Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

I was intrigued by this book after I heard the author interviewed on NPR when it first came out. Astonishingly, neither David or his wife Kristen realized that David had Asberger's until they had been married for five years and were on the verge of divorce. Kristen works with troubled children and that's actually how she ran across  the questionnaire that David takes and aces, that shows he has the syndrome. Finally, all of his quirks and predilections are explained.

And one thing David realizes is that his single-minded focus, his extreme attention to detail, and his love of Kristen can be used to refocus his attention towards fixing their relationship, and working on himself to make him a little easier to live with.

It takes baby steps as he realizes he has no idea what to do with his small children, and doing something as simple as "letting Kristen take a shower without bothering her" is a lot easier said then done. But his determination is strong, and Kristen's patience is seemingly everlasting, and they truly do work through a mountain of problems and issues. The book had humorous moments, particularly as regards David's more idiosyncratic quirks. And it also gave a bit of a roadmap for how everyone can work to improve relationships and be less annoying, as most of us have less distance to travel in these efforts. The book was amusing and David's forthright honesty is admirable.

I bought this book at my local independent bookstore.

Teaser Tuesdays: The Journal of Best Practices

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch p. 35

"We never would have--never could have--imagined that our relationship would look like this back when we were just friends meeting for coffee. We had no idea that we would someday forget how to be friends."

The story starts off sad, as David and his wife are on the brink of divorce, but they figure out what's wrong (David's undiagnosed Asperger's) and then they can some up with a plan to fix it.

Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Life After Life by Jill McCorkle
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Dwarf: A Memoir of How One Woman Fought for a Body-and a Life-She Was Never Supposed to Have by Tiffanie DiDonato

Up next:
The Great Northern Express: A Writer's Journey Home by Howard Frank Mosher
A Leg to Stand On by Oliver Sacks
The Planets by Dava Sobel

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Beginnings: The Journal of Best Practices

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch

"I was thirty years old and had been married five years when  I learned that I have Asperger syndrome, a relatively mild form of autism."

It's a little surprising that someone could get to this age without realizing something was wrong, but David's Asperger isn't very severe.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: Vaclav & Lena

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner p. 47

"When there is someone who is your destiny, someone who you love more than any other person, sometimes you push them and pull on them and feel like hurting them. Fighting is something that happens when there is someone who is your only other person in the world, someone you have no choice about, which is why brothers and sisters are always fighting and biting and kicking and screaming."

This is an interesting description of a super-close relationship, claiming it is destined for fighting. I'm not sure I agree, but I was closer to my sister than I fought with than my sister who I didn't.

Book Review: Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner

I wasn't quite sure what to expect of a novel about a couple of Russian immigrant children in Brooklyn who want to be a magician and his assistant. But this book was so much more than that description implies!

Ten-year-old Vaclav and Lena are best friends, and determined that one day they will become Vaclav the Magnificent and his Beautiful Assistant Lena! They practice after school, even when that means Vaclav has to do Lena's homework so that they will have time, and even when Lena starts to make new friends at school and ignore Vaclav. But everything seems to be normal until one night when Vaclav's mother walked Lena home, and sees something horrible and calls the police. Vaclav never sees Lena again. She disappears, he doesn't know where. Until on her seventeenth birthday she calls him. And the past comes back to haunt them.

I was particularly struck by the language in the book. Vaclav's English is better than Lena's or his mothers, and the narration slightly echoes the overly-formal and stiff structure of a non-native speaker. But as Vaclav and Lena grow older and start to talk like Americans, the narration shifts with them, seamlessly, to echo their now smoother and more eloquent language.

The suspense about what had happened that made Vaclav's mother call social services to take Lena away was handled well, although I wasn't actually very surprised by the incident. I did like the backstory of her family history, which did have some surprises in it, and I loved Vaclav's handling of that. I also loved the echo of the bedtime story Vaclav's mother used to tell to Lena and how it paralleled their real story. Although the main characters are kids and then teens, it's not a young adult novel (although teens likely would enjoy it too), particularly due to the scenes from Vaclav's mother's point of view. This was a community I was not familiar with, which made it interesting, and I found it easy to read and a nice change of pace from my usual fare.

I bought this book at B&N.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Life After Life by Jill McCorkle
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Up next:
House by Tracy Kidder
Dwarf: A Memoir of How One Woman Fought for a Body-and a Life-She Was Never Supposed to Have by Tiffanie DiDonato, with Rennie Dyball
Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Book Review: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, read by Bernadette Dunne

Who hasn't heard of this book at this point? Luckily, someone recommended the audiobook to me, and as I do love memoirs on audio, and I often listen to them while walking, so this seemed exceptionally appropriate.

Cheryl's mother died four years earlier, and she also just got divorced. She is in a bad relationship with a heroin addict, doesn't have much family to speak of (her father hasn't been in her life since she was a small child), and is rather rootless and directionless. One day while in line at REI, she notices a guidebook to hiking the Pacific Coast Trail in California. She fixates on this accomplishment as just what she needs to straighten out her life and her head, and she's pretty right about that. She hikes a good portion of California and all of Oregon with a crazy-heavy pack, very little preparation or money, and an innate sense of trust. She meets interesting characters, has a lot of unique experiences, and does manage along the way to process a lot of her personal issues.

While I did enjoy it very much, Cheryl was 26 in the book, and yet the narrator's voice was very obviously middle-aged. I did eventually get used to it, but I wish they'd used a younger-sounding narrator as it was distracting for the first few hours. The story was pretty great, albeit self-indulgent and at times annoying, but Cheryl is sympathetic and ultimately easy to root for.

I checked this audiobook out of the library.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Beginnings: Vaclav & Lena

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.



Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner

"Here I practice, and you practice. Ahem."

This is such a cute scene! Vaclav and Lena are practicing to become Vaclav the Magnificent and His Beautiful Assistant Lena! The next big thing in magicians.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Sight Reading

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The critically acclaimed author of Russian Winter turns her "sure and suspenseful artistry" (Boston Globe) to the lives of three colleagues and lovers in the world of classical music in this elegant, beautifully composed novel.

On a Boston street one warm spring day after a long New England winter, Hazel and Remy spot each other for the first time in years. Under ordinary circumstances, this meeting might seem insignificant. But Remy, a gifted violinist, is married to the composer Nicholas Elko-once the love of Hazel's life.

It has been twenty years since Remy, a conservatory student whose ambition may outstrip her talent; Nicholas, a wunderkind suddenly struggling with a masterwork he cannot fully realize; and his wife, beautiful and fragile Hazel, first came together and tipped their collective world on its axis. Over the decades, each has buried disappointments and betrayals that now threaten to undermine their happiness. But as their entwined stories unfold from 1987 to 2007, from Europe to America, from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, each will discover the surprising ways in which the quest to create something real and true--be it a work of art or one's own life--can lead to the most personal of revelations, including the unearthing of secrets we keep, even from ourselves.

Lyrical and evocative, Sight Reading is ultimately an exploration of what makes a family, of the importance of art in daily life, and of the role of intuition in both the creative process and the evolution of the self.

Publishing May 21, 2013 by Harper.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst

I was expecting a memoir about a family of failed writers in St. Louis, and while I really enjoyed this book, the descriptive copy was a little off. To start, although the back of the book implies it takes place in St. Louis, that's only for about the first ten pages, and then the entire rest of the book is in New York. Also, while Jeanne (obviously) and her father are writers, no one else is. Oh, and it's also a lot about alcohol addiction which I missed.

Jeanne is the youngest of four very close sisters (two sets of Irish twins), her father is a failed writer and her mother is a former debutante who laments their fall onto hard times, but doesn't do much to improve it except drink. Jeanne is so worried about becoming her father, she accidentally becomes her mother, at least following in her drinking footsteps. But she does make a change in that becoming sober seems to have worked well for Jeanne, whereas it didn't for her mother. And as we can see from the fact that this book is published, Jeanne does manage to avoid her father's lows as well.

In some ways, the fall from the middle class to abject, albeit somewhat genteel, poverty of her parents reminded me a little bit of The Glass Castle. Jeanne herself seemed to be following down their path but did pull herself back up. It took her a while to see that she was at a lower point than she thought, and her life was a bigger mess than she thought, but she eventually does and pulls herself up by her bootstraps. Well-written, harrowing in parts, this was a uniquely entertaining book that managed to combine my love of literature with my recent addiction memoir jag.

I bought this book at B&N.

Teaser Tuesdays: Fiction Ruined My Family

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst p. 44

"This new life Mom envisioned, the one she paid for, the Westchester us, normal and fancy, didn't last long. When the CBS job ended Dad began talking about not another job but another novel."

Unless you're already published, and often not even then, you don't write INSTEAD of working, you do it in addition to a day job.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Life After Life by Jill McCorkle
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Up next:
Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon

Friday, April 12, 2013

Where in the world is your book happening?

Recently I read the manuscript of a client-author of mine (remember, I'm also an editor!), and at the end I had one big question for her right away -- where was this set? Because I read the whole thing and I had no idea! Turns out she knew she had done that, as she wasn't sure if she should name the city where we live, or not. I advised her strongly to do so. After all, when your book is done and published and you're trying to market it, you lose a whole marketing strategy of appealing to the local audience, if no one knows they are "local." (Your three easiest cities to market yourself/have an author event are your hometown, your college town, and where you live now. Hopefully those three towns aren't all the same! If your book is set in a fourth city, you can add that one too.) After all, I remember a couple of years ago when Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright was published, everyone here (Charlotte, North Carolina) was obsessed with it as the book took place here! Everyone was looking to see if their favorite restaurants or boutiques were mentioned, and a lot of them were.

Also, setting your book in a recognizable city tells readers a lot about your setting, without you the author having to do a lot of work. An author is going to assume a different vibe for a book set in Minneapolis or Atlanta or D.C. Granted, sometimes those assumptions aren't very accurate, as my hometown of Nashville can attest, but a good writer can soon show the true colors of a city and you still have a lot of personality that's given, such as in Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne. If you, the author, chooses to either have your city be a no-city, or to make one up, you're going to have to do a lot of scene setting you wouldn't otherwise need to do. (This does not apply to genre novels -- romances, sci fi, fantasy, or mysteries. They make up their own settings a lot and it's expected.) When you make up your own place, you're going to have a tough time keeping things accurate and you really do lose a lot when there's no local flavor. Can you imagine Sex in the City without the City? Or Bridget Jones not in London? Or Terms of Endearment not in Texas? Would any of those books be the same?

That said, very occasionally novels do go for fictional settings, so I thought it was only fair for me to point a few out that do it successfully: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, set in Wisconsin at a fictional college. The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht takes place somewhere in Eastern Europe. Everyone assumes it's the Czech Republic because of the author's background, but it's not stated in the book. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout takes place in the fictional small town of Crosby, Maine. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn takes place on the island of Nollop, South Carolina, hometown of equally fictional Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Kent Haruf's Plainsong takes place in Holt, Colorado, a made-up small town East of Denver. And the one that first jumped into my mind when thinking of fictional places: Mitford, North Carolina, in all of Jan Karon's lovely books.

Do you notice a trend here? They're all pretty much small towns. If you're going to make up a setting, a small town is much more manageable. Do you like to picture where books take place? Do you like to be able to look up places in the books you read and see what they really look like? Do you like reading a novel set in your hometown? I strongly recommend sticking to the facts for the most part, especially with a city, but if you're determined to make up your setting, stay small.

Book Beginnings: Fiction Ruined My Family

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst

"Writers talk a lot about how tough they have it -- what with the excessive drinking and three-hour workday and philandering and constant borrowing of money from people they're so much better than."

Sadly, this describes Jeanne's father pretty much to a T, except that he never actually published anything.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

I am not normally drawn to books set in the near East, but this was for my book club, and I loved it! The story of Pari, a princess in Iran in 1576, told from the point of view of her eunuch vizier, Javaher. The setting felt very exotic and foreign, and yet it was explained so thoroughly as to not be confusing at all. And it was wild to realize that during this story, which felt like it might be very, very long ago, Elizabeth I was queen of England and this is during modern history.

Pari's father, the Shah, has died and not declared a successor. Chaos and power struggles ignite nearly immediately. Pari has been his primary adviser  working side by side with him for years, and understands how the court works, inside and out. She wishes to serve her people and her brother, whichever brother ends up being Shah, so that everything goes smoothly and there is as little disruption as possible. However, many see her as power-hungry and dangerous, which puts her own life in danger. Javaher's father was executed years ago when he was suspected of plotting against the Shah, shaming his family and impoverishing them. Even though Javaher is older, seventeen at the time, he decides to become a eunuch so he can serve at court and find out who set his father up and is to blame for his death. Meanwhile, he serves Pari as her trusted adviser and helper in all things, including court intrigue.

A fascinating inside look at the court of Iran in the 16th Century, I was captivated by Pari's story, and how she was nearly as powerful as female rules elsewhere, like Mary Queen of Scots and Isabella of Spain, and yet we've never heard of her. While in some ways, what with harems and chadors, women in the Middle East seemed very repressed at the time, in other ways they were far advanced beyond our Western ways, in that they could inherit and hold property and money in their own right. But it is too bad Pari was not a male, as she would have made a wonderful ruler, but perhaps if she had been, she would have been killed at a young age, by other aspirants to the throne. It's impossible to know of course, but her story is an amazing one that deserves to be told, and the side story (completely fictional) of Javaher's search for the truth behind his family's scandal is a nice diversion from the sometimes complicated and heavy machinations of the court. But Pari really did live and really did advise the Shah for many years, wielding great power and influence.

I checked this book out of the library.

“Waiting On” Wednesday: Cooked

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Fire, water, air, earth—our most trusted food expert recounts the story of his culinary education

In Cooked, Michael Pollan explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen. Here, he discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer. In the course of his journey, he discovers that the cook occupies a special place in the world, standing squarely between nature and culture. Both realms are transformed by cooking, and so, in the process, is the cook.

Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse–trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius “fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships: with plants and animals, the soil, farmers, our history and culture, and, of course, the people our cooking nourishes and delights. Cooking, above all, connects us.

The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume huge quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.


Publishing April 23, 2013 by The Penguin Press.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: Getting In by Karen Stabiner

I love books about college admissions. If I didn't work in book publishing, I would work in college admissions somehow, probably as a high school guidance counselor. I even applied to and got into graduate programs for that, but while waiting for my own admissions, I got my first job in the world of books and didn't look back.

This book tells the story of five seniors in Los Angeles worrying about colleges and the future, and their families. Three go to a prep school, a fourth used to until her parents' divorce, and the fifth is her tutor. Aspirations are high (Northwestern! Harvard! Yale is a backup!), competition is intense, the future is uncertain, and everything is tense.

I bought this book on impulse and was very pleased. The book was relatively light, without major themes or symbolism, but the issues in the book seem like life or death to the people involved. (And as I remember, that's relatively accurate.) And light was just what I was looking for after lots of dense nonfiction and deep book club novels. All these characters seemed pretty real, although there also were cliches. But the cliches felt legit, like this is the reason why cliches exist: because those actually do happen in the real world. There are studious Asian-American students who are a shoe-in for Harvard, there are Mean Girls who have easy lives, high school is populated with ditzes and nice girls and popular boys, and they all are in Getting In. We also get the parents' perspective and the guidance counselor.

If you have students approaching college age, or if you are through the process and would like to see it without the accompanying stress, or if you just want to read a fun book mostly about people in a certain income bracket, Getting In is perfect. It would be an ideal poolside read, and the timing is perfect to read it when school's out!

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.

Teaser Tuesdays: Getting In

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Getting In by Karen Stabiner p. 20

"On the second morning, it happened: for the first time in his twelve years as a college counselor, a handful of Ivy League admissions reps quietly slipped their cards to him, inscribed with the names of candidates they wanted to encourage, though not officially. Each one of them warned him not to say a word and cautioned him that this was in no way a commitment."

Apparently this is the pinnacle of the career of a college counselor at a prep school.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto

A fun read for literary-philes! You do need to be well-read enough to know your Ayn Rand from your Jonathan Franzen, but even if you haven't read those books, it's fine - Ms. Leto has a guide to pretending you've read a laundry list of authors! That way you can fake your way through any cocktail party and seem to be the best-read person there! For the rest of us, who are fine with admitting we're never going to attempt Infinite Jest, no matter how wondering David Foster Wallace's writing is, it's still a fun romp through literature, with gossip, lists, and snark galore.

This book is a perfect gift for the reader in your life, provided they are a slight bit high-brow, but not so much so that they only read classics. Yes, she did snark on one of my favorite authors, but that's inevitable, and she more than made up for it by snarking on authors I dislike. It was short and quick and I enjoyed it very much.

The publisher sent me a free copy of this book, in hopes I would review it, but with no guarantee.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto
Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband by David Finch
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (audio)

Up next:
The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Beginnings: Getting In

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading.

Getting In by Karen Stabiner

"Life, for Nora, had become an endless SAT exam."

And poor Nora is the mother, not the student taking the SATs. Which means her obsession is unlikely to end when the test is over.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

“Waiting On” Wednesday: I Can't Complain

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week's pre-publication “can't-wait-to-read” selection is:

I Can't Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays by Elinor Lipman

Synopsis from Goodreads:
From the beloved and acclaimed novelist, a collection of witty, moving essays In her two decades of writing, Elinor Lipman has populated her fictional universe with characters so utterly real that we feel like they’re old friends. Now she shares an even more intimate world with us—her own—in essays that offer a candid, charming take on modern life. Looking back and forging ahead, she considers the subjects that matter most: childhood and condiments, long marriage and solo living, career and politics.

Here you’ll find the lighthearted: a celebration of four decades of All My Children, a reflection on being Jewish in heavily Irish-Catholic Lowell on St. Patrick’s Day, a hilariously unflinching account of her tiptoe into online dating. But she also tackles the serious and profound in eloquent stories of unexpected widowhood and caring for elderly parents that use her struggles to illuminate ours. Whether for Lipman’s longtime readers or those who love the essays of Nora Ephron or Anna Quindlen, I Can't Complain is a diverting delight.

Publishing April 16, 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: Happens Every Day

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Grab your current read. Open to a random page. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!) Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gillies p. 52

"I called the following summer in Maine, 'the summer of love.' Obviously you never know when the bus is going to hit you, but I had always thought that if something as dramatic as your marriage ending was about to happen you would have some sense of it."

Having already read the book, I take issue with her saying she had no idea what was coming. I think there were a lot of red flags and bad stuff that she blithely ignored.

Book Review: Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story by Isabel Gillies

Normally, I go into a book trusting the author (unless I know in advance there's been some sort of James Frey-esque malfeasance.) I enjoy seeing the world through another person's eyes, even if I may disagree with them, and I want to hear their story as they tell it. Occasionally, a narrator will be so unreliable that I start to doubt them when I'm partway into a book, but that's unusual. This time however, due to a few conversations I'd had just before reading Ms. Gillies's memoir, I went in with a high level of skepticism. She didn't deserve it (and I apologize for my state of mind, as I hate any critique that sounds personal), but it did make for a more interesting reading experience. The conversations weren't about this book in particular, but were about how there are two sides to every story, and made me think throughout the book about what her husband might have been thinking or how he might have differently interpreted the same event.

Isabel and Josiah move to Oberlin, Ohio with their two small boys for Josiah to start working as a professor at Oberlin College. Isabel had formerly been an actress in New York City but had given it up to follow Josiah's career, and she threw herself into her new town and new life with aplomb. Enjoying small town life, she got the boon of being offered to teach a class on acting for the screen, and life seemed perfect. Until it wasn't. A new English professor arrived in town and immediately she and Josiah seemed unusually, inappropriately close, and after quite a few angry denials, Josiah did leave Isabel as he had in fact fallen in love with the other woman. And we readers some along for the roller-coaster of emotions poured out on the page by Isabel, who felt very blindsided and like it was very unfair.

Well, of course its unfair. Who does cheating or a breakup happen to and it's fair? And as to the blindsiding, which seems to increase the hurt and betrayal so much more, well I didn't buy it. In this regard, Ms. Gillies gave us more information about her relationship than she seemed to absorb herself. While discussing their pasts and how they fell in love, she does flippantly refer to a couple of things that probably should have been red flags, but in a dismissive way that shows she believes those were only obvious in hindsight. I disagree. I think the fact that your husband cheated on his first wife and left her should have been a huge red flag. It should have indicated that despite anything he might say about being a changed man, there was a lot to be gained by taking things slow and really seeing if his actions were true to his words, not rushing into the relationship. You can guess which they did.

She also presents their relationship as idyllic, while simultaneously admitting they fought from the very beginning, viciously, and constantly. The fights that were related seemed to show Isabel as being very sensitive and thin-skinned, inclined to take things the wrong way, and Josiah as bitter, unable to communicate at all, and likely to escalate things by knowingly doing exactly things he knew she would hate. After I while I really started to think they probably should have gotten divorced sooner, not later. They were in couples therapy when they'd only been together a short while, when they still should have been in the pink haze phase of new love. And they seem remarkably poorly matched. Isabel seems very high energy, throwing herself headlong into projects, decisions, and relationships without much thought. Josiah seems low-energy, not prepared to deal with high-maintenance at all, the kind of guy who just shuts down when life doesn't go his way, and who impulsively acts out in a childish manner instead of acting like an adult and talking about what is wrong.

While the memoir is raw and emotional and it is a compelling read, in the same way that you can't not look at a car wreck, it is also like a car wreck. A wreck in which both parties are at fault but only ones claims to be. Isabel claims to have just been driving along when she was broadsided by Josiah, when in fact she was texting. It takes two to make a relationship, and while she might claim only one person destroyed this relationship, I disagree. It was doomed from the start, and she was just as much to blame for ignoring all the red flags and warning signs, and jumping in quickly without looking first. In the end, while I did find the book hard to put down and a quick, smooth read, I disliked both the main characters. I also found Isabel's lingering bitterness to be quite a turn-off. After all, you find out on the last page that she's now happily married to the man of her dreams. Yet, she doesn't seem to appreciate that had she and Josiah not divorced, she would not be married to her current husband. (I think she should put the Chicago song "If She Would Have Been Faithful" on repeat until she no longer feels bitter.)

For those who like to feel better about their own lives by reading about the awfulness of others, I'm with you. Schadenfreude is one of my very favorite things. And this book has it in spades, and is well-written and oozes with real, gripping emotions. But be forewarned that you might not enjoy spending so much time with these people.

I bought this book at B&N.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Book review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Okay, I know I'm like the last person in America to read Gone Girl, but while I was moderately intrigued, because it was so hot, I wanted to wait and see if I could borrow a copy. Surely, with everyone reading this book, there were a lot of copies floating around. And naturally, I did eventually find a free copy!

Because this book was both a super-fast read, and one that will disappear quickly, I'm glad I didn't pay full price. But I enjoyed every minute of it.

Amy Dunne has disappeared on her fifth wedding anniversary and things don't look good for her husband, Nick. They moved to his hometown in Missouri from New York to take care of his sick mother after they both lost their jobs. Amy hadn't been especially happy about the move, but things were going okay, or so it had seemed. As the hunt for Amy continues, evidence seems to built up against Nick and while we also read Amy's journal entries, we readers really start to worry. But then, there's a big twist.

The book was impossible to put down and kept me awake at night. It is a bit queasy for anyone in a relationship, as it's a particularly negative portrayal of relationships. But it was a fun, exciting thriller that would make for a terrific beach read.

I got this copy free for working at the Friends of the Library book sale.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

This meme is now hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Books completed last week:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner

Books I am currently reading/listening to:
Equal of the Sun by Anita Amirrezvani
Judging a Book by Its Lover: A Field Guide to the Hearts and Minds of Readers Everywhere by Lauren Leto

Up next:
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Above All Things by Tanis Rideout