Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

Tax time reading

What with the tax deadline and birthday (thanks, Mommy! Though at the time, Tax Day was March 15), this is always a stressful time of year. To add to that, Microsoft just withdrew support for Windows XP, forcing me to buy a new computer. I'm not crazy about my old, slow Dell that sounds like a Boeing jet, and heard bad things about Windows 8. Also thought I might downsize to a laptop, considering I'm on the iPad constantly (I also have an old iBook). Despite that, I bought a new, large fancy Dell all-in-one with Windows 8 (.1). Just didn't like the options with Windows 7, which will eventually go off support earlier and I'd have to do this again. It arrived last week, but I haven't taken it out of the box, since I wanted to do my taxes on the old computer. If I hate the smallish chiclet keyboard, I'm not sure if I can attach the old one (there are converter cords, but I haven't determined if the computer will automatically recognize a wired keyboard). I got a program to help migration, so I'll have to run both computers until I'm sure the new one is OK. Quicken 2011 is also going off support (downloading from the bank won't work as of 4/30). I own but never installed Quicken 2012, so that'll buy me another year.

In other computer stress, Verizon practically browbeat me to upgrade from DSL to FIOS (by the fourth phone call, I was like, "OK already"), though it's true it'll be faster and cheaper. I'm not sure they'll be able to work around the clutter in order to install next week, and I'm attempting to move some of the piles of books and magazines out of sight. I'm running out of room, even though I have great closet space. I need to be more efficient in my home organization.

I do give away many of my books after reading, so it's productive to get reviews done so I can then move the books out of here. eBooks don't go anywhere, but I can move those off the iPad and to the cloud, and in some cases fulfill my obligation to NetGalley.

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie - Got this from NetGalley, but also had an advance copy from the Times book table. Good thing, since the Kindle review copy is no longer authorized and was permanently deleted. I liked the author's first book Spin, and liked this so much I purchased her 2 other novels. McKenzie is Canadian, but there's no Canadian sense of place; the book is set in 2 generic Springfields. Accountant Jeff Manning works for a corporation in Springfield, and strikes up a friendship with HR person Tish from the "other Springfield" branch. The book is narrated alternately by these 2 and Jeff's wife Claire. Jeff is struck by a car and killed at the beginning of the book (spoiler?), but speaks from the dead. This isn't as weird as it sounds. It's unclear until the very end if Jeff and Tish (who is also married) are just colleagues, emotionally attached, or having a physical affair. This uncertainty, along with the use of modern electronic sleuthing devices, keeps things interesting as the plot moves back and forth in time. Complicating matters, Claire's old boyfriend was Jeff's older, estranged brother Tim. Once this got going, I couldn't put it down. Some Amazon readers found the narrative device jumpy and confusing, so your mileage may vary.

Slate by Brian Rowe - Evil Hollywood is one of my favorite topics. Vivien owns a not exactly A-list casting agency in the Valley, while pushing her teen son in his own acting career. After she walks in on her dentist husband cavorting in the hot tub with his young secretary (spoiler?), she realizes she has the perfect "casting couch" to find a replacement man. Shades of Argo, Vivien's wannabe screenwriter assistant writes a fake script for a fake movie called The Men, specifying hot studs of varying ages for her approval. I could have lived without some violent and graphic incidents, but generally relished this at times over-the-top, dishy tale. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read this.

Bond Girl by Erin Duffy - Wall Street isn't as much fun as Hollywood, but good novels can come out of there. This one follows a young woman in her job in the boys club world of bond trading. I'm not clear of the mechanics of her job, but that was less important than the people and relationships, from browbeating bosses to lecherous clients to the occasional good guy. Called Girlie, she was at first given a folding chair with no desk, and sent on crazy errands to get massive coffee orders and pizza from the Bronx. The few other women in the firm were not always supportive (one is known as Cruella), and it did not sound like the best atmosphere.

Trading Dreams by J.L. Morin - This is supposedly about the Occupy movement as well as a young woman working on Wall Street, but I gave up at Kindle location 2648. I never was clear what was going on. There was something about a past murder, mortgages, a diary, kinky stuff, who knows? The author is Harvard '87, and I'm Harvard reject class of '73 (though I did go there for grad school), so maybe I'm just not bright enough to appreciate this.

Triburbia by Karl Taro Greenfeld - I really wanted to like this more. After all, it's about contemporary downtown Manhattan... real estate porn. But the novel was more like interconnected short stories, and sometimes it wasn't clear who was who. Some characters were struggling, some raking it in, some committed to family, others not, good kids, mean kids, lots of casual drug use. Not awful, but it didn't grab me.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - Loved, loved, loved it. Possibly the best book I read last year. There are some fun documents like letters and emails, but even without them the story would glow. Bernadette is a former award-winning architect turned stay-at-home-mom living in a fixer-upper (to put it generously) house in Seattle with her tech whiz husband and precocious teen daughter. The other private school moms don't get her, and she is so isolated and agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India does her daily chores. She eventually disappears, and her family's journey to find her takes them to very remote places. Fascinating, funny, biting, everything a novel should be. I'm NOT giving this away.

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