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My booklist has taken an R-rated twist
I consume books regularly and try to be open to all genres (except Twilight and Harry Potter; I refuse based on principle), but tend to stick with titles that offer some literary content or even just a thrill. Lately, my titles have been more suspect and less something I would proudly read while riding on public transportation (yet another reason I need an EReader!). Strippers and womanizers have dominated a few of my recent literary ingestions.
Drunkenness & Debauchery with Tucker Max: To some, Tucker Max is a hero: One to emulate, live vicariously through and high-five. To me, he is a cringe-worthy example of all that’s wrong in society today – a mediocre looking man who somehow has managed to find innumerable women who willingly exploit themselves and become a topic of Max’s only talent – writing. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is written as a memoir, filled with vignettes of stories, aka one-night stands.
For Max, sex is an activity akin to my shopping habit. He just walks out on the street, sees something he likes and takes it home – nothing personal or even especially friendly. I don’t even care enough to go on a tirade about this, because the strongly offensive nature is exactly why this exaggerated content is so popular. If everyone just ignored it, Max would hopefully disappear, and suffer from some STD, alone.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: C (Mediocre, like the author)
- Title: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
- Author: Tucker Max
- Publisher: Citadel Press (Kensington)
On-Stage with Juno’s Screenwriter, Naked: The blockbuster success of the Summer Movie of 2007, “Juno”, about the pregnant high-school giving her baby up for adoption, resulted in an umbrella effect of PR for the author, Diablo Cody. Not the typical glitzy Hollywood Screenwriter, Cody had already been around the block before achieving fame and there is no doubt many people who became fans experienced her naked at multiple strip clubs in Minnesota.
Yes, Minnesota. The cold state in which the taking off of clothes makes me shiver was the setting of Cody’s memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. College-educated with a normal childhood (if there is such a thing), she had a job in an advertising agency before wandering into an Amateur Stripping contest and becoming rather addicted to the thrill. This memoir reminds me of Chelsea Handler’s Confessions of My Horizontal Life, as both women managed to maintain a conversational, self-deprecating voice while describing intimate things. Entertaining throughout, this memoir offers a subversive thrill to a taboo subject and ends before getting overly disgusted from the vivid descriptions of what is done for cash.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: B+
- Title: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper
- Author: Diablo Cody
- Publisher: Gotham (Penguin)
Expected Stripper-Tale, with Political Twists: From my experience, Carl Hiaasen takes a normal murder/suspense/power plot and adds tidbits of sex and humor to keep the reader engaged. Striptease (an old title, found at library sale for $1) stays to this obviously successful formula and follows a young mother, driven to strip by the piling up of legal bills as she fights her ex-husband for custody of their young daughter (typical stripper sob-story, right?).
Seedy tale with the emotional mother-daughter pull, Hiaasen weaves his web of politics, blackmail and murder through the sleazy Governor of Florida, who’s in love with the stripper (like that Akon song!) and in bed with $millions$ behind the illegal farming of sugar cane. The stripper is realistic and smart, the bouncer muscular and clever, the Congressman aging and not aware of all that’s happening for his behalf, this book is another look at the different cogs in society and what happens when they interact. Definitely entertaining, but without the introspective angle of Candy Girl or the disgust-worth content of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.
- Novelwhore’s Grade: B-
- Title: Striptease
- Author: Carl Hiaasen
- Publisher: Vision
Cover Blurb: “Treat yourself to this book, please–I can’t recommend it highly enough.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
Sweet 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
Sundays are notoriously unproductive (is this true across the board or just for my roomies and I?), typically spent lolling around in front of the Lifetime Movie Channel or, weather permitting, relaxing on the pool deck, rejuvenating from what was undoubtedly a raucous weekend. So it makes me proud to say that yesterday, I accomplished quite the feat: one sushi meal with Char at RA, one Lifetime movie (the disturbing & sad Natalee Holloway one), three cups of tea and two books!
Quite unintentionally, both books I read dealt with ghosts/spirits/other-worldly forms of energy. The protagonist in Joshilyn Jackson’s The Girl Who Stopped Swimming saw the ghost come to her of the young girl who drowned in the pool while Ronlyn Domingue writes a captivating tale from the ghost’s perspective in The Mercy of Thin Air.
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is Jackson’s third novel, following Gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia. Having read them all, I’ve come to realize that Jackson employs a formula in each: Takes place in the South, involves a family secret, poor relatives and a young woman. While these traits are shared, each book is individual, offering a different story and secret to be uncovered.
The secret in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming begins to unravel once Laurel finds the body of her daughter’s tween friend floating in her pool. After enlisting her free-spirited sister, Thalia, to help, Laurel discovers more than she had anticipated about her marriage, her daughter, DeLop (the oppressed town of impoverished relatives), the murder in her past and even about herself. An enlightening novel that makes the reader question happiness and wonder about their own ghosts, outside their line of vision.
- NovelWhore’s Grade: B+
- Title: The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
- Author: Joshilyn Jackson
- Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (Hachette)
Hard to believe The Mercy of Thin Air is Domingue’s first novel. Written with such insight and conviction, even a non-believer like myself questions reality. Told in first person by the intelligent and vivacious Raziela Nolan after her tragic death at the turning point of her life, it tells the story of love that doesn’t die with the body.
Even though Razi dies in 1929 at the age of 22, the story carries the characters up into the 21st century, as she stays “between” – invisible to mortals but remaining on Earth. Her tale is intertwined with the love story of a couple struggling through their relationship and hidden past, whose lives intersect with the one Razi left behind. Interesting subplots abound: Razi’s dedication to educating women on their reproductive options when this knowledge was illegal (apparently in the 1920s pregnancy was the only job women were expected to do), the growth and development of independent women, the relationships with other souls in “between” and the life of her great love.
Both The Girl Who Stopped Swimming and The Mercy of Thin Air are more than love stories, though I do feel they appeal to women readers much more than men. I consider myself to be grounded in reality and both these books made me more open to the presence of those we can’t see. The next time I feel a cold draft or smell a scent that seems out of place I may have to smile, wondering if possibly a spirit is sharing in my experience. Who is to say otherwise?
- NovelWhore’s Grade: A-
- Title: The Mercy of Thin Air
- Author: Ronlyn Domingue
- Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)
I do, however, suggest you read these books at least a few days apart. I had a hard time sleeping last night imagining the spirits hovering around my bed!
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.
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. Nicholas 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
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: http://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
My 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.
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
According to the New York Times, 651,000 new job losses were reported in February (need I remind everyone that Feb. is the shortest month of the year, so that means 23,250 jobs were lost PER DAY). Unemployment surged to 8.1%, the highest yet.
It really is a dismal economy. I have yet to adopt what I call the “unemploymentality” (thanks,Liz!) of feeling depressed, worthless and hopeless, but ask me that again in a couple more months of not receiving a steady paycheck and I may be ready to join the beggars on Rush St.
As the NYT article states, “Everybody in every industry has lost jobs or is feeling insecure about whether they’re going to keep their jobs or how their company’s going to do.”
I think Prada may be out of luck with people affording their “Sunbathing Dress” I posted yesterday… Back to my happy world of fiction.
I used to love John Grisham, he could do no wrong. From the “The Pelican Brief” (which I’ve read at least seven times), to bawling while finishing “The Chamber,” to the more intense page turners “The Firm” and “A Time to Kill” – they were all wonderful. I used to be able to pick up the latest Grisham novel and know I was in for a good time.
I had been looking forward to yesterday for awhile. Not only was I taking the train to meet my mom and sister half-way for a shopping spree (someone has to support this dismal economy!), but I knew I would have quality train time to finish a couple books without distraction. Grisham’s legal thriller “The Appeal” from 2008 was on the top of my list.
Taking place in Bowmore, Mississippi, a sad little town that mammoth company Krane Pharmaceuticals has turned into “Cancer County, USA,” it’s a simple case of good vs. evil, David vs. Goliath. The novel opens with a huge verdict of $41MM awarded to a woman whose son and husband have both died as a direct result of the poison from Krane that ended up in the water system.
From here, the book goes horribly wrong.
Spinning off in tangents – religion, supreme court, bought politicians, local banks and bankruptcy, class action suits, greedy CEOs – while I won’t deny all the tangents somehow link back to the original verdict, there is so much going on that as the reader, it’s impossible to focus on the bigger picture or get attached and relate to any of the characters.
And the ending… wow. You hope for some character growth, and while it’s probable, the book ends with quite a few threads left hanging. Spoiler alert: I may be unrealistic, but I like to see karma come back in some form. I was hoping against hope the evil CEO and his co-conspirators aboard his mega-yacht in the last chapter would be the victims of some sort of boat explosion/lightning strike/iceburg hitting event, but it was not meant to be.
But please, by all means if you feel differently let me know. Am I jaded? Expecting too much of Grisham? Too naive to appreciate a book with a disappointing ending?
My advice: If you’re looking for a big-business trial book, try Grisham’s old school (1997) “The Runaway Jury,” in which a big tobacco company is taken to trial by a grieving widow. I read this book a decade ago and still remember the plot and characters. ”The Appeal,” on the other hand, is about to be forgotten as soon as this post is published!
- Title: The Appeal
- Author: John Grisham
- Publisher: Doubleday
- NovelWhore’s Grade: D
For as much as I read the writings of others – their deepest secrets, hopes, desires, scandalous tales and laughable stories, I am selfishly terrified to share my own. As public extrovert and closet nerd, I am engaged in a secret love affair with the quiet written word, and the concept of putting myself out there (aka this public blog) to be at the expense of society is not one I’ve taken lightly. Probably why I’ve been trying to write this first post for three weeks now. As my only two friends who know I’m attempting this quest have so kindly pointed out, I do have the power to delete, re-write, or just cover my eyes and live in ignorance that this will actually ever be read. So, here goes nothing.
In my “moat” of partially read books which surrounds my bed (seriously, there are at least ten down there at any given time) there are a couple sophisticated novels I was hoping to open my new, exciting, literature focused-blog talking about. Then I realized I was trying to be pretentious, and having zero fans don’t know why I feel as if I have to start out on a classy note.
Last night, being unemployed (hm I conveinently forgot to mention that) I grabbed a book off my shelf to read before drifting off to sleep. While I don’t have a strict bedtime, I do try to stay on schedule to get up before 9am so I’m not a total loser. Since it was already close to 11 when I was going to bed (The Bachelor was pushed back an hour due to Barack’s speech, so Jason didn’t break Naomi’s heart until 10) I was only expecting to read a few chapters.
I somehow became incredibly immersed in “The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc.” Ever heard of it? Doubtful, as I myself found it in the “75% off already-reduced clearance price” bin at the Barnes & Noble After Christmas Sale – obviously not a best seller.
After a rather slow beginning, I began to enjoy the book as it unraveled the story of Sissy, Peewee and Parker, jumping from current time, back to 1956, and even further into Sissy’s childhood, all to set up the climatic murder that was alluded to in the very first chapter. While not a particularly happy tale (Sissy got pregnant at 16 and married the son of the baby’s father, got that?), the story did effectively bring the characters to life and allow them each to grow and develop relationships that were believable, fallible, and (scarily enough) relateable.
I suggest this book to any woman who has ever felt stifled in a small town or from mistakes and decisions made at too young an age. You will laugh and cry alongside Sissy, and may even end up learning something about yourself. While I don’t suggest this for a night of intellectual reading, it could generate great discussion and reminiscing of each woman’s own scandalous teen years at a book club.
Needless to say after staying up to finish this book I missed my bedtime, which led to oversleeping my alarm and not getting up until 10am – a luxury of the unemployed.
- Title: The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc
- Author: Loraine Despres
- Publisher: Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins
- NovelWhore’s Grade: B