Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dogfish by Gillian Shields & Dan Taylor

As a lifetime apartment dweller, I loved the storyline about a boy on the 44th floor who has a fish yet wants a dog. I was delighted that at the end, the little boy worked to creatively turn his fish into the type of pet he really wanted (rather than simply replacing the fish with a dog). It is the beautiful illustrations that make this book a real standout; I will definitely keep my eye out for other books by this author/illustrator combination. Highly recommended!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson

I received a copy of The Mighty Queens of Freeville in the mail today, and already finished it! Though I only intended to read a few pages to get a feel for the writing, I simply couldn't put it down. This book is a memoir, the story of "a mother, a daughter, and the people who raised them"; the Mighty Queens of Freeville are the women of Dickinson's extended family who live and thrive in tiny Freeville NY.

Author Amy Dickinson writes "Ask Amy", the syndicated advice column that replaced that of the late Ann Landers (though I didn't know that when I requested the book). This book though is not about Dickinson's career; it is about the women who ultimately gave her the skills she needed to make a success of her job.

This memoir follows Dickinson from her divorce in England (when daughter Emily is a toddler) to Emily's freshman year of college. Dickinson's writing is no-nonsense and engaging. The women in her life are simultaneously ordinary and extraordinary- her mother rises above her father's abandonment and the loss of the family farm to eventually find her niche as a college professor. Dickinson is by turns funny and touching, and the book is a wonderful tribute to her family and its resilience.

I highly recommend this wonderful book. Definitely five stars, and would make a great gift for the important women in your life.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

I have to confess from the start that paranormal romance is not my favorite genre, mostly because it is so often poorly conceived and executed. Though the pacing and tone of this book started out unevenly for me, I was surprised to find myself mildly enjoying it for a few chapters.

The entire book headed downhill in my opinion once the main character discovered her unique talent- the author seemed to take entirely too much pleasure from extremely non-consensual sex for my comfort level. (I can't say more without seriously spoiling the plot.) The quality of writing dramatically sloped off as well in the second half of the book, making it extremely difficult to finish.

The book is obviously the start of a new series, but I for one won't be waiting for the next installment.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Freakin' Fabulous by Clinton Kelly

I've always enjoyed Clinton Kelly on What Not to Wear, but his wit and edgy humor really shine through in this book that basically teaches you how to be better than everyone else! I love that he devotes equal time to both fabulous shoes and his pet grammar peeves. The tone is arch but Kelly pokes enough fun at himself to make it clear is all in good fun. This well written book would be worth the purchase price for the party recipes alone- add in all the rest and you have the perfect gift for almost anyone on your holiday list. I know at least 4 friends who will be happily laughing over this offering come Christmas morning...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Twins of Tribeca by Rachel Pine

Like The Devil Wears Prada and Because She Can, The Twins of Tribeca tells the story of a young, optimistic and naive young woman taking a job in a notoriously difficult environment because she is certain (a) the stories are exaggerated, and (b) the experience will be worth it. This light book obviously tracks working for the Weinstein brothers at Miramax, and is an enjoyable enough read especially anyone interested in or involved with the movie industry.

For me, the narrative never reached the levels of The Devil Wears Prada, and the drama was much less dramatic (which is a positive for the poor narrator if not for the reader). Still, this book was nowhere near as satisfyingly evil as other offerings in the genre, and left me feeling a little flat. A decent plane or beach read, The Twins of Tribeca doesn't live up to its hype, but is well-written enough to rate three stars.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Die, Decorator, Die by Franklin H. Levy

I really wanted to like this book. I love mysteries, I love home decor- the combination seemed like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, I could not warm to the narrator Buzz Levin, an aging lawyer who sees himself as a modern day Nick Charles. Buzz tries so very hard to make everyone else see this connection that his supposed wit falls flat, and the entire tone of his narration often seems forced.

This could have been a fun, light summer read, a mystery wrapped up in the cut-throat world of decorating, but it just wasn't. The decorating tips were silly, the story was cluttered with secondary characters that had little if any impact on the plot, and the mystery itself was never fully fleshed out until the solution was presented out of absolutely nowhere.

This book was obviously written as the first of a series, but I for one will not be on the lookout for future volumes. A little more focus on this first book could have launched a successful and enjoyable franchise, but this offering tried too hard to be too much, and ultimately fell flat.