Welcome to my bookshelf

I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

She Should Have Said Yes, Yes, Yes

Currently Reading: Star Island

I periodically pick up a Carl Hiaasen book for the sheer pleasure of losing myself in the sordid, yet oh so hilarious tales from the Florida landscape.  His imaginative plots and returning characters make a fantastic break from the woes of one's everyday life.  This novel is especially poignant at this time, since it centers on a hard to control, wild starlet, Cherry Pye,  who is both untalented and a total PR nightmare.  We are carried through and grounded by her body double, Ann, at once humorous and level headed.  Madness ensues and no one is spared, as is typical, yet cherished, in these books.  Even now I am chuckling at the latest antics of these anti-heroes.

The reason for this one to stick out at the moment is that we have recently lost our own untamed songstress, Amy Winehouse.  In fact she is even mentioned in this book as an example of one who has most definitely lost her way mentally, but at least has the saving grace of being talented.  It is terribly sad when these young ladies find that obnoxious behavior, sexual favors, and banned substances are the only ways they can feel accepted and loved.  We always think about how wonderful the lives of celebrities are, yet at the same time revel in their demise.  Often it is the general public at the heart of the, well not necessarily blame, but causation I think.  We feed their addictions by unconsciously encouraging the bad behavior.  Who sells the most records and movies?  The ones in the paper.  How do they get in the paper?  By doing outrageous things.  How do they get the money for outrageous stuff and the ubiquitous  drugs and booze?  Through the sales of said records and movies.  It is a terrible catch-22 of a sort.

Now for the record, I do not condone any of this behavior.  I am as straight laced as they come regarding the drugs and alcohol and whatnot, but you do have to consider how we relish the next piece of gossip from Lohan or Sheen.  We cheer them on while at the same time condemning them.  Maybe instead of thinking that the grass is greener, we should simply thank our lucky stars (no pun intended) that we are simple folks living a simple life and then leave these celebrities alone.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Going Bald

Currently Reading: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth

So it appears that my initial hunch may have been right.  All of the stories have to do with interesting occupations.  I suppose the key word is occupation as opposed to simply jobs since some of the characters are not being paid to do what they do such as the AV Whiz Quiz boys or the diggers.  In this case, it is something that occupies them or something that they simply do for the sake of doing.  All the occupations have a component of obsession to them, something that I can totally relate to.  The Grandmother becomes obsessed with some of her "families".  In a later story, a museum curator becomes fixated on features of some of the exhibits and an exhibit attender becomes obsessed with her.  There is even a young girl consumed by creating model cars and she doesn't even like cars.  It is all in the details.  The little things that engage the character's minds and encroach on their everyday lives.  I too share some of these obsessions to details and really I think that everyone has something that occupies their thoughts more often than others throughout the course of the day.  At the end of the collection or "bumper" (a new use for the word, introduced to me by my little brother) of stories, one is left with a feeling of obsession with finding more and more of theses intriguing characters.  I am looking forward to reading more from Kevin Wilson, the author.  Clearly a young man to watch.  Thanks Kevin for such an awesome thing to occupy my mind with for a bit, thus keeping out the obsessions for awhile.  Now back to fixations.

Oh and the title refers to a character who is in fact going bald and terribly obsessed with keeping every lost hair.  Of course the downside being that his girlfriend gets them all sewed up into a little pillow as a "gift".

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hide and Seek

Currently Reading: Tunneling to the Center of the Earth

I love short stories.  One of the most intriguing things about any collection is figuring out what connects all the various tales.  Sometimes it is clear from the beginning such as a common location or time period.  Other times, it is a little more tricky.  With this set, I am having a hard time figuring out the thing that ties them all together.  I keep thinking I figure it out, but then am faced with something totally new.  This collection includes stories about a grandma for hire, scrabble tile sorter whose parents spontaneously combusted, a pair of misfits struggling with their sexuality, a list of tips for "sensitive brothers" who have sisters who have died, a group of brothers carrying out their mother's last wish of folding paper cranes in order to gain their inheritance, and finally three recent college grads who have no idea what to do with their lives and decide to start digging.  And I am not even done!  What could possibly come next?  When you look at the list I've amassed so far, there are a few things to note.  Uncommon professions, family, and seeking one's identity are a few themes that have popped up more than once.  This is definitely an intriguing collection by a very talented writer.  Kevin Wilson is able to get into the minds of all his characters and make their thoughts and words believable.  I loved his baby boomer grandma and sympathized with the poor man who's task was to sort out the 'q's (of all letter to be assigned!).  Even those pair of high school misfits spoke to me in their own way.  The conclusion of this grouping of stories is something that I am both looking forward to and dreading as I so don't want to be finished.  Clearly this is a writer who deserves further investigation and attention.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Roaming Hearts and Minds

Currently Reading: The Debutante

But what I am actually going to talk about is the conclusion of Mr. Peanut.  So the main husband hires someone to find, not kill, his wife.  While he thinks this peculiar little man is a private detective specializing in finding missing persons, it seems that "Mobius" actually has a different agenda in mind.  The husband, David, has written a book in which he details the various ways that he could kill his wife.  Mobius gets his grubby little hands on this book and proceeds to carry out the plans, to little success.  By the time David finally catches on, it appears he is too late, however the wife ends up moving things along on her own.  Alice is depressed and on many medications for this and her prior weight reduction surgery.  Unfortunately for her, these pills are not quite what they seem.  I don't want to ruin things for you all and so will not give away all the details, but if you are looking for a compelling, psychological tale, I highly suggest looking this one up.  The Debutante actually deals with a few of the same themes, being affairs.  Staying not only physically, but mentally as well.  Can you be untrue to someone in ways besides sexually straying?  Alice and David prove this to be true and theirs is not a tale one would wish to repeat.

On another note, I have started a new blog because I found that there were many things I wanted to talk about and share that didn't necessarily have to do with books.  Stepitude is still in its early stages, but look for more to come soon and thanks for joining me!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Relax. Go nuts.

Currently Reading: Mr. Peanut

For real this time!  It is totally huge and totally bizarre and I am totally loving it.  The main story is about a man who is accused of killing his wife.  At least this is how the book starts, but then so far it has mainly backtracked to the beginning of their issues and told the story from there.  I know that whole irony thing has been done before, but the way Ross does it is kind of different.  We are periodically called back to the present and also get the opportunity to see the past lives of the detectives on the case as well, both of whom also have some horrific wife stories.  The three relationships are so outlandish and yet the characters involved are so real that you could believe this to be a true story.  The main wife has had several miscarriages, gained and lost massive amounts of weight and of course has abandonment issues to boot.  Other wives in the story include a self-imposed bed-ridden woman and a dissatisfied housewife, each with their own set of problems.  One of the detectives, the one with the neglected housewife, is Sam Sheppard, and so that adds its own level of intrigue to the story.  I am looking forward to seeing how it all ends, but even more so the actual actions that lead up to Alice's death, which at this point is seeming to be more of a suicide than not.  By peanut (and yes I mean one) nonetheless.  Hmm...

Note: Title is trademarked by Planters

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Sweet Smell of Pressed Tree Pulp

Currently Reading: Mr. Peanut

So this post is not going to be about a particular tale since I lied and haven't started the currently reading book, but will do so in a minute. It is about books themselves. The physical wonder of a series of bound pages containing worlds one can only imagine and characters as memorable and unique as life itself. I recently moved to a new apartment as part of a job change and in doing so, found myself with scores of boxes filled with my lovely books. Looking at the stack of tomes (extremely paired down recently in a purging spree), I was awed by all of their contents. I considered getting rid of more so I wouldn't have as many to move, but just couldn't bring myself to part with any of the ones remaining. How can you let go of an early edition of Good as Gold or Breakfast of Champions? Works by Clarke and Heinlein published in the forties and fifties are things to be treasured, not thrown out with the Dan Browns and Jane Greenes, not that any of those plague my bookshelves anymore. I love my books and don't know that I'll ever be able to go completely electronic. There is something about turning a fresh page and uncovering a new character or piece of situational irony. They even smell good. Alas, my new embracing of the library as caused my collection to remain fairly static with only a new Richard Russo or other gem to earn its way onto the limited shelf space. Still, the library contains books, not files. So basically, this post is a toast to books in all their dog-eared, fingerprinted glory. Here's to you, you keeper of imagination and dreams!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Currently Reading: The School of Essential Ingredients

What is it with food? It makes its way into every book no matter what. Any chick lit book is about someone who eats too much and is a bit porky. Romance novels always have a seen with someone cooking for the other or wine being consumed by the gallon. Even detective stories and action thrillers have some food element involved be it what the corpse last ate or the stake out hoagie. Food plays such a prevalent role in our lives and yet we all too often take it for granted. We abuse it and use it in any sort of manner that will fulfill our particular needs at the moment. I can count myself amongst the top food criminals, but why really? What is it about food that makes it so important and such a large part of our lives?

This book is all about the relationship between food and well, relationships. How can certain ingredients change your mood or the feelings of those around you. What stimulates the palate as well as the heart? Now don't get me wrong, this isn't so much a romantic story, but more along the lines of a reminiscent tale of life in general. Again, as in Joy for Beginners, we are given the glimpse of another person's life through their chapter, told from their third person perspective. All the characters are students at the cooking school of a woman who loves food and how it can be used to alter your emotions. It is all about finding the essence of the ingredients, coaxing out their true identities. Is it the best book I've ever read? No, but it is making me want to whip up some homemade pasta or a rosemary stuffed turkey breast. Sometimes my process food addicted mind needs a little diversion.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Illusion of Order

Currently Reading: Real Life & Liars

Pg 160: "Control is an illusion."

This book is all about control or rather the lack of it. Mira's family is coming together to celebrate her 35th wedding anniversary. Her husband of course is also there. Throughout the celebration and ensuing activities, we are given a glimpse into the four separate, yet interconnected lives of Mira and her three grown children, one who already has a family or her own, another who is just beginning her own little family and another who is a wandering soul simply trying to find where he fits into life. Each child has a unique perspective and we are able to see each of these through their own eyes as each chapter is written from one of their perspectives, or the first person perspective of Mira herself. One of the most interesting things about this design is that the reader gets to experience each sibling's thoughts about the others in addition to seeing their thoughts on themselves. One thing rings true, each is jealous of the others. This is all too often the case with any group of people. The grass is always greener on the other side, right? The main underlying theme, besides family dynamics themselves, is that Mira has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and does not want to go through with any treatment. Each of her children, once the cat is out of the bag, has their own selfish reasons for wanting her to fight the disease and really, we never find out what Mira's final decision is. The book ends with each person at a turning point, forced to make a life-altering decision and take a leap of faith. I wonder what each will decide? The fun part is that I get to pick for myself how I want each life to continue. One of the magical aspects of books that I just love.

Oh and to explain the quote in the context of the book, each character is simply trying to find some control and order in their life and while each thinks the other holds the key to this elusive ideal, none really does. Mira helps guide not only her family, but the reader as well, to the idea that in the end, one must take life as it comes. Sure you make small decisions to affect the moment, but there is only so much control you can maintain before life gets in the way. Something for us compulsive people to consider. How much stress is worth it before you are able to accept and take things as they come?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fatherhood and Other Epic Journeys

Currently Reading: You Don't Love This Man

I know I have mentioned this before, but one of the things I love most about reading is getting inside the mind of a person totally different from myself and looking at life from a new perspective. This book is first person from the point of view of a middle aged father whose daughter is about to get married. In fact the present day part of the novel takes place on the day of the wedding. The father's bank is robbed and he is brought back to memories of his earlier life beginning from his first robbery, which occurred when he was a mere teller. The story follows his past life for parts and then reconvenes with the present action accordingly. I found myself thinking about my own father and how so many of Paul's thoughts mirrored thoughts I have not only heard my dad voice, but have subconsciously been voiced as well. How hard it must be to be a parent. It is awe inspiring and I'm not sure that I could ever be so selfless. In addition to providing a unique perspective on fatherhood, this book also tackles the themes of divorce, career and personal disappointment, May-December romances, and the reckless decisions we make as adolescents. This was truly a touching and though-provoking read and worthy of a spot on anyone's bookshelf. (Speaking of which, mine are now emptied due to an impending move. Who'd have thought I had so many?!?!?)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Oh and by the way...

Currently Reading: The Secret of Joy

Why do people wait until they are at death's door to reveal secrets that they have kept for years. I have never understood the concept of the whole death bed confession. You fester and live with some crazy knowledge and then right before you go, you finally exhale and make everyone else deal with the mess. Wouldn't everyone be better off with the secret coming out sooner? You wouldn't have to live with the inner angst and others would be able to understand and forgive while you are still around. This story begins with a father revealing to his daughter that he father another child years and years ago. He passes on and she is left to pick up the pieces. Rebecca decides to seek out her sister and is met with a stone wall. Her sister doesn't want to bring up the past and upset her life as it is. However, Rebecca remains persistent and in addition to gaining a new family, she also discovers her own calling. I am not quite finished, but am enjoying the growth and discovery that each of the sisters experience. Of course always in the back of everyone's mind is the fact that there is a slim possibility that Joy isn't Rebecca's sister after all. I have a feeling that the DNA results will return and no one will open it to find the truth. That would be the "happy" ending so we shall see. This is a fun, touching story and while not a literary masterpiece, it raises some thought provoking questions and brings to life some inspirational yet flawed characters. A great summer read.