Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

“I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You”

September 12, 2014

<a href=”; style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You” border=”0″ src=”; /></a><a href=””>I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You</a> by <a href=””>Courtney Maum</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”″>3 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
Here’s some shockers for you, protagonist and narrator of this book. Ready? Okay.<br>After you’ve been married for a while, maybe had a kid or two, seen your spouse brush her teeth and pluck her chin hairs and maybe even PEE for all I know, a certain sense of familiarity sets in. Does this necessarily breed contempt? No…but the mundane does tend to overtake the marvelous.<br>When your wife finds out you’ve been schtupping somebody else, and not only schtupping her, but have fallen in love with her, your wife probably gets pretty mad. And when she does, she probably won’t want you hanging around anymore, so she’ll probably kick you out of the house. You might want to have a backup plan. Just a thought.<br>Now, my thing about this guy is that he has an affair because he can’t seem to get back the — what is it? — romance? novelty? I don’t know — with his wife. Then, when she kicks his sorry unfaithful ass to the curb, all he wants is his familiar, mundane, everyday wife back. This seemed a little crazy to me. Then he tries to figure out how couples stay together long-term, partly by interviewing his parents and other paired humans about their favorite and least favorite things about their partners. Y’know what, genius? You just DO it. If you can’t find the romance anymore, you work around that. You get up every day, and you look at the guy dropping shaved whiskers in your sink, and you see him slouching around in his underwear, and you observe his penchant for Ultimate Fighting or horror movies or bourbon tasting or WHATEVER else you couldn’t care less about…and you think back to your wedding vows and/or you think that this is the father of your child(ren) and/or you think how this person has never betrayed you AND YOU DON’T BETRAY HIM EITHER. That’s how you do it. You get up every day and you live your life and BEFORE you screw it up royally, NOT AFTER, you appreciate that mundane existence because it has this other person in it that you do not ever want to harm.
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Burning Down the House: “The Arsonist”, by Sue Miller

July 30, 2014

I really wanted to like this book, because I’ve enjoyed Sue Miller’s stuff in the past. But…yuck, this one left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Three stars for decent writing, two for the plot.

And it’s hard to say why, except that the soul-searching (if that’s what you’d call it) of Frankie, the female protagonist reminded me of “Eat Pray Love” which I hated so much I couldn’t get through it. WHY IS SHE SO RESTLESS/MALCONTENT/HOLLOW? From what I can see, she’s perfectly suited for a job (aid worker in Africa) that supplies her with a constant flow of transient colleagues (doctors, nurses, etc.) to satisfy her sex drive without compromising her aversion to commitment.

But she comes “home” to her parents’ summer place in New Hampshire, where her folks have moved, too, in their retirement. Her mother is dealing with her father’s decline into dementia, and an arsonist is torching the homes of the rich and WASPy summer visitors, and a recently arrived editor of the local newspaper is cosmopolitan enough (he’s from DC) to be an interesting conversationalist and good-looking enough (he’s tall, dark, and handsome) to pique her physical interest.

Everybody’s flawed. Frankie’s a rolling stone who’s 43 and unmarried and has no professional or personal direction. Her mother, Sylvia, doesn’t love her husband (but she’ll do her duty to him as he slowly loses his mind and himself because she doesn’t love him and she owes it to him — make sense? Didn’t to me either). The newspaper editor is a “womanizer” in the eyes of the town and has two failed marriages behind him to boot. The police chief is fat and sloppy (ever notice how fat people are always sloppy? Lazy writing, stereotypes are) and sneaky and lives in his cruiser, which is filled with food wrappers and debris. The people who are less flawed (or maybe they are, because we aren’t given to know) are stock small-town characters, the gossipy town employee, the patrician summer people, the competent but reticent fire chief…I’m bored just writing this down.

So the arsonist plot underlies everything and points up the class differences between the year-rounders and the summer visitors. I don’t know what else it’s supposed to do except give Frankie and the newspaper editor something in common to fret over.

My biggest gripe might be the pace. LORD is it glacial or what? It takes ages for nothing much to happen. Then we skip over weeks of the early days of Frankie’s and the editor’s love affair…might have been nice to see more of their interactions, because then maybe the end might not have seemed like such shorthand for a wrap-up.

Anyway, not one of my faves. I’d heard such good things about this book in reviews that I was really excited when I found it on the shelf at the library. Sadly, that enthusiasm was misplaced.

Extraordinarily Bad Book

June 9, 2014

<a href=”; style=”float: left; padding-right: 20px”><img alt=”The Museum of Extraordinary Things” border=”0″ src=”; /></a><a href=””>The Museum of Extraordinary Things</a> by <a href=””>Alice Hoffman</a><br/>
My rating: <a href=”″>1 of 5 stars</a><br /><br />
I wanted to love this. I really did. Because I loved “The Dovekeepers” and I wanted more Alice Hoffman.<br><br>It was awful.<br><br>The prose was clunky and felt forced. The structure, whereby the story is told in first person by one protagonist, then shifts into third person from the same protagonist’s POV, and then switches to first person for the other protagonist and then third person for him, kept me from building up any kind of reading momentum.<br><br>I could not believe it was written by the same author as “The Dovekeepers”. The male protagonist is supposed to be a Jewish street kid who skirts the wrong side of the law. The female is a teenage girl who’s been kept as a curiosity by her magician/”scientist” “father” in his Museum of Extraordinary Things. She’s got a deformity in her hands that makes her look fish-like. I guess. But anyhow, he’s directed her reading and she’s read a lot of the classics. The problem here is that both protagonists sound exactly the same. There’s no difference at all between their voices. And the third-person accounts sound the same as the first-person ones. It’s terrible.<br><br>Then there’s the prose. Two examples of badness follow.<br>”Coralie kissed him quickly, then whispered that she had given him her heart. It was not possible to live without one’s heart (NO DUH — my comment), yet she was smiling when she backed away.”<br>Then, this gem:<br>”And what of monsters?” Coralie wished to know. … “Can they love?”<br>Maureen tenderly ran a hand over her charge’s dark hair. “We know quite well they can,” she murmured. “For we know that they do.”<br>Isn’t that some kind of circular logic? I know because I know?<br><br>Then there’s the “plumlike butter”…I understand what she means, it’s a butter-like spread made from plums. “Plumlike butter”, however, to me means butter that is round, fleshy, and covered with a skin. It’s inaccurate.<br><br>I almost didn’t finish this and I don’t know why I did. I was hoping it would get better…no. It didn’t.<br><br>There’s three days of my life I can never get back. Did this get good reviews when it came out? I’d look, but I’d rather forget about it now that it’s over.<br>
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Kitchen Dreams, Kitchen Nightmares

June 5, 2014

Chop ChopChop Chop by Simon Wroe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a dark comedy, but it’s a family story. It’s about a restaurant, but it’s also about finding one’s place in the world. It’s about that most concrete of human needs — food — but there are interludes almost fanciful in their detail. It takes place at the beginning of a young man’s adult life, but it’s really about our pasts and how we can’t ever truly leave them behind.

Simon Wroe draws upon his experience working in kitchens to tell the story of Monocle, a recent university graduate knocking around London, who takes a job as a commis in the kitchen of The Swan, a neighborhood restaurant in Camden Town. As the low man on the cooks’ totem pole, he does the scut work and bears the brutality of boss Bob, along with the rest of the kitchen staff. The interwoven stories of these men, Monocle’s father, and the dreaded patron named The Fat Man lead us to three downfalls, all terrible and different from each other.

It’s hard to believe that Wroe is a first-time novelist, given the surehandedness of his prose and the tight storytelling. He’s written a funny, touching, snarky, and very realistic story. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

*Since I get to edit this, I have to add “gleefully obscene” to this review. The kitchen staff is perfectly rendered and their constant chatter fits them to a T.

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Hello, World…?

January 5, 2009

I’m not sure why I’m doing this.  Maybe because I hope it will quiet the voices inside my head if I give them a forum.  I don’t know how I feel about putting my thoughts and feelings out there for the world to peruse.  I do know that this will probably be one of the most unprofessional blogs ever posted.  I’m not tech-savvy, and I have few ambitions to become so.  I don’t know who will read it, because I don’t know if I’ll publicize it in any way.  Maybe this will keep my friends and family sane — they may have less venting to listen to if I’m venting to the ether.  Maybe someone will find something of interest here, or take something meaningful away from reading about my experiences, or take comfort in something I’ve said.  Maybe that’s why I’m doing it.

God, that makes me sound like such a do-gooder.  And, dear readers, as we go further on our journey, you will find that this is a misconception.