The Boston Girl

22450859The Boston Girl
Anita Diamant
Published December 9, 2014
322 pages (hardcover)

One of my husband’s best friends, Sergio, wrote a Favorites Series guest post for this blog in 2013. In it, he mentions that, early in their relationship, he and his wife (then girlfriend) decided to read each other’s favorite book as a way to get to know each other better. She read his favorite, All the King’s Men; he read her favorite, The Red Tent.

I’m not sure the masculine/feminine contrast between two books could be more resounding. All the King’s Men won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1947. It’s about the political rise (and simultaneous idealistic/moralistic fall) of a back-country Southern lawyer, based on Louisiana’s Huey Long. The Red Tent is told from the first-person perspective of Dinah, who is Jacob’s daughter and makes a cameo in The Book of Genesis. The book reveals the world of the red tent—the place where women had to go while menstruating or giving birth.

As it turns out, neither was a huge fan of the other’s favorite book (in fact, Sergio’s wife hated All the King’s Men and could barely finish it). People may accuse me of sexism, but I would argue that Sergio and his wife’s read-my-favorite-book exercise illustrates that there are “man books” and “woman books” (but I don’t think all books fall into one of those categories; there are gender-neutral books, too).  Continue reading

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We Are Pirates

22529221 We Are Pirates
Daniel Handler
Expected release date: February 3, 2015
290 pages (ARC e-book)

Let’s face it: a big bonus of having a book blog is getting lots of great free books. In fact, you get so many offers of books that you have to be picky (or, in my case, maybe even a little bitchy) when it comes to creating a book-review policy. Generally speaking, I will accept an ARC (advanced readers copy) only if it meets one of these two criteria:

  1. It’s by an author whose work I have previously read and enjoyed (I just got a copy of Ann Packer’s soon-to-be-released book, The Children’s Crusade, which I can’t wait to read); or
  2. I read the publisher’s blurb or an author request, and the book sounds unusually interesting or appealing (this is why I chose to read The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, both of which I really enjoyed).

When you’re reading an ARC, you don’t have the benefit of knowing the hype (professional reviews/ratings, popular reviews, etc.) before you start reading. You’re basically going in blind and hoping for the best. I have found that strict adherence to these criteria helps weed out the worst of the worst. These criteria give me a fighting chance of hitting on something good (and not wasting reading time on something boring or convoluted or just plain crappy).

Unfortunately, sometimes even these criteria can fail me. Take, for example, We Are Pirates, the soon-to-be-released book by Daniel Handler, which met both of my criteria. Continue reading

Shadow of Night

Shadow_of_Night_2012_NovelShadow of Night
Deborah Harkness
Published July 10, 2012
577 pages (hardcover)

If you happened to be friends with my husband and me for any appreciable length of time, then chances are we would’ve posed a critical question to you at some point during our friendship. It is a question that represents one of the few things about which we fundamentally disagree.

What is it? Life after death? Abortion? Gay rights? Please. We agree on all those things. No, the question to which I am referring represents a far more serious, important matter.

It is simply this: What is your ranking of the Back to the Future movies?

Back_to_the_FutureBack_to_the_Future_Part_IIBack_to_the_Future_Part_III

One of us (the right one) ranks them in order of release: 1, 2, 3 (Hover boards over petticoats. Every single time). The other (the wrong one) ranks them: 1, 3, 2.

We have not kept a scientific record of the results, but, if I were to estimate, I would say that they are evenly split. Interestingly, women often favor 2 over 3 (like me), and men often favor 3 over 2 (like Bryan). Significantly (and not at all surprisingly), every person we have ever polled has ranked the first movie in the top position. Continue reading

Station Eleven

StationElevenHCUS2Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
Published September 9, 2014
333 pages (hardcover)

There must be a reason The Walking Dead is the highest-rated show on TV. I’m sorry, but it’s certainly not because it’s particularly good. The acting is atrocious. The zombies are hilarious and inconsistent (I am flummoxed by the fact that these incredibly loud, moaning shufflers manage to sneak up on people so frequently). The wannabe-emotional storylines are laughable.

And yet . . . people LOVE this show.

There are lists galore to explain the show’s wild popularity. And they are all intellectually sound (like this one, which lists as its number one reason: “It rips away the bourgeois tea cozies and exposes the rotting meat underneath.”). According to these lists, people love it for its credibility (“Zombies do not exist, but ‘The Walking Dead’ makes you believe they could.”). They love it for its diversity (thank you, Glenn for being the sole-surviving Asian dude and a “model-minority”). And women, of course, love it because it “is missing one plot device on which so many other shows rely: rape.Continue reading

Bossypants

41zAv4Ncy0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Bossypants
Tina Fey
Published April 5, 2011
250 pages (mass market paperback)

I took a much longer holiday break from the blog than originally intended (sorry for that!) . . . and, now, my first post of the New Year is about a four-year-old book that everyone has already read. I apologize for this less-than-auspicious start to 2015.

Here is my (perhaps unsatisfactory) explanation for this behavior: I was in the Denver airport on Friday and had some time to kill. I noticed a teeny branch of one of my favorite independent bookstores (Tattered Cover) and wandered in. There on the first shelf was Bossypants, a book that multiple people told me I should read after I posted my review of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please last month. It has the look of a quick-reading book (at a scant 250 pages comprised of a bunch of short essays), so I figured I could whip through it during my flight home.

Plus, there was some bloggy forethought to my book choice. See, I knew that I’d be watching Tina Fey host the Golden Globes, and this seemed like an appropriate (and easy) tie-in to my blog post about Tina Fey’s book. When you’re rusty from not having written any blog posts for weeks and weeks, appropriate and easy are very appealing.

If you watched the opening monologue last night, then I’m sure you remember the moment when Tina and Amy highlighted Amal Alamuddin Clooney’s achievements to poke fun at the fact that George Clooney was receiving a lifetime achievement award (Tina: “Amal is a human rights lawyer who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected for a three-person UN commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip. So, tonight, her husband is getting a lifetime achievement award!” Amy: “Hollywood!”). And surely you remember their Bill Cosby jokes (Amy: “In Into the Woods, Cinderella runs from her prince, Rapunzel is thrown from a tower for her prince and Sleeping Beauty . . . just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby.” Tina [impersonating Bill]: “You put the pills in the people!”). If you didn’t watch last night, here is the opening monologue:

And here, as promised, is the appropriate and easy tie-in to Bossypants: These jokes are representative of the voice that Tina uses in Bossypants. It’s an over-arching feminist, girl-power message sprinkled with a bit of shock-value humor. Continue reading