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With summer/swimsuit season around the corner (though that corner is looking farrrrrrrrrrr away on this dismal day!) and more and more health issues stemming from eating habits, weight – and the effect on one’s health – is consistently a hot issue. While much has been known about anorexia and bulimia, compulsive binging seems to be becoming more and more of an issue. Before even hearing about this SKINNY book tour, I read an article in Seventeen magazine (don’t judge – subscription was gift from roomie’s mom!) asking “are your eating habits normal?” and they were shedding light on the dangerous binging cycle – do you hide your eating/eat alone/lie to friends, etc.
In SKINNY, author Diana Spechler introduces you to Gray, a non-descript 26 year old living with her comedian boyfriend in NYC. Beyond the fun jacket (looked like a great beach book), I thought the similarities between Gray and myself would be interesting, since we’re the same age in the same city and I had assumed would have similar thoughts.
Ultimately, Gray and I don’t have much in common and once I gave up trying to like her, I enjoyed the book more.
Gray starts her rather sad story by sharing with the reader that she killed her father. It was understood pretty quickly that this wasn’t a premeditated crime (I bet you knew that too, from the pretty book cover), but more an enabler of bad habits. The death of her father sends her life into a tailspin in which she quits her job helping her boyfriend, the lovable though slightly schlubby Mikey, book comedy gigs and instead starts binge eating and working odd jobs while gaining weight.
Uncovering a cryptic connection in her father’s will, Gray sets out to be a counselor at a “fat camp” in North Carolina, with the intention on bonding with Eden, a young girl who she thinks is her stepsister from her father’s mid-life affair. While at camp, Gray ends up in a steamy affair with a fellow counselor and dealing with a lot of pre-teen angst from the campers.
This was the first book I’d read by Diana Spechler and I wanted to be more excited about it than I am. While I didn’t hate SKINNY, I’m not inspired to think about the characters further. I thought the ending seemed rushed and Gray never did win me over. I did like the actual writing even though I couldn’t relate to the story, and think Spechler’s debut, WHO BY FIRE, would be more my type of read.
Even though this book wasn’t my “pint of ice cream” I do think the author sheds light on some serious issues, and if even one young woman is helped then I heartily applaud SKINNY. Check out Spechler’s website http://bodyconfession.com/ and share it for some more feel-goodness. Also, stop by and see where else you can find SKINNY on tour here.
I like to think I’m not a superficial book buyer or reader (I trust you fellow bloggers to tell me about books!), but if I were to buy a book for its cover, I definitely would choose 31 BOND STREET.
Beyond the jacket, the cover language of: “A Novel of Murder, Innocence and Power in New York City” is very compelling. Additionally (like I need another reason), I walk by Bond Street at least once a day, as it’s located between my current apartment in the East Village and just about every other place I go.
Though the house of the “society dentist” in this novel no longer stands, the intersection of Bond Street and Bowery is still a hive of activity, with pedestrians walking and cabs honking all day and well into the night. Though in this novel, the setting of 31 BOND STREET was in many ways a simpler time of horse-drawn carriages, though the simple times didn’t stop evil from rooting.
Based around a murder that stole the newspaper headlines back in 1857, this novel introduces us to the widowed Emma Cunningham, struggling financially while trying to hold her place in society and raise her two daughters (less raising them than trying to rope good husbands). When a summer trip to Saratoga (which sounded like an old-fashioned Hamptons!) introduces Emma to wealthy dentist Harvey Burdell, she thinks her future is accounted for.
Upon moving in to Harvey’s brownstone at (you guessed it) 31 Bond Street, Emma awaits the marriage proposal she thinks is imminent. The short time in this abode, she alienates the servants while making the location more pleasant for her daughter’s suitors. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that while she’s sleeping with Harvey, she may not be next in line to be Mrs. Burdell.
Then Harvey is found brutally murdered, his head almost detached from his neck. With no witnesses, Emma is quickly the only suspect.
Filled with power, corruption and greed, this novel has many strands of historical significance weaving through. From the “good” lawyers to political corruption to issues of slavery and power, it is not only a courtroom drama but a colorful fictional look at a different time.
Beyond the rough-edged paper, my other favorite unique aspect of this book were the fictional clips from The New York Times, which did a wonderful job setting the scene and lending a feeling of legitimacy to the time and place.
While I enjoyed the historical imagery, throughout the book I was disappointed by the lack of emotion felt by all characters. Not once does Emma seem to consider falling in love with Harvey (or anyone else), nor does she seem to have many maternal affections toward her daughters beyond finding them a suitable husband. I found the most feelings to be from the lawyer who seems to accept Emma’s case rather spontaneously and accept the loss of position with a prestigious law firm. I also enjoyed the young character John. Beyond those, I was surprised by how unemotional the book felt, when murder trials typically incite very passionate responses.
This is a wonderful book for readers who appreciate historical details and a setting painted with a talented hand. It really did take me back to a different time period. If you enjoyed Jed Rubenfeld’s THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER you should definitely pick up 31 BOND STREET.
Thank you to TLC Book Blog Tour for planning this tour! Hop over and visit the rest of the tour stops here.
There is endless entertainment to be found in the incorrectly, humorously translated signs featured in the “Strange Signs from Abroad” article on the NYT:
I found myself laughing in the obvious, and for the most part harmless, confusion on display as language barriers turn toilets into fishing ponds and the occasional crude translation.
But it also makes me think to my own confusion (and I admit, occasional irritation) as I try to order take out from the delicious Thailand Cafe (for you NYC’ers, make note they open their front windows and have $5 pineapple lychee mojito specials) down Second Ave, and I look at my iPhone in confusion, wondering is my voice breaking up? It says I have full service so why are they not understanding that I want pad thai and cashew chicken with brown rice? So I speak louder, thinking if only I can enunciate enough it will be understood, and my order won’t incorrectly be beef chow-mein or spicy noodles.
Obviously, the problem isn’t my phone (though seriously, AT&T if you’re reading this, do something about my dropped calls pleasssssssssssssse) but the language barrier between my English and the order-taker’s non. I’m not ignorant though – I only speak one language (and I think to think I speak it well, but still – single language speaker here) as opposed to these people crossing oceans and coming not understanding a single word spoken and somehow picking it up… which is just incredible.
My thoughts seem to be all over the place, but really my point is to suggest that you read GIRL IN TRANSLATION, the amazing debut novel from Jean Kwok. A Riverhead title, I first read this book in manuscript form on my patio last year and was instantly hooked. I could feel the pain of protagonist Kimberly Chang as she and her mother immigrated from Hong Kong to Brooklyn and lost everything along the way. History, tradition, language… everything was gone, and replaced with poverty and sweatshops and a freezing cold apartment during NYC winters.
What really struck me about this novel is how Kwok was able to capture the confusion of languages. She explains how Chinese sounds to outsiders, and her mother’s struggle at understand the English language. And in this situation, when it really is life, it’s not funny like the signs shown above. Also incredible is how Kimberly measures cost by how many skirts she and her mother would have to clean at the sweat shop: “…the jackets cost at least 20,000 skirts each.” – it gives a whole new value to the dollar.
So my point to you (and a reminder to myself) is to have tolerance and patience. My intention is not to make this book sound like a downer – it’s a lovely summer read and definitely one you can share with your mom, sister, and any YA reader in you life. In fact, I suggest you do share it with them; it will give you lots of discussion and things for which to be thankful!
Brrrrrrr… I thought moving from Chicago to NYC would be a breeze, since I literally would be escaping the Windy City (yes I realize that refers to politics and not weather, but anyway you look at it Chicago has damn bitter gusts) to the land of a more mild temperate. But last week Gothamist burst my bubble, reporting that this may be the coldest NYC winter in almost 30 years! Totally unnecessary, and unappreciated.
I’ve brought out my woolies and curled up next to my radiator (yes, this is also my first experience with a radiator – the little things like thermostats I used to take for granted <sigh>) and have managed to survive this cold snap. While I love paradise, drinks with a straw and my hammock on the beach, sometimes I get bitter at reading about these places when my own surroundings are far different. So as I avoid beach reading, I wait, along with many others, for the third installment in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST… Not only has this proven to be a fantastically thrilling series, but the fictional weather tends to be more dismal than I’m experiencing – which makes me both selfish and happy.
Due to this new found love for Scandinavian thrillers, I was doubly triply excited for the recent U.S. debut of SNOW ANGELS by James Thompson, an author out of Finland. Not only did this novel make my winter seem decidedly less severe (considering 24-hours of darkness, like they have in Finland, tends to put things in perspective) but I found the characters and the setting compelling… and add in the twisting and turning plot and it was overall un-put-downable!
I am unbiased. For real. But James is a Putnam author, so instead of giving too complete a review and have you guys think that my having spoken to him on the phone and listened to his nice Finnish accent gives me a clouded opinion, I’ll share those of others (beyond the “MASTERFUL” Michael Connelly quote on the jacket).
Jen Forbus at Jen’s Book Thoughts reviewed SNOW ANGELS and also shared a Q&A with James. I also direct your reviewing eyes to the thoughtful reviews on Jenn’s Bookshelves and Whimpulsive. And there are more – if you’d like to share your thoughts on SNOW ANGELS I invite you to leave a link in the comments and I will add you here!
So next time you’re staying in a cold winter night, take my advice and make a hot toddy (yummy & easy: tea *I’ve tried black, lemon, raspberry and mango- all delicious*, lemon juice, cinnamon stick or clover, honey… don’t forget the whiskey!) and escape to Finland with SNOW ANGELS – though you may have to sleep with a nightlight on.
Since I know you’re all dying to know, I’ve successfully brought a healthy lunch in to work three days this week! And since I stayed home sick on Tuesday, that’s actually a 100% success rate. And todayI just zapped leftover Chinese from last night… since I did technically bring it from home, I think I’m going to count that as a “packed lunch” as well – what a way to start the year right!
While I abhor being sick (I really don’t like weakness all that much), it did give me some time to catch up on my reading. So Tuesday I coughed and hacked my way through Jennifer Weiner’s latest bestseller, BEST FRIENDS FOREVER, along with the newly released #1 bestseller from Sue Grafton, U IS FOR UNDERTOW. Oddly enough, this chick-lit novel and the crime fiction tale shared similarities…
I’ve read every one of Weiner’s novels and I can’t tell you why. Pressure from society, I believe, because it definitely isn’t due to any overwhelming desire for the characters or relating to the writing. I enjoyed GOOD IN BED and IN HER SHOES enough to give GOODNIGHT NOBODY a try… But GOODNIGHT NOBODY (and now BEST FRIENDS FOREVER) attempt to tie in a crime with the relationships/bonding/family/other “women issues”, which I find unnecessary.
In BFF, the Chief of Police enters a the house of a suspect and smells her pajamas – yes folks, I am not kidding. I don’t find that sweet and sexy – I find it creepy. I want the police I read about to be enforcing the law, not skulking around remniscient of the Ohio Police Officer convicted in the eerily similar case of Sarah Jessica Parker’s surrogate!
U IS FOR UNDERTOW was my first Sue Grafton experience (though I launched into the book trustingly, since Pop Culture Nerd had positively reviewed it), though her 21st book. As I assume you know, Grafton has been working through the alphabet, consistently with Kinsey Millhone as the Private Investigator protagonist. I enjoyed this trip back to the 1980’s – a time before cell phones and the internet, and relished joining Kinsey in the library as she looked through – gasp – telephone books!
I also find Sue Grafton to be an interesting character herself, as she admits she started writing after dreaming of ways to murder her first husband. Also, she and fellow bestselling author Robert B. Parker did a little Q&A on each others Amazon pages, which is rather endearing (not to mention I admit I grabbed this book from a box under my desk – always a bonus)!
So next time you find yourself needing a sick day (though I wish you a plethora of help and happiness in the new year), I encourage you to reach for the nearest Grafton, A-U, and give her a try. I don’t actively dislike Jennifer Weiner – I especially enjoy her on Twitter, but think I need to give up on the reading of her novels as they’re not a match for me. But I welcome any thoughts you may have.
I miss you!
I’ve been reading all sorts of good books lately and haven’t even had the chance to update my spreadsheet (nerd alert) and have been trying to keep track via my cell phone. I owe you reviews for the following, which are the books I felt most strongly about one way or another:
KNIT THE SEASON (Kate Jacobs)
LITTLE WOMEN (Louisa May Alcott)
HIGH FIDELITY, JULIET, NAKED (Nick Hornby)
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG ASS (Jen Lancaster)
DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM (David Sedaris)
And I stayed up way too late last night reading THE SCARPETTA FACTOR (Patricia Cornwell)
So you see, it’s not actually that I’m not reading, I just haven’t been reviewing. I’ll do my best to rectify this situation shortly… but most likely after the weekend, as it should be a busy one!
In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying the season as much as I am. It’s my first time witnessing the leaves turning in NYC and it’s a glorious sight!
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