Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chick Lit: Queen of Babble

Queen of Babble, Meg Cabot

Lizzie Nichols has just (sort of) graduated from college and is going to England to meet her (sort of) boyfriend, Andrew, and spend the summer with him.  Andrew "rescued" her from a fire in her college dorm earlier that fall but then had to leave Anne Arbor, MI, when his student visa had problems.  In the land across the pond, Lizzie is horrified to find out that not only is he not the man of her dreams, but he told his mom she liked tomatoes, which she vehemently, does not.

Mildly heartbroken, Lizzie gets on a train to France where she meets up with her college roommate who is volunteering at a chateau that does weddings.  She runs into Luke on the train, the owner's son, not knowing it's him, and confesses her entire sordid story with college and the ex-boyfriend Andy.

Embarrassment, humor, and a wedding dress maid entirely of doilies follows.

Meg Cabot is most famous for The Princess Diaries and other YA books.  The Queen of Babble series was recommended to me by my sister and while it was quick and fun, the writing isn't my usual thing.  It's entirely too stream of conscious, and that's coming from a person that writes stream of conscious.

One other pet peev ... I was never sure how to pronounce some of the names.  She helps you out with this when characters are first mentioned, but it bugs me sometimes.  I liked that Lizzie got her foot in her mouth a lot (I do that - in far more embarrassing was than Miss Lizzie) and I liked Luke though there wasn't enough of him.  There was more the idea of him that was discussed.  So we'll see if he's more involved (he should be) in the next one.

It was good but different.  One of its best attributes, coming off a spell of books that are multiple POVs is that it stayed entirely in the first person.  Which seems to be really rare lately.

I'm definitely going to finish the other one (Queen of Babble in the Big City ).  And look!  I finished one more book in May!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Piano Teacher

In 1950s Hong Kong, Claire Pendleton arrives with her husband Martin who works for the Water Board.  Claire becomes board or anxious and begins teaching piano lessons to an affluent Chinese family, Victor and Melody Chen and their young daughter Locket.  Here she meets the driver, Will Truesdale, and begins having an affair.

Will has been in Hong Kong for many years and was in love with Trudy Liang, a Euroasian of Chinese and Portugese decent.  Trudy is the belle of the ball in pre-WWII Hong Kong, the daughter of an heiress and a debutante (or something similar, I searched for a word).  She is vivacious and tenacious and all those "acious" words that people use to describe the life of the party.  Read: the girl everyone hates but secretly wants to be.

The more I read about this region during this time period the more I want to read.  The history framing the central story was really interesting, if the characters themselves were less compelling.  It started off really slowly, and then sort of raced to the finish line.  I felt sort of confused as it wrapped up and didn't quite understand all that was happening.

Specifically at one point, where a plot is revealed while in a certain persons perspective that this individual could not have known.  This bothered me throughout the last 20% of the book.  Why did the author reveal this fact at this point and then have the "ta-da" moment at the very end?  It confused me.  As I'm probably confusing you but trying not to reveal too much.
I didn't like a single character in this book.  They were all unloveable.  Your classic anti-hero story where Will refuses to do something, making him a good guy, but pays for it the rest of his life by regretting not doing that which would have made him evil.  It was hard to like him for his principles when he hated himself for not breaking them.
Claire is a theif and that's never explained fully.  Obviously she's a bored housewife who is confused by Asia but yet doesn't miss England.

Trudy is mean spirited and selfish and petty.  The author tries at the end to reverse this opinion of her, by showing her actions as sacrificial rather than self-serving.  I don't see it.  She still seems the petulant child to me, who let it go when she didn't get her way but refused to save herself or others with her petulance.

All that having been said ... me not liking the characters did not stop me from enjoying the book.  Odd, I know.  But the story carries itself and the historical backdrop of Asia in WWII is fascinating.  Dark, sad, scary and horrible in some cases, but fascinating.

Point of note though, it changes perspective in almost a dizzing way.  And at first I didn't mind.  But than it became more and more annoying as the author used it to build suspense.  She would get half way through a story in one time period (1953) and then break in the middle and go back to the past (1940s).  It was disorienting.

Definitely worth picking up, despite it's faults.  It was a compelling story.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's On Your Night Stand? May 2009

Every month I wish that this post was just a day or two away.  But alas, it's not.  I still contend that I might be able to finish one more book in May.  But it's a slim hope.
What's on your nightstand is hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.

So, what did I read?  Only one book that was on my original list.

I read, Vision in White, Nora Roberts, and Mary Balogh's marriage series (which I didn't review).  So that's a total of 4 books.  Boo hiss.  (Again, more than likely 5 books, as I'm 60% done with The Piano Teacher according to my Kindle)

In my defense, May was a very busy month for me.  And June and July are going to be just as bad.

But, there's lots of airport / plane time coming up in June, so with that in mind, here is what I really must finish for June:

Queen of Babble (must return to Megan)
Queen of Babble in the Big City (must return to Megan)
Dead to the World (must get further in this series so can intelligently discuss with cousin)

I'm leaving it at that.  Oh wait ... the 4th Mary Balogh book came out last week and Girl from Junchow (sequal to Russian Concubine) comes out on June 2nd.

There is no shot of my TBR getting any smaller.

Edited on May 31st: I finished The Piano Teacher (May 27) and Queen of Babble (May 31), so that's 6 books in May.  Not too shabby!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - May 20

I'm always a day late ...

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  1. Grab your current read
  2. Open to a random page
  3. Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Pg. 123
"They can hang out in the kitchen and be part of it a bit.  You don't want to leave them alone-they might not be there when you come back!"

Monday, May 18, 2009

Chick Lit: Vision in White

For my first book for the Chick Lit challenge, Vision in White, by Nora Roberts.

Nora Roberts one millionth book?  No but it's close.  So close that many think she's writing by committee now which is why so much of her work sounds completely different than her earlier work.  But whatever.  I still pick up whatever trilogy she has going.  I'm a sucker for a story that doesn't end.

Which brings us to Vision in White.
This new quartet is about a wedding planning company and the four women that work there.  This was fun for me because we are in the midst of my sister's wedding extravaganza and I can relate to the crazy requests that were brought up in the book.  And, more pointedly, the opinions that are requested and then disregarded immediately.

The love interest is formulaic in that comforting, peanut butter and jelly sandwhich kind of way so that's not all that interesting.  The dialogue (what I think Roberts is best at) is witty and fun between the four girlfriends.  Which is really the best part of this book, aside from the frilly, tulle ridden wedding backdrop of course.

This will probably end up being my least favorite in the series as the constant photography (not well researched I don't think) angle was just not good.  But, I'll bring it for my sister to read.  It's like a tub of ice cream ... a guilty pleasure that isn't helping you in anyway but it's very fun to partake.  I recommend for beach reading or warm bubble bath (with already mentioned ice cream) reading.

Monday Musings May 18th

Hosted by Just One More Page ... Today's musing is ...

Do you remember how you developed a love for reading? Was it from a particular person, or person(s)? Do you remember any books that you read, or were read to you, as a young child? (question courtesy of Diane).

I sort of do.  I was probably in second grade or so and wasn't doing so hot in reading.  My parents got me Super Solvers Midnight Rescue!  What, you don't know what this is?!  Well I'll tell you.

You are the Super Solver on a quest to save Shady Glen school. Morty Maxwell, your arch nemesis, is trying to erase the school. Only great reading, comprehension, deductive reasoning and problem solving can save Shady Glen. You explore the school to find clues hidden in stories and notes. Take pictures of Marty's robots and compare the pictures to your clues to find the right robot. If you are a super reader and solver you can stop Morty, but you only have until midnight.

And it was awesome.  And I think my reading improved?  I'm not sure.  But I loved the game.  Then there was Baby Sitters Club and a host of other books that I love and still remember.  It's amazing how comforting books have become for me.  And I really want to surround myself with the books I had as a child and just sort of relive me reading them as a child.

But the number one thing that founded my reading would be my mother.  She was never without a book.  There were books under beds, under tables, under the couch (always one under the couch).  And she usually had one in her purse.  Her reasoning, "you never know when you're going to have to wait in line."

It's just as sound today.

The other thing I remember, is we could ask for toys or candy or stuffed animals and be denied.  But if we asked for books ... she would never say no.  And we were always at the library.  In fact, in like 5th grade my family participated in a week without TV sponsored by the school.  And it was all about encouraging kids to read.  And I did the summer reading program at the library most summers.  Free (important for thrifty moms!) and time consuming for often bored children.

My mom was (is) a genius!

Book Update

Okay so here's what's going on ...

I read 3 romance novels in as many days, and finished Nora Roberts Vision in White on the airplane to and from Denver.  I recommend it to those getting married.  The back story and info on the weddings and picking colors and flowers is oh so fun.  I think I'm going to enjoy the next four books for that reason alone.

So my absence from here is not that I'm not reading (not possible) it's that I'm not reading anything worth reviewing.  Except maybe Vision in White ... a review may come for that one as I think it fits my Chick Lit challenge.  And I'll tell you why ...

The only difference between Chick Lit and traditional romance novels is ... drum roll ... the size of the book.  Chick Lit is published in Trade Paperback size and traditional romance is in mass market paperback.  I think Miss Roberts got fed up with being cast into the Rom category while other, lesser writers are in the societal acceptable airplane reading category of Chick Lit.  So she published ViW in Trade.

Which ticks. me. off.

Trade is ridiculoulys expensive and just ... stupid.  Nothing goes to Mass anymore.  Harry Potter 7 is just NOW going to Trade in July and probably won't hit Mass for another 2 years, if then (I should fact check that).  But Trade is stupid.  I hate paying $15+ for paperbacks.

Which is why I will always love my kindle.

But anyway I digress.  The fact that ViW is in Trade I think qualifies it was Chick Lit so I may use it for that challenge.  But really, oh Chick Lit readers that think you aren't reading Romance novels.  You truly are.  There is no difference.  There's just as much adult content in Chick Lit as traditional Romance (more so in some cases) so please, quit thinking your better than Rom.

Back to my update ...

Currently I'm reading The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee and I have on tap to read First Comes Love, Than Comes Malaria.  This one is non-fic (gasp!) and is recommended by my husband (who hasn't read it, but wants me to read it?).  But I'll read it and see if it might be good to recommend to my friend that is on her way to Africa this week on a mission trip.  Speaking of which ... please pray for her and her group.  This is going to be a life altering trip for them and I pray for the safest of visits for them.

Then I have the always scary TBR pile that grows every day.

So I'll have lots of reviews for you shortly.  I swear.

Thank you!

I won another giveaway!  I know, I know, you can't believe it either.  When I say another, I mean my first giveaway win was from Jessica over at Bluestocking Society when I won Nights in Rodanthe.  Which, to my ultimate dismay, I still have not read.

Le sigh.

But thank you to Ms.Nelly from All About {n} for hosting the giveaway for Made in the U.S.A by Billie Letts.  And yeah for winning!  Thanks!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays is hosted by Just One More Page.

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about your tbr pile…

How many books (roughly) are in your tbr pile? Is this in increasing number or does it stay stable? Do you ever experience tbr anxiety in the face of this pile? (question courtesy of Wendy)

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks.
Apparently, according to this post, this question caused some tummy aches for several readers.

My TBR pile is a constant tummy ache for me to, so I understand.

There are probably 15-20 books in my TBR pile.  It's constantly fluctuating.  I take one away, I add three, I read two, I add seven.  I face some of anxiety in the face of this pile.  One, because it represents cash money that I've spent, in many cases, and two, because some of those books I just don't want to read anymore.

Like Fall on Your Knees.  Having read 4 or 5 of Oprah's book club picks, I have no faith that this one is any good.  And it just looks so looooooonnnnggg.

So, what I should do is just pick out the ones I know I'm not going to read and trade them in at the used book store.  That would be the intelligent, and indeed healthy, thing to do.  But it would also be admitting that I can not - ever - get through this pile of particular books.

When did my pile get to be so unmanageable?  When I actually started piling it up in a place where I see it all the time.  Used to be, books that I bought would get put away on the book shelf.  In the craft room.  Which is in a part of the house I don't ever have to visit if I don't want to.

Now that I'm making a conscious effort not to buy more books until I read the ones I have (hear that brain! I'm talking to you!) the pile is in my bedroom on a chair next to my bed.  And visible.  Constantly.

But that's okay.  At some point I'll read them.  For now I just like having them around.  Knowing they are there if I want them.