Three years ago, I started a book club with friends in Wichita. My friend, Amy, told me that when it was her turn to pick that she was going to pick How I Became A Famous Novelist.
I promptly went and bought the book. Cut to Amy dropping out of book club. Cut to current time…I finally read the book!!
How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
Pete Tarslaw is a writter who is making a living writing college essays for rich kids. He’s talented, but apathetic. He receives a wedding announcement that his college girlfriend (Polly) is getting married. Tarslaw decides to write a best-selling novel just to spite his ex-girlfriend and show her up at her wedding!
How I Became A Famous Novelist is definitely cynical, much like myself, so I enjoyed it! It’s funny and shocking to think (and know it’s probably true) that some authors just methodically crank out novels that they know will be popular but…void of feeling.
Tarslaw has no dreams of writing the great American novels.
His Goals As A Novelist:
2. Financial Comfort
3. Stately Home By Ocean (Or Scenic Lake)
4. Humiliate Polly At Her Wedding
One part that I really enjoyed especially since I just blogged about TV getting in the of my blogging:
“Writing a novel–actually picking the words and filling in paragraphs–is a tremendous pain in the ass. Now that TV’s so good and the Internet is an endless forest of distraction, it’s damn near impossible. That should be taken into account when ranking the all-time greats. Somebody like Charles Dickens, for example, who had nothing better to do except eat mutton and attend public hangins, should get very little credit.”
In a nutshell, Tarslaw researches many popular novels and finds a theme:
“You invent the awesomest hero you can think of, pit him against dark, mysterious forces, and let a secret spill out as he crisscrosses the globe. You write about something that people know is important but that they don’t really understand, and you make it seem diabolical. You don’t bury your action under a lot of nuanced characters or artful prose.”
The Da Vinci Code anyone?? Which I loved, by the way.
I enjoyed this book for it’s tongue-in-cheek humor. Hely is a comedy TV writer for David Letterman and it seems fitting. A humorous read that you’ll enjoy, but won’t love. And I think that’s exactly what Hely was going for.
3.5 out of 5 stars
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I know! Where have I been? You’ve already read The Hunger Games books. I bought the 1st book quite awhile ago. I was forewarned by a friend not to start it until I had the other 2 books, because you will FLY through them. She was so right! I read the 1st book in 2 days, the 2nd book in 2 days, and it took me about 4 days to get through the last book.
The Hunger Games books take place in Panem, formerly known as North America. The Capitol oversees the 12 districts of Panem. Years prior, the districts tried to overthrow the Capitol and failed. To remind the districts to keep their place, the Capitol hosts the Hunger Games annually. Once a year, each district draws the name of one boy and one girl to fight to the death. Only one will come out alive. The Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdeen from District 12 as she volunteers for the Games to save her sister.
It’s a really unique and interesting concept! There’s violence, romance, and suspence while still touching on social issues such as poverty and abuse of power. Many people seem to like the 1st book the best and the last book the least. I actually liked the 2nd book the best! The 1st book was a very close 2nd though. The last book was a disappointment unfortunately. The final book just didn’t hold up. It was as if the author thought….oh wait, I have to figure out how to end this real quick. The ending left me wanting more explanation.
Don’t let my lackluster feelings on the last book deter you though. The 1st two books are SO great that it’s still well worth your time to knock out reading these three books.
Get cracking now and you’ll have them read before the 1st movie comes out in March!!
4.75 out of 5 stars
Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
If you had told me 12 months ago that I would be so into autobiographies, I would have said um, no thanks I don’t think that’s my cup of tea. But I am loving them! Now, I need funny/juicy autobiographies though (not the political/historical variety). I’m talking David Sedaris, Kathy Griffin (Just saw her comedy show live last night, by the way! Love her!), Tina Fey, Bethenny Frankel, Mindy Kaling, and now Rob Lowe!
I bought this book on a whim. I went to Watermark Books to pick up my tickets to see The Pioneer Woman (yay!) in April. I felt bad just going to the bookstore to get free tickets though. It’s only polite to buy a book too, right? (Read: I will use any excuse to buy books!) So, in support of my locally owned book store, I went with Lowe’s autobiography. I’d heard killer things about it!
Lowe’s autobiography is a very good read. Pure entertainment. I knew that he’d started acting young and was a playboy. So, I was anxious for tales of growing up in the limelight and his escapades. I was a little disappointed that there was only a mere 2 page mention of his big sex scandal back when he was campaigning for Dukakis. But then I thought back to the title: Stories I Only Tell My Friends. Would I rehash this scandal to friends? Or would I tell them about how I punched Tom Cruise in the face instead? Tom Cruise, please!!!
At first, I thought the stories were a bit name dropper like. But no, he really was just telling you how he became famous and who he met along the way. Back in the day before homeschooling and TMZ was everywhere, I think young actors could more normal lives. Lowe pretty much grew up in high school with Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Sean & Chris Penn, Tom Cruise, and Robert Downey Jr. He dated Melissa Gilbert and later on Princess Stephanie of Monaco…..whaaaaaat?!
A lot of the stories are pretty light and short and in passing. Such as Lowe talks about his first starring role in a TV commercial and he’s cast next to a newscaster at the time by the name of Regis Philbin. Or when Lowe was on a sitcom for awhile and one of his co-stars said she wanted to try singing instead of acting like her brothers….oh yeah, it was Janet Jackson, no bigs.
I found the book so entertaining and really enjoyed it! I have to admit I really only associate Lowe with Brothers & Sisters, Parks & Recreation, and Tommy Boy. I’ve never even see St. Elmo’s Fire, About Last Night, or The West Wing. But Netflixing past seasons of The West Wing is definitely on my radar now!
4.75 out of 5 stars
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Did you read Bossypants last year? Me too! Loved it!
BUT OMGeeeeee, I love.love.love.love.LOVED Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?.
Mindy Kaling is one of the writers and stars of The Office. She plays Kelly Kapoor, one of my favorite characters. Kaling’s autobiography kept cracking me over & over again. Since we’re the same age, I related to it much more than I did to Fey’s book. Kaling’s book is a super fast read as well. I knocked it out in one day.
I bookmarked so many pages in the book of parts that I loved. Here are few of my favorite random parts:
“I didn’t want to be Regis or Kathie Lee, because their chairs were too high. I’m sorry, I’m supposed to sit like that for an hour? Too much blood rushing to my ankles. No, thanks.”
“…So, with my zit throbbing like a nightclub, I went to the interview.”
“When I was a kid, I was obsessed with listing my favorite things. I kept an index card with all my favorite foods folded in my wallet, just in case anyone asked me what they were. Then when people walked away, I imagined they’d say ‘Whoa, Mindy Kaling is so cool and self-actualized. McDonald’s pancakes are her favorite food, and she was able to tell me right away.’ “
“I remember when the news reports came out about Michael Phelp’s ten-thousand-calorie-a-day diet, and everyone was so shocked. But I just thought, yep, I could do that, no problem.”
If you need a good laugh, read this book! Pronto!
5 out of 5 stars
The Bungalow by Sarah Jio
I just read Sarah Jio’s Violets of March last month and LOVED it! So, I was super amped to read her new book, The Bungalow. With both of Jio’s books, there is a war/historial fiction/romance/mystery element. With Violets of March, it’s focused on the girl still in the States during the war. And in The Bungalow, it’s focused on the girl going to Bora-Bora to help with the war efforts.
The Bungalow follows the story of Anne Calloway. She has went to nursing school to learn a trade never thinking she’ll use it as she’s engaged to a wealthy man. Something inside is gnawing at her telling her that she needs to help with the war effort and she also needs an adventure before settling down.
Cut to Anne and her best friend, Kitty, traveling to Bora-Bora to join the Army Nurse Corps. Anne stumbles upon an abandoned bungalow where she meets a soldier, Westry. They become friends and decided to fix up the bungalow and keep it their secret. From there, the friendship turns to love and Anne is torn between passion and her commitment to her fiance back home.
The Bungalow is a very quick read. I’m becoming a fast fan of historical romance. Parts of the book are highly predictable though. Maybe it’s because I’ve read the Violets of March and knew Jio’s style. But I would have liked more surprise elements. All in all, still a good read!!
4 out of 5 stars
First book read in 2012!!
The Tigers’s Wife by Tea Obreht
The Tiger’s Wife was talked about a lot in 2011. It was up for multiple awards. I’m most impressed that the author isn’t even 30 years old yet. Such imagination for a young author and her first book to boot!
The Tiger’s Wife follows the story of Natalia and her grandfather. Natalia is a young doctor, who is out-of-town in the Balkan region helping with inoculations at an orphanage. Shortly after arriving, Natalia learns that her grandfather has passed away. From there, the book follows Natalia as she retrieves his body and reminisces on stories he told her.
The main stories and memories shared by the grandfather are about “the deathless man” and “the tiger’s wife”. My favorite part of the book was chapter 2, which is when you meet the deathless man. It’s a pretty awesome chapter! I was completely entranced and convinced that I would continue to love the book.
Sadly, I did not. Part of my problem was that I took to long to read the book. With odd characters, stories, and changing timelines, it’s best to read this book fairly quickly. I had a hard time keeping things straight in my head. There are tie-ins between the deathless man and the tiger’s wife too, which thankfully I caught them. But once again, you need to focus when reading this book.
If you like vivid language and imagination, you will really love this book though. It’s so very unique and very well-written. I’m certainly glad that I read it even though it’s not my particular style in the end.
If this snip-it draws you in, perhaps you should give this book a try:
” ‘We’ve got a cousin in the vineyard, Doctor.’ ” He spread his arms and gestured to the vines, from one side of the plot to the other. ‘Buried twelve years. During the war.’ He was perfectly serious. ‘Doesn’t like it here, and he’s making us sick. When we find him we’ll be on our way.”
3 out of 5 stars
The Violets of March by Sarah Jio
The Violets of March is the story of Emily, an author who’s just finalized her divorce from her cheating husband and is living in NYC. She decides to travel to Washington state to stay with her great-aunt Bee for a month to try to heal.
Shortly after arriving, Emily discovers a diary in her aunt’s house from the 1940’s. Emily works to uncover the true story behind the diary while learning about herself in the process.
This book is part romance, part historical fiction, and part mystery. I sailed through this book in less than 3 days! And considering, I usually take a few weeks to read a book that’s saying something! I highly recommend this book. I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in such a long time. It’s definitely my top book read in 2011!!
Read it yourself and then share it with a friend! I plan on giving it to my friend, Kristie, to read this week.
Sharing is caring!
5 out of 5 stars
Wow, I haven’t done a book review since October. I’ve been off my game. Truth be told, I picked a stinker of a book to read after the last review. And I spent weeks battling myself internally as to whether I should muddle my way through the book. The answer is NO. If you’re not into a book after 50 pages…just move on! There’s too many great books in the world to force yourself to read it.
So, then I tried another book. And it was worse! But I stopped trying with that one after about 40 pages.
After 2 duds, I knew what I needed to get back in the reading routine…..CHICK LIT. Sometimes, a chick lit book is the perfect thing to breeze through and get excited about reading again.
Commencement by J Courtney Sullivan
Commencement is the story of 4 girls entering their freshman year at Smith College. It follows the 4 friends through college and until the age of about 26. Celia is the aspiring writer, lapsed Catholic, and always feeling that she’s just not quite good enough. Bree is the Southern Belle, who is already engaged when coming to Smith but whose life takes another course. April is the ultra-women’s liberation advocate. Sally is the wounded soul who just lost her mother to cancer before coming to Smith.
Each chapter of the book is told by the point of view of a different girl. I have always loved this form of writing. I feel you get to know the characters better this way. And you also get to know how the characters feel about each other through this method of writing.
Since the setting is Smith College (where the author graduated from as well), it’s, of course, very much centered around women. At one point in the book, they quote Mary Poppins: “Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.” Love that quote!
One of the quotes on the back of the book says the book is: a beach book for smart women. (Entertainment Weekly)
So, I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find that the author added all these heavy topics into the book: date rape, affairs, families not accepting one’s sexual orientation, and the biggest WHAT?! of them all: American child sex trafficking. I think that the author should have written a few books with her ideas since of throwing them altogether into one. But the last 2 chapters of the book were great….especially the last chapter, I did NOT see that coming!!
You’re intrigued now, right??
And finally, one of my favorite parts of the book. (I don’t think I’m spoiling it by revealing there is a baby involved. I’m not saying who or when or anything!)
“Listen, I want an enema,” she said, “It’s part of my birthing plan back home… Call my doctor there if you don’t believe me.”
The nurse smiled. “It’s not that I don’t believe you, dear,” she said. “It’s just not our policy to give enemas.”
“Honey, why do you want an enema in the first place.”
“So I don’t take a big poop on the table while I’m giving birth!!”
3.5 stars out of 5
This Is Where We Live by Janelle Brown
Did I buy this book because of the cover? Damn straight I did. And because it was 80% off at Borders.
Does this book have anything to do with strawberry shortcake? Nope, not at all. I’m really trying to think if they ate it in the book and I don’t remember it. I really think the cover was just a marketing decision. Obviously, it worked on me.
This Is Where We Live is the story of Claudia and Jeremy. They are a 30-something married couple faced with current issues. The book is very relevant to today’s times….unemployment, mortgage crisis, career decisions, etc. Although the premise is very relatable, I couldn’t get on board with it. It was a bit too hodge podge with the multiple themes for me.
The book starts off right away with an earthquake in California….and a sex scene on page 5. (I really thought this book was going to rock after page 5, ha.) But the earthquake didn’t do much damage and was never mentioned again. I suppose the earthquake was for the symbolism of the “cracks” in Claudia and Jeremy’s marriage. I felt it was unnessary though.
I couldn’t get too into the book because I didn’t even LIKE either of the characters. I found them both to be self-involved and annoying. And maybe that also was the point so that you understood their marital troubles.
There’s a point in the book where Claudia is thinking about directing a screenplay that she’s read. She hates the screenplay, but could use the money. She wonders if she’d be selling out by directing it. I wonder if the author sold out by just taking a hot topic and throwing some side plots into it and calling it a day.
So, in all, the premise of the book was good. Married couple…financial troubles…how do they cope. Got it. But by adding in the earthquake, screenplay writer turned teacher & her students, failing rock band, new roommate, returning ex-girlfriend, yadda yadda yadda. It was just too much for me.
But I do still love the cover.
2 stars of out 5 stars.
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
This book ROCKS. Let me just get that out there. This book has been on my to-read list for awhile after reading all the great reviews. And hello, look at the cover. Sorry chicken, but you’re delicious…and dead.
Blood, Bones & Butter is the memoir by Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and owner of Prune in NYC. Hamilton tells the story of growing up in a family where her mother & father threw elaborate parties and everything was rosy….until her mother left her father and it kind of all went to crap.
Hamilton had to quickly grow up, virtually on her own since the age of 11. She got a job at a local restaurant near town and fell into drugs. She moved to NYC under the age of 18 and made her way working at bars without owners knowing her true age. She definitely went the alternative route to finding her way in the culinary world!
She worked several summers as a cook at a summer camp for kids:
“There were moments that summer where I felt more distressed by a nine-year-old’s disgust with a fleck of basil in the tomato sauce that I had in the entire previous decade…”
I love how she’s so raw in this book. She definitely puts it all out there. When she takes a risk and takes out a lease on property to start Prune, she is honest about the low points. She has to be all in…including taking care of a dead rat in the kitchen because no one else would. She’s deposing of dead rodents and then appearing on The Martha Stewart Show the next day, ha. Martha would be horrified.
Hamilton has led a very interesting life, that’s for sure. If you like cooking and memoirs, I highly recommend that book!
4.5 out of 5 stars