Monday, January 26, 2015

The Rosie Effect

This enjoyable sequel to The Rosie Project, finds Don and
Rosie married, both working at Columbia University in NYC and a baby on the way. With some quirky new additions to the cast of characters, a lot of psychology surrounds the couple as Dons "personality" that is never quite labeled but always charmingly hilarious, finds himself in a heap of trouble. He is consistently honest, straightforward and painfully literal as we repeatedly learn that most people are not... ever. His way appears the correct way as he continually helps his friends and loved ones solve their problems in the simplest most scientific approach which so often works! Dwelling on her complicated past Rosie is not sure Don wants to be a father and she pulls back in a rather uncharacteristic manner while Don is resolved to prove her wrong. They all learn a lot about friendship and loyalty from Don, the one they think needs the help. Fun loving easy read. If you liked The Rosie Project (soon to be a film,) the sequel is a quick must.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Brother of the More Famous Jack

Katherine is 18 years old and living quietly with her
mum when she is thrown into the folds of a boisterous, loving, kind of nutty family called The Goldmans. Brought there by a mysterious older man she meets in a bookstore, she is quickly introduced to Jacob Goldman, who happens to be her new philosophy professor at university, his magnificent wife, pregnant for the 6th time and his many strong willed, handsome children. Katherine is immediately entwined into the drama and complicated relationships of which she (as an only child) has never experienced. The dynamics in the household are odd as the family, especially beautiful Roger, whom she immediately has a crush on, are both incredibly cynical and loving with each other at the same time. Through the trials and tribulations of family and intellectual life, Katherine learns much about the world which she sees through eyes much bigger than she ever imagined. This novel by Barbara Trapido was her smash debut back in the early 80's. (what the heck was I reading back then?) I adored all the characters and coming of age story of Katherine who had and lost and had it all again. Both funny and loving in that twisted dry English way, I most certainly would recommend and read anything by this fabulous author.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Florence Gordon

How this author (male) got inside the head of this brilliant but cantankerous 75 year
old woman, I will never understand. Florence Gordon lives in NYC. She has led a highly intellectual life as a successful writer, speaker and leader of all things concerning feminists. Long ago divorced and leading life very much by her own drummer, Florence is finally writing her memoirs. Her son Daniel, his wife Janine and their daughter Emily unexpectedly show up in NYC via Seattle and throw Florence's life into a tailspin. She is not the type who hugs, is painfully honest and frankly enjoys being alone; people annoy her tremendously. While Daniel is taking some time off of work, Janine finds herself immersed in a fellowship and maybe a crush on her boss. Emily is taking an unexpected break from college and while struggling to find her calling, she begins to assist Florence with research. While everyone seems to be in awe and walk on eggshells around Florence, Emily tries to mirror her fearlessness and figure out what makes her tick. This story is about family, friends and following your dreams (which is not always the same as following your heart.) The characters are incredible. It is written in teeny tiny little chapters which I loved. It was like taking little bites of some delicious dessert. I did not want it to end. If I gave stars, it would be 5.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Divorce Diet

Abigail is a twenty something woman with an infant, a beautiful
new home, an amazing talent for cooking and a lying cheating selfish scoundrel of a husband, Thad. After never quite losing the baby weight she decides she is going to lose the weight the Natural way through a Life Journey. She begins to follow a hysterical path, guided by some spiritual diet guru, through a diet that will change her life forever. No, excuse me, not a diet - a life journey. As Abigail makes fun of the rubber steam chicken, and weighing inedible cardboard meals, she tracks all of this in her food diary, and slowly her life begins to unravel. Thad wants a divorce, Rosie, her magnificent child is not crawling, she has no discretionary funds, no means to make a decent living and finds herself at home with her stoic (but generous) parents eating frozen dinners and watching bizarre tv every evening while they contemplate absolutely nothing. Swearing she is not a reflection of her parents, will not be a reflection of the middle aged waitress she meets at her new job (waiting tables in a chain restaurant!) and wanting so very badly to change her life, Abigail slowly learns who she really is. Her food journal becomes a reflection of her true self. Ellen Hawely tells this tale in a easy to read, diary-like format. She is humorous and sensitive and honest. For any woman who has ever been on a diet or wanted to grow up to have (more!) this is an easy enjoyable read that you will not put down. Similar humor of a Bridget Jones you certainly don't need to be getting divorced or be on a diet to relate to these funny likable characters. The moral of the story is only YOU can change YOU.

Mermaids in Paradise

Deb and Chip are a young couple living in Brentwood, about to get married. Chip is a
muscular good looking jock embracing a kind heart and unique sense of humor while Deb portrays an out of the box beauty with enough wit and intellect for them both. Together they are planning the last details of their wedding and subsequent honeymoon. Hounded by Chip's difficult demanding mother and Debs "ironic" lifelong friend Gina, each part of their tale is filled with a dry comedy normally found in English novels. When the happy couple arrives on the Caribbean island they booked for a week of romantic bliss; the rocking dinner table, mid western eating partner with a foot fetish and marine biologist specializing in Parrot fish really throws their honeymoon for a loop. Deb and Chip had no idea just how far this bizarre scenario would turn out when they get caught up in a mermaid tale/kidnapping/murder taken from a very bad B movie. The story is well written, funny and I even liked the characters but as I turned each page I kept hoping it was the last. Not a good sign. Sorry, reader friends, can't recommend this one.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

2008, the slums of Annawadi, just outside the Mumbai International
Airport, India. Can there be anything more heartbreaking than thousands (millions??) of people living in the streets, garbage picking for a living? Little food, contaminated water, disease, no education, no help, no hope. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Katherine Boo takes us to the inner workings of one of the overcrowded slums where squatters have made their homes out of garbage. They have no bathroom facilities and very little fresh water. Children labor or beg, many do not survive. They come from far away villages hoping there may be more opportunity for themselves, for their children and the vicious cycle of poverty seems to only get worse. The charities unknowingly (sometimes?) donate their supplies and food only to have them sold on the black market. Very few are educated. Very few ever get out alive. That this exists just outside of a major airport, in sight of a fancy Hyatt hotel where people are lunching by the pool as they talk on their cell phones is part of the problem. Have we become desensitized to suffering? This author takes us on a scary journey into the lives of a few families that fight every day for the right to live almost as if they are entitled to nothing more than the free air, which is filthy as well (and if they could charge them for it, they would.) People, out of pure survival mode have learned to lie, cheat and steal. Between politics, the caste system and religious differences, Katherine Boo has described to us the details of this painful existence and the real and only question is; what can we do about it?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Boston Girl

Addie Baum is being interviewed by her granddaughter Ava as
she approaches her college graduation. She asks 85 yr old Addie, "How did you get to be the woman you are today?" And so begins the diary-like story of The Boston Girl. Beginning in the early 1900's, the daughter of immigrant parents working in the local factories, learning english, living in the tenements and not having much to eat, Addie shares her story of friendship, family, love and struggle. Through wars, The Depression, illnesses and death - none of it was easy and all of it necessary. To fight for more, for women's rights,  child labor laws, to end lynching, higher education and gosh, just to wear pants! Addie is a feisty, intelligent woman who was as a sister, daughter, wife and friend. She lived her life to the fullest. Every moment and every opportunity. The Boston Girl was reading my grandmothers diary, or that of any her friends and family from that generation. Peeking so deeply into her heart felt as if Addie was sitting in my living room having tea. These stories are all of our stories, America, the melting pot. The values determined from this exciting tumultuous century from using the telephone to prohibition and the discovery of so many things we sometimes take for granted. Addie believed in progression, she believed in moving forward. This is a simple story that I could not put down. Mesmerized by the vibrant cast of characters, all I could think is why in the world did I not sit down and truly interview my own grandmother? Because when you are 22 your life is moving so quickly, it is hard to value the past, until it is too late. I read The Boston Girl in one sitting. This easy enjoyable writing was an absolute treat and boy, is my mother and mother-in-law going to flip over this story!