Monday, November 23, 2009

BORDERS UK ARE UNDER THREAT FROM SUPERMARKETS & ONLINE SUPPLIERS. THERE IS ROOM FOR REAL BOOKSHOPS TOO. IF YOU ARE IN THE UK & YOU VALUE BOOKS GO TO BORDERS AND BUY A BOOK TODAY. HELP SAVE REAL BOOKSHOPS!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic- Sophie Kinsella

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, Book 1) Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella


My rating: 2 of 5 stars
While I was standing at the Redbox rental kiosk, this seemed like a cute movie to watch while my husband wasn't home. After I watched the movie, I decided I wanted to read the book also. The premise is funny and I knew it had done well both as book and movie, so I thought I would see how the two compared. Honestly, there isn't much of a comparison. The book and the movie, while they have similar themes and some similar plot points, are very different. I like the movie a little bit more... I know... blasphemy. The movie had a stronger conflict and more drama; plus, I love Isla Fischer.

The book was cute, pretty simple and good chick lit. I'm not a huge chick lit person, but I do love a quick and easy read every now and then. Becky Bloomwood, the heroine, is a journalist who works for Successful Saving magazine. She is a strong financial voice, but her own financial life is in shambles. She's being harassed by a collector, can't stop herself from buying nearly everything in sights and is completely overwhelmed. Her harebrained solutions for conquering her debt range from winning the lottery to making fabric frames. Eventually she realizes that she does actually understand finances far more than she gave herself credit for and is able to use her knowledge to help others and herself.

Overall, this books was okay. Not the best book I've ever read, but a quick and easy read. The characters were endearing, though a little stereotypical. The plot was decent, but events were a little convenient at times. It was funny enough. Not amazing, but decent. Now, I love to shop. I love sales and could totally relate to that thrill of buying something. However, I wasn't really a fan of all of the name dropping of brands and stores. It just wasn't my style and got a little irritating after a while. I'd saw both the book and movie are worth reading and watching, especially if you have some time to kill while your husband is out of town, want a good girls' night flick, or something easy to ready while traveling.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD/John Le Carre


If you want a history lesson in how things were during the beginning of the Cold War, read this book. Yes, it's fiction, and yes, it's about a spy, but it will give you a more accurate view of how things work in espionage. Why? Le Carre himself worked as a spy in British Intelligence for years before writing this novel.

This is the antithesis of the Bond novels (and films)—and I'm certainly not knocking those, because who doesn't need a little Bond in their lives, especially now that he's played by Daniel Craig? But Le Carre's novel gives a more realistic glimpse into how things really are for spies. It's mundane work, no more exciting than your average office job.

For Alec Leamas, it's even worse. When his last agent is murdered behind the Wall, his boss approaches him for one last mission—one that will (hopefully) take down East Berlin Intelligence.

All Alec has to do is play the part of an agent on the decline, one who drinks too much and sleeps too little, an agent on the outs. In other words, one who's ready to be turned. He does the part with so much aplomb it was difficult to remember he wasn't actually a lush. But then he meets a young woman, a librarian, and all hell breaks loose in his life.

Le Carre, I think, pokes a bit of fun at Western-style Communists, those thin, emo people I used to see early in my childhood (I forget where, maybe on TV). They dressed in black and handed out some Communist paper. But in TSWCIFTC they were harmless, people playing games and had no idea how real Communists operated. Le Carre obviously did, and he shows you in the last scenes of the novel.

I won't give you any spoilers if you haven't read it. Just know Le Carre doesn't pull any punches. I can't wait to read more of his work.

Time of My Life, by Allison Winn Scotch


Do you ever regret marrying me? How many of us have ever been on the giving or receiving end of that question? We all think about it, even if we don't affirm it with speech. And not just with marriage, with everything. We can't help but wonder, what if I'd done this differently, or what if I'd not done that instead of the other thing, what if, what if, what if…

That pesky two-worded question is the basis of Allison Winn Scotch's second novel, Time of My Life. Jillian Westfield, a mid-thirties mother of one (adorable!) eighteen month-old girl, finds herself stuck in the mundane chaos of trying to be the perfect parent, and dwelling on the what if's of yesteryear. What if she'd stayed with Jackson-the-exciting-and-unpredictable, and hadn't married Henry-the-everything-by-the-book-list-maker. Through an accidentally magic chi-unblocking from her masseuse, Jillian is whisked back seven years…before she'd lost her tight abs to pregnancy, before she'd left her successful marketing job to be a full-time mom, before she'd even met her husband and she was living with Jackson…

Jillian gets a chance to redo her past, but, of course, this is not without its consequences. Aside from constantly running into Henry (past/future memories of their life together still fresh in her mind, and forced to act like they don't know each other) and trying to make her shaky relationship with Jackson and his hard-to-please family work this time, other issues that Jillian hadn't even thought about are pushed to the forefront.

Her best friend who, seven years forward, was dead, is alive and well. And her struggles with fertility are now affected by Jillian knowing what happens to her in the near and somewhat distant future. Jillian's mother who'd abandoned her at a young age, she remembers abruptly when she receives an odd letter, contacted her out of the blue. How will she react this time? She knows what her previous future actions led to. What if she dealt with it differently? Better? Worse? She also sees her "old and married, tied down by the kids" boss in a different light. One that only her past/future experiences could brighten.

The concept of this story (we tend to view the path not taken through rose-colored glasses) is one that I think just about everyone can relate to, but I felt it especially hit close to home for mothers. Jillian's questions about whether or not she'd married the right person are what led her to her second chance, but the overall theme seemed to focus on her accepting motherhood and understanding, somewhat, her own mother's bad choices.

Allison's delivery of the story makes it a quick and entertaining read. As other critics have pointed out, her writing is rife with realism. It has its full share of emotional moments, aha! moments, stop-and-make-you-think moments, and a good dose of much-needed humor. Personally, I am not a fan of time travel tales (although, this one is not really about the time travel aspect, per se), but this is definitely one that I recommend.

For more about this novel and this author:
Time of My Life excerpt, Chapter One
Ask Allison
Chicklit Club interview
Audio interview

~Lydia Sharp

Thursday, November 5, 2009

WOLF HALL - Hilary Mantel


Winner of the coveted Man Booker award for fiction in 2009, Wolf Hall charmed and challenged this reader.

First, I will admit some bias. As readers of my blog know, I have been exploring the books about European royalty, including several volumes about Henry V alone. This book shows the relationship between Henry and Anne Boleyn, yet it is through the eyes of dark merchant/lawyer Thomas Cromwell.

If you know enough about British history (or, Thor forbid, you read Phillippa Gregory novels as truth), you already know these characters. Otherwise, it would be a confusing read. Still, these are not the characters that I have known through different pages. Thomas More is older and fierce in his religious beliefs, while Anne Boleyn is both automaton and vengeful bitch.

What was brilliant about this book, however, was the dry humor. Whether at home, in court (meaning the court of royalty), or back alleys, I re-read bits of dialogue over and over to fully enjoy the snark veiled by manners and questions.

4.75 out of 5.0 English Highballs.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh- Michael Chabon

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Chabon was at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver for a reading from his most recent book Manhood for Amateurs. As he read selections from the book, I could see that his prose had grown since this first novel of his, but it still had the ring of truth and beauty found in all of Chabon's works. He is funny, witty and eloquent. He was a wonderful speaker and gave some great writing advice (to be blogged about later). I look forward to reading even more of his work.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel (P.S.) The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel by Michael Chabon


My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am ridiculously jealous that Chabon was able to create a novel so beautiful his first time out of the gate. Mysteries of Pittsburgh is Chabon's debut novel and abounds with his lyrical prose and intriguing characters.

Art Bechstein has graduated from college and is spending the summer following working at a book store and playing with his new found friends. Arthur LeCompte entices Art into a world of interesting people and even more interesting parties. Between Art's new girlfriend Phlox, his increasingly sexual feelings for his friend Art and new friend Clevland's interest in Art's father's mobster ways, Art is lost and confused. This novel is reminiscent of Fitzgerald and a bygone era of sophisticated parties and debauchery.

Chabon's prose is lyrical and striking. His descriptions are always unique and the characters are beautifully written. I am always impressed by his way of viewing the world. The details that he sees are vivid and intriguing. I always turn to Chabon's work when I'm feeling like I need inspiration for my own writing. He has not disappointed me yet.

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