Sunday, October 29, 2006

Who's Excited?

Less than one month to go, people! LESS THAN ONE MONTH TO GO!

Book Review: The Alchemist's Daughter

It's been a while since I picked up a book without knowing anything about the author or reviews, but only because I liked the synopsis on the back cover. So earlier this week I picked up Katharine McMahon's The Alchemist's Daughter because I thought it sounded interesting. Basically the back of the book told about a young woman who is raised in near isolation by her father at his country estate in the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Her father is a natural philosopher, some say an alchemist, and he teaches his daughter all that he knows. But then when she is about nineteen she falls in love for the first time and is banished to London, as the book says. And because of her upbringing, she knows almost nothing about human nature, etc.

I liked the book, but not as much as I thought I would from the description. Historical novels are pretty popular, what with Tracy Chevalier and Sarah Dunant out there, but I'm getting a little tired of these "coming of age" books about young women back in historical times. Mostly because they're usually depressing stories (although I think McMahon here and Dunant in The Birth of Venus include some redeeming happiness at the end) and I don't like to read about sad things. Another thing I learned - I read a lot of romance novels so I've read my fair share of sex scenes, but I do not like reading sex scenes when there is no affection and love between the people. I don't care if it's realistic. I don't want to know about it.

I do think that McMahon did a good job of laying out the theme of this book. Emilie, the main character, did have to come to terms with the harsh consequences of choices that she made because of her inexperience, and I felt sorry for choices that she made in her innocence. I think the best quote of the book come from when she explains to a fellow scientist that her father taught her to believe in what she can see, touch, smell, etc. The scientific way, essentially. But that method does not translate over to people because sometimes they are not what they seem, and she had to learn that the hard way. And in that one statement, the theme of the book can pretty much be summed up.

Lindsey's Grade: B+

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Review of the Week: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

This book review looked interesting enough to post here! breaks up the chick lit reviews that have amassed lately.... (I'm just jealous because I haven't read them yet!)

To Be Alive in a World That is Dead
A review by Yvonne Zipp

Zombies aren't usually found in the oeuvre of your average National
Book Award winner (well, I mean besides Joyce Carol Oates). But
then, some critics have argued that a few of Cormac McCarthy's
novels, such as Blood Meridian, should properly be read as horror.
With his newest novel, The Road, I doubt they'll find many detractors.

McCarthy takes such B-movie plot devices as an apocalyptic future,
cannibalism, and scenes that could have been cut straight from
Night of the Living Dead or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to craft
an existential moral debate about what it means to be alive in
a dead world.

Last year, in a rare interview with Vanity Fair magazine, McCarthy
commented that he regards as "not serious" writers who don't focus
on death. "Death is the major issue in the world. For you, for
me, for all of us. It just is." While some of us may find this
a rather limited worldview, you've got to give the guy credit:
He really sticks to his guns.

The Road, like many of McCarthy's novels, features homeless males
on the move. Only instead of horses, the unnamed father and son
have an old grocery cart with one wobbly wheel, loaded with canned
goods and dirty blankets. And their journey makes All the Pretty
Horses look like a trip to Club Med.

The two are among the few who have survived the end of civilization,
which McCarthy describes as "a long shear of light and then a
series of low concussions."

They now inhabit a cauterized horrorscape, where ash falls from
the sky and the sun is no longer visible. As the novel opens,
the man and the boy, -- who seems to be somewhere between ages
8 and 11 -- are heading south to the sea, trying to avoid the
roving bands of cannibals (fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly will
recognize them as close cousins of the Reavers) who hunt the looted

The survivors are not necessarily the lucky ones. The boy's mother
committed suicide, rather than continuing to live in fear. "We're
not survivors. We're the walking dead in a horror movie," she
exclaims when the man tries to talk her out of killing herself.
"We used to talk about death, she said. We don't anymore. Why
is that?"

When the man says he doesn't know, she responds, "It's because
it's here. There's nothing left to talk about."

As for the man, as long as the boy is alive, he has a reason to
keep fighting. "He knew only that the child was his warrant. He
said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke."

The love between the father and the son is one of the most profound
relationships McCarthy has ever written, and the strength of it
helps raise the novel -- despite considerable gore -- above nihilistic

The book's other redeeming feature is the moral debate that McCarthy
carries on throughout the novel about whether there is room for
goodness in extremis. The sides are represented by the boy, who
wants to help other survivors, and his father, who will do anything
he has to to keep his son alive.

The boy has a few other questions along with his plaintive refrain
of "Are we still the good guys?" These include: "Are we going
to die? Would we be better off dead?"

And, poignantly, "What would you do if I died?
If you died, I would want to die too.
So you could be with me?
Yes. So I could be with you.

The intricately knotted sentences from earlier works such as Suttree
have almost vanished. Instead, McCarthy employs a stripped-down
(for him) allegorical style loaded with biblical language. (Fans
of McCarthy's use of language shouldn't worry: There's still room
for words like "claggy" or "discalced.")

As their pilgrimage continues, the man and boy occasionally discover
small bits of grace -- morel mushrooms, an unopened can of Coca-Cola
that has kept its fizz and tastes remarkably good. But it's their
love that keeps this father and son, and the reader, going past
the despair. Fans of McCarthy's brutal world view may not approve,
but other readers will welcome the unexpectedly hopeful ending.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Book Review: Boy Meets Girl

I have a slight problem. I seem to be addicted to Meg Cabot books. I can't stop buying them, and once the purchase has been made, I HAVE TO READ THE ENTIRE BOOK IN ONE SITTING! There is no medication I can take for this affliction that I know of. I fear it will soon start interfering with social and scholastic responsibilites, because the woman has a lot of books published, and I am not above moving on to The Princess Diaries.

Seriously. It's that bad.

Once again, I laughed my head off while reading one of Cabot's books. I know that I would love this woman if I were to meet her in real life. Her blog is hilarious. Her books are hilarious, and they are about normal people who talk about the same things I talk about with my friends. I mean, who wouldn't bust up laughing when a supermodel expounds upon her love of exotic cuisine, such as onion rings at TGI Fridays? I died. It might not sound that funny here, but read in context it's hilarious.

How can I be expected to want to read my Business Associations textbook when there are books by this woman out there that I have not read yet? How can this happen? I don't know. I honestly don't know.

Lindsey's Grade: A

Monday, October 23, 2006

Book Review: The Boy Next Door

Since Kim left me for good yesterday, I decided to forgo reading my Business Associations assignment in order to spend some time with my new best friend, Meg.

The Boy Next Door was similar to the other two Cabot books I've read before, but it was also different. It wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny, and it was really quite sweet. I still enjoyed it, but it didn't fill the hole left by Kim. *Sigh*

Lindsey's Grace: A-

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Book Review: The Evil B.B. Chow

The Evil B.B. Chow by Steve Almond

I've been busy lately and have not had much time to read, even short stories for that matter! I enjoyed this collection in a somewhat sick way considering they were not happy stories at times. Some were funny, some were just strange, but as I frequently remember writer Alex Kuo stating "If its fiction, you better believe it." Fiction, even strange haunting themes are inspired from some place and it may just be based on actual stories.

"Once again he has produced a funny, bracing, sometimes shocking, always imaginative collection of stories and characters: a young magazine editor enduring a bizarre blind date; a couple who are sure that they have been given implants by space aliens; a young boy desperate to please his father with his baseball prowess, who ends up fatally wounding another boy during a game; a creative-writing teacher struggling to resist his seductive student." (Publisher Comments)

Kim's Grade: B+

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Author News: Gideon Defoe

I was driving back from Boise the other day and was listening to NPR's weekly podcasts on book news and interviews.

I learned about new author Gideon Defoe who claims to have started writing stories about pirates to convince a young lady to leave her boyfriend for him (she didn't).

His books sound great!! And I personally think he's cute too!!

A great article on how Defoe "makes his books" can be read here!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Book Review: Salem Falls

Well, I turned in my 25-page paper this morning. You might be able to tell from my posts that I've read four books since Tuesday. It's safe to say that reading is a stress reliever for me.

I am also happy to report that I finished a Jodi Picoult book without crying once! Hooray! It's not that Salem Falls is not as emotional as My Sister's Keeper or The Pact (okay, it's not), but I got more mad than I ever did sad. The book centers around a former high school teacher who is just released from jail after serving eight months for sexual assault, supposedly against one of his former students. He maintains that he is innocent, but within a few months of moving to Salem Falls, he is once again accused of rape.

This book didn't have the shocking ending that My Sister's Keeper did, and it wasn't as gut-wrenchingly sad as The Pact, and since those are the only Picoult books I've read so far, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. It didn't really happen, because I had been suspecting the reveal on the last page for over half of the book.

But still, Picoult is a literary genius. She's fantastic. Probably one of the best writers out there, I'd say. All three of her books that I've read have been pageturners that I just couldn't put down.

Lindsey's Grade: A

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Book Review: Every Boy's Got One

Attention Jen, Carah, Kim, and anyone else who at one time was my best friend:

I have a new best friend, and her name is Meg Cabot.

This woman is fantastic! I've read another one of her books, Queen of Babble, and Cabot's voice shines through in both. She's funny and upbeat and just plain great!

This book was written in a unique style because the story is told through diary entries, e-mails, receipts, forms, etc. But I loved it! Loved it, loved it, loved it! I laughed out loud at least five times.

Lindsey's Grade: A+

Book Review: Run For Your Life

I wasn't crazy about this book. That's all I care to say.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Book Review: Suddenly You

When one has a twenty-five page legal brief due in five days, there is really no better way to spend an evening than with a Lisa Kleypas book, right? Who cares about First Amendment rights of high school teachers, anyway?

Anyway, I retreated into fantasy land last night with Suddenly You and boy, was I glad to be there. If you read this blog regularly, you might have noticed that I've been more than a little dissolutioned with romance novels as of late. I don't know why, I just haven't loved a book in a while.

But I loved this book! It was like my own personal fantasy! The plot takes place in the 1830's, and Amanda is a thirty year-old spinster who independently supports herself by writing novels. The hero is instantly taken with her slightly "plump" figure and sharp mind. He even tells her that her mind is what is most attractive to him. *Sigh!* And of course he's a rich hottie, because, of course, what would be he point if he weren't, right? And their relationship progresses through friendship that is sweet and genuine, mostly because Kleypas did a great job of demonstrating the mutual respect they have for each other.

My only complaints were the formulatic romance novel plot twists towards the end, and also, unfortunately, the same complaint I had with the last book I read, Ladies Man. It's stupid, I know, but I just don't like a heroine that's more than two years older than the hero! It's just a preference, like how I hate it when a heroine is described as "willowy thin," "pixie-like," "delicate" or "short" (I have a strange aversion to abnormally small people). Also, I don't like black-haired heroines. Uh uh. Amanda in this book was short, but at least she had curves and long auburn hair.

Lindsey's Grade: A-

Book Review of the Week

I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
by Nora Ephron

It's Not Easy Being Nora Ephron
A Review by April Austin

Nora Ephron wrote the literate and funny screenplays for When Harry Met Sally and Heartburn. With her understated wit, she has punctured many a bubble of conformity and made audiences laugh in recognition. When her latest book arrived, I was amused by the title: I Feel Bad About My Neck. Here was a new body part to agonize over, one the beauty magazines haven't caught up to yet.

Books about women and aging usually leave me cold, if I bother to pick them up at all. They seem to fall into two categories: cheerful books on celebrating the aging process (give me a break!) and ones that rail against aging with either rage or humor. Ephron's book -- made up of 16 essays, some of which have appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, and other venues -- fits into the latter group.

While very little in the book is meant to be taken seriously, it is clever enough to qualify as more than just an assemblage of one-liners. Whether you agree with her observations or not, Ephron's perspective as an admittedly high-maintenance, New York-dwelling, successful screenwriter will keep you entertained.

She doesn't stop with necks, but takes on other afflictions (and a few delights) that mark this season of her life: her loathing of purses, the struggle to keep fit, the vagaries of parenting, and her favorite books.

These topics are laced with wry observations, told in an intimate style that makes Ephron seem like a close friend spilling details about her life. (That sound you hear is the ka-ching of cash registers as women buy this book as gifts for friends, sisters, and mothers.)

But let's get back to necks. She paints quite a picture of lunching with her friends -- all wealthy women in their 50s and 60s -- as she looks around the table to realize they're all wearing turtlenecks. Or blouses with mandarin collars.

All in an attempt to hide their scrawny or saggy necks. This body part, Ephron concludes, is hopeless.

Among this group of women, other beauty issues are more readily solved: gray hair can be colored, patchy skin can be covered with makeup, and wrinkled faces given chemical treatments, but short of plastic surgery, necks are "doomed." She's skewering the obsession with appearances while squeezing comic mileage out of the situation.

"Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth," Ephron writes. "You have to cut a redwood tree open to see how old it is, but you wouldn't have to if it had a neck."

Graying hair is another age marker, and hair dye, Ephron concludes, is the most powerful weapon women have against the youth culture. She makes a persuasive case that hair dye has enabled women to feel comfortable about remaining in the workforce far longer than they otherwise might.

Coloring one's hair has also led to acceptance of other beauty processes, such as face-lifts. (Hey, once you take that first step into the salon, they own you.)

Speaking of people who own you, adolescent children are described quite cogently in "Parenting in Three Stages."

Ephron points out that despite devoting yourself to understanding every emotion your child has ever experienced, the kid still has an attitude: "You love them wildly, way more than your parents loved you. And yet they seem to have turned out exactly the way adolescents have always turned out. Only worse. How did this happen?"

Like other parents before her, Ephron adopts a "wait it out" approach. Or, she suggests, you can be more proactive: "When your children are teenagers, it's important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you."

Ephron's mood turns subdued, almost wistful, by the last essay, as she copes with the passing of a close friend. She articulates the sense of indecision that can grip one at her stage of life: "Do you splurge or do you hoard? ... Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses?"

And, lest matters become too morbid, she adds another imponderable to the list: "And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really going to have to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in America is so unbelievably delicious?"

Well, exactly.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Book Review: Ladies Man

I'm just going to say one thing about this book. I don't like romance novels with older women and younger men, at least not with a ten year age difference. And really, it's not completely sexist because I don't like it when the men in books are that much older than the women, either. Although I do get decidedly more uncomfortable when the woman is older. I'm a bad feminist, I guess.

I've got to disagree with Aaliyah. Age is more than just a number, it's a level of maturity (usually). And this is going to sound really bad, but old men can be really sexy, and I just don't think it's as easy for old women to be sexy. So who'd want to hook up with someone who's looks are going to outlast yours by like thirty years? Not me!

Maybe it's because I'm young enough that for me idea of a younger man brings to mind hopelessly immature fratboys. But I also have a hard time believing that a man who never dated anyone longer than two months is mature enough to suddenly become a step-father to a fifteen and thirteen year-old.

Then again, we've got Demi and Ashton, so maybe I'm wrong.

Lindsey's Grade: C-

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Book Review: Every Breath You Take

Every Breath You Take is only the second Judith McNaught book I've read, but I seemed to remember that I liked the last one, so I decided to pick this one up at Wal-Mart. Her writing reminds me a lot of Andrea Kane, only because the three Andrea Kane books I read all had really rich, handsome, powerful men as heroes (as did the other McNaught book I read) and this one was no different.

Basically the book involved two people, Mitchell and Kate, who meet on a Caribbean island and have a fling. But then Mitchell gets called back to the States when he gets a phone call telling him that his half-brother, who had been missing, was found dead. There's a whole bunch of other stuff going on, but the general gist is that the two lovers get their wires crossed and they each think that the other abandoned them. Hearts are broken.

The story takes a different turn once they're both back in Chicago, but I won't ruin it for ya'll. I will just say that the murder investigation of the half-brother seemed like it was going to be a big deal at the beginning of the book, but then it just kind of fizzled away as if it got in the way of telling Mitchell and Kate's story. But I was more interested in the love story so I really didn't care.

Overall I'd say it was a pretty satisfying read. There was a sneak peak in the back for her next book that is supposed to be about Kate's best friend. I'll probably read that one when it comes out. I'm calling it right now that the friend better hook up with the prosecutor from this book, Gray, because I liked him.

Lindsey's Grade: B+