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I’m sneaking this post in just in time! It’s my last day at work before a four-day long Labor Day weekend, and I’ve been wearing white clothes all week.  I hate when it’s time to relegate my white pants and dresses to the back of my closet (er, shoved under my bed since closet too small), not only because it indicates the dismissal of summer, but I just love happy, bright colors.

But, if I wanted to  bring back the memories of summer – the sunshine, swimming pools, green grass, wine, cocktails enjoyed while watching sunsets from the patio <swoon>, all I would need to do is re-read Danielle Ganek’s latest novel, THE SUMMER WE READ GATSBY.

I read the iconic GREAT GATSBY post college, when I was in a selfish haze enjoying my first summer as an “adult” in Chicago.  I enjoyed the story and the fanciful clothing and setting, but think I missed some of the finer points of this “Great American Novel.”  Reading the importance (er, “influence on the character) of the novel in Ganek’s latest made me want to rush out and find a copy to read again (also, to discover that elusive first edition with dust jacket supposedly worth more than $100k!).

This is a fun read, starting off with highlighting the differences between two half- sisters, thrown together for a month in Southampton in the home of a now-deceased beloved aunt.  Pecksland (yes, that’s her name), better known as “Peck” is a 32 year old NYC society gal who’s a wannabe actress (I think we all know a few of these), while Stella Blue Cassandra Olivia Moriarty (who goes by Stella or Cassie) is a shy 28-year old brought up in with conservative European ways, with no living relatives other than the eccentric Peck.

The two sisters are both adrift in their lives, as Peck’s dreams have yet to be realized, while Stella recently went through a divorce and is still reeling from the death of her aunt.  The ramshackle bungalow in Southampton brings these two characters, along with a couple other “Fools” (their aunt was very supportive of struggling artists and allowed non-paying “fools” to live in the garage) and takes a fun romp through the bustling community that’s the Hamptons in the summer.  Obviously, their sharp edges towards each other become more like sea glass (how’s that analogy?!) as they warm up and end up actually liking each other.

Now I feel all nostalgia for my summer that’s over.  Ganek does a great job showing the dichotomy and place of the Hamptons – new money vs. old, and the huge new mansions though large in size may be small in taste.  There were fewer pool parties and wine tours than I would have expected – since really, what were these people doing all day!? But she did share friendships, love interests, family drama and a little bit of mystery.  This is truly a summer read (or a firelight read when you’re trying to bring back summer thoughts), best enjoyed on the Long Island Railroad, when you have a patio, pool and beach bonfire in your imminent future.

Oh yes, and the aunt’s name is Lydia so I think I see a Southampton bungalow in my future (dad, you reading this? It’d be a great 26th b-day gift/investment!).  I’ve already had quite the Southampton summer, thanks to my bf’s share house as well as Ganek’s sumptuous novel.

Good-Bye Hamptons, hello September.

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Cover Blurb:  “Treat yourself to this book, please–I can’t recommend it highly enough.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society BookSweet but never boring.  Intense but never overdone.  Inspiring but never preaching.  Loving but never raunchy.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a rare novel, one that comes into our life without a sound, but leaves having made an imprint on our soul.

Such an odd, cumbersome title, and one that may have never appealed to me personally except Random House professionals, Susan Kamil, SVP, Editor-in-Chief, and Jane Von Mehren, VP, Publisher, Trade Paperbacks, came to my NYU SPI class to share their experience and the road to success.  This title is globally recognized as this book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List since publication in 2008 (read the inside story of how it achieved such fame in my column on Beneath the Cover, “The Making of a Bestseller”).  Small in stature (the trade paperback a mere 274 pages), this book may initially be cast-off as a whimsical historical fiction novel until you try to put it down… I dare you to leave it untouched for a full 24-hours once you’ve begun.

The characters are lively, quirky, and lovable as they communicate via hand-written letters in 1946, as they rediscover themselves and their world post the trauma and impact of World War II.  You find yourself wanting novelist Juliet Ashton as your own pen pal and quiet Dawsey Adams as a neighbor.  Twists and turns are discrete and natural so that you almost don’t realize when a revelation occurs and the impact in the character’s life.

This novel celebrates people who love books and the written word.  Text, language and history are embraced within remarkable friendships.

Though the era has passed, issues of love, hope, and the kindness of the human spirit will always be timeless and this book (I wager) is destined to become a classic alongside the titles of the authors celebrated in the text, including the Brontes, Austen, Shakespeare, etc… This book  appeals to a wide audience, as it is told from multiple perspectives allowing a glimpse into different psyches.  I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote, above, to give yourself the gift of this book.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A
  • Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Publisher: Random House
chick lit

PostSecret

In case you weren’t aware, Romance is the most successful genre of books; it’s also the most popular/successful type of EBook purchase.  Coincidence? I think not.  This PostSecret “secret” really touches on the secretive nature of the new digital mediums that are allowing people to read whatever they want without anyone knowing.  The conservative Christian reading Chelsea Handler?  The heterosexual reading about being gay?  The wife looking into divorce? Handheld devices have really returned reading to a private endeavor.

Interesting insight in an amusing/frivolous way.  Now if I could just get someone to donate an EReader to me so I could explore what non-socially acceptable books I may enjoy…

I’ve led a pretty blessed life.  Lucky in family and friends, my only big unrequited “want” comes in the form of Mingo, the thousand pound horse I fell in love with when I was twelve.  Always an imaginative child, I also believed in the mythical counterpart of my beloved palomino – that of the Unicorn.

Lady and the Unicorn Tapestry - Paris

Lady and the Unicorn Tapestry - Paris

Being a fan of historical fiction, along with my admitted interest in unicorns, when I found Tracy Chevalier’s The Lady and the Unicorn on sale at betterworldbooks.com (great site – cheap books, free shipping, and profits help fund literacy programs) I immediately added it to my overflowing digital shopping cart.  Being a fan of Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, I planned to enjoy this novel about my mythical unicorn even more.

I was disappointed.

While an interesting look at the almost-noble family of Jean Le Viste – his miserable and unappreciated wife and their three daughters (Le Viste blames his wife for not bearing a son), the story lacks character development and interaction.  Based on the real-life mystery surrounding the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries that hang in the Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris (pictured above), this novel follows the imaginary artist Nicholas des Innocents in his seductions while his art is woven into tapestries.

The figure of the mythical unicorn is used as a tool in seduction, as des Innocents uses the supposed purifying powers of the horn to deflower and impregnate women.  His true love and passion for Claude, the eldest daughter of Le Viste, can only show through his artwork, as they belong to different classes which were nontransferable in the the 15th century.

While rich in details of life in the 1490’s, especially when following the family of the weaver, it is hard to get too attached to any character.  There are many minor players in the story, whose lives all manage to weave together (excuse the pun) throughout.

My biggest fault with this book is the lack of a satisfactory conclusion.  lady-and-the-unicorn-bookNicholas des Innocents is invited to a part at the Le Viste compound at which the tapestries will be unveiled.  At this event, he and Claude have a quick rendezvous under the table before her arranged marriage is announced.  The book comes to an end with a look at the unsatisfactory and unfulfilled lives of those we learned about throughout the story.  I guess realistic, as not everyone ends up happy all the time, but it seemed to be an incredibly melancholy ending for an imagined tale.

Mediocre at best, this book left me wanting much more from the 250 pages read.  Also, I wanted the unicorn to have a bigger impact, but that’s a personal complaint!

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: C
  • Title: The Lady and the Unicorn
  • Author: Tracy Chevalier
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult

Sometimes the life of a drug lord seems a little like the mob – dangerous and violent, but sexy in that easy-money sort of way.  I don’t have the heart for it – I can’t take the pictures of the starving children in Africa that come up on those religious commercials, much less personally contributing to addicts (is that a logical chain of thought?).  Not to mention drugs, weapons and police scare me… But they do make for a good story, as long as the violence and danger stay on the page, unlike the Mexican Cartels currently doing their best to wreak havoc in the States…

Elizabeth Lowell had no idea how current her fictional novel, The Wrong Hostage, would seem right now, with news outlets daily covering the influx of drugs and violence from Mexico and the issues going on within the drug world down there.

Published as the second book within her “St. Kilda” series (of which I’ve

How I like to picture MX

How I like to picture MX

never read the first), The Wrong Hostage takes place during a harrowing weekend in which California Judge Grace Silva is forced to go toe-to-toe with the feared Mexican drug lord, Hector Rivas Osuna, in order to rescue her 15-year-old son.  Held hostage against money Silva’s ex-husband owes, she takes action.  Instead of wasting time in tracking down her lousy ex, missing for weeks, she calls the super-secret St. Kilda firm, known only to her due to a brief, passionate love affair with an operative… If you’re a fan of the “Romantic Suspense” genre, I bet you can guess this operative is also, ta-da, the son’s real father.

Through scary roads in Mexico, being witness to cold-hearted murder within the drug community (reminiscent of the Chicago Mob: https://novelwhore.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/operation-gambat-when-corruption-was-king-of-chicago/) and all the while reigniting  long-lost passion, this is a fast-paced novel that leaves your heart in your throat as you just wish the family to be reunited, frolicking on a white-sand beach and off the drug-ridden streets of Tijuana.

Crazily enough, I read this novel last year and as quickly as I finished the last page it left my thoughts, just to spring to mind as I was reading The New York Times two days ago:  “More than 7,000 people [in Mexico], most of them connected to the drug trade or law enforcement, have died since January 2008. Many of the victims were tortured. Beheadings have become common.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/us/23border.html?_r=1&pagewanted=2&em.

There are numerous additional articles covering home invasions and kidnappings in the United States, all related to the Mexican drug trade, making me wonder if a situation like Lowell portrayed in The Wrong Hostage happened to an ordinary family unconnected with underground, all-powerful rescue rings (do these even exist in real life?), what would happen?  Would the news even be publicized, or would one family be in unbearable private pain?

It’s scary when what I would consider to be outlandish fiction comes alive in the newspaper.  While I enjoyed reading this book throughout its 406 pages, I don’t like the reading of individual newspaper articles that don’t always have the same caliber of ending (trying not to give anything aware, being sly).

Give this book a try if you like action, suspense, guns and violence with an undercurrent of sexual tension, but skip it if you would rather not take a behind-the-scenes peek at what may be happening as we speak.

And I even love Mexico – Cancun vacation, anyone!?

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: B
  • Title: The Wrong Hostage
  • Author: Elizabeth Lowell
  • Publisher: Avon

northern_lightsMy Dad went on a fishing trip to Alaska last year, which completely surprised me since my dad had never fished in his life, much less being some huge sportsman that travels some 3,500 miles to what I always imagined as some white, frozen piece of tundra, replete with polar bears (cute, but supposedly dangerous), Sarah Palin shooting wolves, and not much else.  But every morning when I received a picture message I had to admit it was of a gorgeous scene.

So, with my interest in Alaska piqued, when I came across Nora Robert’s Northern Lights novel priced at a very affordable $1 at the Newberry Library book fair I had to snatch it up.  While not a huge Nora Roberts fan, I admit her books are a fat-free indulgence every once in awhile, and I dare to say Northern Lights is one of her better titles.

Complete with murder, small-town intrigue and (surprise, surprise) a steamy love affair, Lunacy, Alaska is brought to life through the sexy cop recently transplanted from Baltimore (due to a traumatic experience, read it to discover why he ran away), and the equally mysterious female bush pilot who is also the daughter of a man missing 15 years soon to be found murdered in the mountains.  Whew what a story.  Through family issues, affairs, and secrets past and present, the tale is twisted through a town where everyone knows each other, and one of them is a murderer.  It’s up to the “outsider” Police Chief and his sexy hometown hunny (sorry, couldn’t resist) to separate the disgruntled rednecks (are rednecks in AK?) from the real threats.

Scene from the movie, also real life?

Scene from the movie, also real life?

Brought alive by a newly aired Lifetime movie (another guilty pleasure, though I swear I only imbibe with roomies present, never alone) graced with the acting of country singer LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian (apparently with a past role in “Baywatch Nights” – who knew), the 562 page book is condensed into a two hour movie, commercials included.  Needless to say, much of the quality, community feeling and character development that makes the book a success is lost in the movie translation.

As you may or may not have heard, the movie may be somewhat of a success due to the publicity of a supposed real-life affair (strategic move or true infidelity?) between Rimes and Cibrian, both of whom are married.

While I would never suggest that anyone go out and purchase this book, if the Nora Roberts genre appeals to you than give Northern Lights a chance.  It offers twists and turns outside the bedroom (ha), and the ending, while expected, isn’t boring.

And just in case you’re wondering, my dad will never feel the need to read this book to relive his Alaskan experience, since we still have delicious smoked salmon in the deep freezer waiting to be enjoyed.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade, Book: B-
    NovelWhore’s Grade, Movie: D
  • Title: Northern Lights
  • Author: Nora Roberts
  • Publisher: Jove

Don’t get excited now, no, this is not a tell-all admission of my love life (trust me, that would be really boring to read) but a glowing recommendation of Chelsea Handler’s over-active sex drive in her memoir “My Horizontal Life –  A Collection of One-Night Stands.”

I abhor the term LOL, it’s out of style right?  But, it’s totally appropriate as I describe what I was doing while reading this.  Outrageous, hilarious and

Disclaimer: Not the midget she discussed in the book!

Disclaimer: Not the midget she discussed in the book!

totally entertaining, this book makes me giggle even as I think of it.

“My Vagina clammed up.  I was scared for me and my little beaver’s life.  I just hoped we would make it out of this okay.”

That’s a legitimate quote, and the fact that it’s referring to the, ah, genitalia of a male midget makes it even more humorous. While I don’t wish to live her life, I have no qualms about living vicariously through her stories, liberally soaked in alcohol, inappropriate situations and objectionable (often offensive) morals.

Of course you have to hope Handler is exaggerating as she describes her exploits, and it’s even rather sad at times as you wonder what actually is meaningful in her life… But get off that high-horse and just enjoy the ride!

Read this if: You’re open-minded, enjoy racy humor, aren’t offended by blatant smuttiness and alcohol-motivated decisions and aren’t embarrassed to laugh out loud while reading by yourself.

Avoid this is: You’re no fun, bland, easily offendable and can only think of sex as a sacred act no matter who is engaging in it.

  • Title: My Horizontal Life
  • Author: Chelsea Handler
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury
  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A  (first blogging “A”!!!)

Book vs. Movie

By now, who isn’t familiar with this term?  If you haven’t read the book, at the very least you’ve seen the trailers for the movie, currently in theaters, featuring a multitude of celebrities: Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Connelly and Kevin Connolly make up the all-star cast

I’m sure authors Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo (both contributing writershjntiy-book to the smash success “Sex & the City) had no idea the effect their book, aka “The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys,” would have on the world.  I remember first reading “He’s Just Not That Into You” (HJNTIY) back when it came out in 2004 and was on it’s way to becoming some sort of a classic.  I was a naive and somewhat innocent college sophomore, and thought that the book was a more amusing and informational form of the Bible.

Though my Advanced Composition teacher ended up stealing the book (Ms. Laura Elizabeth, you disappeared with my “Bible” and my portfolio!) I still have quite a vivid recollection of the empowerment I felt upon completion.  Although I’ve never found myself in a terribly unhealthy relationship (some are less happy to remember than others…), I have definitely been blind to the reality of any given situation.  Told with humorous examples, comedic banter and the ability to make you smile through your tears of humiliation (you wonder how you missed that obvious hint!), the book is a feel-good tool to encourage every woman to go out there and find the relationship she deserves, not just one she’s stuck with.

Since I really did enjoy the book, appreciate the message and was able to occasionally relate to the situations with self-deprecating laughter, I had high expectations for the movie.

Let me admit, I am not a movie person.  I am terrible at sitting still, rarely captivated by what is happening on screen and I don’t even like popcorn (though I looooove the icees at theaters!).  I think books are a much more effective and enjoyable way to portray a story, although a movie is much less effort.  Anyways, I was prepared to really enjoy HJNTIY, as it had been receiving mostly rave reviews.

hesjustnotthatintoyou_000My movie partner was a guy I’m casually seeing, and he only went to the movie since he lost a bet (lesson to be learned, never bet me on random historical facts!).  He complained about going, but I think ended up liking it and laughing more than me.  It was your stereotypical romantic comedy with a little bit more humor, I didn’t think it had nearly the powerful and positive message that the book shared with it’s audience.  The movie poses the question:

“are you the exception… or are you the rule?”

The movie follows different characters through life in Maryland (totally random, right?), and it’s almost one of those six-degrees of separation examples, how everyone is inextricably linked without knowing.  It’s interesting to see how all the lives tie together, but painful at times to watch as Gigi (Goodwin) is pathetically desperate to date someone, anyone, or as Janine’s (Connelly) husband enters into an affair.

It wasn’t a bad movie, but I did leave feeling as if something were missing.  Oh, right, it’s the idea that things don’t always turn out as you planned, and the guy doesn’t always realize that you’re the greatest woman in the world for him (though I’m sure you are), and that sometimes, relationships are disappointing and people aren’t meant to be together and it doesn’t work out (and I swear I’m not even bitter or cynical!). I guess one marriage does dissolve through the course of the movie, but in the current state where affairs and divorces are commonplace, it would be almost more satisfying (less stereotypical, at least) had the woman been responsible, or at minimum, in control, of the relationship!  I definitely think the uplifting lesson conveyed in the book is somehow lost with the on-screen adaptation.

Read the book if: You need motivation, inspiration, or optimism in your relationship or life in general.  Pass the book to a friend if you can see they’re stuck in a dead end relationship and a third-party unbiased source yelling at them could help realization dawn.

Avoid the book if: You like losers, and accept you’re stuck with them.  No no kidding, read the book.

Watch the movie if: You like happy endings, stereotypical romantic comedies, pathetic women, cheating men, and some laughter along the way.  Though I suggest you wait until it comes out on DVD and make a wine night out of it, much better use of $$$$.

Avoid the movie if: You’re looking for a movie with a lasting impact.

  • Title: He’s Just Not That Into You
  • Author(s): Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo
  • Publisher: Simon Spotlight Entertainment
  • NovelWhore’s Grade (Book): A-
  • NovelWhore’s Grade (Movie): C+

**As usual, the book is much better than the movie!

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