of a book, and I think it is a true and honest tale of how a seemingly normal woman can just lose her mind! In this version, with the PS insights and more, there was a really interesting forward about Plath herself, her slip into depression, and the book's initial rejection. I think that makes the book all the more interesting, and I'm guessing it was somewhat of an autobiography in disguise.
Anyway... Really interesting book. I recommend it highly.
Jen's Grade: a good solid "A"

Book Review: The Powerbook

The Powerbook by Jeanette Winterson

This is such a beautiful book. The cover is also one of my favorites. Jeanette Winterson is one of my favorite authors because of the ways she makes me think about and feel emotion. This book came out in 2000 and I tried reading it several times without luck. I believe you really have to be in a Winterson mindset to fully understand and appreciate where she is taking you since she interweaves stories and often goes off path. The overall theme of this novel is loving what you cannot have.

Kim's Grade: A Read it on a rainy weekend with a cozy blanket.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

When Cultures Collide

Digging to America: A Novel by Anne Tyler

When Cultures Collide
A Review by Elizabeth Judd

In her stupendously wise and very funny seventeenth novel, Anne Tyler tackles the ambitious subject of national character without leaving the confines of Baltimore. At the airport, two Korean infants are delivered to two eagerly awaiting adoptive families: Ziba and Sami Yazdan, a prosperous Iranian-American couple, and Bitsy and Brad Donaldson, who wait with "flotillas of silvery balloons" and a boisterous entourage of relatives bearing video cameras. Enamored of all things foreign, Bitsy befriends the Yazdans only to impose on both households a well- intentioned but hokey vision of multiculturalism, dressing daughter Jin-Ho in a sagusam and chiding Ziba for "Americanizing" baby Susan's hairstyle. Tyler captures an essential quality of the international adoption experience -- the girls' unfathomable backgrounds transform even fashion decisions into deeply symbolic acts, subject to earnest debate.

The first half of Digging to America consists almost entirely of folksy social commentary; Tyler delineates her characters' foibles with such tender equanimity that this peevish reader longed for a touch of venom. Gradually, though, Sami's mother, Maryam, emerges as the novel's governing intelligence in a nuanced portrait of immigrant life (Tyler was married to the late Taghi Modarressi, an Iranian-American psychiatrist), and the saccharine element disappears. Maryam claims onlooker status to distance herself from the blithering Donaldsons and to dodge the advances of Bitsy's widowed father, but her aloofness is really ontological, an innate standoffishness familiar to Tyler's readers. Tyler, who was raised among various Quaker communities and who turned eleven before she first used a telephone, understands the powerful magic of self-imposed isolation like no other writer publishing today. Digging to America succeeds on many levels -- as a satire of millennial parenting, a tribute to autumn romances, and, most important, an exploration of our risible (though poignant) attempts to welcome otherness into our midst.

This review is from The Atlantic Monthly and was received through Powell's Book Review of the Day service which is worth checking out!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Thrift Store Finds

I was very excited about my book finds for the weekend! I finally have a copy of Sue Monk Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees ($2.50). Like I said earlier I've wanted to read this book for awhile but I will probably put it off for some time so that my thoughts on The Mermaid Chair won't influence this one.

I also found James Frey's A Million Little Pieces ($1.50) which I've wanted to read too because of all the controversy surrounding it.

I found a great copy of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring ($.25) which is a wonderful book on toxins harming not only our environment but our bodies (ex DDT).

My new finds of the weekends were Rachel Kadish's From a Sealed Room ($1.25) and Myra Friedman's Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin ($.35). In Kadish's novel "a family in Jerusalem shares a specially prepared room in their apartment, the sealed room that all Israeli households retreated to during the Iraqi scud attacks of the Gulf War." Kadish "entwines the lives of three women: an adventurous young college student from New York, an emotionally enclosed Israeli housewife, and a fragile Holocaust survivor. It is a powerful exploration of the struggle between safety and suffocation and a reminder of both the power and peril of freedom." (Publisher comments) It sounds like an interesting read.

The Biography of Janis Joplin sounds good as well. She died so long ago that not much is written on her and this biography came out a year after her death and was authorized by Joplin herself which is always a good sign.

What did you find this weekend?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Book Battle!!! - Linda Howard

I recently read these two books by Linda Howard. Killing Time I bought used hardback for $2.50. Cover of Night I bought new hardback. I guess it evens out because while the latter was a disappointment, the former was pretty decent and entertaining.

Buying a Linda Howard book is kind of like playing the lottery. Sometimes you'll win big and sometimes you'll be pissed you spent the money. She's the author of one of my all-time favorite comtempory romance novels, Mr. Perfect, which is filled with likeable characters and witty, funny, smart dialogue. The campy To Die For is equally as delightful and fun. I've probably read each of those books at least ten times. And she can also write great emotional stories, like Cry No More. But every once in a while you get a real stinker, like Kiss Me While I Sleep. So after that bomb came out, I held off reading Killing Time because it dealt with possibly my least favorite romantic genre - time travel.

I HATE time travel stories, mainly because no matter how clever the author tries to be, it is NEVER, EVER credible. Every single time travel story on earth is riddled with flaws if it involves more than one instance of time travel. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander worked out okay because the heroine went back in time and stayed there. But if too many people start going back in forth, stuff is going to get screwed up. So I was a little surprised to find that I liked Killing Time. There were lots of flaws in the plot, but the characters were likeable and Howard spent enough time with them that their relationship was believable and enjoyable to observe.

I thought I would like Cover of Night more because it dealt with a small town in Idaho where a widow and a handyman live. Then one day some bad guys come to town, and like in the movie A History of Violence, the handyman saves the day and the widow finds out there's more to him than she thought. Unfortunately, everything about this story was ridiculous (assassins who take the small town hostage by blowing out the bridge, water, and power because they want a flash drive a tourist supposedly left there. Yeah, I'm not making that up). And Howard spent about half the book from the viewpoint of the bad guys who were completely uninteresting. I started to skip every scene that didn't have the protagonists in it, and I didn't miss anything. The end was nowhere close to neatly wrapped up. Everything bad just sort of disappeared when the townspeople refused to surrender. And the romance aspect was totally lame because Howard didn't spend enough time with the characters to make us like them.

So the clear winner of this battle was Killing Time, although it was nowhere near to reaching Howard's potential. She obviously has a talent for writing comic stories, so I really wish she would stick to them.

Lindsey's Grades:
Killing Time - B
Cover of Night - C-