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- (10/29) Intrusions by Ursula Hegi.
- An extremely original look at the difficulties authors,
particularly women authors, encounter when they try to write novels,
especially if they are authors with kids who work out of a home office and
aren't entirely sure where it is they want their novels to go in the first
place. This book is set up in a novel-within-a-novel format, with
Ursula's voice providing the frame as she writes a novel about a young
mother name Megan. Both women have the same problem -- what they
originally wanted from their lives has been difficult to obtain because of
various "intrusions" from family, kids, and responsibilities. The ironic
thing was that while both women complained about the intrusions in
their way, they both were active intruders themselves (Ursula constantly
intruding into her own book to complain or talk to her characters, and her
characters frequently intruding right back to Ursula). And both of them
had a terribly bad habit of complaining about intrusions that many of the
rest of us would find a blessed relief from real life. I had a hard time
feeling too badly for Ursula, who had trouble writing because her kids
kept wanting to play with her -- I have trouble writing because I work
full-time. Playing with kids would be a WELCOME distraction if I could
spend every day at home working on a story! But aside from my own petty
complaints, I found this to be a very original look at what it's like when
women are forced to come to the realization that "having it all" isn't
always possible. Recommended to anybody interested in writing --
everybody else can probably skip this one.
- (10/26) Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.
- Examination of the fast food phenomenon in the United States
-- how ubiquitous fast food is and how totally dangerous it has become.
Full of not only scary facts (on any given day, one out of four Americans
eats a fast food meal and those who are eating burgers can expect to
ingest feces while they munch on that beef), but also a fascinating look
at the history of the major fast food chains. And a horrifying prediction
of what the future will bring, especially since fast food chains started
to specifically target youth in their ad campaigns. Americans are already
the most obese people in the world and fast food deserves to take some of
the blame for that. But fast food is not just dangerous to our health
because it's loaded with fat and calories -- fast food chains are
notoriously bad places to work, too. Nightmarish conditions, union
busting, and unsanitary practices abound, putting both employees and their
customers at risk for injury and disease. This is a very entertaining and
informative book, though I warn you, Schlosser is clearly out for blood
here -- this is not an unbiased look at one of our most influential
industries, but instead, an all-out negativity fest (probably one
that is both well-deserved and long overdue, though).
- (10/21) The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.
- This is a second reading for me -- I read this novel several
years ago. And while I enjoyed it then, I didn't LOVE it at the time. I
heard the movie is due out soon, though, and wanted to refresh my memory
of the tale before seeing it. This time around, something in me must have
changed because I absolutely treasured every word. It became one of those
books I savor -- I didn't even want to read it on the bus because that was
too distracting. It's a simple story -- a man named Quoyle is madly in
love with his wife and two children, even though the wife is absolutely
horrible to him. The wife dies in an accident, though, and Quoyle loses
his job at about the same time. His aunt agrees to help him with the kids
and the set of them move up to Newfoundland (where the Quoyle family is
from originally and where the aunt has always wanted to go back to), where
Quoyle takes a job at the local paper and the family moves into the old
Quoyle house there on the beach. After what seems like an excessively
long string of disasters, sort of ending with the house falling into the
ocean, Quoyle and family finally settle into the frosty land. He gets
better at his job, better at making friends, better about loving himself
and his kids. And by the end has learned that love doesn't have to be
awful to be intense. It's just a lovely story about a lovely man, and
while I can't see Kevin Spacey as Quoyle, I CAN see myself going to see
this on the big screen when it comes out. If only so I can get a taste of
the story again. I can already see it all in my head so clearly through
Proulx's writing -- I just can't wait to see it all in front of my eyes
too. If you haven't read this book, I urge you to give it a shot. While
the choppy writing style can be hard to get used to (it's what I didn't
like about the book the first time, but really liked the second time, by
the way), it's definitely worth it to watch Quoyle change. Highly,
- (10/10) Payment in Kind by J. A. Jance.
- One of the earlier installments in the J. P. Beaumont mystery
series -- a series I only recently discovered and which has rapidly become
one of my favorites (I love it when that happens!). This one has Beau
investigating the murders of what at first glance appear to be a pair of
adulterers having a lovers' rendez-vous at the office. After only a
little digging, however, Beau quickly discovers the two of them actually
had nothing to do with each other. In fact, they barely KNEW each other.
So, how did they end up dead together? And, even more important, WHY?
Beau is a wonderful character -- he reminds me of Spenser, actually, in
that he is intelligent, witty, and kind. I also love that this series is
set in Seattle, one of my favorite cities. But even better, the writing
is good, the plots are complex and well thought-out, and the characters
are consistently realistic and engaging. I have yet to read a bad J. A.
Jance novel! And I'm rapidly on the way to becoming one of her biggest
fans. So, highly recommended to all mystery readers! You won't be
- (10/6) Grange House by Sarah Blake.
- In 1896, Maisie Thomas turned 17 during her annual summer
visit to Grange House, a hotel on the coast of Maine run by a friend of
the family, Miss Nellie Grange. That summer brought more than just a
birthday to Maisie, however, it also brought about a major turning point
in her life. It all started with the death of two young lovers and the
ghostly appearance of one of them outside under Maisie's window the next
day. Her curiosity leads her to Miss Grange, who slowly begins to tell
Maisie something about both their pasts that Maisie never knew.
Something that will change her forever. At the same time all of this is
happening, Maisie is also dealing with another emotional roller coaster
ride -- the romantic attentions of two equally wonderful young men. Part
ghost story, part coming-of-age novel, part historical thriller, this is a
page-turner packed with romance and suspense. I could barely put it down
and was VERY sorry to see it end. I'll be waiting eagerly for Blake to
write her second novel, despite the fact that I did have one complaint
about this one -- I didn't feel like she really tied up all the loose
ends, something that usually makes me pretty crazy. I'm planning to read
it again just in case I missed something, though -- I DID read this one on
the beaches of Kauai, which are somewhat distracting. Highly, HIGHLY
- (10/3) Deadly Exposure by Leonard Goldberg.
- Mediocre but still enjoyable medical thriller about an ancient
virus trapped in an iceberg let loose on a Navy exploration ship. Can
forensic pathologist Joanna Blalock figure out how to stop it before it's
too late? Of course she can! This is a stock virus-on-the-loose suspense
novel! But even though it's predictable, I still enjoyed it. Though I'm
sure that had quite a bit to do with where I was when I read it -- on the
beach in Waikiki! Nevertheless, I am going to recommend this book to you.
It was the perfect thing for an afternoon or two of absolutely mindless
- (10/1) The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect Us from
Violence by Gavin De Becker.
- Very entertaining and informative book about following your
instincts and listening to yourself when you feel an internal warning
signal. Full of true stories of crimes that could've been prevented if
only the victims had paid serious attention to their fears and loaded with
advice on how to be better about both listening to yourself and telling
when you should and should not take a fear seriously (as well as tips on
how to avoid being in dangerous situations in the first place).
Recommended to anybody who has ever felt a twinge of fear upon
encountering someone who looked sort of suspicious -- especially to those
who felt that twinge and shrugged it off.
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