Saturday, July 26, 2008

Do They Wear High Heels in Heaven? by Erica Orloff

Do They Wear High Heels in Heaven? by Erica Orloff
Chick Lit

Lily is a single mother of two, ex-wife to the "spawn of the devil" who, while she was in labour with her second child, cheated on her with someone on 10 years older than their daughter. However, Lily has Michael, her best friend of 20 years, and a gay man. Michael is close to Lily's children and does a lot of with the family. He's had his own struggles, coming out of the closet and having to give up a career in baseball because he was beaten close to death for being gay.

Lily writes a column in the paper and her boss tells her she should go get a mammogram and write a story about it to bring awareness to the community. When Lily finds a lump in her breast however, she starts to get worried. It turns out to be cancer and Lily must start to look at life in a new light for fear that she might not be around for much longer.

While the end of this book was touching, I wasn't overly impressed. I felt like Orloff was trying way too hard to gain sympathy for Michael - having him be beat up to a bloody pulp, having his father not talk to him, having him give up his career. Was all that really necessary? Michael is a likable character without having to feel sorry for him too. More than a couple of times I felt like saying "I get it! He's had a tough life! Move on!", and this detracted from the main story of Lily and her cancer.

First Line: "My phone rang, and I reached a hand out into the blackness and fumbled for the receiver."



Friday, July 25, 2008

Ace has gone to the mountains for 2 weeks. She hopes to get lots of reading done and will post reviews on her return

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

You Suck

You Suck by Christopher Moore

This book is the sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends. Jody has turned Tommy into a vampire and he must now learn some new habits. First they must find a new minion to do their daytime chores. They find a way to drink coffee without vomiting and they have to decide what to do about a bronzed old vampire.

Tommy's old night crew friends blow all their money on a Vegas hooker and now the hooker wants Tommy's money too. I loved the way the minion took care of Jody and Tommy in the end

This book was very similar to the first but it was still entertaining.

First Line: "You bitch, you killed me"



Monday, July 21, 2008

Good-Bye and Amen

Good-Bye and Amen by Beth Gutcheon

When both parents die how does a family divide up the family heirlooms without causing irreparable rifts? Good-Bye and Amen is a book about just that.

Laurus Moss was a Danish Concert pianist married to privileged Sydney Brant. Sydney loved to cause dissension among her three children (Eleanor, Monica and Jimmy). Even beyond the grave she attempts to cause fights by holding a lottery for her possessions.

Eleanor is the oldest child. A traditionalist who has a nice stable and secure life married to Bobbie. She wants things for her children.

Monica is the middle forgotten child. Sydney had never really helped Monica when Monica needed her and now everything seems to be dissolving right before her eyes. Monica married the charismatic Norman, a lawyer turned Episcopal priest. Norman also takes Monica for granted and just seems to think she is invisible. He is one of those types who seem to think woman are there to serve them and the world revolves around themselves. He has moved from parish to parish trying to move up the ladder to bishop.

Jimmy is the youngest. He had a difficult adolescence and had alienated himself from the family but has found his way back. His style of living in more carefree than the rest of the family.

The book is written from the perspective of each individual character. At first I had difficulty keeping them all straight and wished I had turned to the back of the book where they are all outlined. This book is so detailed in character development it almost reads like a non-fiction memoir.

I enjoyed the book and can only hope when my siblings and I are in the same circumstances we do as well as the characters in this book

First Line: "The trouble started when Jimmy took the piano."



Sunday, July 20, 2008

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

This book opens up with a Jewish family of four being chased down a road by Nazis. The father tells the children that they must leap out of the vehicle and that they must run into the forest, forever using the names Hansel and Gretel, good German names. At a bend in the road, the children separate from their father and stepmother and run into the forest. They walk the night, rest in leaves, and continue on in the day, eventually finding the house of an elderly woman named Magda. Magda is considered to be a witch by the people in the village that she lives close to.

Magda decides to chance it and takes the children into her home, getting them documents and introducing them to her family. However the children and the village are not safe. A senior officer of the Reich comes to the village to take away "perfect" children back to Germany and the village needs to hatch a plan to make sure that no children are taken a way.

Meanwhile, the parents manage to escape from the Germans chasing them and meet up with a group of Russians and Lithuanians. They fight side by side with this group to try to stay alive in these trying times.

Given the serious nature of the subject matter in this book, you're never really sure whether this book is going to end with a happy or sad ending. Meanwhile, the characters capture you and all you can do is hope that everything works out well for them. I would definitely search out another book by Murphy. This one was a real page turner.

First Line: "Caught between green earth and blue sky, only truth kept me sane, but now lies disturb my peace."



Thursday, July 17, 2008

Island of the Sequined Love Nun

Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore

Tucker Case is a screw-up. When he destroys his company's jet while accompanied by a prostitute who wants to join the mile high club, he has to leave the United States and quickly.

He ends up in Micronesia hired to fly a brand new Lear jet for some Missionaries. How did he figure they could ever afford a jet? To get to the job, he misses the boat and ends up in a small boat with a cross-dressing navigator and a pet fruit bat. The navigator does not even consider checking weather forecasts and they are in a typhoon. By good luck, Tuck lands on the correct island but is almost dinner for an elderly member of the natives who inhabit the island.

I loved the book. It was outrageously funny and completely off the wall. A very entertaining read

First Line: "Tucker Case awoke to find himself hanging from a breadfruit tree by a coconut fiber rope."



Monday, July 14, 2008

Predicting Technology by Thomas E. Vass

Predicting Technology by Thomas E. Vass

We all know how much technology has changed our lives over the past few years. You can even trace the evolution of technology over the course of a single year. Vass has written this book with the hopes that from it, organizations, entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens can better understand how technology evolves, how it affects our lives, and what we can do to assist in technological innovation.

Vass starts out by giving the basic definitions that people need to understand to grasp the concepts of the book. These definitions are clearly explained in such a way that anyone should be able to understand. Vass also takes well known economic models and expands on them. For anyone that has taken an economics course before, we know that the models only actually work in a 'perfect world'. However, there's no such thing as a perfect world and Vass does a great job of adapting models to take this into consideration. I've never seen anything like his proposed spiral models. They make a lot of sense!

We were taught in the MBA that if you can get your point across in a table, then you will likely be able to communicate your idea much better. Vass neatly sums up his ideas at the end of the book which allows them to be used as tools for anyone reading the book.

The amount of research that Vass has done is exceptional. He supports his ideas with multiple sources and explains quotations from those sources. However, I am concerned that Vass is targeting his book to the wrong audience. He states at the beginning that this book can be read by "ordinary citizens" but I think this book would be better targeted towards people with economics and technological knowledge. Specifically, CIOs and business students. Ordinary citizens are not going to be able to understand the mathematical equations or some of the economics concepts unless they've been exposed to them before.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This book is about one woman's journey for one year. Liz Gilbert went to Italy (eat), India (pray) and Bali (love). She has just suffered through a bitterly contested divorce and a failed love affair. First stop, Italy. Liz locates herself in Rome and immerses herself in Italian language and food. She travels all over the country and has some of the most phenomenal meals. This was very interesting to me as I have just returned from Italy myself. I wish I could have eaten like Liz and not have had to worry about the weight gain.

Next stop, India. Liz now is at an ashram in India. This part is very spiritual and very dry. I just could not relate in any way. I am a practitioner of yoga but I can not envision myself meditating for hours on end. I could not get into this part at all

Next stop, Bali. Here Liz 'trains' with a Balinese medicine man. This part detailed some of the Balinese customs and ceremonies which are so totally different from the Western world. I enjoyed Wayan's cure of male infertility. Again I found this section interesting and even in parts very funny. It is fantastic that Liz is able to raise so much money so quickly to help her friends.

First Line: "I wish Giovanni would kiss me."



Mercy Street

Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart

Mary Corcoran's grandson Ryan and three of his friends met in a neighbourhood park. Two of them were shot dead and Ryan and Courtney Bauer are missing. Since there was no robbery and no other suspects, Ryan and Courtenay are presumed guilty. Ryan's grandmother believes in their innocence and wants to find out what really happened. Where are the missing teens? Why were they meeting in a park after dark? Robert Magellan, whose wife and infant son disappeared one year ago, agrees to fund the investigation by a competent investigator if one exists.

Enter Mallory Russo, ex-cop. Mallory has just resigned from the police force after a smear campaign forced her resignation. It was either resign or find herself alone in a dangerous situation or take a friendly bullet in the back. Mallory is reluctant to take the case but finds herself becoming intrigued and gets involved. She is a born investigator with the intuition and stubbornness required.

The police are dragging their feet as they are short-handed because there is a sniper on the loose. Charlie Wanamaker is Russo's replacement and assigned to the case. Mallory and Charlie work together to find the teens before the real killer does. There is lots of sizzle between these two.

Stewart pulls the reader into the book because her characters are so well developed. I wanted to smack the macho cop who has it in for Mallory.

This book is obviously a springboard for a series based on Mallory Russo. I want to find out about how Mallory's and Charlie's relationship develops and want to read about more of Mallory's cases. Will Mallory's next case be Magellan's lost wife?

First Line: "From the top of the jetty to the rocks below was roughly twelve feet, give or take"



Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Name is Bosnia by Madeleine Gagnon

My Name is Bosnia by Madeleine Gagnon

When war breaks out in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sabaheta is just a regular university student. But war changes everything. Her brother is taken away and her mom goes crazy, which sends her to an asylum. Sabaheta cuts her hair and takes to the forest with her father to fight. When her father is killed, she renames herself Bosnia, acknowledging that she may someday have to leave her country, and heads into the city.

The city, though, is no safer than the forest. There's constant shooting and shelling, killing citizens. Bosnia finds some friends and shacks up with them for the duration of the war. The situation turns from bad to worse when food and firewood runs out and the group resorts of tearing up books and using them for kindle. Bosnia also befriends a soldier, Adem, and eventually falls in love with him. With the latest round of killing, Bosnia and Adem decide they can no longer live in their beloved city, but must move away from the war. They move to France and, eventually, to Quebec.

The book is separated into three parts representing where the couple is: Bosnia, France, and Quebec. The first part is about the war and Bosnia finding Adem. This was by far the most interesting part of the book. I wish I had more of a background on the history to better understand what the characters were going through.

Sometime between Bosnia and France, Bosnia's mom got better and was no longer crazy. How does someone go from being crazy and not being able to talk to being sane and making sense? I didn't understand that one. This is where the book went downhill a bit. Things just seemed to drag on and there wasn't much point to it. When the characters then traveled to Quebec, the book wrapped up nicely.

First Line: "For a long time, I knew happiness"



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Interview with Kerry Cohen, Continued

Interview with Kerry Cohen, Part 2

How do you handle negative comments (do you cry, rage or blow it off)?

You mean comments about Loose Girl, I'm assuming... When I first got negative comments, it really messed me up. I don't know why I didn't expect any of it; I think I'm just naive about such things. But at first I felt awful. I mean, I'm still the girl in that book. I'm confident in some ways, but I'm also insecure and self-doubting, like anyone else. I also get really bothered at the idea that there are people out there who scramble to put negative things into the world, who try to tear down other people rather than look at themselves. It's an ugly part of our culture.

At this point I mostly try not to look because I know I just don't have the ego strength to not be affected, and the bottom line is that not everyone is going to like me, or my work, or the things I have to say. Meanwhile, I get so many amazing, intimate, beautiful comments from readers, I allow those to buoy me.

What book did you last read?

I read tons of memoirs and I recently finished A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs. It was...okay. I really like Burroughs, but he brings up the question of how many memoirs one can squeeze out of one's life before it becomes more self-gratifying than anything else. In my mind, the greatest aspect of memoir is its ability - above all other genres - to form a relationship with its readers. Memoirs create intimacy between writer and reader. I didn't feel that from his latest book.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

My perfect day would start after a solid, uninterrupted nine hours of sleep, something I rarely get these days. Then I would write - really well! - for five or six hours. Next I would maybe take a walk or hang out with my sweet boys, who would be in good moods, with no whining or irrational demands. I'd have dinner with my husband and maybe a friend or two and some good wine. And the boys would actually get to sleep early, leaving time alone for my husband and me to just talk. As you can see, my life is pretty boring these days, and I like it that way.

What is your next book about?

I'm at work on a second memoir. It's about the journey my family has gone through in coming to terms with my older son's special needs. He is diagnosed PDD-NOS, which puts him on the autistic spectrum. I'm interested in how accepting him and all his wonderful ways of being in the world, as well as his limitations, have been a reflection of - and instructive about - my own limitations, both as a mother and in my ability to have intimacy post-loose-girl years.

Interview with Kerry Cohen, author of Loose Girl

Interview with Kerry Cohen, author of Loose Girl

When a person has an addiction they say they must reach 'rock bottom' before there will be a change. What was your 'bottom'?

I'd say my bottom was when I was with Toby. I believe the people we choose to bring close to us are often a direct reflection of where we're at at the time, and Toby was a mirror of my worst, ugliest desperation. He had no self-respect, no internal resources for change. It was as though I chose him in order to look at myself more honestly, to decide something different for myself. It took me a while to untangle myself from him, but I did, and this is when I started making new choices - very, very slowly.

In your book you are brutally honest about your parents' deficiencies in parenting. Have they read your book and what was their reaction?

Before the book came out, I had talks with both of them. I knew my father would be pretty jovial about the whole issue, which he was. I've almost always been able to be upfront with my father about my feelings without worrying he would go away. He's used to me by now. I was terrified about my mother, though. As might be obvious in the book, I've never been able to have my feelings with her, not if they make her feel bad. I feared the book's arrival would mean the end of our already rocky relationship. But she surprised me. She told me she was proud and that she had always felt guilty about that time in my life. She gave me her blessings.

All that said, I'm pretty sure neither one has read the book, but that's OK with me. I understand. I think they want to be able to feel proud of my accomplishment, without having to know all the gritty details about what I experienced growing up. In the past this would have been upsetting to me. I would have felt like it was just one more way they put their own feelings - the protection of themselves - before mine. But nowadays I get that this is what they're capable of. They know their limitations and are just trying to love me best they can.

What is your relationship like with your parents now?

I have solid relationships with both of them. Once I stopped expecting and needing things from them they were never going to give, life as their daughter got a lot easier. Sometimes I can still feel sad about the fact that I don't have the sort of mother or father I would have wanted, or one of them does something that will feel terrible, but at some point in adulthood it's time to take on the responsibility for those feelings, to stop putting them on my parents, or boys, or friends, or whatever. I try my best to do that.

When we have children we always say that we will do things differently from our parents. What will you do differently?

Um, almost everything! I remember right after my first was born, we had been part of a childbirth education class and there was a reunion. The teacher asked us, "Do you understand your parents better now that you're parents?" Everyone else said, "Yes," while I said, "Hell no!" They all looked at me like I was the crazy one. Maybe I'm the only one who had such crappy parenting?

The main thing I'm doing - the primary thing that I believe might have changed my life - is I'm trying to make sure my kids will feel safe to have their feelings with me, to always put their feelings above mine. And if I fail at this, I try to be accountable for it. That's the biggie. I figure most everything else will fall into place after that one.

I should say, there are a few things my parents did well. My father, for instance, always made me feel safe financially. I never felt in danger of being without. I plan on doing that for my kids too, no matter our financial situation.

You said your husband would read the book once it was released. What was his reaction to your book?

Well, of course he already knew everything in it, and he knew most of the stories too. He didn't love immersing himself in the difficult feelings, though. I mean, they don't permeate my life anymore, like they did during the years of the book. Obviously, there's a part of him that would rather not have to think about that part of my life too much.

What was your biggest regret about that period in your life?

Biggest regret, hands down, is that I didn't simply enjoy my single years. I wasted all that time and all those experiences with guys chasing after something that didn't even exist when I could have been having fun. It was never going to happen, of course. I had to be who I was, and I'm fine with that now. But if I have to regret something, it's the lack of fun.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Story of the Cannibal Woman

The Story of the Cannibal Woman by Maryse Conde

Roselie's husband goes out late at night to a neighbourhood store and is killed. The police believe that it is not a robbery. Roselie now is left without any means of support and starts off using her talents as a clairvoyant. As Roselie starts to lead life on her own, she decides to follow in her husband's footsteps to try to solve his murder.

Life as a interracial couple is depicted with all the racism that Roselie is exposed to. Roselie also learns that Steven, her husband is not the man she thought he was. There are many people who actively dislike him.

I found this book extremely hard to read and to get into. I believe part of the problem is the translation is poorly done. The other problem is the style of the writing was just not to my taste. It was too lyrical for me.

First Line: "Cape Town always slept in the same position, curled up in the muzzle of a gun."



Tuesday, July 01, 2008

You Suck by Christopher Moore

You Suck by Christopher Moore

This book is round two of Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore brings us up to date on what is going on with Jody and Tommy and their vampire-filled world. Jody has recently turned Tommy and, unlike last novel where Jody was trying to get used to being a vampire, we now have Tommy trying to get used to being a vampire.

The two try to find a minion to do their daytime bidding, try to determine how to drink coffee without throwing it up, figure out what to do with their bronzed statue of an evil vampire, and deal with the animals and their drinking and smurf-ish hooker problems. Yes, if you haven't read this book it sounds a bit ridiculous. Even having read the book, it is a bit ridiculous.

My understanding is that Moore only wrote this book to shut up his fans who kept asking for a sequel. It didn't seem as well planned out as the first one, and was a little too similar. Moore reused plot lines and solutions that the characters from the first novel had come up with again in the second novel. While it was fun and light, it's not one of Moore's better works.

First Line: "You bitch, you killed me!"