Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic."
-The Thirteenth Tale

I picked this book up on the advice of my son’s kindergarten teacher (Thank you Justine). It began a little bit slow for my taste and I ended up putting it down several times, but by the time I had finally worked my way through the first three chapters I was completely engrossed. The plot was brilliant and once it got going, very well-paced

Love, deceit, secrets, violence, mental illness and truly disturbing imagery… this book pays homage to nineteenth century British literature, a great gothic mystery novel along the lines of those by Bronte or Radcliffe. The Thirteenth Tale tells the disturbing story of reclusive author Vida Winter (I picture her as an ancient Danielle Steel). After spending the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself, both intriguing and confusing her readers for years, she is ready to disclose the truth about her astonishing life and the tragic past she has managed to keep hidden for so long. To tell her story she enlists the help of budding biographer Margaret Lea who, it turns out, has secrets of her own.

I don’t want to divulge too many details about this book, partly because I don’t want to spoil it for you and partly because I am not sure I can conceivably do it justice. It is difficult to believe that this is Setterfield’s first novel, it is so skillfully written and the passages so descriptive that you feel as though you are there.

Should you take my advice and decide to read this book I suggest you first prepare yourself, find a comfy chair in front of a warm fireplace, because once you start this book you will be reluctant to put it down. This is a novel that pulls you in and refuses to let you go. After you have turned the final page and find yourself unmoving, trying to take it all in, you will swear that you can feel that cold English fog slowing weaving its way around your mind.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters expands upon the original text of Jane Austen’s treasured tale of the Dashwood sisters by adding new scenes of enormous crustaceans, rampaging octopi, mutant sea monsters, and other aquatic horrors.
I am a huge Jane Austen fan. I have read every book and watched every movie. I tried so hard to like this book but just couldn’t get into it. It was a funny story and perhaps if I was not already a lover of all things Austen I might have appreciated the humor much more. I feel like I have dropped the ball a little with such a brief review but in all honesty my feelings about this book can best be described as indifferent

Monday, March 8, 2010

Up Next

Just a little peak at what I am reading right now...

The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden

When Bill Alexander makes up his mind to plant a large vegetable garden he finds himself at odds with nearly all of creation. Near the top of the food chain are the landscapers, always behind schedule, often strange and occasionally frightening. Then there is the wildlife, the herds of deer that pummel the electrified fence to get at Alexander's crop, and the groundhog (Super Chuck) who merely squeezes through the wires, apparently savoring the shocks. Most menacing of all are the colonies of maggots, worms, and grubs that provoke Alexander, an organic-produce enthusiast, into soaking his entire property with potentially harmful pesticides. He suffers these ordeals, along with days of grueling labor and the eye-rolling vexation of his wife and kids, all in the pursuit of the lusciousness that is homegrown fruits and vegetables. And yet through out all these trials and tribulations he manages to maintain his sense of humor. So has all of his hard work paid off? When Alexander decides to run a cost benefit analysis, adding up everything he has spent on his garden, from the electric fence to the garden rake, and then averages it over the life of his garden so far, it comes as quite an astonishment to discover that it has actually cost him a shocking $64 to grow each one of his treasured Brandywine tomatoes.

This book is an entertaining horticultural memoir. While each chapter is its own stand alone adventure full of funny gardening mishaps it also has some great historical information on topics from Johnny Appleseed to Thomas Jefferson. It made for pleasant reading, especially on a cold winter day when you can’t help but long for the early spring planting season. If you have ever tried any type of gardening you will be able to relate to the many misfortunes Alexander experienced on his journey toward the perfect produce, along with the feeling of ultimate satisfaction that one achieves upon biting into the juicy heirloom tomatoes that you have grown yourself. That having been said you don't need a green thumb to enjoy this book.

I would like to point out that this book is not for the animal rights activist. About midway, the author goes into unnerving detail about his pains to get rid of several of those irritating creatures that most of us call wildlife. Though I found many of his actions were a bit extreme, I will readily admit that there has been more than one instance when the thought of clobbering of my husbands cat with a shovel brought me some great satisfaction.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover If Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big or Why Pie Is Not the Answer by Jen Lancaster

Whether you are overweight, underweight or somewhere in between Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster will keep you laughing throughout.

The book chronicles Lancaster’s journey to try to lose those extra fifty pounds and adopt a healthier life style; not that she isn’t fabulous just the way she is but because the doctor has ordered her to do so. But bear in mind readers this is not your mother’s diet book.

Jen’s writing style is very sarcastic and she makes no apologies for who she is, readily admitting to being a bitch of the first order. While I was reading her book I couldn’t help but feel like she was sitting right next to me telling me her story. I felt like I could relate to everything she said from her struggles to lose weight to her love of bad reality TV. What makes this book so different from other weight loss memoirs is Jen’s attitude. She isn’t self depreciating, she has no problem with the way she looks and wouldn’t be changing her life style if not for medical reasons.

"I want to change my life...except I sort of like it. I mean, I couldn't be more delighted every Monday night after Fletch goes to bed when I come downstairs, pull up the Bachelor on TiVo, drink Riesling, and eat cheddar/port wine Kaukauna cheese without freaking out over fat grams. I'm perpetually in a good mood because I do everything I want. I love having the freedom to skip the gym to watch a Don Knots movie on the Disney Channel without a twinge of guilt. I've figured out how to not be beholden to what other people believe I should be doing, and when the world tells me I ought to be a size eight, I can thumb my nose at them in complete empowerment."
-Jen Lancaster

From the moment I picked it up Jen's witty, sarcastic rhetoric held my attention and literally made me laugh out loud. I made the mistake of bringing this book to read on an airplane and numerous times I was laughing so hard I was crying- definitely earning me some strange looks from other passengers. If you're offended by a foul mouth and raunchy humor (think female David Sedaris), then this is probably not the best book for you. Otherwise get yourself a copy and several other copies for all your girlfriends… It is a must read for anyone who is looking for a real look at life that will make you laugh and laugh!