Sunday, May 17, 2009

Last Night at the Lobster: Stewart O'Nan

This weekend I finished reading Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan. This book has been on the to be read list for awhile, so I finally requested it from the library.

I thought it was a book about the last night at a local restaurant. So in my head it was going to be this great story about everyone going to this local establishment one last time. Well the "local" restaurant was actually a Red Lobster, and I couldn't adapt to the change in the story. In my head, my version, was so much better.

That being said I don't really think I gave this book a fair shot. It was written well and has a lot of critical acclaim. It follows Manny the manager of a Red Lobster on its last open day, which happens to occur on the same day as a blizzard. The restaurant chain has decided this restaurant isn't profitable enough and is moving the manager and five of his employees to an Olive Garden. O'Nan captured the characters and restaurant life perfectly. The story follows Manny from opening up to closing the doors for the last time.

I can't say I'd recommend this book, but if someone read it without the preconceived notions I had, perhaps it would be more enjoyable.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Homemade Life: Molly Wizenberg

Another way that Peaknit and I are in sync is we both just finished A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, and we both loved it. See her post here!

Wizeberg is the writer of Orangette, a blog I will admit I was not familiar with. My college roommate Trish let me borrow the book and it was the perfect book to discover right now.

After a few books that I didn't enjoy (The Secret History, and Thanks for the Memories) A Homemade Life was perfect!

The book is a series of short stories about Wizenberg, her family, and her life, each story is capped off with a recipe. As anyone who knows me knows that I am the pickiest eater ever. Yet this book had me craving things I've never even dreamed of eating. Wizenberg's attitude was never overly pretentious, rather she's someone who genuinely enjoys food and the memories associated with it.

Her memories of food and meals had me thinking about my own food memories. Some of my favorite times with people are those when we get together cook and eat together. Growing up we always ate family dinners and even as a college student we had our own version of "family" dinners.

Wizeberg captured it perfectly when she said, "That's why this book is called A Homemade Life. Because, in a sense, that's what we're building - you, me, all of us who like to stir and whisk - in the kitchen and at the table. In the simple acts of cooking and eating, we are creating and continuing the stories that are our lives."

To put it simply...get this it...and pass it along to those who have shared your table.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Elizabeth Berg :: Home Safe


oh, elizabeth berg, you have done it again.

I read this book in a day. I love Berg, her stories tell tales of real people. The characters often have endearing quirks and insecurities. And Helen is no exception. She is the mother of an adult child and a recent widow. She is struggling in her first year as a widow. Helen was lucky to have been married to a soul mate for 30+ years and then finds herself alone and somewhat helpless - helpless, if not a little by choice. She and her husband shared fairly traditional roles and his was to take care for her. So she finds herself learning how be alone, which is so much fun to peek in on.

Her relationship with her daughter is also excruciatingly funny to watch. Helen wants to take care of her daughter but her 27-year-old independant girl will have none of it. In one chapter, Helen tries to buy a sweater for her but knows how her daughter will hate that, so wears it herself - convinced that Tessa (her daughter) will compliment her on it and then she can give it to her. I love this convoluted thinking. It's charming and adorable. Berg shares many of Helen's funny thoughts - what she says and then what she'd like to say. It lends such a fun, human quality to Helen.

Berg typically creates good friendships for her characters - enviable relationships in the strangest of circumstances - somehow I find that comforting. That in the current world we live, there is opportunity for friendship anywhere, you just have to look abd be open. Note to the author :: perhaps you should consider a novel where blog-friendships evolve - because there is an example in my life where I have found surprising comraderie *wink, wink* (yes, I am talking to you).

I am a Berg fan since forever - this one did not disappoint. Thank you!

P.S. the icing on the cake is that the author is coming to my local Barnes and Noble next week! So, while I tried to be sensible and rent a book from the library, clearly I will have to buy it so she can sign it! Oh well - the best intentions!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

One True Thing :: Anna Quindlan


Of course, I finished this book before I realized it seemed familiar - it was made into a movie with Maryle Streep and Renee Zellweger, a movie I wanted to see. Anyways, I enjoyed the book.

The theme seems to bring the focus on a mother's unconditional love for me. A successful daughter is called home by the remote father to care for her mother who is dying of cancer. Ellen, the upwardly mobile 24-year-old, has always been like her father - going places, while her mother was a good mom - but at home, not a stereotype appreciated by Ellen. So to leave her life behind to stay home with mom is a chore. The chore turns into the best thing that has ever happened. Ellen realizes some areas of her life that need work, and forges an enviable relationship with her dying mother. A mother who she finally really sees clearly, perhaps for the first time. Ellen ultimately forgives (mom more than dad) both of her parents for their shortcomings and accepts their human-ness, my favorite quote::

Our parents are never people to us, never...
As a mother, this has become reality for me as my own occasionally defiant daughter doesn't see me as a person, as a human with the right to make mistakes. I didn't give my parents credit for being regular people either, until I was a mom - back in the day they were my parents, period. Two people who just don't understand. Remember that Fresh Prince song?

So the story ends, with a trial and a twist - you'll have to check it out to learn more. I recommend it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Revenge of the Spellmans - Lisa Lutz

As a child I was addicted to mysteries. I swear I read every Nancy Drew book out there, and as a result of that I need something really good to entertain me as an adult. I enjoy the Stephanie Plum books as audio books, but I don't read or listen to much else.

Then I met the Spellman family, created by Lisa Lutz, and introduced to readers in The Spellman Files , this family who goes through all the drama and family squabbles that other families experience, but add in the family PI business and you get a great story.

The third book in the series Revenge of the Spellmans was no exception. I was glad to see what all the characters were up to since the second book ended. Izzy Spellman has decided to take a break from the family business and she works as a bartender, and is participating in court ordered therapy. But everything around her is changing and she's trying to figure out her place in it all. But she can't avoid her true calling and before long she's involved in another investigation. However that's not all, her sister Rae is up to her old tricks and something is a bit off with her brother, and then there's the small matter of Izzy is being blackmailed, so there's a lot going on, but it's all told in a highly entertaining and captivating fashion.

If you enjoy a good entertaining story I would recommend checking out all of Lisa Lutz's novels.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Matrimony :: Joshua Henkin


Gosh, it's been awhile - I swear I have been reading. I have read quite a bit actually but have been feeling kind of apathetic and uninspired lately, sheesh. And then I read Matrimony.

Okay, it's not exactly like I read Matrimony and suddenly became inspired but really, I wanted to share this book. I liked it. It was simple - about likable people. About relationships - turbulence, typical daily struggles.

You have Julian, likable and from old money. Carter - from no money and jealous of people with money yet somehow a friend of Julian's. Mia, bright, fun and patient. Pilar, beautiful but she doesn't add a ton to the book. Anyways - we follow these 4 from freshman year through their lives - Julian is the focus. We follow how his friendship with Carter and his relationship with Mia evolve. It was a quick read - but not cute in a "chick lit" sort of way. And the cover kind of sucks you in - those are some great shoes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Marathon Post: The Book Thief, Knit Two, Shelter Me & Coraline's been awhile, so this is going to be a marathon post. Since I last wrote I've read three books and listened to one.

The first book was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Peaknit gave a great description a few posts ago, but I had my own interesting description. I thought the book was excellent, but after I finished reading it I felt like I was kicked in the stomach. It's not surprising that a book narrated by Death during World War II is going to sting a bit, but this one certainly packed a punch. However, it is certainly one of the best books I've read in awhile.

After finishing The Book Thief, I needed to read something that was as different as possible, and so I selected Knit Two by Kate Jacobs. It certainly wasn't anything like The Book Thief!! I was actually bored by this book, I did finish it, but I didn't connect with the characters and I found myself not really caring what happened to them. I don't want to ruin either book, so I'll basically say the story continues a few years after The Friday Night Knit Club ended. My feelngs about this book weren't a big surprise to me since I didn't love the first book either. If you really enjoyed the first book perhaps don't take my review too seriously.

This past Friday I just finished Shleter Me by Juliette Fay. I stayed up pretty late Thursday hoping to finish, but just couldn't keep my eyes open. The novel tells the story of a woman who recently and unexpectedly lost her husband. We follow Janie as she stumbles through grief and becomes a single parent, we meet her family and experience everything Janie does, post Robby. Fay seemed to capture all the emotions one might go through after such a horrific loss. However, mingled with grief is great joy and humor. I enjoyed her depiction of Janie's children. I would certainly recommend this book.

The final book I've recently finished is Coraline by Neil Gaiman. For my job I sometimes have to travel, and a few upcoming trips had me stop by the library to pick up some audio books. Based on Amy Singer's recommendation from an earlier blog post I decided to give Coraline a try. I can't say I was as captivated as everyone else was, but I certainly enjoyed the story and it was perfect for my trip. I do think I want to see the movie, and I'll be interested to see how the story translates. The only thing was I did picture the characters in the book to look just like the characters in the movie, which made for an interesting listen!