Finished Books: The Boy Next Door

The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot

  • Published: October 2002
  • Pages: 374

227464Summary from Goodreads:
“To: You (you)
From: Human Resources (human.resources@thenyjournal.com)
Subject: This Book

Dear Reader,

This is an automated message from the Human Resources Division of the New York Journal, New York City’s leading photo-newspaper. Please be aware that according to our records you have not yet read this book. What exactly are you waiting for? This book has it all:

*Humor
*Romance
*Cooking tips
*Great Danes
*Heroine in peril
*Dolphin-shaped driftwood sculptures

If you wish to read about any of the above, please do not hesitate to head to the checkout counter, where you will be paired with a sales associate who will work to help you buy this book.

We here at the New York Journal are a team. We win as a team, and lose as one as well. Don’t you want to be on the winning team?

Sincerely,

Human Resources Division
New York Journal

Please note that failure to read this book may result in suspension or dismissal from this store.

*********This e-mail is confidential and should not be used by anyone who is not the original intended recipient. If you have received this e-mail in error please inform the sender and delete it from your mailbox or any other storage mechanism.*********”

Another brain-candy book was pretty much all I could handle while I was sick earlier this week. No knitting, no TV, no podcasts, just something light and fluffy.

The Boy Next Door is told entirely through emails. I liked the idea of this method of storytelling, but I found it entertaining at first, but cumbersome for an entire novel, and other readers might also. Reading the “To:” and “From:” in each email was irritating. Necessary, but irritating. Especially since I would rather know the “From” first. But that could just be me. I struggled with the absence of date and time in the email header. Particularly in emails that could either have been a late-night confession to her best friend or an early morning just-got-in-the-office-and-had-to-tell-you email. The passage of time (apparently months) was also hard to gauge without the date. These are nitpicky things that didn’t really affect the overall story.

Cabot did a good job of creating a different voice for each character’s emails without being too varied. The characters were certainly flawed (who would agree to be someone else and then not tell the girl he falls for very quickly?), but overall fairly relatable. The number of personal emails going through work email addresses, though, and the extreme lack of professionalism in the entire office seems unbelievable, but may actually exist out there. Perhaps my work environments have just had more restraints than this fictitious newspaper.

Overall, an enjoyable read that kept me entertained. Another book that would be good for fans of early Jane Green and Bridget Jones books. Readers who liked that the character was a journalist might like the Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella.

Rating: 3 stars

Finished Books: The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather

The Two Lives of Miss Charlotte Merryweather by Alexandra Potter

7146880

  • Published: March 2010
  • Pages: 400

Summary from Goodreads: From the “fantastically funny” (Elle), “sharp” (Salon) author of the international bestseller Me and Mr. Darcy, an enchanting drive down the road not taken, in the most surprising company.

At age thirty-one, American Charlotte Merryweather has spent ten years in London pursuing personal and professional perfection. Yet her present-day success- heading her own PR company, owning a gorgeous apartment, planning a future with her devoted boyfriend- only heightens the shock of a visit from the past.

“Lottie,” Charlotte’s twenty-one-year-old self, drives onto the scene at the wheel of a rusty, orange Volkswagen Beetle identical to Charlotte’s first UK ride. Charlotte pursues a friendship aimed to bestow upon Lottie a decade of wisdom. Yet Charlotte’s prosperous polish proves a pale substitute for Lottie’s innate, youthful graces- openness, passion, and kindness. Will the student become the teacher in this witty turnabout?

The clever plotting and winning characterization that made Me and Mr. Darcy a bestseller are on full display in these pages.”

I’m not always in the mood to read a thought-provoking book.  After Delicious Foods, I just needed brain-candy.  This book fit the bill perfectly.  It was light-hearted and amusing, though not as well-developed as I may have wanted.

Charlotte has established herself in the PR world in London, which may appeal to people who want to read about PR or who enjoy a London setting.  A lot of the book focuses on various aspects of how busy she is and one of her recent clients.

When she sees her old VW Beetle going down a street she used to drive all the time, Charlotte takes a trip down memory lane and ends up back in 1997.  She encounters her younger self at a local pub and decides she needs to change everything about herself, including her hair, her wardrobe, and with whom she sleeps.  This should, perhaps, be a clue that she’s not actually happy with who she’s become, including her successful career, her successful (if boring) boyfriend, and barely being able to spend time with her friends or family.

Obviously the reader must accept a bit of magical realism to believe that she can continually go back and spend time with herself from the past.  It did bug me that she dropped a call almost every time she went back in time and never figured out why (cell phone towers were not as prevalent in 1997!).

This book would be good for fans of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary for the London setting.  Both books also have a sense of self-exploration and discovering oneself.  Also good for fans of early Jane Green novels such as Bookends, Mr. Maybe, and Babyville.  All are light-hearted and amusing depictions of twenty- or thirty-somethings figuring out who they are and finding love.  And, if I remember correctly, they’re all set in London as well.

Finished Books: Delicious Foods

So, you might have to bear with me for awhile as I find my voice when reviewing books.  I want my reviews to be helpful for other librarians when providing suggestions to their patrons.  However, I also want the review to indicate my feelings on the book, too.  It will take time to reach a happy medium.  I also haven’t done much writing recently, so everything might be a little clunky while I search for the right words to describe my thoughts (and the books).

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

22444789

  • Published: March 2015
  • Pages: 384

Summary from Goodreads: “Darlene, a young widow and mother devastated by the death of her husband, turns to drugs to erase the trauma. In this fog of grief, she is lured with the promise of a great job to a mysterious farm run by a shady company, with disastrous consequences for both her and her eleven-year-old son, Eddie–left behind in a panic-stricken search for her.

Delicious Foods tells the gripping story of three unforgettable characters: a mother, her son, and the drug that threatens to destroy them. In Darlene’s haunted struggle to reunite with Eddie, and in the efforts of both to triumph over those who would enslave them, Hannaham’s daring and shape-shifting prose not only infuses their desperate circumstances with grace and humor, but also wrestles with timeless questions of love and freedom.”

Winner of the Pen Faulkner award in 2015, Delicious Foods by James Hannaham is a dark, gritty book that is not ideal for a gentle reader.  The book opens with young Eddie escaping to Minnesota with recently amputated hands in a car the reader soon learns is not his.  Some readers might give up on the book at this point.  But if one forges ahead past the prologue, one will experience a beautiful and compelling story.

Toward the beginning of the book, the timeline shifts between times in Darlene’s past in college and early adulthood to times during Eddie’s childhood.  Most of the story comes when Eddie is 11 years old and Darlene disappears.  Readers will empathize with Eddie as he relentlessly searches for his mother, relying on school food and a concerned local baker to avoid starvation.  Darlene, whose experience with racism and grief drove her to drugs and prostitution, makes choices that has even “Scotty,” her drug of choice and narrator of her story, questioning her actions at times.  The relationship of these two characters is continually tested over the course of the book, but they don’t give up.  Although at times belated, they do everything they can to remain a family.

Life on the farm is not easy for anyone and Hannaham’s depictions of modern-day slavery will leave readers wondering if there are still places that operate like the “Delicious Foods” corporation.  The struggles of the characters in this book are brought to life with lyrical prose that elicits vivid images of the characters and their environment.  Some scenes in the book are quite violent, where people are being beaten for insubordination or disobedience or just because the foreman wants to beat someone.  Sometimes the character doing the beating seems to enjoy it perhaps a bit too much.

While there are definitely dark aspects to this book, there are points that are rather amusing, as well.  Charley the rat, whose fur is missing in places from too much scratching, comes to mind.  As does the couple of times when Scotty realizes that if he thinks something is a bad idea, it can’t be good.

The ending of the story bring hope for the characters.  It feels like a happy ending despite everything they have been through and the changes to their lives.  Things aren’t perfect, but they are looking up.

Rating: 3 stars

[A note about my ratings: I take the Goodreads suggestions for each of their stars at their word.  I liked this book, so it gets 3 stars.  I also rarely give 5-star ratings because I very infrequently love a book so very much that I would consider it “amazing.”  Plus, I typically only consider books 5 stars if I am willing to reread it.  If I don’t like a book, I probably won’t finish it, so there won’t be too many 1-star ratings, either.  Unless it was for book club.  Sometimes that will happen.]

Reading Resolutions for 2017

After three years, I believe it is time to return to this blog and perhaps change it up a bit. This will turn into a place for me to record my reviews of books I read. I might continue to discuss library programming ideas. It might occasionally devolve into discussion about knitting. I mean, llamas (and their cousins, alpacas), make lovely fiber and yarn. I’m just staying true to my name.

books

Stacked book picture from Wikimedia Commons

What better way to return to a blog that left off on resolutions than to state new resolutions? By revisiting my previous goals, I find that I still have a lot to learn. Many of my goals for this year, which I made before deciding to revive this blog, will be similar to those from three years ago. Apparently.

  1. Goodreads Challenge = 60 books. This number is significantly lower than the number of books I read in the past couple of years (80 and 77). I listened to a fair number of audiobooks during those years, but I don’t have as much time to do that as I used to. I’m listening to significantly more podcasts and doing other activities which do not allow me to read with my ears. The lower number also reflects my desire to write more reviews and annotations on the books I read, which will take away from my reading time, too.
  2. Each month, read an author from the ARRT Popular Fiction list. As NoveList puts it, this list is “a straightforward and enjoyable way to evaluate and broaden anyone’s reading experience.” Since becoming a librarian, I have had the opportunity to expand my reading horizons, but I still have gaps to fill in.
  3. Each month, read a book that fits into the Iowa Readers’ Advisory Roundtable genre. For 2017, the Iowa RART has chosen Narrative Nonfiction for reviews. I did not participate last year, but, in an effort to continually grow and expand my reading horizons, I need to make an effort to read and review for this group. It is a good opportunity to practice my review skills with a group that can give me critiques on the quality of my reviews.
  4. Write a review for each book I read. Self-explanatory. The more I write, the better I will get. The more I evaluate the books I read, the better I will be able to discuss books with library patrons.
  5. Don’t freak out. I probably won’t be able to do all of the above all of the time. It’s okay. Every little bit helps.

There you have it.  Some changes to the blog.  Some changes to my reading habits.  Some changes to my review-writing abilities.