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I don’t know what I had expected when picking up MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND, but what I found was a comforting read, similar to going back to my parent’s house – it’s welcoming and warm; almost from a different time – and you feel right at home with Major Pettigrew and Jasmina Ali.

The characters are discreetly clever – I found myself chuckling (I feel like that’s an appropriately old fashioned word) at their antics and the Major’s thoughts and actions.  An upstanding and opinionated gentleman, the Major was of a different world and I had a hard time remembering that this book was taking place in present day.  When text messaging was mentioned in passing I’d get a little jolt as the story was often so quaint and the opposite of modern (until Pettigrew’s son, more tk).

Unlike NYC apartment searches when “quaint and cozy” mean good luck trying to fit a twin bed in the bedroom, “quaint and cozy” are compliments as this is no small novel. It looks at the influences of social class and race and society’s expectations.

At its heart, it’s a love story – one of different values and characters than we typically find in society these days.  Major Pettigrew and Jasmina are both widowed and definitely “over the hill” – but by no means dried up and stagnant in intelligence, wit, and heck – sexuality!  This is a book I’d love for my grandmother to read, as I feel these love stories are often overlooked for the wrinkle-free versions.

Major Pettigrew’s son was just terrible, but also only too believable.  I’ve seen his type – the young, slick guys in finance whose sole ambition in life is to be as rich as possible and have that be known, at the expense of others.  This was epitomized by his BLACK Christmas tree, to match his modern house – absolutely no warmth or sense of tradition.  I was horrified at the way he treated his father and cringed at the lack of respect.  I like to think he did defrost a little towards the end… No spoilers though – you have to read it yourself!

My favorite passage in the book was when Pettigrew was hoping to help Jasmina make friends and fit in with the social crowd, but his (understated) humor went –

“He could not, in good conscience, promote any association with Daisy Green and her band of ladies. He could more easily recommend gang membership or fencehopping into the polar bear enclosure at the Regents Park zoo.” -pg 113

This was Helen Simonson’s debut novel, and I look forward to whatever comes next. Helen is a true Brit who I wager takes milk in her tea, but she now lives on the East Coast.  You can connect with Helen on her website or via her Facebook page.

I suggest MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND to anyone looking for a charming read that will take their mind off their own pressing matters.  I am so thankful TLC Tours introduced me to this fabulous story and talented writer & I suggest you visit the rest of the tour stops, listed here.

And, just because I think it’s fascinating, here’s the UK cover – what do you think? I like the tea cups, but don’t think the style and colors correctly portray the story. This looks more like the hipster’s version of MAJOR PETTIGREW to me!

Actually, “light weekend reading” may be incorrect, because even though I’d definitely classify HEART OF THE MATTER as chick-lit, the subject of infidelity is never light or easy.

Emily Giffin’s books are as recognizable by their pastel hues as they are for covering topics you’d expect in chick-lit (I don’t mean this to be derogatory; is “women’s fiction” better?): weddings, babies, love, friendship, and now infidelity.  After having read some deeper books, I was in the mood over the wintery weekend for an easy read and saw the purple spine on my bookshelf.  I was ready to be lost in a world of chattering women and married suburbia… Instead, it was a love triangle with no easy way out.

Tessa is married to Dr. Nick Russo, a pediatric plastic surgeon dedicated to his work.  Married for seven years with two young children, they have a seemingly happy life in a wealthy suburb of Boston.  The short version is Nick gets overly attached to a patient and his single mom.  Seemingly (inappropriately; unconvincingly) unsatisfied with his home life, he starts along the slippery slope of lying about working late; Halloween parties, etc.  I won’t ruin the ending, but this was one of those books in which I didn’t really identify with any of the characters and found none of their actions to be totally reasonable/understandable.

“Moral” of my review: books focused on infidelity aren’t my thing. I don’t mind if it’s a plot point, but when infidelity is its own character I’m lost.  I just like to think people are better than that – although my dad always says I’m too trusting.  The silver lining is that it motivated me to update my blog!  And y’all, this is a tenuous connection to my Southern list since the gorgeous Emily Giffin hails from Atlanta?!

Other books on infidelity that I haven’t loved include many of the Jennifer Weiner’s (I enjoyed the movie IN HER SHOES but was horrified that the sister slept with the others’ bf!), ADMISSION by Jean Hanff Korelitz (though I loved her WHITE ROSE novel), the one about the teacher and student with a green apple on the hardcover jacket (don’t remember the name of this one – anyone?)…

But I’m not a total prude: I have enjoyed many books for which infidelity takes place like Jonathan Tropper’s THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (in fact, my literary-lovin’ pup just chewed this one up recently), Anita Shreve’s THE PILOT’S WIFE (though it was traumatizing and I will still not date a pilot… and have been disappointed by every Shreve novel since), Sue Miller’s THE SENATOR’S WIFE (infidelity was much less of a focus in this one) and I’m sure there are more, because for better or worse this seems to be a hot topic in our society.

This was a pretty boring review, sorry crew!  I’m super excited for my Monday post on MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND – please come back then.

Do you all have that list of authors in your head that you’d like to read, when given the moment?  Well, due to a couple strong recommendations (I wish I could elaborate on the source – if it was you please say so!), author Kate Atkinson was always on my radar as someone to pick up.  Serendipitously I stumbled across her novel, CASE HISTORIES, in the bargain bin at B&N (ok, maybe it wasn’t serendipity as much as it was escaping the cold and being a *great* shopper).

So yesterday, my last day of a very long though not-as-relaxing-as-one-may-think Christmas vacation, I sat down to read it and couldn’t put it down. Oh I tried – I had to unpack, clean up, wash dishes, dry my hair – but in between every small task I glanced longingly at book – and quit trying to be productive until I finished it.

Officially classified as a detective/crime novel, I found it more to be a sweeping drama than a mystery.   The flap copy says: “private detective Jackson Brodie—ex-cop, ex-husband and weekend dad—takes on three cases involving past crimes that occurred in and around London…” – but it doesn’t factor in the hints Atkinson drops throughout the novel, and the intertwining of the individual stories and the unanticipated interaction between characters.  I think only a very talented author can successfully write a novel weaving this many story lines together (not to mention the alternating point of views), and she does without missing a beat.

I’ve already ordered her next two novels featuring Jackson Brodie – for which my expectations are very, very high.  I get the feeling Atkinson won’t disappoint!

My second author discovery, who has also been on my TBR list, is another female author based in the mystery/thriller genre: Laura Lippman.

Obviously I love the alliteration of her name and when I came across the shiny jacket of her latest, I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE (my mom used to call me a crow due to my affinity for anything that shimmers in the light), I couldn’t resist.

I had expected I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE to be more action-packed and thrilling, but similar to CASE HISTORIES above, this book had a psychological depth that surprised me.

Told from the perspective of the Eliza Benedict, a wife and mother who overcame her terrifying kidnapping as a teenager.  She was the only victim of Walter to escape his entrapment alive.  Already dealing with a sullen teenager and a young child, a letter from her captor and his approaching execution puts her hidden past back to the forefront.

I’m happy I finally had the opportunity to experience both authors.  Kate Atkinson immediately left me wanting more and I’ll definitely make more room on my bookshelf for Lippman – I’ve been told that many of her books are more traditional thrillers with a repeating character that I’d love to try.

Any authors you recently “met” that you can’t wait to read again?  Or, any shiny covers attract you lately?

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