I had to keep reminding myself that I was not reading fiction. Before I read it, I was familiar with the "broad strokes" of Mr. Northrup's story from...moreI had to keep reminding myself that I was not reading fiction. Before I read it, I was familiar with the "broad strokes" of Mr. Northrup's story from the publicity surrounding the movie. Mr. Northrup's story provides insight into the daily realities of being someone's chattel. One owner even had to take out a "chattel mortgage" (think car loan) to buy him. Mr. Northrup endured and was able to return to his rightful place as a free man.
It's written in 19th century English which is more formal than the English we speak and write. If you're unfamiliar with Dickens, Melville, Alcott, Douglass, etc., it may make for tough going. This is not a novelization of a movie, as some seem to think. The book came first, about 160 years ago, give or take. (less)
Kim does it again. This is the fourth of her books that I've read (by coincidence, it's the fourth one she's written) and like her others, it is FUN....moreKim does it again. This is the fourth of her books that I've read (by coincidence, it's the fourth one she's written) and like her others, it is FUN. We follow Nic, Seema and Mel from "There's Cake in My Future" to Seema's big day. The story moves quickly, the relationships among the women are warm, slightly snarky, and caring without sap, without bitchiness and you'd give your best bottle of wine to be their friend. Not often you get to have this much fun reading a book. Go, get it. Read it.(less)
One of the pleasures of sitting down with a Kim Gruenenfelder book is the knowledge that you're being treated to good writing, especially dialogue. I'...moreOne of the pleasures of sitting down with a Kim Gruenenfelder book is the knowledge that you're being treated to good writing, especially dialogue. I've read three of her books, al written in first person. "Cake" takes a slightly different route by breaking the narrative down among three best friends, one of whom is about to get married. She manages to give each a distinct personality and these are women you'd like. Nicole is the bride to be, Seema is the arts professional in love with her best friend and Melissa is the owner of a stable, or stale, relationship. The catalyst for the action is a bridal shower complete with cake pull: charms hidden in the cake are symbols of your future. Nicole has rigged the cake for certain people and yet, somehow, the "wrong" charms get pulled.
Like I said, Ms. Gruenenfelder's characters come across as genuine, likeable without being saccharine or perfect and sane (although Melissa wanders a little too close to Bridget Jones unreasonable craziness).
This is a book to buy, kick back and read. Time spent with Kim Gruenenfelder is not time wasted. (less)
What I learned from this book is how to build a Gothic cathedral.
Actually, this book reminded me of "Sarum,' and my favorite section, the building of...moreWhat I learned from this book is how to build a Gothic cathedral.
Actually, this book reminded me of "Sarum,' and my favorite section, the building of Salisbury Cathedral. This is the first Ken Follett book I have ever read and I'm chiding self for having missed out all this time.
At 900+ pages (a little pink wine and the typing goes), this is not a "finish in one day" endeavor unless you're an Evelyn Woods graduate. However, once in, you stay engrossed. I am a student of the medievel period and this story fed my addiction. I cannot wait until I get my hands on "World Without End."(less)
After I finished "Total Waste of Makeup," I couldn't wait to get hold of "Misery Loves Cabernet." In the "chick lit" stable of heroines, Charlie Edwar...moreAfter I finished "Total Waste of Makeup," I couldn't wait to get hold of "Misery Loves Cabernet." In the "chick lit" stable of heroines, Charlie Edwards was definitely preferable to most of the inhabitants, being strong enough and self-confident enough not to constantly fret over her romantic status (of course, baby-sitting her boss, Drew Stanton, took a lot of time and energy).
I didn't find Misery as much fun as Makeup. In the span of weeks between the end of one and the beginning of the other, Charlie started to veer towards the Desperate Ditz territory owned by Bridget Jones. Why? She has a boyfriend, he's off in Europe and all of a sudden, her being is consumed with whether or not their 3 week old relationship will last and whether or not he's going to cheat. In other words, what endeared Charlie to me was toned way down and I got somewhat annoyed with her in her obsessive moments. Another man comes on the scene and now we're dangerously close to ol' BJ and her damned diary. (There's talk of another Bridget Jones movie. Have we offended God that much?)
I continue to enjoy seeing the surrounding nuttiness through Charlie's eyes. I realize Drew Stanton is a caricature, but how many Sexiest Men Alive rescue hippos? The interplay among the generations of the Edwards family is hilarious and I want to adopt Mauwv.
I recommend "Misery Loves Cabernet" to those seeking a lightweight, fun quick read.(less)
I came upon this book accidentally, having bumped into the author at a Border's book signing. I was lured in with the phrase "Stephanie Plum." Okay, I...moreI came upon this book accidentally, having bumped into the author at a Border's book signing. I was lured in with the phrase "Stephanie Plum." Okay, I thought, this needs to be seen because one does not take the name of Plum in vain.
Man, am I glad I did.
Kim Gruenenfelder has created really good chick lit.
Although popular, Bridget Jones and Rebecca Bloomwood (Shopaholic) are a couple of neurotic nitwits and popular culture being oriented on the "monkey see, monkey do" model, so-called chick lit is filled with clones of these two-bit Cinderellas pining for a rescue and filling the time with self-obsession. (Hey, girls, wanna guess why he's not showing up?)
Charlie Edwards has a brain and uses it. She makes a few comment about her weight compared to those around her (she's a movie star's assistant, so the Size Two Zoo figures prominently in the calculation. And Kim, that's MY phrase!). Her younger sister is getting married in 3 weeks, a situation that does tend to weigh on the mind of an unmarried sibling. And Charlie does investigate the possibilities of a couple or three potential men; sometimes comically, sometimes he's the prototypical lying dog and sometimes, it'll break your heart.
One of the things that really caught my attention was how great the secondary characters were, including the whacko movie star boss. I didn't find any cardboard cutouts (well, okay, the grandparents were two-dimensional, but fun). These were complex characters with good and bad characteristics, like the television version of "Sex and the City". I was braced for Drew Stanton to remain a total fruitcake, but he had moments of genuine caring for those around him that mitigated his flakiness (some of which includes an elephant. Just buy the book). I adored Charlie's great grandmother Mauwv. 95 years old and taking no prisoners.
A note on the blurb compares Charlie to Stephanie Plum, as I mentioned. In my mind, she skewed more towards Cannie Shapiro and Jennifer Weiner's characters; sane people surrounded by lunatics. Charlie is a great connoisseur of Merlot and like one of the better ones, she contains notes of Cannie, certain Plummy depths and a hint of Elizabeth Bennett (the first chick lit heroine). I didn't read the jacket for "Misery Loves Cabernet" (is that a great title or what?), but if Charlie's on board, then so am I. And if Charlie's not there, I'm sure it'll still be a great read.(less)
Jennifer Weiner made a hellacious plane ride (complete with screaming, bratty children and whiny British tourists) much more tolerable with this story...moreJennifer Weiner made a hellacious plane ride (complete with screaming, bratty children and whiny British tourists) much more tolerable with this story. I have enjoyed Ms. Weiner's voice since Page 1 of "Good In Bed" and she has never disappointed. As this story is a sequel to "Good In Bed", I would advise the interested reader to go to that book first as some of the references would be lost, otherwise.
I can't wait for the next Jennifer Weiner book. She has earned my loyalty.(less)
I was looking for something that would not tax my brain and found it. This book is amusing. I can (somewhat uncomfortably) relate to the heroine and h...moreI was looking for something that would not tax my brain and found it. This book is amusing. I can (somewhat uncomfortably) relate to the heroine and her predicament.
Here's the thing: the book is entertaining, but there were facets of Rebecca Bloomwood that brought Bridget Jones to mind. I found Bridget Jones to be a whiny self-absorbed nitwit. This, however, did not stop me from reading the second book.
Despite my antipathy towards the character, I enjoyed Ms. Kinsella's writing; she's a good story teller. (less)
You may only know Sarah Vowell by her physical voice, as she is a regular contributor to Public Radio's "This American Life" and the voice of Violet i...moreYou may only know Sarah Vowell by her physical voice, as she is a regular contributor to Public Radio's "This American Life" and the voice of Violet in "The Incredibles." It is a unique voice, at once childish in pitch yet edgy.
Apparently, when she writes, the child is left at home with a babysitter. Hers is a voice of barbed observation combined with painstaking research on her chosen subject.
I decided I had to read "The Wordy Shipmates" after reading a review on CNN.com that contained a quote (from page 12) "Winthrop and his shipmates and their children and their children's children just wrote their own books and pretty much kept their noses in them up until the day God created the Red Sox."
The form of the book is not standard; it's a long narrative without division into chapters. Chronologically, it goes from the departure of the Arbella through to King Phillip's War (remember THAT one from sixth grade, New Englanders? Yeah, those of us from the upper right-hand corner of the country know this stuff and can tell you which Indian nations sided with whom in the French and Indian wars. We made maps).
I liked this book well enough not only to HIGHLY recommend it but also to look for more works by Ms. Vowell like "Assassination Vacation."(less)
The writers behind the TV series "Sex and the City" are responsible for its sparkle and wit. I learned that Candance B...moreWhat I learned from this book...
The writers behind the TV series "Sex and the City" are responsible for its sparkle and wit. I learned that Candance Bushnell is a flat-footed writer whose prose reminds me of a 15 year old girl recording her day in a diary. There was a scene where two characters at a party were described as becoming "horrid little cats" and gossiping about everyone else in the room. If one has taken the time and effort to create characters, one shouldn't consider the act complete merely at creation. These were the written equivalent of cardboard cutouts.
I can't help but wonder (and if you know the TV series, you know the phrase) why anyone considers Candace Bushnell a great writer. Successful, certainly. Her strength, I suppose, lies in her ability to titillate and provoke her readers into looking for themselves disguised as characters (after all, this started as a column in the New York Observer). I've read 3 of her books and for the most part, the female characters are heartless, hedonistic and gold-digging unto amorality. They can trust no one, especially each other.
Thanks, but I'll stick to the HBO Carrie and Company.