Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

More book reviews, in no order

Empty by K. M. Walton - I read this book through PulseIt. Anyone who thinks YA books are unrealistically sugar-coated will have a rude awakening. Life is bleak for high schooler Dell (Adele). Her father ran off with a bimbo, forcing the family (including a new baby) to move to a small apartment. Her mother works two jobs and takes refuge in prescription pills, and Dell turns to food, gaining 70 pounds in a short time. The weight pervades her life, affecting her position on the softball team, where she was the star hitter. She puts on a game face, joining in self-deprecatingly when the other kids MOOOO, but is aching inside. Her longtime best friend is still somewhat there for her, but seems likely to run off with a more popular crowd. There are very mean girls, awful boys, oblivious teachers, no support system at all. Her singing talent could blow them all away at the school talent show, but... I won't spoil, but it's not a fairytale ending.

The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus - While the authors' previous book featured a Britneylike pop star, this one had a Monicaesque DC intern doing Monicalike things with married President Greg. There was even a stained coat. Monica, I mean Jamie, seemed naive, needy and trusting, as she let the affair (which was not consummated) consume her personal and budding professional life. She badgered Greg's staff, trusted the wrong people, and did not act very maturely. This wasn't even her first bad choice of man. Not a sympathetic character, even if she was only 21. Her backstory of a dysfunctional family (recovering alcoholic sister, relapsing alcoholic father) did not win me over to her side. I felt like cringing much of the time. Thanks anyway to NetGalley.

Ellington Boulevard: A Novel in A-Flat by Adam Langer - I loved Thieves of Manhattan and also loved this. It helps that both take place in my general, sort-of-near-Columbia neighborhood. Ellington Boulevard is the gentrified name for W 106th St., where clarinetist Ike and his dog live in a rent-controlled apartment threatened by development. The characters, from the worlds of academia, publishing, and real estate, are well drawn and feel real.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett - I haven't seen the movie, but have high hopes if it's anything like the book. Meaty story of black maids in '60s Mississippi and the families (especially the women) they work for.

Where There's Smoke by Sandra Brown - Eden Pass, Texas might as well be Peyton Place. Tackett Oil pretty much owns the town, and the Tackett family is full of colorful characters, from bad boy son to crusty matriarch to dutiful daughter. There's also the newly arrived female doctor who has a Past with a Tackett, the town hussy, and the handsome ex-con looking to start over. Add to that revolutionaries in an unstable Central American country and you've got quite a plot.

Fishbowl by Sarah Mlynowski - 20-something roommates in Toronto struggle with normal roommate issues as well as having to pay for repairs after a kitchen fire (they throw parties in bars and charge admission). Just didn't grab me, maybe because I'm way past the living with random strangers stage (which worked out OK in grad school, but I wouldn't especially want to do it again).

i am neurotic (and so are you) by Lianna Kong - Cute little book of photos detailing people's quirks and neuroses. I am not without quirks (which we won't go into at this time) but nothing leapt out as being "Omigod, that's me!" Turns out it's based on a blog http://iamneurotic.com/

I Shudder: And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey by Paul Rudnick - I absolutely adored Rudnick's novel I'll Take It and this book of essays interspersed with the "diary" of Elyot Vionnet was pretty good, too. There are stories about showbiz (what really happened in I Hate Hamlet, working on Sister Act, producer Allan Carr), New York (apartments, the Chelsea Hotel) and topics also covered in I'll Take It (Jewish families, junk food diet). What's not to like?

My Happy Days in Hollywood by Garry Marshall - Garry Marshall has an impressive career writing, directing and producing TV and movies (along with some theater and acting). He's been involved in many classics, and I've enjoyed his work. In his memoir, he comes across as a genial nice guy with interesting stories to tell.

It's Not About the Pom-Poms: How a 40-Year-Old Mom Became the NFL's Oldest Cheerleader--and Found Hope, Joy, and Inspiration Along the Way by Laura Vikmanis with Amy Sohn - The author has not had an easy life, dealing with young motherhood and a bad marriage. She always enjoyed dance and fitness, and at an age when most cheerleaders were long past their glory days, became a Cincinnati Ben-Gal. Good for her! Not the most interesting book, though.

31 Dates in 31 Days by Tamara Duricka Johnson - After hitting a snag in her social life, the author decided to undertake an experiment, dating 30 guys in 30 days, and then choosing one for a second date. She cast a wide net for referrals and set up ground rules: dates would cost less than $31, last more than 31 minutes, take place in a public setting, no drugs or alcohol, no married men and no physical contact. The result wasn't as fun to read as I thought, even though it took place in my home turf of New York City. I couldn't keep track of all the men, and it just seemed exhausting.


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