Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I read The Accidental by Ali Smith over the weekend. It's about a family on holiday and a woman, slightly ominous and a stranger to all of them, who appears on their doorstep and is taken in by them. She is fascinating to each member of the family for a different reason and the changes she inspires in them have lasting repercussions beyond the vacation. Each chapter is narrated by a different family member, with the woman, Amber, only revealed through their perspectives; they project their ideas onto her, while she remains an enigma. It got rave reviews all over the place when it came out and I wanted to love it, which I almost did. I think I was expecting something a little more epic at the end, a more bold move. Amber seemed too challenging for her motives to be so simple.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

So all last week I was trying to plow through The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl. You'd think I would love it given that I liked The Dante Club a lot and I love Poe, but man this book just dragged. It picked up briefly when the main character went to France to search for the real Dupin from Poe's stories to help him solve mystery of Poe's death, but then got bogged down again when he returned to Baltimore.

I finally decided that I didn't care about it anymore and tossed it in favor of some more YA goodness. I went to a author event for Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist recently, so I picked up Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn. Overall, I enjoyed it. I thought the whole doll aspect seemed a little forced at times, but I liked the rest of the story. It didn't hurt that half of it was set in San Francisco.

Then Sunday I read Cohn's Pop Princess, about a girl who was on a Mickey Mouse Club type kids show when she was younger and who gets signed to a record deal in the wake of her sister's death. She has to go through the whole star-making machine, all the while feeling that she's doing it for her sister who was on the brink of stardom herself before she was killed. My inner teen still loves the pop music, so I enjoyed the inside look at the business and the book had more depth than I expected.


Friday, June 16, 2006

I only read two books while I was visiting my family, which seems like a very low number. Anyway. The first was Company by Max Barry. I enjoyed his other books, so I was looking forward to this one. It didn't disappoint. It's about a company, of course, and a new kid, fresh out of college, who begins to ask questions about what the company actually does. What he discovers elevates the book from a funny, Microserfs-ish picture of corporate life to a bigger statement on the nature of large corporations and business models. I enjoyed it a lot. And I love that it was dedicated to Hewlett-Packard.

The next one I read was She Got Up Off The Couch And Other Heroic Acts From Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel. It's the sequel to (or continuing adventures of) A Girl Named Zippy, which I loved. I loved this one too. Kimmel has such a warm, funny writing style and I enjoyed these stories of her life, especially those that showed her growing awareness of the outside world and those about her mother's steadfast pursuit of a college education.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

I finished Alternatives To Sex by Stephen McCauley today at lunch. It's about a forty-something real estate agent in Boston who shields himself from love with a long string of anonymous hookups until he is forced into a reevaluation of his life by the imminent departure of his best friend. I've read most of McCauley's other books, but I don't recall disliking the main character in those books the way I did in this one. I think it was William's indecisiveness and passivity that bothered me the most. Who was it that said we hate in others the things we hate in ourselves? I suppose that's right in this case, because as soon as he actually started taking control of his life I found myself warming to him. By the end I even liked him. It just seemed to take way too long to get to that point. Normally I would not have kept reading if I felt that way about a character, but I did enjoy most of the minor characters and McCauley is such a witty writer that he'd make me laugh even when I was nearly ready to throw the book out.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Hmm... it seems I've turned this blog into a YA Lit one. But how can I help it when there are so many good YA books out lately? The last one I read this weekend was Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and I totally loved it. DJ is a teenage girl who took over the work on her family's small dairy farm in Wisconsin after her father got injured. Her older brothers were big high school football stars and she used to help them practice, so when the rival team's coach (a longtime family friend) asks her to train his quarterback over the summer, she reluctantly agrees. In between milking and haying, she makes him into a better player while he sparks some deep thoughts in her that help her mature and deal with her family and friends. All the details felt authentic and natural, including the characters who were so real that if it had been set in Idaho, I'd swear I was related to them. It was just all around awesome and I'm desperately hoping for a sequel.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Last night I finished another Sarah Dessen book, This Lullaby, which I also enjoyed very much, if not quite as much as The Truth About Forever. This one was actually a little different from the formula - Remy, the main character, has a close group of friends and doesn't lack for confidence or assertiveness. However, she is very cynical when it comes to love due to her mother's numerous, short-lived marriages. The summer before she leaves for college she meets a guy who makes her question those ideas. I'm making it sound like a typical teen romance though, which it's definitely not. It's very funny and even the characters that initially seem one note reveal depths you wouldn't expect.


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