Sunday, March 29, 2009

22. "Beginner's Greek" - James Collins

Peter is a romantic, always dreaming of sitting next to a woman on a plane: she will be "the one." Then, he meets Holly on a plane bound for L.A. Sparks fly, he gets the number, he loses the number.

Years later, they meet again, though Holly is now the wife of his best friend. And, so it goes.

This book has been heralded as chick lit from a guy's perspective or cruelly accurate mockery of New York elitists. Whatever. I guess you could pigeon-hole it into romance, but Peter would turn on only a small percentage of women who needed their gaydar reactivated.

With wildly inane character descriptions (really? we really need to know ten pages about the woman who cooks for someone?), Collins was applauded for this overwritten piece of meth.

In other words, I despised it.

.25 out of 5.0 Fucked-Up Shits.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" - David Wroblewski

Wroblewski knows dogs.

Rural Wisconsin - a boy is born with no voice. He screams as a baby, but his dog, Almondine, is his champion, waking mom and, later, following Edgar Sawtelle as he does his farm chores. Edgar's family breeds dogs: Sawtelle dogs, wonders with training and mindfulness. His mother and father love each other, and he learns to speak to them through sign language.

Then, a death that rocks Edgar's world of chaff and "down" and tails. Edgar can't speak the truth, but he plans a way to convince everyone of it.

I know Oprah recommended this book (now, of course, *after* I read it). I don't care. She loves her dogs, too, and it is impossible to turn away from the pages when you read the dog-love.

4.75 out of 5.0 Salty Dogs.

20. "Secret Daughter: A Mixed Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away" - June Cross

June Cross was born the child of a white woman and a black man in 1954. Her memoir is a gripping recount of her experience as a woman who is struggling to find her culture, switching from her home with an "aunt" and her visits to her L.A.-rocking mom.

I've annoyed many a friend with the comment, "This is not our first black president: he's a mix of all of us." Obama has called himself a "mutt," which is why I relate to him (as a Norwegian-French-German-British-??-chica).

Cross's writing is beautiful and spare. There is no room for a Kleenex sob story here.

3.85 out of 5.0 Secret Martinis.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

19. "The Lightning Thief" - Rick Riordan

After watching my son devour this series of novels by Rick Riordan, I asked for his cast-offs. "You're going to love it, Mom," my son said. "Did you get to the part about his father? About blah blah blah?" I had to screech at him, "Don't *tell* me, I don't want to ruin it, etc."

Because this book is like Harry Potter with ADHD.

Actually, Percy Jackson, pre-teen hero of the novel, has ADHD and dyslexia. But the best part is he's the son of an Olympic god. Which one? Through stories about mythology, Riordan teaches as he writes. Percy is sent on a quest with his friends, Grover and Annabeth, with crazy bus rides, restaurant visits, and water park pools adding excitement for the early-YA crowd.

The dialogue is fantastic in its pitch-perfect tune of a 12-year-old. Riordan throws a few bones to the parents, too, which made me laugh out loud. Overall, it's a delightful book, and I've promised my son to "say it's sick writing." Whatever that means. I'm on the bandwagon.

4.25 out of 5.0 Monkey Businesses.

Friday, March 06, 2009

"Free Food for Millionaires"??

I've read the first three chapters. The author has written amazing short fiction, but this novel is predictable in the extreme. Am I wrong? Does it redeem itself later?

Monday, March 02, 2009

18. "The Women" - T.C. Boyle

Longtime readers of the Books for Breakfast blog know of my obsession with three authors: John Irving (whose work I have memorized and could write a dissertation on the symbolic nature of snails), Steven Pressfield (because he writes a battle scene like no other), and T.C. Boyle. Why Boyle? Because he has rarely written something that doesn't evoke strong emotions.

In THE WOMEN (now that I'm dealing with more manuscripts, I'm finding it necessary to change my writing - so, sorry for the new all-cap feature of the blog... have a cocktail on me), his writing continues the trend, though I felt angry through most of the book. Angry at these women of Frank Lloyd Wright's (yes, the architect), angry at Wright, angry at the glorification of Wright. But that was Boyle's purpose, I believe. As he stated while writing this book, this was another one of his historical series of egomaniacs.

Traveling backward through the women, we learn of the mistresses and wives who support the "genius" of Frank. However, what kind of woman throws away her husband, her children, her life for this obsessed man? I believe that is the question Boyle asked himself as he wrote this, using many biographical (and Wright's autobiography) books to supplement his own ideas.

However, Boyle is biased. He lives in the first Wright house built in California. He appreciates the mastery of the craft. Still, this bias is rarely shown - to my surprise - except when proclaiming its 100th anniversary in 2009.

I like books that make me ponder, returning to my mind as I wash dishes or shovel wood into the stove. While I may have appreciated the book (note no "liked" or "loved" or "adored"), I don't think it's for everyone. What does this book say about women in our time, as well as the finger-pointers who thrive on righteousness? Based on this novel, not much has changed.

3.75 out of 5.0 Fish House Punches.