Reviews and musings from the terrace on the first night of summer
I'm typing from my terrace on a warm night, the first day of summer. This 10-year-old laptop's battery is so shot (life = about 25 minutes) that the machine has to be plugged in to work. Its ill health was confirmed today at the Genius Bar, where I brought it when it failed to start. The tech took out and reinserted the battery and then it booted. But he advised the battery had no capacity, and Apple no longer sells it. iBook G4 batteries are available online and I'll investigate that, but I don't mind using this only when plugged in. I have an iPad for when I need portability. I'll probably get a MacBook Pro with retina eventually (I love the iPad display), but I just bought a new PC so will live with this a bit longer. And if you're wondering how I'm plugged in on the terrace, there is a covered outlet in the outside brick wall. I don't think I've ever used it, and was a little scared it would zap me, but I seem to still be alive. More likely the plug wouldn't work at all.
Now to the books:
Pretty in Ink by Lindsey Palmer - Heads are rolling and knives are being inserted in backs at the fictional Hers magazine as a new editor is installed to shake up the mag's stodgy image. The (mostly) women who work there take turns narrating what happens as staffers cope with the changes. The result is a fun, funny novel. I haven't worked at a magazine, but I'm a big reader (and my apartment is piled with magazines back through the 90's that I have every intention of getting to) and this seems to capture that world perfectly. My only beef is that some characters could have been covered more thoroughly; I wanted to know EVERYTHING. Received from NetGalley.
Real Happy Family by Caeli Wolfson Widger - Lorelei wants to be a reality star, and comes oh so close to getting a part on the young, fashionable gal pal show Flo's Studio. When she loses, her stage mother Colleen (who had her own aspirations a generation before) unleashes a drunken rant on national TV. Mortified, Lorelei flees to Nevada with her shady boyfriend, sinking into drugs and despair. Now estranged from her daughter, Colleen decides that the way to patch things up is to stage an intervention on another reality show, Real Happy Family. She works with its producers to make that happen. What could possibly go wrong? These people are sad and not always sympathetic, but interesting to read about. Received from NetGalley.
The Bluffer's Guide to Insider Hollywood (The Bluffer's Guides series) by Sally Whitehill - I don't have much experience with Hollywood, despite being a movie star. Actually, I do know Hollywood has no use for the likes of me (middle-aged female nerd? Get off my Wordplay DVD cover and let's put this anonymous model on instead!). I'm still endlessly fascinated with what I call "evil Hollywood" and its devotion to illusion. This book fit right in. I mean, what better place for a bluffer than the capital of BS? Written for Brits, this tongue-in-cheek yet actually practical guide lists terms a Hollywood wannabe should know, advises how to worm your way in without any discernable talents or background, ways to deceive, manipulate and fake fake fake. It's all in fun, yet probably sad-but-true on some level. Received from LibraryThing early readers.
Woman of Valor by Lihi Lapid - This was a best-seller in Israel and I don't understand why. Maybe something was lost in the translation to English. Or maybe you have to be a wife and/or mother to empathize. It was an effort to get through 202 slim pages. The book alternates between different women's stories (one apparently the author's real life) and letters from readers (the author writes a weekly column on women's issues). I had a hard time telling them apart. There is not much plot, just how the women feel and react to motherhood and other events in their lives. Many emotions are expressed, but it didn't really get through to me. Received from LibraryThing early readers. [While I was writing, someone on BookMooch requested the book, so away it goes. Buh-bye!]
I heard birds chirping and hightailed it inside (it was getting late anyway). My neighbor (in a nursing home for over a year, if he's even still alive) used to feed the birds on his adjoining balcony, resulting in feathered creatures on my terrace railings at all hours, making noise and leaving souvenirs. Ugh. A handyman came a while ago without my even asking, to hose off the stuff, and it's still not perfect though much better. I bought some special bird poop cleaner at the nearby Petco (probably the only time I'll ever be in Petco; the only animals I like are stuffed), but it gushes out of the bottle and seems to have little effect. I don't hear anything now, so that may just have been an isolated fly-by. [Update at 1 am: chirp, chirp, chirp. Hope there's no new white stuff tomorrow.]
Now coming to you from the dining area table (which I never moved back to the center of the room after window installation 2.5 years ago, so it's close enough for the shortish charging plug to reach an outlet in the kitchen). I've only finished one more NetGalley, and it's not being published until late July, so I think I'm not supposed to review it yet. But I have 3 shelves of "to be reviewed" books (after which I can trade them away and clear much-needed space), so there's no shortage of backlog.
Investigating the Hottie by Juli Alexander - This was a Kindle book, so I can't give it away, but I would if it were paper. There's even a sequel which I have no desire to read. It's really for a teen audience, so I'm not the target demographic. Amanda visits her aunt Christie as a break from problems at home. Turns out Christie is really a spy and needs Amanda to go undercover to investigate suspected hacker Will (the title hottie). Sure, that happens every day. It was mildly entertaining, but not really for me.
Love Will Tear Us Apart by Tara McCarthy - Imagine not one but two Britney Spears, and not only that, they're Siamese twins! Olsens but REALLY close. Except one wants to go solo. That is the basic premise for this book, about teen pop stars Flora and Fauna Sparks, literally joined at the hip. Celebrity journalist Sloan is asked to write their bio, and moves into their palatial house, where they live with their father. There was something distasteful about all of this.
King Dork by Frank Portman - Being of the nerd persuasion, I wanted to like this more than I did. Tom is an angsty teen, yes, a dork, but he does have a close pal Sam and they're constantly starting bands with ever-changing names. They even play in public sometimes. Being an angsty teen, Tom also has girl problems. Mainly, who is the mysterious Fiona he met and made out with at a party? Is that even her real name? Trying to find Fiona, he encounters another strangely willing girl who hooks up with him when her other boyfriend isn't around. And there's his deceased father - did he kill himself, what do the mysterious jottings in his old books mean, and can the evil assistant principal shed any light? There is a sequel forthcoming, and I guess I'd read it if it fell into my lap (or appeared on the Times book giveaway table), but I won't go out of my way.
My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up by Russell Brand - This 2008 autobiography predates the Katy Perry era (I don't know about the sequel, which I also own), but there is plenty of dirt. The book begins when Brand enters sex rehab in 2005 and then flashes back to his wild escapades all over the world. I hadn't heard of Brand until Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), where he played a hairy, sleazy rock star, and he doesn't seem far from his character. He had some wild times, yes sirree - drugs, sex, drinking, and using MTV's car service to shuttle around family, friends, and drug dealers - but is said to be in recovery over 10 years now. The book has a quirky, British bad-boy charm. It sounds like his authentic voice, but who can be sure? I was supposed to hear Brand speak at the Times Center in 2010 (through a ticket club), but they cancelled me when it got overbooked; he was just too popular. So I watched from a 4th floor NYT atrium window, where I could see his tall, gaunt figure from the back as I also followed the web stream. Even from that distance, he exuded star power.
Gee, the last batch all have sequels, except for the twin book (I hope). I didn't realize this when I pulled them out.
This is getting so long that the book I was waiting to review will be published by the time I finish, so that's all for now.