Category Archives: The Written Word

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Best Friends ForeverBest Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

My Review:  1 of 5 stars

The title for this book is misleading. It should have been called “The Only Friend I Ever Had Treats Me Like Sh*t But I’ll Do Anything For Her Because She is My Only Friend.”  Seriously.

It’s a story we’ve seen time and time again. Two girls become close friends at a young age. As they grow older, one girl, Valerie, goes down the “popular” road while the other, Addie, binge eats and gets made fun of mercilessly.

Then, here is where Valerie’s true colors start to shine through: She tells Addie not let the teasing get to her and that she should just try harder. Um….kids spray-painted her driveway with the words, “fat whore.” Sure, just keep on smiling, Addie. Valerie ditches Addie for her cheerleader friends whenever she gets the chance, and, when she invites Addie to a big party their senior year, she admits that it’s because she knew her mom would let her go if she was with Addie.

When I discovered the tragic incident from their senior year that was alluded to for the first hundred or so pages, I couldn’t have liked Valerie less. Addie speaks up to defend her and basically becomes the laughing stock of the school because, her best friend denounced what she was saying as lies and jealousy.

All of this is told in flashback as the story jumps from present day to Addie and Valerie’s past. In the present, Addie hasn’t seen or heard from Valerie in 15 years. The night of their high school reunion, Valerie gets herself into big trouble and ends up knocking on Addie’s door asking for help.

Addie, even though she’s managed to lose a ton of weight, apparently has still not grown a backbone because the rest of the story, she lets Valerie convince her to run from the law, half rob a bank, and lead her around by the nose (all on Addie’s dime). Up until recently, Addie has lived like a friendless hermit, sustaining herself with online purchases that keep her from having to leave the house.

There’s much more to the story, tragedies galore, a hint of romance, and more cliches then you can shake a stick at. If this is what Addie, or the author, thinks best friends are made of, I feel sorry for the both of them.

Goodreads review: Saints by Orson Scott Card

SaintsSaints by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book via earlier this week. It’s a lengthy book at 604 pages, but I finished it in about 4 evenings. It progresses quickly and held my interest easily.

At the beginning, we learn of the Kirkham family in Manchester, England, deserted by the father in 1829 and left to fend for themselves. I was fascinated by the way the author described life in this time period and a lot of the historical accuracy weaved throughout this fictional tale. Dinah Kirkham, the youngest child of the family, is the main character in the book yet the stories are really all about her family, and the various paths they all take, the struggles they must each face, and their inner strength.

The first few sections of the book take us along as the Kirkhams struggle to survive, the children working in factories at ages so young it was hard to imagine, the mother accepting her now lowered station in life and looking for work in the homes of others, all while living in a miserable shack of a home. The latter half of the book occurs after the Kirkhams have been introduced to a Mormon missionary who has a message that resonates with most of the family. From there, the story takes a turn both narratively and geographically.

While Dinah is a fictional character, the author has her interacting with real people and real events who have also been fictionalized in these stories, but it gives the book more of a non-fiction feel. Card also uses “First Words” in between chapters where he appears to be giving background on his “great aunt Dinah” and her diary, so it was easy to forget that this was a fictional character.

Better her inbox than mine.

Holly's InboxHolly’s Inbox by Holly Denham

My Review: 2 of 5 stars

Even though it is a couple of inches thick, I read this in one night. While it did have some good parts, I just couldn’t get past the content of emails flying back and forth at work. Maybe other places are more relaxed, but in my experience, I don’t know anyone who would be foolish enough to send or receive messages with such personal detail, berating other employees, sex talk, etc via their WORK email account. In my reality, she would have been caught and fired within the first week. Big brother really IS watching.

I don’t think wallflower is the appropriate term for this kid.

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’d heard about this book and thought it sounded interesting. When I received it, I was surprised how small it was…sort of a pocket notebook size.

Throughout most of the book, I couldn’t get past how naive Chbosky made his primary character. I’m not so old that I can’t remember what life was like as a teenager in highschool. Even the most awkward of awkward weren’t as naive as Charlie! This boy is supposed to be 15, but doesn’t know what masturbation is or recognize that his sister and boyfriend are having sex? What planet is he from?

Because of this, the entire story is almost entirely implausible fantasy. I kept thinking he must have a learning disability or some other condition that made him so slow. Thought maybe the name “Charlie” was a nod at “Flowers for Algernon.” Kept waiting for some big discovery to explain why this high school kid sounds like a middle school boy. It never came.

More disappointing than “Wicked”

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Wicked Years, #1) Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

My review: 2 of 5 stars
I loved the concept of this book, and it started off with so much promise, but seemed to lose focus shortly thereafter. The style of writing, and even some of the characters, was inconsistent.

I don’t know if the author thought it would make it “edgier” or something, but the insertion of a couple of back-to-back F-bombs midway through felt completely out of place and shattered any illusions I had of being in the land of Oz. Not that I’m a prude, they just didn’t fit in with any of the conversations and mannerisms used throughout the book.

Large gaps (years!) in time happen between several chapters, but it wasn’t always clear. The author expects us to make the leap, and I did, but it wasn’t a smooth transition. It just felt like a lazy way to squeeze in as many stories as possible within the book.  Disappointing.

Audible reading: The Poet

The Poet The Poet by Michael Connelly

My Review:   4 of 5 stars
I like the idea of audio books, but the reality is, the only time I can really listen to one is in the car. Since I have a relatively short commute to work, and don’t take a lot of road trips, it has taken me awhile to get through this one.

I read The Narrows awhile ago and it referenced The Poet, which I had not previously read. So I went back in search of this story, apparently the prequel. Jack McEvoy’s character comes across as self-serving much of the time, but, having lost his brother to a violent crime, I could excuse him for this. Overall, I thought it was a good story with lots of twists and turns that kept me thoroughly engaged during the times I was listening.

The Red Tent

The Red Tent The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

My Review:   4 of 5 stars
I have to admit that I was not familiar with the Bible story when I read this book. Out of curiosity, I did go look it up after I finished the book.

Diamant did a wonderful job of describing what life may have been like in those days. Though I can’t imagine having to spend time once a month, banished to a tent and squatting on straw with all the women in my family, it does make for an interesting dynamic between the women. Like having a secret club where only the select are permitted, these women shared secrets and tales that only they could fully appreciate and understand.

I was devastated for Dinah when her brothers committed their terrible crime and applauded her wrath when she faced them and her father. The story took on a completely different feel with the move to Egypt, but was still just as captivating.

A few lines at the end resonated with me and now, a day later, I still can’t shake them from my mind:

“Egypt loved the lotus because it never dies. It is the same for people who are loved. Thus can something as insignificant as a name…summon up the innumberable smiles and tears, sighs and dreams of a human life.”

Goodbye, Chuck Klosterman.

Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas by Chuck Klosterman

My Review: 1 of 5 stars
This is now the 2nd of Klosterman’s books I have forced myself to read. I didn’t care for the 1st one, and now, less than 100 pages into this one, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s Klosterman, himself, that I don’t like. He seems just as shallow as his writing, and, while he talks a lot, he doesn’t have much to say.  I’m done with him.

My next step in clearing the clutter will be to get rid of this book!

Kick the Clutter: Clear Out Excess Stuff without Losing What You Love Kick the Clutter: Clear Out Excess Stuff without Losing What You Love by Ellen Phillips

My Review:   3 of 5 stars
This book has some good ideas in it for managing clutter, but regurgitates them over and over to turn what could have easily been a ~100 page book into a whopping 450+ pages of repetition. At least is it a pretty quick read, and the chapter titles and index make it a decent resource if you need to refer back to something.

Farewell, Harry Potter!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

My Review: 4 of 5 stars
I waited forever to read the conclusion to the HP series, presumably because I didn’t want it to end, but more accurately, because I had been waiting so long for it to come out in paperback that I forgot about it!

While it appears to be a very thick, very long book, I sped through it in an evening and a half. Like the HP books before it, once I started, it was hard to put down. A great story and a nice conclusion to the series.

It’s sad that it takes a book for us to realize this!

Be Honest: You're Not That into Him Either - Raise Your Standards and Reach for the Love You Deserve Be Honest: You’re Not That into Him Either – Raise Your Standards and Reach for the Love You Deserve by Ian Kerner

My review: 4 of 5 stars
Any guy who writes a book titled, “She Comes First,” must know what he’s talking about, and that appears to be the case here. It’s kind of sad to admit that a lot of what Kerner discusses in this book is spot on. We have lowered our standards. We do tend to settle for the “in the meantime,” rather than be alone.

Some takeaway quotes:
– What is the point of dating someone if he doesn’t make you feel great?
– What is the point of casual sex if the sex part isn’t any good?
– Dating “in the meantime” is wasted time. Someday is right now. Life is too precious to get stuck in an endless cycle of meantimers who will never, ever wind up with you in the here and now.

New Moon

New Moon (Twilight, #2) New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I read this in a few hours last night. I liked it better than the first one, which I wasn’t very impressed with. These stories would be so much better if Meyer would ever get below the surface…her characters just come across as very one-dimensional to me. It was a fun quick read, but, perhaps due to all the hype, I was expecting more and just keep finding myself disappointed.

If you are this full of yourself, no wonder you’re still single!

The Single Girl's Survival Guide: Secrets for Today's Savvy, Sexy, and Independent Woman The Single Girl’s Survival Guide: Secrets for Today’s Savvy, Sexy, and Independent Woman by Imogen Lloyd Webber

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
It’s books like these that continue to propagate the game-playing aspect so prevalent in the dating scene. Here’s a novel idea: if you like someone, let them know. If you don’t, do likewise. Why does everything have to be so cat-and-mouse and underhanded? I’ll be single forever if I have to stoop to Webber’s methods of finding a significant other.

Something Borrowed (or in this case, won!)

Something Borrowed Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

I won a copy of this from a first-reads giveaway on goodreads!

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Rachel and her friend, Darcy, have been like sisters since they were children. Darcy has always been the pretty and popular type where as Rachel was the “consummate good girl.” No one would’ve ever guessed, particularly Rachel, that after her 30th birtday party, thrown by Darcy, that Rachel would end up in bed with Darcy’s fiance! The rest of the book finds Rachel at odds with her feelings for the guy and her relationship with Darcy; the classic battle between friendship or love.

I couldn’t help but wonder how these two girls stayed friends for so long. Darcy is portrayed as manipulative, self-centered, and in need of constant praise. Rachel has played second fiddle to Darcy for so long that she thinks she’s only worthy of what Darcy throws away. It seems like a very toxic relationship, although, I have to recognize that we are only hearing Rachel’s side of things.

Overall, this was a quick read, just right for a Saturday afternoon. It has a bit of romance, humor, wedding planning, and sneaking around. I’m looking forward to readhing the followup book, Something Blue, which is apparently a continuation of the story, but from Darcy’s perspective.

Eat, Pray, Love…yawn.

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I really tried to like this book but in the end, I failed miserably. The author came across to me as a poor-little-rich-girl on a self-absorbed sabbatical of supposed self-discovery. She leaves her marraige, on what seems like a whim, immediately gets involved with another man, constantly bashes her ex-husband, and pines over the end of the relationship with the other guy. It just felt really shallow to me.

She then proceeds to eat her way through Italy, see nothing of India but an ashram, and then barges in on a senile medicine man in Bali. Oh, and did I mention she got paid to do all of this? I think that is where my biggest issues with this book lie. Soul-searching on someone else’s dime…where do I sign up?

While her character did grow in some ways, this book held very little depth or discovery for me. Richard from Texas was entertaining, as short as his appearance was.

Organic Housekeeping

Organic Housekeeping: In Which the Non-Toxic Avenger Shows You How to Improve Your Health and That of Your Family, While You Save Time, Money, and, Perhaps, Your Sanity Organic Housekeeping: In Which the Non-Toxic Avenger Shows You How to Improve Your Health and That of Your Family, While You Save Time, Money, and, Perhaps, Your Sanity by Ellen Sandbeck

My Review:  3 of 5 stars
This had a lot of good information in it but was really repetitive. Had it been more simply organized, it would make a great handy reference. The author does include resources and websites for some of the products and tools that she recommends, which I appreciated.

Probably one of the best (new) tips I picked up from this book was that there are places, such as Mail Boxes Etc, that accept packing peanuts and reuse them. I don’t know why I never thought to ask! I have bags of that stuff in my garage I’ve been trying to find a use for.