Monday, April 30, 2012

(29) Tea

Title: Tea: A novel by Stacey D'Erasmo
Publisher: Algonquin books of Chapel Hill
317 pages
Genre: fiction

This novel is currently out of print but you can find some used copies on amazon or at local used book stores. 

Synopsis: D'Erasmo unspools the life of Isabel Gold in 3 distinct phases: a child of 8 who loses her troubled mother to suicide; a teen discovering she likes girls as much as pot and Joni Mitchell; and a 22-year-old scrambling to keep her bohemian dreams and her relationship with a cranky Greek girlfriend alive in Lower Manhattan.

Review: Tea is a very strange novel. Broken down in Morning, Afternoon and Evening it tells pieces of the life of Isabel Gold. The beginning of the book deals with her family, her strange, and depressed mother, her born again best friend who calls God on her shoe phone as they re-enact scenes from Get Smart and her realization that she is frightened that her mothers mood will wear off on her if she touches her.  The middle of the book deals with Isabel's coming of age, realizing that she is a lesbian and finding her way through life in the 70's and becoming an actress. At the end of the book we find Isabel living in Manhattan struggling in her relationship with a depressed girlfriend who reminds me of her mother when she is in her dark moods.

I guess it would be like glimpsing different aspects of any ones life.  Isabel seems extremely ordinary to me.  Sure she had a tragic childhood event but the rest of her life seems pretty mundane.  When she was 8 she buries notes and things in yards so that in the future people will dig them up and know about the people who lived where she is, sort of like this novel, glimpses of her mundane life thrown together in a book. I thought that the the death of her mother would make more of an impact but it was just a blip on her radar.  It doesn't even really seem to come up except at strange moments, like on her birthday when she imagines what her mother would have given her as a gift.

If you like character analysis and not plot driven books than this is one for you.  Personally this was not one that will make my list of recommended books.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

(28) Unraveling Anne

Title: Unraveling Anne by Laurel Saville
Publisher: amazon encore
245 pages
Genre: Memoir

Borrowed for free from Amazon on my kindle as a Prime Member

Synopsis: In 1950s Los Angeles, Anne Ford was the epitome of the California golden girl, a former beauty queen and model-turned-fashion designer whose success and charm were legendary. So how is it possible that such a woman could die in squalor, an alcoholic street person brutally murdered in a burnt-out West Hollywood building?

In searching for answers to the heartbreaking trajectory of her mother’s life, writer Laurel Saville plumbed the depths of Anne’s troubled past and her own eccentric childhood to untangle the truth of an exceptional, yet tragic, existence. What she discovered was a woman who was beautiful, well-educated, and talented—yet tormented by internal demons and no match for the hedonistic culture of Southern California in the 1960s and 70s.

With unflinching honesty and stirring compassion, Saville struggles to reconcile the two faces her mother presented the world: the glamour-girl-about-town the public saw and the unpredictable, bitter alcoholic her children knew. Most importantly, Saville explores how what we bring forward from previous generations can shape our own lives, and how compassion and love for a difficult parent can be a person’s bridge to a better life.

Review: I was sucked into this intriguing book right from the beginning but then I started to wonder if it was going to be one big pity party.  Laurels life was hard, and watching her mother unravel into a drunken homeless person couldn't have been easy.  It seems Laurel wore her screwed up mother around her neck like a weight and writing this book was to help her remove the weight and make peace with her past.

Laurel's mother was a neglectful alcoholic genius who never could finish what she started. After reading pieces of the book I wonder if her mother wasn't ADD and if she had been given the correct treatment whether she would have been able to focus better, accomplishing more and not relying on alcohol.  But as Laurel knows we can't change the past we can only move forward, but the past is still there and will haunt us unless we make peace with it.

It wasn't until about half way through that Laurel starts to investigate the rest of her family.  Trying to discover if her mothers stories were true or just drunken make believe told to explain why her mother was the way she was. In uncovering the past Laurel seems to find some peace and some pride in her family heritage, she also starts to understand her mother a bit more.  Through her mothers notebooks and talking to long lost family members she pieces together the story of a very different woman than the one she knew.

As the story unravels Laurel decides to stop running from the past and the pieces of her history that haunt her and start looking for the pieces that made her who she is, the pieces of the women in her life who she never wanted to see in herself but knows are there.

I actually wound up enjoying this book and while the beginning was a bit of a pity party the rest of it makes up for what was lacking.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

(27) Ill Will

Title: Ill Will (Micky Knight Mystery) by J.M. Redmann
Publisher: Bold Stroke Books
264 pages
Genre: LGBT Mystery

I received this as an advanced e-galley from

Synopsis: First, do no harm. But as New Orleans PI Micky Knight discovers, not every health care provider follows that dictum. She stumbles into a tangle of the true believers to the criminally callous, who use the suffering of others for their twisted ends. In a city slowly rebuilding after Katrina, one of the most devastated areas is health care, and the gaps in service are wide enough for the snake oil salesmen—and the snakes themselves—to crawl through. First, her investigation is driven by anger, but then it becomes personal as someone very close to Micky uses her cancer diagnosis to go where Micky cannot, into the heart of the evil where only the ill are allowed. Micky is her only lifeline out. Can Micky save her in time to get to the medical treatment she desperately needs to survive?

Review: This is the first Micky Knight mystery that I've read and I just discovered that there are six more that came before this!  I am pleased that I didn't feel like I was missing any information by jumping in so far along in the series. I really loved the characters and I am a sucker for just about any book set in New Orleans.  I love the atmosphere, and the descriptions of post Katrina NOLA are devastating, riveting and real.

Micky gets thrown into a case involving a snake oil salesman selling vitamins and other potentially harmful "herbal remedies" to the desperate and downtrodden. While investigating this case she also finds herself mixed up in an insurance fraud case that might jeopardize her partner. There are many layers to the case and you find yourself swept along with Micky and all the other players in this book.

There is a real underlying theme of the health care system and its many flaws and the anxiety that sick people have to deal with when they either have no insurance or their insurance starts denying their care.  The book ends on a semi-cliff hanger which is a bummer since now I have to wait for the next one to find out what happens!

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser Tuesday is from: Unraveling Anne by Laurel Saville

    "How had the girl with the idyllic childhood steeped in optimism and opportunity of Southern California in the forties and fifties - model, artist, fashion designer, friend of famous artists, models, and actors - become a drunken, sodden, street person who was stabbed and strangled in a burnt out building, her clothes ragged, and her ancient one-eyed, short-legged little dog standing over her, growling at the police who came to the scene? 
    Then, the question even stranger to me, how had I come out of my childhood with so few visible scars? 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    "You're Michele Knight, a little girl private dick who's poking about where she shouldn't. This is a message to you in person, in a way to make sure you'll remember. 

    He had one big burly hand on my shoulder, using his weight and strength to pin me against the building. My unhappy guess was that he was keeping his other arm free to make the message memorable.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

(26) Crackly Bones

Title:Crackly Bones by Steve Roach & Simon Schild
Publisher:Amazon digital services
1895 kb
Genre: Children

Synopsis: Three hundred years ago, an innocent man was accused of wizardry, and the lies of a child led to his murder at the hands of a frenzied mob. Tonight, he’s back for his revenge. The villagers are stirred into action when signs of Crackly Bones’ impending arrival are witnessed. Led by Jones, the owner of the public house, the people gather and agree to fight, a decision that will have devastating consequences for the entire village.

Review: This was a strange, scary little book written in rhyming poetry.  I couldn't really see many of the drawings because they were too dark but maybe it looks different on the kindle fire. I don't know if I would read this to young children but it would be a great story to read around a camp fire.

I don't know if its supposed to have a moral or not but for me it seems to say don't judge people based on rumors, form your own opinions, condemning people based on assumptions or rumor could have devastating consequences for you and for them.

(25) All I really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Title: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
Publisher: Villard Books
196 Pages
Genre: Inspiration

Synopsis: Fulghum engages us with musings on life, death, love, pain, joy, sorrow, and the best chicken-fried steak in the continental U.S.A. The little seed in the Styrofoam cup offers a reminder about our own mortality and the delicate nature of life . . . a spider who catches (and loses) a full-grown woman in its web one fine morning teaches us about surviving catastrophe . . . the love story of Jean-Francois Pilatre and his hot air balloon reminds us to be brave and unafraid to “fly” . . . life lessons hidden in the laundry pile . . . magical qualities found in a box of crayons . . . hide-and-seek vs. sardines—and how these games relate to the nature of God.

Review: There is a new version of this book that was published in 2004 with 25 new essays.  While some people may find these short essays silly and a waste of time I think thats the whole point he was trying to make. Simple every day things have lessons about life if we only stop and look at them.  The Itsy Bitsy spider is a lesson of perseverance, simple games kids play teach us about life, love, pain and death. But somehow when we get older we forget all those things.  We forget how much fun rolling down a hill can be, the feeling of flying for that brief moment when you jump off a swing that was going really high. We think these things are silly and childish but they really remind us we are alive. If nothing else this book reminds us to take a step back and see the beauty in the simple things and reminds us to be silly every now and then.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

(24) Fifty Shades Freed

Title: Fifty Shades Freed: Book Three of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by EL James

Publisher: Vintage
592 Pages
Genre: Romance/Erotica

Synopsis: When unworldly student Anastasia Steele first encountered the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.

Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.

Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.

Review: The final chapter in the 50 shades series.  This series went from very very kinky to more main stream romance with a bit of ropes and toys thrown in. Christian is tormented by his past living in the bubble he created with his overwhelming wealth and controlling lifestyle. When Ana comes into his life his world is turned upside down and he has to learn how to deal with things outside his control. Ana wants to work, she wants her own identity and living with a megalomaniac control freak is difficult, but she does an amenable job.

This book is filled with one overwhelming problem after another. First Christian and Ana are being stalked by Ana's old boss, then her father is in a car accident then... well lets just say there is a lot of action in this one.

I know there are a lot of mixed reviews about this book and a lot of people hated the writing thinking it was lame and redundant but I wonder how many of those people have actually ever picked up a romance novel before.  They are all pretty redundant, at least these books seem to have more going on than just kinky sex and a one dimensional mystery.  There are so many issues that come up, some because of money, some because of Christians past and some just because sometimes stuff happens in life when you least expect it.

I appreciate the struggle that Christian has with his past, trying to learn to let go, and I felt that Ana's reactions were well written for a romance, because we all know it wouldn't be a romance novel if the two main characters broke up.  In light of that I think this was a well done series with a unique twist that hasn't really been explored much before. I'm also in love with Ana's inner goddess.  I love how she is always reading classic lit and tilting her glasses down her nose to roll her eyes at things or running around pumping her fists in the air.  I could so relate to that!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    "You know," I elucidate, "I do something you don't like, and you think of some way to get back at me . Usually involving some of your kinky fuckery, which is either mind-blowing or cruel." 

Monday, April 9, 2012

(23) Fifty Shades Darker

TitleFifty Shades Darker: Book Two of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by EL James
Publisher: Vintage
544 Pages
Genre: Romance/Erotica

Synopsis: Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house.

But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades.

While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.

Review: Book 1 ended on a cliffhanger so I moved straight onto book 2. Being stalked by an ex submissive, Grey can't figure out if she is after him or Ana.  To be safe he drives Ana crazy about security and safety.  Even though their relationship has changed he still can't help but control things.

Ana is still struggling to figure out if she can be "enough" for Christian. Since she cannot accept all of his kinky wishes she is struggling with "why her".  The crazy ex-sub doesn't help matters since she looks a lot like Ana.

Ana has also started a new job and has a boss who is definitely crossing the boundaries of sexual harassment. Between trying to fend off her boss, and tame her control freak of a boyfriend Ana has her hands full and doesn't need crazy ex's running around destroying her property.

I liked this book because I felt there was more substance to it, the first one was good but this one had more meat.  You really get to know Christian a lot better in this book and how he thinks, you also see Ana's struggle to figure out how she can love this man who is so broken and yet still maintain her sense of self.

These books are by no means great literature but they are fun. Of course this one ended on a cliff hanger as well so of course I will be downloading book three.

Not as hardcore in the kink department as the first book, but there is still plenty to go around.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

(22) Fifty Shades of Grey

Title: Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy by EL James
Publisher: Vintage
528 pages
Genre: Romance/erotica

Synopsis: When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Review: There is a ton of buzz about this trilogy, its been on the news, and seems to be all the rage with bored housewives so I had to see what all the fuss is about.  Interestingly people have very mixed feelings about this book, I've seen nightmare reviews that blast the writing and everything else about it and then others who rave about it.  I think I fall somewhere in between.

I've read a lot of romance books in my time and this follows your typical pattern in that Ana is a virgin when she meets Christian Grey who tempts her and they start a hot romance.  The difference with this book is that Christian's erotic tastes are hardcore BDSM.  Christian is a Dominant looking for a submissive.  He isn't looking for love or romance he is looking for a slave.

Of course since this is a romance novel and not an erotic book what Christian wants and what he winds up with are two different things.  Christian finds that he might have to think differently if he wants to keep Ana Steele.  While some of Christian's "kinky fuckery" is fun and games other parts of it scare the hell out of Ana and leave her confused and unsure.

If you liked the Story of O but wanted a bit more sunshine and roses this might be a good book for you.  If you are offended by the kink stay far away from this series, because the kink is plentiful, graphic and hardcore. I still can't figure out why this book is all the rage these days but maybe its just something new and different in the romance genre.

All in all I liked this book.  I found the characters entertaining and Christians messed up background intriguing.  It will be interesting to see where this trilogy goes.
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