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As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Visit From the Good Squad

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is a beautiful book that weaves together many stories into one narrative--and I actually enjoyed it!  Not because I don't love Ms. Egan, but because I am normally not a fan of books (or movies for that matter) that tell many stories that all collide into one.  This one was a little different, though.  It wasn't about how they all connected--it was about using the connection to tell a story that spans several decades.

I run into a conundrum I often face here on this blog which is giving too much away.  I really don't want to do that.  So instead of telling you the story, I will tell you how awesome Ms. Egan's story structure is.  You first feel that she is telling short stories with the first chapter.  Who is this girl and where is this story going?  Then you read the second chapter where Ms. Egan takes a character from the first ditty and tells their story--which may very well be in a different time period.  Then another character takes center stage in the third chapter but they are still related to the first two stories.  I have to say that I found it quite amazing and quite intriguing and I couldn't stop reading because I had to figure out who I was going to hear about next.

So you are saying to yourself, "According to Nicole, AKA the Sassy Peach, I should pick up this book."  And you are right.  You should.  So get on Amazon, click a few buttons, and rock it out on your Kindle.  You can also hit up your local library for either the real version or the electronic version.  But seriously, get off your tushy and read this book.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Date Like A Man

Date Like A Man: What Men Know About Dating and Are Afraid You'll Find Out is quite a misnomer for this book by Myreah Moore and Jodie Gould.  I picked this little ditty up thinking it would be funny and snarky with a little side of insight.  Nope.  I was wrong. 

Never have I been so offended as I was by this book, and I have certainly had my delicate sensibilities offended on a number of occasions.  What crap this was.  I will give credence to the fact that this book was published 10 years ago--but really, were we that entrenched in Me-Tarzan-She-Jane dating mentalities that we were still playing by The Rules?  Oh wait--she specifically says that this book isn't The Rules.  And it's a lie.

This book is full of anecdotal evidence of smart women making bad choices--which clearly means that without Ms. Moore's help we would all be Neanderthal women who cry in the night by ourselves with a half pint of mint chocolate chip.  Thank gawd she's here to help!  I might be single forever if I hadn't read this book.  You know, since I have a cat and men are really only dog people. (The book says this, so it's true.)

This "author" makes sure that you know, girlfriend (as the author likes to inject in every other sentence), that you shouldn't seem as though you want to learn anything ever.  Shut up, sit down, and look pretty.  You don't want to be annoying, now do you?  You will never get a husband that way.  By learning things, I mean.  Also, girlfriend, you don't want to have a life outside of your man.  Make sure that you do things he wants to do since he will never want to do anything that you are interested in.  Oh, and lie to men because they won't really like you.  They will prefer the fictional you, trust her, girlfriend

I will leave you with some gems courtesy of this self-monikered "dating diva."  I might have added my inner thought process in italics.  And I swear, if she calls me "girlfriend" one more time I might hunt her down and slap myself in front of her. 

"It's...the reason I developed my Pair and a Spare philosophy (dating at least three men at once)."  Do you not have any friends or do anything fun?  When the hell do you have time to go on THREE DATES A WEEK?!?

"The best way to handle questions like, 'Is he a boyfriend, or what?' is to say, 'He's my sweetie.'"  Is this 1980?

"When entertaining men, stick with sturdy everyday dishes and paper napkins.  Men are just as happy (if not happier) drinking beer from the bottle as they are from the glass.  They don't worry about which fork to use for the salad and dessert.  Trust me on this one."  Read: men have no manners and you were raised super snobby.  How sexist is this???

"If a woman has been single long enough, she sometimes gets fixated on the first man who expresses some interest in her."  OHMYGAWDNOSHEJUSTDIDN'T!  Watch out boys--the first man who expresses interest in me might find me going all Basic Instinct on him.  Except that I haven't...

"Most women are afraid of bugs.  If you have an eight-legged creature in your house, why not call him and ask him to help you get rid of it."  This is obvi why I'm still single--I'm not afraid of bugs.  Also, the bug will be gone by the time Prince Charming arrives to kill it, stupid.   

"Men have their own holidays [blogger's note: outside of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, which are chick holidays].   The high holy days for guys are the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA playoffs, Stanley Cup, World Cup, heavyweight championships, Master's, Grand Prix and the Kentucky Derby."  Because everyone knows men hate Christmas.  YOU FORGOT THE BCS CHAMPIONSHIP.  I WATCH SPORTS TOO.

"Elevators are another great place to flirt with men.  I do this all the time.  If I find myself alone with a cute guy I'll say, 'I'm so glad there's a man on this elevator, because I get so scared when I'm by myself.  Now I can hold onto you.'"  Need I really comment on this?

Regarding weddings: "The unspoken rule is that no one can look better than the radiant bride.  Why do you think all the bridesmaids are made to wear those freakishly ugly dresses?"  That's right, bitches.

"A guy may seem perfectly together, well dressed, polite, fun-loving and happy, but he's really going home to a bottle of vodka or a refrigerator full of human heads.  You never know."  VODKA?!?  Unacceptable.

"While public libraries tend to attract the elderly and homeless..."  And people who actually read books.  And me, the Sassy Peach.  Screw you.

On not acting like a diva: "Look at what happened to Princess Diana.  [She] was beautiful and royal, but it was the commoner Camilla who won the Prince's heart.  She may not be a beauty, but there is something in her that made Prince Charles feel important, wanted and loved."  Yeah, it didn't have anything to do with Charles being a jerky philanderer, you know?

And the clincher: "If you're saying, 'I like myself just the way I am,' good for you!  But ask yourself if the person you are right now is getting dates."  WHAAAAAAT?  If you like yourself but aren't getting dates, just be someone you don't like.  That should do the trick. 


Friday, December 23, 2011

O Little Town

O Little Town: A Novel by Don Reid was a lovely little novella to read while gearing up for the holiday season.  It's the story of a small town in 1958, and while everyone is gearing up for the most magical day of the year there is a lot going on.  The preacher's daughter is caught shoplifting, the preacher's wife is not as innocent as she wants you to think, the police captain's teenage daughter is expecting with a gentleman who is not her boyfriend, and all the while the townspeople are not perfect, it turns out.

All of these events are related if only because it's a small town.  There is a secondary story happening all the while involving a Christmas murder in 1904, and to be honest, it gets in the way of the main story.  If you are willing to look past that, however, this is a sweet story to read right before Christmas and to realize that, in the end, we are all just human with the hopes, dreams, and feelings that everyone else has.  It's a story of love and promise, of hope and joy in the little things.  Hold your family dear and know that in the end, kindness makes the world of difference.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Admit One: Ten Steps to Choosing Your Acting or Musical Theatre College Program

Admit One: Ten Steps to Choosing Your Acting or Musical Theatre College Program by Chelsea Cipolla and John West is a hand book of the greatest proportions, and one that all high school students looking to join the ranks of prestigious alumni everywhere should use as their bible.  It's a step-by-step examination of how to about transitioning from being a high school star to further studying your craft in higher education.

The greatest piece of advice Cipolla and West offer happens to be in their preface.  I have seen this many times--young actors saying, "Why do I need to go to college?  I am super talented."  Well yes, I am sure you are, but you are in competition with highly trained people who have secured strong connections.  You need a training program and you need an education.  The authors here are adamant about this from the beginning, and it's wonderful to see.  They are encouraging while still being forthright.

When I say this guide is step-by-step, I mean it.  It goes through the nooks and the crannies, the details and the minutiae, and the do's and the don'ts of this crazy process called "college auditions."  It can be overwhelming and at times can feel exclusive, but this book demystifies the process--from simply deciding to go from the beginning to figuring out what you can afford.  Of course it hits the creative process as well, and each chapter has places for notes and enough margin area to take your own notes in.

It's a keeper for sure.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Raisin In The Sun

Many of you don't know this, but I have been reading one play per week since the summer.  I see a good bit of theatre but realized this spring that I don't read enough plays, so I have been following one playwright at a time.  I started with August Wilson's Century Cycle, then moved on to the Wendy Wasserstein cannon, and followed this with Harold Pinter.  After the office fire, which destroyed the last of Pinter's plays I had not yet read, I discovered that I could rent A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry on my Kindle from the library.  Yessiree, that sounds right up my alley.  I rarely review plays, but it would be a crime to not express the love and thankfulness that this play was written and shared with us mere mortals.

It's the story of the Younger family in Chicago's South Side in the 1950's.  Living in a cramped two bedroom apartment with the shared bathroom in the hall, Lena lives with her daughter, Beneatha, who aspires to be a doctor; her son Walter Lee, who dreams of attaining riches through a liquor store; his wife Ruth and their son, Travis.  When the family receives a settlement of $10,000, Lena uses the money to put a down payment on a house for them--in a white neighborhood.

There are times that reading something so beautiful is not enough.  Feeling that my heart it taken from my chest and squeezed just tight enough to make me gasp for air--that's a mark of a stunning work of art.  I was halfway through this, considered a classic in the theatre, when it occurred to me that I may never be the same.  Mama's strength and her love for her children--even when they tear at her soul--is admirable and foolish at the same time.  Ruth's resolve is a killer, and at times you want to shake her awake.  Walter Lee's determination to provide for his family--that which eventually causes his downfall--is gut wrenching.  Lawd knows, we have all made similar mistakes.  Beneatha's youthful indignance is so relatable it's ridiculous, and 
at times it is painful. Oh, the follies of youth.

I closed this play both shattered and renewed, devastated yet hopeful.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg

I was attracted to The Goose That Laid The Golden Egg by Doug Bremner because it is the story of the psychiatrist who took down Accutane.  You know, that drug that the pharmaceutical companies don't want you to believe changes brain composition and causes depression?  Doug Bremner was that very psychiatrist and faced demons of his own, both professionally and personally.

You may remember the whole, "No one really knows..." news segments about this drug.  However, reading this book confirmed my suspicions that what you see released to news sources is exactly what they with the most money want you to hear, see, and believe--the spin.  You may or may not believe it, but you have to respect that most Americans do believe what their newscasters tell them.  I stand by Bremner in this book--his observations and his research, but most of all his assertion that this drug severely alters brain chemistry.  Thank you for your research, sir, and thank you for all of the crap you took from everyone in order to bring this research to light.  You have saved lives.

To be clear, the dialogue in this book is often stilted and unnatural.  Bremner is clearly a research writer and not a story teller, but don't let that take away from the important parts of this book, namely that of his research and his testimony. 

Side note.  One thing I learned that I had no clue about was that Ancestry.com was founded by members of the LDS church.  It turns out Mormon's have the largest ancestral records known to man and this is how the website got started.  Huh.  Who would've known?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mrs. Nixon

Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life by Ann Beattie really is all it's cracked up to be--which means it is also worth a turn on your Lazy Susan of books.

This novel is part author meditation on writing and part imagined stories based on fact.  Ms. Beattie takes events that are loose in their description and adds what she imagines might have happened: discussions between Mrs. Nixon (it's always Mrs. Nixon, rarely "Pat") and her daughters, interactions between Mrs. Nixon and "RN" (as President Nixon is called in this book), and thoughts she might have had while all of this takes place. 

In one chapter, Ms. Beattie uses The Glass Menagerie as a metaphor for Mrs. Nixon's life and it was one of the most powerful chapters in this book.  The comparison was beautiful and moving, and I appreciated such an eloquent homage to the former First Lady.

Truly, there wasn't a passage in this book that I didn't enjoy.  I found the meditations on being a novelist and using an historical character to be the most interesting, as Ms. Beattie examined how to remain true to the essence of Mrs. Nixon while still telling an interesting story--and balancing all of this with her novelist's imagination.  Fascinating. 

I must confess, prior to this book I had no interest in Mrs. Nixon other than adoring Joan Allen in the movie Nixon.  My interest has been piqued, however, and I am looking forward to doing a bit more poking around on the life of Mrs. Nixon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Slow Motion

Slow Motion: A Memoir of How A Life Gone Terribly Wrong Can Be Rescued Through Tragedy by Dani Shapiro is a story of personal triumph over family tragedy.  It's a heartbreaking story of Dani, a lost early-twenties kinda-sorta-actress on a path of self-destruction, who receives a call telling her that her parents have been in a car accident.  Unsure of how bad things really are, she flies cross-country to arrive at her parents bedside only to discover that things are very bad.  Dani has to face down her personal demons (an affair with a powerful older married man, drugs and alcohol, a strained relationship with her parents) in order to give her parents what they need.

This book was a great holiday read, as it took me through the airport, airplane ride, and some family down time all over Thanksgiving weekend.  Shapiro's storytelling is honest and raw, and as an outsider I wanted her to sober up, get rid of the jerk she was sleeping with, and be the best daughter she could be.  I was rooting for her, and I was rooting for her story.

It's emotion runs deep without being melodramatic, and Shapiro rarely feels self-pity.  Instead she tells it just how it happened in her memory.  She makes no excuses for her affair and doesn't apologize for her life leading up to the crash--she feels remorse but leaves it as it is.  I appreciate this in someone's writing, and I think you will too, dear readers.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't)

Betty White's If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) is a Betty White book for sure.  It's her humor and her phrasing, and if you love her you will love this book. 

The hardest time I had with this book is it's lack of narrative and of focus.  There isn't a through line in this book--it is really a compendium of Betty's thoughts.  To me, it was similar to sitting in a room with her asking a list you have brought of random, non-sequitur, unlinear questions and receiving short but adequate answers.

The best part of this book?  The pictures.  Betty was gorgeous (and still is!).

In the Afterword, she writes:

"If you have stuck with me this far I say a big thank you.  Hope you enjoyed the trip.  If not, take comfort in the fact that I had a wonderful time.

Amen Betty.  Keep telling your stories.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Confession

I find John Grisham to be a very compelling storyteller and a strong writer.  I have yet to read a book by him that I have not enjoyed, so my expectations were fair going into The Confession.  I have to say, though, that my expectations were blown out of the water.

A young black man, Donte Drumm, is arrested and convicted in the murder of Nicole Yarber, a white classmate of his in small-town Texas; he is sentenced to death.  The problem is the lack of evidence, including Nicole's body.  His conviction hinges upon a false confession he gave after 15 hours of interrogation.  When the real killer comes forward, will the execution be stopped in time to save Donte?  Or will no one believe the truth?

As with so many books I review here, I hesitate to give away too much information.  The case remains the same here.  I can not speak for Mr. Grisham's thoughts on the death penalty, but my reading this book comes on the heels of quite a bit of debate on the death penalty, and I have been struggling with what I believe in real life.  This book broke my heart, and it reminded me that there is not a right answer to the death penalty.  This blog isn't about my proselytizing, so my beliefs will be kept to myself.  I will say, however, that Grisham made me face my beliefs and gave me reason to both believe them further and to doubt them, and that to me is a book worth reading.

If you are a Grisham fan, a legal thriller fan, or just a good-read-in-general fan, pick this up.  I promise you won't regret it.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Fear of Flying

There is a long list of books I have always wanted to read, and Erica Jong's Fear of Flying is at the top.  The minute I hear that it's out in ebook format I download it as quickly as possible, then settle in for some Jong goodness.

And goodness it was.  As I have said often on this blog, I am a product of my generation.  What it means for this book in particular is that I am 40 years removed from the original publication therefore I am 40 years further into the depths of feminism and I-can-do-whatever-I-want-so-screw-you mentality of women my cohort.  We grew up not completely comprehending in a concrete way that there could have once been limits to what we want to do,  and we do what we want anyway without acceptance of these so-called limits.  That being said, I had to remove myself from the possibility of relating to Isadora, the protagonist and narrator, and instead put myself in 1971 to better understand her thoughts, feelings, and mental breakdown.

So the short version of the story is, Isadora and her (second) husband Bennett (her first husband cracked up and thought he was Jesus, which is a super interesting section of the book) hop a plane to Vienna where they will attend a convention of psychoanalysts, of which Bennett is one and Isadora has seen plenty.  While there, Isadora becomes restless beyond the realm of fantasy and falls for Adrian, a British analyst who will become the one she runs away with.  After running, though, Isadora is forced to examine herself--why she wishes to run away, why she is unhappy in her marriage, and what it is that will actually make her happy at the end of this journey.

Put into the context of when it was published and the need for women to re-examine their role in marriage and the need to search out a life of their own, this piece hits the nail on the head.  It forces the reader to look deep into their beliefs of partnership, sex, and the need for a separate identity from one's husband.  I found particularly moving the last few chapters when Isadora is alone in Paris and searching deep within to understand herself and what it is she needs.  It's not as simple as going back to New York, back to her marriage, and back to her life.  Something has to give, and it has to start with her.

I would venture in to the realm of calling this book a "history book" in the understanding of feminism in the context of the 1970's.  And we all know how much I love history.  So am I recommending this book?  Absolutely.  Do it.  You know you want to.

If you go to Open Road's Erica Jong profile, you will find a variety of retailers to get your hands in the ebook format of your choosing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Help Is Needed! (No, this is not a book title.)

Well, hello there faithful Sassy Peach book blog readers!  Today's post was originally going to be a review of Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, which I have just wrapped up (along with a couple of others!).  The review will have to wait until Friday, though, because something else of great importance has come up.

For those of you who are not familiar with what I do on a day-to-day basis, I proudly serve as the Education Manager for Young Playwrights Inc.  Our mission is to develop playwrights aged 18 or under through professional presentations and mentorship; to facilitate the use of playwriting in the classroom, encouraging creative expression and improving literacy; and to support its writers through advocacy and networking in the theater community.  You can find our website here: www.youngplaywrights.org.

Early Sunday morning our offices caught fire and were essentially destroyed.  We were able to recover our backup drive, so we are able to continue our work, albeit from home and other locations when we directly serve our young writers.  However, everything that existed in real-life form was destroyed, including both hard copies of paper on our desks and person items such as shoes and coats--and most heart breaking of all for me, books.  This is where Sassy Peach Reads comes in.

Over 75 books were for sale on Half.com to bring in revenue for our company, several books and plays were my personal copies that I kept at the office, and I had seven books out from the New York Public Library that were on my desk for easy access as I eat books for breakfast.  Three of them were brand new, including Joan Didion's Blue Nights.  All in, on, and around my desk were destroyed, and those that were not are damaged by smoke and unable to be sold.  There are days where I leave my Kindle at the office, but I am thankful beyond belief that I keep it on my person when I travel.

We will rebuild and we will be stronger than ever.  No one was in the office at the time, so no one was injured.  Everything can be put back together.  Please, though, take a few minutes to read our letter below and if you can find it in your heart to donate to our rebuilding I would not be able to express my gratefulness enough.  Something as small as $5 makes a difference to us.  Please re-post this blog, forward to everyone you have ever been spammed by, or just send us your good vibes--we will take it all.  We will continue doing the great work we have been doing, and in the words of our phenomenal Literary Manager, Elizabeth:
How I get the job done is going to change, but the job is still going to get done.
Thank you, thank you, thank you--for everything.  Have a happy Thanksgiving, and don't forget to be grateful.  I know I sure am; I am grateful for my life, my health, my job, and the people who make all of it worthwhile.  And I am thankful for you, readers. 


Dear Friend,
Early Sunday morning the Young Playwrights Inc. offices were destroyed in a fire.  We've enclosed a few pictures of the aftermath.  Although we are extremely relieved that no one was hurt, the fact remains that after months of working to creatively move the organization forward, we are now facing new challenges.  We know that many of you will instantly ask "How can I help?" and we are grateful for your generosity - a couple of ways to assist are available at the end of this email.
It would be all too easy to pass along only this devastating information - we're certainly still recovering from the shock - but we think it's important to focus on the innovative ways that Young Playwrights Inc. has been working to fulfill its mission.  So, to that end, here's a bit of what we've been up to:
  • We are now recognizing our National Competition winners through weekly interviews with Elizabeth, our Literary Manager.  If you haven't been getting the emails, the articles are available on our News Desk.

  • Additionally, in January, we are opening up our Young Playwrights Conference Reading Series to a wider audience by using the larger space at Cherry Lane Theatre.

  • Nicole, our Education Program Manager, has been heading up a major project to retool our Curriculum Guide to improve usability and clarity, giving more teachers access to our curriculum even if they are not able to bring one of our workshops into their classrooms or travel to New York to train with us.
As the recovery process gets underway we hope to keep you informed with our progress. In the meantime, everyone here is committed to serving our playwrights with no interruption and we hope you will help us fulfill that mandate.  Every Tuesday, 14 young writers have been coming to our office to hone their craft in our Advanced Playwriting Workshop and, other than rescheduling this Tuesday's session, we will continue the program as promised and are in the process of seeking out friendly spaces to host us while we get back on our feet.  This January we have the eight winners of our National Playwriting Competition coming to workshop their plays and we have no intention of changing their experience in any way.  Our upcoming competitions will continue as normal and we are already working on new systems to make this process as efficient as possible under the circumstances.
Over the past 30 years our organization has weathered many storms, and there is no doubt in our minds that by working together we will bounce back stronger than ever.
With great hope,
The Young Playwrights Inc. Team:
Sheri Goldhirsch, Amanda Junco, Elizabeth Bojsza, and Nicole Lorenzetti
Our rehearsal & workshop space.
The origin of the fire, our copy area.
Make A Donation

Because all of our equipment and supplies have been destroyed, what we need most is money.  To make a donation you can mail a check to our Post Office Box (address listed below) or make a donation through Paypal.
Be A Volunteer

We know that we will need extra hands along the way. If you are interested in volunteering please email us your name and the skills you think would be most useful to us to admin@youngplaywrights.org (these do not have to be restricted to cleanup and rebuilding!)
Post Office Box 5134 | New York, NY 10185
Phone: 212.594.5440 (please leave a message we are checking our calls remotely)

View this letter online: Young Playwrights Inc. Devastated By Fire

Monday, November 21, 2011

Le Freak

Continuing on with my love of celebrity autobiography, I picked up Nile Rodger's Le Freak after reviews came out.  I thought it would be interesting to read about the man who wrote and produced some of the biggest hits to date and some of my personal favorite records.

Interesting it was.  Do you know the band Chic? I imagine 90% of you won't.  But you do know "Le Freak (Freak Out)," don't you? "Ahhhhhhhhh, freak out!"  Yeah you do.  It turns out Nile and his bandmate Bernard wrote this little ditty after being denied entry to Studio 54.  There was another phrase that started it, which you can surmise on your own.  Chic--the most well-known unknown band of the disco era.

As Nile moved forward as a producer he brought to the world such classics as David Bowie's Let's Dance and Madonna's seminal Like A Virgin, both of which are the respective artists biggest hits to date.  This memoir is fascinating as a history lesson in contemporary pop, and a little juicy to boot.

If you are even remotely close to calling yourself a music nerd, this is a book you should pick up and revel in.  Nile is a product of his era and it is fascinating to hear him tell his tales of how he ended ip here today, being in the right place and time for where his talents lied (not unlike Bill Gates and Steve Jobs at the dawn of the technological era, which occurred to me often while reading this book).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hellhound On His Trail

I love books, and I love history, so books about history are some of my favorite things ever.  And books about pursuit of famous killers rank up there as primo entertainment.  So Hellhound On His Trail: The Electrifying Account of the Largest Manhunt in American History by Hampton Sides was a must-read the moment I found out about it.

The book follows Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his murder, James Earl Ray (with several aliases) from the few days prior to MLK's assassination to the weeks after as the FBI pursues Ray through the USA, to Canada, and finally to Europe. 

Full of detail, this book read like fiction and kept me engaged throughout.  As I said, I love historical non-fiction especially when it reads like a novel, and I found it here.  I was able to explore MLK's last hours, and I went on the run with James Earl Ray.  I had no clue that JER escaped from prison a year prior to shooting MLK, and I was surprised to find that JER stayed at a rooming house that was down the street from my old apartment, meaning that my former neighborhood had historical significance.  Included in this book is also a history of Atlanta, my beloved hometown--locations and people both.  I understand the significance of street names far more now than I did prior to picking up this book, and I now have a deeper respect for the tributes.

Sides went to great lengths researching this book and the quality shows.  It's a hefty piece but worth every page. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kris Jenner...and All Things Kardashian

I own it.  I checked it out from the library and relished every last tidbit of my book-candy-celebrity-autobiography.  I have no shame--I read a wide spectrum.  But I loooooove mid-grade reality TV and the stars that go with it.  So I hear Kris Jenner has a book coming out, Kris Jenner...and All Things Kardashian, and you best believe I get myself on the list to check it out immediately.

And immediately I did, and I reveled in the juiciness. To be honest, the book is not well-written if we are talking literature; the sentences are perfunctory and clipped with very little flair and expansion.  But to be fair, it's a celebrity autobiography.  It doesn't have to be well-written to be thoroughly enjoyed.

I reveled in her telling of how her family got to where they are and how hard she works, but the reason to pick up this book is Nicole Brown Simpson.  One of her best friends, Nicole and Kris were scheduled to have lunch the day after the now-infamous murders.  Kris was very close to OJ prior to the murders, and as we are all well aware, Kris's ex-husband Robert was one of OJ's defense attorneys.  The center section of this book is about the friendship and the loss, and I found this to be the most important, and most interesting, part of the book. 

Is it worth reading?  If you love reality tv, if you love celebrity autobiography, if you love a fun and juicy read, then absolutely, without-a-doubt-yes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Zone One

Upfront: I am a Colson Whitehead fan, but I am not a zombie fan.  This confluence of events might color the following review of Colson Whitehead's Zone One.

In post-apocalyptic Manhattan, survivors of a plague sweep Zone One, the area of Manhattan below Canal, to rid it of plague-ridden zombies.  The plague has either killed or turned most of the country into "skels"--zombies that attack and eat human flesh (like, humans that are alive and the zombies kill them by eating them...yummy).  Buffalo, which is now the head of the country, hopes that by sweeping this area they can repopulate Manhattan then move on to other major cities.  Mark Spitz is one of his three-member team who is responsible for such work in Zone One.

Colson (we are on a first name basis, I have decided just now) throws sentences on a page the way Jackson Pollack throws paint on a canvas--you may not understand how he does it, but it works, and the beauty is just astounding.  I stuck around with this book not because I am into zombies/vampires/werewolves/any-science-fiction-in-general, but because the way Colson weaves a sentence together leaves me feeling a little tingly inside.  I can't say I entirely understand why, but if you love the art of the sentence then Colson is your man.

I found the story intriguing, and Colson has whipped together a super interesting and intricate plot for this novel.  The details are similar to a well-crafted doll house; no matter which direction you look in he has thought of everything.  No corner is left undecorated--no questions are left dangling.  He has spooked me (I mean, what IF there were a plague that turned us into these awful creatures???) and has boggled my mind a little bit.  So I would highly recommend that you let him boggle yours.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I will be the first person to tell you that I am the 1%.  The 1% of people that strongly disliked Eat, Pray, Love and not out of EPL backlash--but because I felt that the book was self-pittying and whiny. 

I will be the first person also to tell you that I read this book only because it was available through the library for my Kindle.  And I thought, "Why the hell not?"  And thank goodness I did, because I was surprised at how much this book affected me.

Commited by Elizabeth Gilbert was departure from EPL and a return to her research writing that makes her intelligence and inquiry come clear for the reader.  She uses her impending marriage with her Brazilian boyfriend, thanks to Homeland Security,  as a catalyst for understanding what makes marriage what it is--how to make it work and how to keep it from falling apart.  As a person who is skeptical of the institution myself, I was eternally grateful for Gilbert's questions and investigations and her process for understanding what she was about to enter into.

I agree with one reviewer on Goodreads who responded to the backlash to this book (more so than EPL!) when she said that how much you enjoyed this book and took out of it was directly correlated to your expectations going in.  (I paraphrased that and put it in my own words, by the way.)  People who were expecting the soul-searching, life-is-rough, if-I-dig-deep-it-will-come ethos that pervaded EPL then you will deeply disappointed.  But if you go into this book with an open mind and really open yourself up to understand what Gilbert is trying to figure out, which is what makes marriage work, then you will leave with an understanding that there is no answer, and that's ok too.

In conclusion, I think you should give this book a chance.  With an open mind, of course.  Particularly if you are not yet married and/or are struggling with whether or not it's something you want--now or ever.  If you come in with an open mind, you will leave with your horizons expanded.  And it's worth it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Marriage Plot

While I have not yet read The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex (both of which are currently in my library queue), The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides seemed a good a place as any to start on the road to completion of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Eugenides library.  Also, it came available from the library first, so there you go.

In short (and it is very hard to summarize this book, for reasons you will read below), it's the story of Madeleine and her bipolar boyfriend Leonard--but also about Mitchell, Madeleine's friend who makes up the third corner in this love triangle.  The book follows them through their senior year in college (which happens to be in the early 1980's) and beyond.

The reviews that I read prior to cracking open this almost-new book were mixed, and that is enough for me to pick up a book.  Curiosity killed the cat, or so I hear.  I will always be honest with you, dear review readers--and today is no exception.  This book was better marketed than it was structured.  I was originally going to say, "...than it was written," but that's not the case.  Eugenides constructs strong sentences and writes clear prose--it's not the writing.  My issue is with the story structure and it's length.

Overall there is nothing really wrong with the book--but there is nothing exciting about it either.  I felt the plot was so diffuse that I couldn't understand how it was all going to tie together.  I had no sympathy at all for the main female character (stop your whining! was what I wanted to scream at her while shaking some sense into her), and I couldn't understand why the author was covering so much ground in what I was not aware (prior to reading) was an epic novel.

If you are fan of the previous two books mentioned above, by all means, don't hesitate to pick up The Marriage Plot.  This is only my opinion after reading and I strongly encourage my readers to make their own assessment of literature.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wendy And The Lost Boys

I am madly in love with Wendy Wasserstein in that oh-em-gee-your-plays-rock-my-world kind of way, so reading Wendy and the Lost Boys by Julie Salamon was a no-brainer.  I should give you a bit of background first...

About six months ago I realized that I was seeing a lot of shows but not reading many plays, so I took it upon myself to start reading one play a week to pick up on a large chunk of work that I was unfamiliar with.  To simplify my process, I choose one playwright at a time and read their whole cannon before proceeding, and I am working on alternating males and females while mixing up race as well.  I started with August Wilson's Century Cycle, then moved on to Wendy Wasserstein since the theatre I work for had a long-standing relationship with her, and my boss knew her well.  I thought it was appropriate.  (I know you don't care, but I am on Harold Pinter right now.  What this means is, you would have an additional book review each week if I were reviewing the plays--but I digress.)

I fell in love with Wendy and her characters.  I relate to her work and I am moved by seeing her in all of her characters--the search for oneself and the longing for the unattainably perfect life we were told we could have, or, even worse, the life our parents want us to have without regard for what we want.  Wendy and I might be separated by a few decades in age, but I relate to her work so deeply.  Reading Wendy and the Lost Boys was an incredibly enjoyable experience.

On top of getting down and dirty with Wendy's family (what a clan!), this book also added another chapter to the "History of Off-Broadway" cannon.  You can't have a history of Off-Broadway without a history of it's people, and this book is no exception.  It joins Free For All: Joe Papp, The Public, and The Greatest Theater Story Ever Told by Kenneth Turan and Joseph Papp as one of my favorite theatre history books.

I have no doubt that there are some inaccuracies as people claim--Wendy passed away over 5 years ago and was an incredibly private person anyhow when alive--but I appreciate the story as a whole and love the tribute that this book is to her and to her work, the work that I admire so deeply.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Omnivore's Dilemma

You haven't read the omnivore's dilemma until you have read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan.  See, I have done a nice bit of research into foods and I try hard to eat (and often fail at eating) sustainable food and properly raised meat, vegetables, and other goodies.  I have seen the documentaries on food sustainability and I am aware of genetically modified food, engineered meats, and the lack of truly "organic-ness" in our "organic" markets.  But I was still deeply affected by Pollan's book.

I needed another reminder that everything I eat is corn.  I am a sucker for corn, mostly because I am the product of my environment.  Bless my mother, she was into the organic movement in the 1980's long before anyone thought it was remotely cool, and I am so thankful to her for instilling these values in my life and my diet.  She raised me to be aware of my food and the chemicals that I put in my body.  But I can't get away from corn.  It's everywhere--my yogurt (what do you think the cow ate?), my bagel in the morning (what do you think serve as the grains...and not to mention the butter from the previously mentioned cow?), and even my "healthy" salad dressing (high fructose corn syrup, anyone?).

I do what I can--I have my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that I pick up weekly.  I try to do as much shopping at the farmer's market on Sundays as possible, and I pay attention to my labels at the grocery.  But it's not enough, because I have no choice but to deal with corn being the center of my world.  And do you know what that means?  It's the center of yours too.  Sorry to be Debbie Downer.

The biggest effect I on me was the economic and environmental impact these farming practices are having on us.  I am not going to the extreme of veganism, but I am far more conscious now of what I am bringing into my home and what I am putting in my mouth.  I am also more conscious of what is going in to my cat's mouth as well; what he eats will have a huge effect on his health--and my wallet.  It makes a difference--in my health, mentally and physically, and just my overall well-being.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Breakfast At Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote is the stunningly beautiful story that it always has been--it has just taken me a long time to get around to it.  And shame on me.

How captivating the Holly Golightly in this story is; she has stayed with me far longer than Ms. Hepburn's portrayal in the movie version.  Not because the movie isn't lovely--I think she is positively indulgent.  But this Holly, Capote's Holly, is far more fallible and irresistibly broken.  And lovable in the most sympathetic way.  Don't you want to take her home and make her better?  Let her know it's ok, and that it gets better?

I also have to say, "A Christmas Memory" is one of my favorite of Capote's short stories, and it is included in this collection as well as "A Diamond Guitar" and "House of Flowers."  But "Memory" still moves me every time I read it.  It's no secret that I am a Capote fan.  (In Cold Blood, anyone?  A magnum opus if there ever was one.)  He is so languid and beautiful it's hard to put him down.

So if you have yet to pick up this stunningly short work (did you think it was a novel?  I might have...), do so.  It won't take you long to be sucked into Miss Holiday and her web of stories, and you will have to put her down far sooner than you anticipate.  But it will be worth every second, I promise you.  Classics don't become so simply by making nice.  They endure for a reason.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Unforgettable Embrace

Unforgettable Embrace by Joanne Clancy is the story of Rachel, a 30-ish Cork woman who doesn't lie around weeping (for long, anyway) when she breaks off her 14-year relationship with her childhood sweetheart; instead she finds herself in a big way.

I felt that I could hear the Irish brogue throughout the book, and I loved that.  That manner of speaking is so different than American slang and I thoroughly appreciated hearing the characters speak in my head.  It was positively lovely.

There is quite a bit happening in this piece, from Rachel's breakup to her road trip to finding new love (not so much a spoiler since you could guess by the title it involves romance) to happiness (again, same thing) to unexpected danger at the last minute.  I won't give away the details, since everyone deserves a chance to read for themselves.  Just know that it's twisty and curvy--just like life.

If you love intense description, this is definitely the book for you.  I found the often-occurring detail a bit too tedious and often found myself skimming; interesting in everyday life, yes, but a bit heavy for fun reading.  However, come for Rachel--positively messy and relentlessly open to who she might really be.

If you are interested in grabbing the book, it's on in ebook format on Smashwords: www.smashwords.com.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Thank You Economy

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk is exactly what is sounds like--it's not a romance, it's not a super indulgent story, and it's not even fiction.  It is, however, a vital read if you want to keep your business relevant in today's economy, be it your eBay store, your Fortune 500 corporation, or your non-profit theatre company.

Vaynerchuk spends a good bit of the book making sure that you understand how to use social media for your company, not just use it because you feel you have to.  This, I would agree with his assessment, is what can only serve to hurt companies.

This book is incredibly bottom line driven--as long as you understand and embrace that customer service is the bottom line.  A loyal customer base will keep you afloat and will be your best (and sometimes most important) asset, and you do this by saying thank you.  Not just with words or with gifts, but with service and loyalty of your own.

I might now be recommending this book to everyone I know.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Sometimes you come across a book that humbles you.  Sometimes you come across a book that knocks the wind out of you and leaves you gasping for breath.  Sometimes you want to find a character from your book to put the pieces of your broken heart back together.  Sometimes a book does all three.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer deserves more than a simple blog post review.  It deserves to be savored and remembered by all who have the honor of coming across it in their lifetime.  This is the story of Oskar Schell, a young boy who lost his father in the World Trade Center.  Oskar finds a key two years later and sets off through New York City to find what it belongs to, hoping that he can hold on to his father just a little longer.

Last night after I flipped through the last pages (and they are flip-pages, I didn't just not read them), I closed the book and held it to my heart hoping that it would put the pain I shared with these characters back inside.  I needed Oskar to stay in my life so that I could hold him and tell him that it never gets better, but you can sure try.  And I would be with him as long as he needed.  I fell in love with Oskar (more like an aunt-nephew relationship), and I didn't want to send him off into the world without someone to hold his hand.

For fear of giving just too much away, know that by not having read this book you are missing something.  It will affect you, break your heart, and love you back.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Horizontal Life

Today's review will take on a different format.  I would like to write a love note to the author.

An Open Thank You Note To Chelsea Handler

Thank you for going above and beyond the call of duty for the entertainment of Americans everywhere. You are witty, honest, and unfailingly open.  With you, the laughs never cease and I am constantly inclined to shift nervously in my seat on the subway when you write your squirm-inducing passages of your exploits.

The green M&M costume story?  Priceless.  If I had a dollar for every Awkward Ex Encounter I had, my riches would not compare to yours.

You provide a bar for which I am inclined to reach in my dating life, and I appreciate you.



Friday, October 7, 2011

The Tipping Point

We all know our dear friend, Malcolm Gladwell.  And most of us are familiar with The Tipping Point, the beginning of our love affair with Gladwell's pop-psychology.  And I have a confession--I am a (95%) fan of our long-time-non-fiction-writer-crush.

I find Gladwell to be a compelling writer.  He is a conversationalist who takes the reader from everyday to knowledgeable on ideas that people might not be aware of.  His prose lead you to immediately trust his knowledge and he is someone you want to invite to your next dinner party to be the entertainer of the group.

Full disclosure: I take issue with a few of his pronouncements that I feel ignore the "buts" of psychological research.  Those who have done studies are very hesitant about ever saying something is absolutely true, especially when it comes to correlations.  (NERD ALERT!)  I get a tiny bit (read: super) frustrated when I read a passage that talks about a correlation then says that A caused B and uses a correlation as proof.  A correlation is not convincing enough evidence that causation exists, and that's not to say there is no causation.  I am only saying that it's not alright to use cause-and-effect when speaking of a correlation.

Other than that, I love reading Gladwell's prose and his connections between otherwise seemingly innocuous lines of thinking.  I enjoy his everyman writing that still comes across as smart yet still remaining common.  Now that I have read all of Gladwell's books, I guess I should turn toward his New Yorker articles.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bright Lights, Big City

I may be on an '80's kick right now.  Between Bret Easton Ellis and a not-so-long-ago viewing of Brat Pack films, I am immersed in the overindulgent culture of the 1980's all over again.  Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney is no exception.

Focusing on the decadence afforded to even those who were broke in New York City in this time period, McInerney's narrative focuses on our faceless and nameless main man who is reeling from his wife's abandonment of their marriage and his hated and thankless job as a fact checker for an unnamed highbrow and important magazine publication.  He rails through the night, hyped on anything he can get his hands on, then falls in late to work until he is finally fired.  Slowly McInerney reveals a deeper reasoning for his actions and humanizes him toward the end of this short novel.

This novel was short and a fairly easy read.  It didn't take too much out of me emotionally but I still felt myself needing to find out why the main character was such a messed up human being.  Beyond the wife leaving him, that is.  I got my answer in the final few pages of the book, and I felt it was satisfying enough.  I appreciated McInerny holding that out until the end; I felt it really gave the book a perspective that kept me intrigued about from the beginning.  I realize I am about 27 years behind on this book, but I am glad that I added it to my collection of knowledge regarding that fascinating decade of (what else?) decadence. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Imperial Bedrooms

 Imperial Bedrooms, Bret Easton Ellis's follow up to Less Than Zero, is by far more sophisticated writing than his debut more than two decades prior.  The story is clearer, the writing is sharper, and my emotional buy in was cleaner. 

The plot of Bedrooms is not incredibly intricate but highly involved; from the beginning it is clear that Clay, the first person narrator, is being followed.  By whom?  And why?  Most of all, though, why are his former classmates and (un)friends being killed in gruesome ways?

That is not an indication that this is a book version of a snuff film; well, at least not until the final few pages anyway.  It's intriguing and interesting, and if you loved the first book, give this one a shot.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How To Write A Sentence: And How To Read One

Stanley Fish's How To Write A Sentence: And How To Read One is exactly what it sounds like--in addition to being quite divine.  You don't have to be a writer to get something out of this book, nor do you need to be a heavy reader.  You just have to want to learn to love the sentence.

The part that I most appreciated in this book is Fish's encouragement to copy sentences in order to learn to write such beauties.  It was the best advice I have heard.  Find a beautiful sentence and copy it many times using non-sensical and mundane topics; it is the best way to train your brain to find beauty in your writing.

I own it--I am a nerd.  I love books like this that push me to grow and think and improve my writing.  I love the written word, and one of the best reasons in the world to write is because you love sentences.  It's not the only reason of course, but it certainly is a great one.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Danse Macabre

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a history buff.  I love the history of just about anything that I don't already know.  "Just bring it on" is my motto.  So when I read this book a few weeks ago and it recommended Stephen King's Danse Macabre, of course I needed to pick it up.

What is particularly interesting about this book is it's original release date--30 years ago.  What this means is that King delved deep into history prior to 1981 in this book, and it was a deep history indeed.  I appreciate King's connection back to his own life and history, and I loved his insights on why we love horror.  My favorite chapters were when King was talking about his own life and love of horror.

I must also give a shout-out to all three of his introductions as well.  His intro from the first re-print was insightful and hindsightful, if you will.  It was eye-opening while still inviting.

King's most recent introduction I found to be the most interesting part of his book; I do think this was because it brought to light more recent horror films and novels.  I thank Mr. King for his film recommendation list at the end of this introduction, and I look forward to continuing to enjoy the horror genre more deeply with his insights.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Imperfectionists

The Imperfectionists, a novel by Tom Rachman, surprised me a little.  Not that it was good, as it was consistently ranked as one of the best non-fiction books of 2010, but because I wasn't expecting such emotion in the last ditty of the book.

This novel introduces you to a few key players at an international newspaper based in Rome.  Each character has a story to tell about their life at that moment, and each character is a person with a backstory and a life they are living.  Each character will break your heart in their own way.

This book was a reminder that you never know what is happening behind the scenes in someone's life.  What you see on the outside may be very different than what is happening on the inside.  You just never know.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton is exactly what it's cracked up to be.  Now, I love the classics as much as the next person, but I think this post from the blog Better Book Titles says it all.  If you are not an avid reader of this blog, you must become one now.  It's fabulous.

In wealthy New York circa the Guilded Age, Newland Archer is engaged to marry the beautiful May Welland.  Then one day he meets her even-more-beautiful cousin Countess Ellen Olenska who has (gasp!) left her husband.  Archer falls in love with Ellen but marries May as originally planned.  Then he pines for Ellen the rest of the book and has an emotional affair when the reader he realizes the feelings are mutual.

I enjoyed this book for it's story and its harking back to old manners, but I wanted to reach into the book and smack the protagonist, Archer, most of the time.  You made your choice, buddy, and you chose to be with May.  Dude, making grown-up decisions is hard but we all have to do it.  Quit your whining.

If you haven't read it you should.  If you have read it and loved it, sorry to have offended you.  If you read it and hated it, well, this review certainly isn't going to change your mind.  But you should always read the book and judge it for yourself.  Just don't say I didn't warn you that Archer will drive you nuts.

Monday, September 19, 2011

So Much Pretty

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman was the perfect read to take to Europe (when I went--you don't have to go to Europe to read this).  It's the story of a missing young woman and the havoc it wreaks on a small town in upstate New York.  Two parents with the best of intentions raise a daughter too smart for her own good, and tragedy tears them apart.  What happened to the missing young woman, and what happened to our genius heroine?

Each chapter switches character perspective and it keeps you on your toes.  I appreciated the myriad of characters available to me and the different perspectives brought to the table.  I love that the end has no answer, yet it contains all of the answers in this world.  There is so much I want to tell, but if I do I will spoil the book for you.

It is so clear that Ms. Hoffman understands these characters--from the New York City expats to the born-and-bred small town folk.  Buckle up and settle in with this book--it's your only choice.  And don't plan on leaving your house once you get two-thirds in.  You will desperately need to finish.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Thieves of Manhattan

I know you are all like, "Dang, Nic, where you been?" since it's been over a week since my last review, and the answer is that I have been in Europe.  I read some books while there, but when I tried to review them early this week it came out as gobbeldy-gook. 

Ok, ok, let's get to it.  You are riding on a schooner on the ocean, and all is going well.  It's languid and peaceful and you are enjoying the ride.  Maybe even reading a good book and eating some fresh mozzarella with your Prosecco.  You are curious as to where you are going but the fun is getting there, right?  Then BAM, pirates jump on the boat and all hell breaks loose.  This is a metaphor for The Thieves of Manhattan, by Adam Langer.

Holy cow, was I speed reading through by the time I reached the third part.  (Part 1 is Fact, Part 2 is Fiction, Part 3 is Memoir.  Can you tell this is a book on books?)  This book is intriguing and supremely addicting, and when the book suddenly twists out of nowhere (see the pirates reference above, although there are no pirates in this book, per se) you feel like you were just shot in the face.  It's incredible.

I can't even begin to tell you what the plot twist is because then I would give everything away.  You will have to read it for yourself.  And you should.  It's worth it.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Prozac Nation

Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America by Elizabeth Wurtzel is touted as a must-read for anyone interested in the depression/drug/whatever genre.  Very much of the Nevermind mentality.  In fact, the reference to Cobain and Nirvana as representative of the not-quite-counterculture of disaffected youth in the '90's I found to be the most apt in this book.

Overall I would say "good read," and I would tell you that the 300+ pages went by pretty fast.  I do have to say though that there were times where I was frustrated by the repetitiveness of the action.  It pains me to say this because it is Wurtzel's story--and it was her depression, and I want to be sensitive to her experience.  And I do believe the turn-off is a product of 15 extra years history with depression in the media and Prozac in abundance, so I find myself more turned off to the pain than I felt a decade and a half ago.

But if I choose to look at this book as a piece of historical non-fiction in the modern world of depression that we can now treat phamacologically, it now becomes the textbook piece in a history class.  And if you know me well enough then you know I love nothing more than I love history.

So pick it up, read it, and digest it.  It's a piece of our world we can't go away, so we might as well begin to understand it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Strip City

I love Lily Burana.  There just isn't much else to it.  I recently reviewed her latest book, and I went back in time to read Strip City: A Stripper's Farewell Journey Across America this past hurricane-riddled weekend.  It was a fantastic read for a quiet weekend at home, and it kept me reading until the end.

Ms. Burana is a truthful writer; you constantly feel as though you are in conversation with her and you sit at lunch with her (an extended lunch?) watching her in fascination as she weaves her tales of interest.

I want her to write another memoir, about anything really.  She could be chewing gum and talking at the same time, I don't care, I just want to read another!

I love her spunk, her honesty, and her audacity.  I appreciate her refusal to feel shamed about her past, and I admire her opening up about her desire to go back into the ring.  Her farewell tour was about control, and taking the reigns of the horse rather than let the horse drag her behind.  I am grateful for her unabashed pride in exactly who she is and her refusal to compromise herself or her ideas.

But most of all, I am thankful for her ability to tell her story, and for keeping me entertained.  Thanks.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Guilty By Reason Of Insanity

Guilty By Reason of Insanity: A Psychiatrist Explores The Minds of Killers by Dorothy Otnow Lewis, Ph.D. was different than I expected it to be, and in a pretty fantastic way.

I was expecting to read a book that focused on stories of killers, by Dr. Lewis delves into her career using a few specific cases to bolster her points.  And it was terrifyingly addicting.  It's sick, I know, my deep and abiding love of true-crime, but I seriously can't get enough.  And Dr. Lewis being a psychologist only pulls me in deeper as I have a desire to know the "why" of everything.  She creates a window (more like "pull up a couch," really) into her work with some notorious and some not-so-notorious murderers, and the result is this astounding book.

Do you notice that the quote on the front of the book is, "Compelling."  Try more like, "As a reader I am obsessed with continuing to read this book."  It takes compelling to a new level. 

I just love books like these, and I am so happy that I was able to be engrossed in this book.  If you are a true-crime fan or love psychology (and psychiatry, too), pick this up.  I murders make you squeamish, skip it.  But know you are missing out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

So I read the follow up first.  Sue me.  It really doesn't matter, because I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley is everything it is cracked up to be--and more.

This book of essays opens on Crosley discussing her fear of dying while out in New York City and her parents having to clean out her apartment--oh boy, what they'd find.  And not of the usual, "Oh, my parents can't find that" variety, but more of the, "Haha, oh...that..." kind. And it will crack you up.

This was not a book I wanted to put down for a second, because when you read Crosley's essays you feel like you are at brunch with your best friend.  Her essay on being a bridesmaid in a long-lost (and should-have-stayed-lost) friend made me laugh and cry so hard that I realized...I understood.  Holy cow.

So basically what I am saying is go pick up this book.  Then go read her follow up, How Did You Get This Number.  You won't regret it.

I have recently decided that people who don't like Crosley can be summed up into one of the following four categories of people: serial killers, dolphin poachers, dolts, and those people who don't pick up after their dog on my street--you know who you are.  If you can't enjoy Crosley's storytelling then you should get your head checked.  Because you probably fell off a swing set when you were a child.

 [Ok, right now you are saying to me, "Nic, where is your review on Sloane Crosley's follow up?"  And you are right, it's not fair for me to not include it.  So here you go.  Short but sweet.]

A wonderfully funny, at times snarky and at times meaningful, collection of essays that thrilled me until the end. At which point my heart broke with Sloane's. How so, you ask? You must read to find out.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The First Husband

This is the book I spent my "relaxing" weekend with (and I use that term very loosely because it somehow involved not arriving home until 2am Saturday, then awaking to meet the plumber at 7:30am, followed by weeding in the yard and another plumbing problem upstairs).  However, The First Husband by Laura Dave was a decent book to spend a non-thinking weekend with.

It's the story of Annie, a travel writer who is unceremoniously dumped by her director boyfriend one evening out of the blue.  As she deals with this surprise, she meets Griffin and marries him in less than six months.  This precedes a move across the country to small town Massachusetts, and Annie finds that her restlessness is still present even in her happiness.  What happens?  Read to find out.

I have to say, if I hadn't finished this book by last night I was going to go ahead and return it to the library.  The characters didn't grab me, and I felt the protagonist, Annie, was quite whiny.  Sometimes bad things happen honey, and you have to deal with it.  She has a job she loves, and she has a loyal best friend who gets lost in the story-shuffle.  She has two men fighting for her affection and instead of my rooting for the catalyst (Griffin), I find myself thinking that Annie didn't deserve either one.  I wanted her to learn to be grateful for her blessings, not complain up a storm about what she had.

In conclusion, this book might be your choice if you are looking for a summer beach read or something to read on the plane that doesn't require all hands on deck.  This was an appropriate book for my first post-summer non-working weekend, and I was able to finish it in two days.  That counts as a success in my book.