Tuesday, April 28, 2009

winners!: the girl who stopped swimming

Congratulations to the five winners of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson:

1. Shannansbooks
2. Tami
3. Jennifer
4. Barb
5. Jenny

You five should have an email from me asking for your mailing address. Thanks to all who entered. I look forward to reading the reviews on your blogs. Many, many thanks to Hachette for letting me host this giveaway.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

book review: wedding season by katie fforde

I am a huge fan of Katie Fforde, and I'm in the midst of planning a wedding, so I eagerly awaited my copy of Wedding Season to arrive from interlibrary loan. As usual, Katie did not disappoint.

Wedding Season followed three friends: Sarah, a wedding planner whose secretly pregnant sister and a major U.S. movie star have decided to get married on the same day with only a few months notice; Bron, a hairstylist in an unhappy relationship; and Elsa, a talented dressmaker. The three consider themselves friends and co-workers of sorts, as they often work the same weddings.

It was refreshing to have three main characters, and thus three romances going on. Katie Fforde writes consistently delightful modern, British romantic comedy of manners novels. Her heroines always manage to be easy to relate to, yet inspiring and independent. It was refreshing to see these three learn to rely on one another and a few other helpful hands along the way.

As a bride to be, I appreciated all of the laborious details of weddings. I find novels about wedding planning infinitely more helpful than the actual wedding planning books I've read thus far! Also, Katie Fforde is on twitter (@katiefforde), and she responds to reads, which is amazing.

children's book review: the higher power of lucky by susan patron

I absolutely loved The Higher Power of Lucky and found it remarkably engaging. Patron did an incredible job of seeing the world through the eyes of a ten-year-old, being true to Lucky's view of the world as our narrator, but still allows readers to have a sense of Lucky's world of which she is not yet aware.

The Higher Power of Lucky has gotten a lot of controversy and press regarding its use of the word scrotum, and I read it for my children's literature class as one of the banned books. I'm sure it comes as no surprise to those who know me that I think banning this book is ludicrous. The scrotum is a basic part of human, and in this case, animal, anatomy. I strongly believe in teaching children proper terms for anatomy and ensuring a free flow of information. It is incredibly ironic that Lucky's confusion over the word caused an uproar. By the book's end, she asks Brigitte what the word actually means. To me, this detail provides a beautiful metaphor for how children view the world. Lucky overheard the word in a setting her caretaker couldn't imagine; children are exposed to words in a myriad of ways. Both literature and trusted adults are valuable ways to disseminate accurate information to children to counteract the inaccuracies or incompleteness of information they are often exposed to elsewhere.

There is a sequel, Lucky Breaks, that picks up the now eleven-years-old Lucky, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

book review: laura rider's masterpiece by jane hamilton

From this week's Entertainment Weekly Must List: "Why this novel? Well, who wouldn't want a peek inside the mind of an aspiring romance writer who cuts off sex with her hubby, then engineers an affair for him so she can study it?"

Me: Did I just read the same book?

Laura Rider's Masterpiece is a satirical love/lust triangle of sorts mixed with a character study in novel form. The triangle involves Laura Rider, an aspiring novelist and successful garden business owner; her husband, Charlie, whom everyone in their small Wisconsin town thinks is gay, but whose main gift in life is his sexual prowess; and Jenna Faroli, a local turned syndicated public radio show host who has moved to town because it is equidistant between the radio station and her judge husband's courthouse. Laura idolizes Jenna, and is eager to start a friendship.

I love Jane Hamilton's novels, but one of my favorite things about her novels is that it's always easy to relate to the characters, regardless of their background. Laura Rider's Masterpiece started off well. I was instantly intrigued with Laura's wit and honesty as a narrator. Her description of small-town life was comedic and spot-on. As the narrative shifted to Jenna as the narrator, I again found myself mesmerized by her experiences and perspective.

As the novel wore on (and it's hard to say it wore on at all, given it's only 214 pages), it became more satirical, which made the characters less accessible. I was torn between feeling sorry for them and not caring about how things turned out. For such a great start, I did not enjoy the second half of the book. The setup was more enjoyable than the fulfillment. I really wanted to like this novel, and I loved the first half of it, but ultimately, it was underwhelming.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

book review: q & a by vikas swarup

Q & A was the basis of Slumdog Millionaire. I have still not seen the movie, but I loved the book. The premise is brilliant and simple: a poor waiter in Mumbai lands on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and he wins. The producers are convinced he cheated; how could this uneducated young man possibly know the answers to all these questions? The book takes us through his life, question by question. The chapters go in the order of the game show, so it's not chronological in Ram's life.

The book was an absolute joy to read. It was a beautifully haunting look at the unglamorous realities of life in India. As I love to say about great novels, the plot is not truly what it's about. Aren't we all representations of our collective knowledge from surprisingly and usual places? I love to ask the question, "how do you know that?" because it so often leads to great stories of happenstance. I'm eagerly awaiting Swarup's next book, Six Suspects, set to be published on July 7, 2009, according to Books in Print. If anyone at MacMillan St.Martin's is listening, I'd love an ARC!

giveaway: 5 copies of the girl who stopped swimming!

Hachette Book Group is kind enough to offer 5 copies of Joshilyn Jackson's new book The Girl Who Stopped Swimming.

Here's how they describe this book:
Laurel Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty, whether she's helping her mother make sure the literal family skeleton stays in the closet or turning scraps of fabric into nationally acclaimed art quilts. Her estranged sister Thalia, an impoverished Actress with a capital A, is her polar opposite, priding herself on exposing the lurid truth lurking behind middle class niceties. While Laurel's life seems neatly on track--a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, and a lovely home in suburban Victorianna--everything she holds dear is suddenly thrown into question the night she is visited by the ghost of a her 13-year old neighbor Molly Dufresne. The ghost leads Laurel to the real Molly floating lifelessly in the Hawthorne's backyard pool. Molly's death is inexplicable--an unseemly mystery Laurel knows no one in her whitewashed neighborhood is up to solving. Only her wayward, unpredictable sister is right for the task, but calling in a favor from Thalia is like walking straight into a frying pan protected only by Crisco. Enlisting Thalia's help, Laurel sets out on a life-altering journey that triggers startling revelations about her family's guarded past, the true state of her marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.

How to enter: Leave a comment on this post. If you don't have a blogger account, please include an email address to contact you. (If you prefer not to post your email for privacy reason, please email me: nomadreaderblog@gmail.com with the number of your comment). Contest is open to residents of the United States and Canada only. To get a second entry, publicize the contest in some way (your blog, twitter, etc.) and send me a link by email or post an additional time. I'll use random.org to pick five winners. The contest ends Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at noon Eastern time. Winners will have 48 hours to respond to my email asking for their mailing address or an alternate winner will be chosen. Good luck!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

summer movie preview: a literary glance

It's not a secret I rarely go to see a movie in the theater. I love the experience, but I do not love the cost. I'm mostly content to wait for the dvd. Still, when people ask if I've seen a movie, I absolutely love to reply, "not yet, but I read the book." With the new summer movie preview issue of Entertainment Weekly in hand, I decided to do a little research to see how many books I need to read to stay abreast of summer movie season. Traditionally, of course, summer movie season is not a literary playground, but there are a few treasures heading to the movie theaters. Here's the breakdown by month of release:

  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine - not based on a book, but it is a spin-off of the X-Men series, of which I've seen zero of the three films.
  • Terminator Salvation - not based on a book, but is the fourth Terminator film, of which I've seen none.
  • Rudo y Cursi - not based on a book
  • Drag Me to Hell - not based on a book
  • Up - not based on a book
  • Angels & Demons - based on Dan Brown's bestselling novel of the same name. Brown wrote Angels & Demons before the more famous DaVinci Code, and I read them in the proper order. I don't know why the movies were made in the opposite order. Still, I was lukewarm about the DaVinci Code book and didn't manage to finish the film, but I really enjoyed the book Angels & Demons. I'm curious to see how much of the story will be included in the movie.
  • Star Trek - not based on a book
  • Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian - a sequel to a movie that was based on Milan Trenc's book children's book of the same name
  • Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - not based on a book
  • The Limits of Control - not based on a book
  • Dance Flick - not based on a book
  • Management - not based on a book
  • Easy Virtue - based on the play by Noel Coward, written in 1924. The play was also made into a movie in 1928, directed by Hitchcock
  • Next Day Air - not based on a book
  • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - a sequel to the movie based on the 1980's cartoon. I loved the first movie and thought Shia LaBeouf's performance was the then-best performance in an action movie. Then, I saw The Dark Knight.
  • Land of the Lost - based on the 1970's sci-fi tv show
  • The Taking of Pelham 123 - based on the book by John Godey. It was also made into a movie in 1974 and a tv movie in 1998.
  • My Sister's Keeper - based on the book by Jodi Picoult. There's been a slew of media attention to the controversially changed ending.
  • The Proposal - not based on a book
  • The Hangover - not based on a book
  • Away We Go - not based on a book, but the screenplay was written by Dave Eggers and his wife, Vendela Vita.
  • Whatever Works - written and directed by Woody Allen.
  • Year One - not based on a book, but Genesis is a prominent part of the story.
  • The Hurt Locker - not based on a book
  • Imagine That - not based on a book
  • Food, Inc. - not based on a book
  • Cheri - based on Collette's novel
  • Moon - not based on a book
  • Public Enemies - based on Bryan Burrough's book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - based on J.K. Rowling's book
  • (500) Days of Summer - not based on a book
  • Bruno - not based on a book
  • The Ugly Truth - not based on a book
  • G-Force - not based on a book
  • Funny People - written by Judd Apatow
  • I Love You, Beth Cooper - based on a novel by Larry Doyle, writer for The Simpsons
  • They Came From Upstairs - not based on a book
  • Humpday - not based on a book
  • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - not based on a book; the third Ice Age movie, and I haven't seen any of them.
  • Orphan - not based on a book
  • Soul Power - not based on a book
  • Julie & Julia -based on Julie Powell's memoir of the same name. I loved the book.
  • Taking Woodstock - based on Eliot Tiber's memoir of the same name.
  • The Time Traveler's Wife - based on Audrey Niffenegger's novel that everyone seems to have recommended to me, but I haven't read yet.
  • District 9 - not based on a book
  • Paper Heart - not based on a book
  • The Boat that Rocked - not based on a book
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra - not based on a book, but includes characters from the comic books and action figures
  • Bandslam - not based on a book
  • Inglorious Bastards - written and directed by Quentin Tarantino
  • The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard - not based on a book
  • Post Grad - not based on a book
  • World's Greatest Dad - written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait
  • It Might Get Loud - not based on a book
  • Ponyo - not based on a book
  • Shorts - written and directed by Robert Rodriquez
  • Cold Souls - written and directed by Sophie Barthes
I need to move I Love You, Beth Cooper, The Time Traveler's Wife and My Sister's Keeper to the top of my to read pile. What do you intend to read before the movies come out?

Monday, April 13, 2009

on emily giffin: how early is too early?

I'm a huge fan of Emily Giffin; she's one of my favorite authors. I keep a list of my favorite authors called "Read Every Word". Each month, I search Books in Print to see if any of them have new novels scheduled. Imagine my surprise when I got an email from Macmillan, Emily Giffin's publisher, offering me the chance to read the first chapter of her new novel. New novel?! She does have a new novel, Heart of Matter, coming out, but it comes out in May 2010. It's April 2009. Books in Print doesn't have it listed yet.

Here's the hard part: do I read the chapter knowing I will have to wait a year to read the book? Is this marketing campaign even sensibly timed? The only semblance of logic I can imagine is that the paperback of Love the One You're With comes out next week.

I know I'll cave and read it (the pdf is already open), but I may regret it later. I'm reading it, and I'm hoping for an ARC to find its way into my mailbox sooner rather than later. If not, then it looks like I'll be rereading Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Babyproof, and Love the One You're With this summer. Yes, I would have done it anyway.

If you're interested in reading the first chapter, click the link here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

book review: the ten-year nap by meg wolitzer

Lines worth remembering: "Later, when Jill tried to recreate the moment for Donald, she was unable to tell it n a way that gave it the real resonance is had possessed at the time." (p. 307)

My thoughts: The irony of this sentence, of course, is that Meg Wolitzer does not have this problem at all. I finished The Ten-Year Nap last week, but it's one of those books I've struggled with explaining why I loved it so much. Offering you a brief synopsis won't even begin to it justice. Yes, it's the story of four fortyish women of the means to stop working to care for their children. Their children, however, are now to the age they don't require constant care, and the women find themselves differently struggling with their place. To me, these women together represent the cumulative struggles, both emotional, financial and professional of so many women. Wolitzer alternates chapters with stories of these women's mothers and others from prior generation to highlight their hopes and dreams for their daughters. It's a moving look at feminism and women's lives over the years. As a twenty-something feminist, I was surprised to find myself understanding the mothers' generation more. As the book continued to shed light into these womens' lives, however, Wolitzer's nuanced message of individuality in feminism shone through brilliantly. I loved it, plain and simple. My words can't do this book justice, because it's complexity is in its scope. It's a brilliant book, and the plot is not what the book itself is truly about.

Many, many thanks to Penguin for letting me review this book. To supplement my review, check out their description of this truly wonderful novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5