Book Review: Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Best Friends Forever
Jennifer Weiner
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When I saw Atria Book’s advertising their Galley Grab event on Twitter, I had to go pick some books. The arrived recently, and among them was Jennifer Weiner’s latest novel, Best Friends Forever. As with most of her books, I devoured it in the space of one or two afternoons and evenings.

Weiner, of course, has the talent of being able to give us a view of life as clear as if it had been recorded by one of the latest, greatest camcorders, but in this novel, the lens has a darker filter than her usual work. She’s grown from chick lit to serious fiction, and while the story is just as compelling as any of her others, the darker, more serious tone may be a bit jarring to someone expecting something like Good in Bed or In Her Shoes.

The story, as the title implies, is that of two friends. Val and Addie met in childhood, bonded, and then separated after high school, as often happens. When Val shows up at Addie’s door years later, bloodstained and shocky, how can she deny her best friend anything?

What follows is a sort of grown-up road trip, both physical and metaphysical, and at journey’s end, both women are more in touch with themselves and each other.

Sunday Salon: Free Books!

The Sunday

It may not be exciting as winning a lifetime of Vegas vacations, but this week has seen me fetching free books from my mailbox at least three times. Two of them were sent because authors or publishers asked if I’d be willing to read/review their work. I love reading new authors, and the people who have approached me are so polite, and their work so interesting, that I could not say no.

The third mailbox trek, which resulted in multiple books, was my order from ATRIA Books’ “GalleyGrab“, where reviewers can request soon-to-be released work. One of these was the latest from Jennifer Weiner, Best Friends Forever, and since I finished Water Witches the day it arrived, and I’d been eagerly awaiting its arrival, that’s the book that has been holding my attention for the past couple of days.

This is NOT a review of Best Friends Forever, though I will say that Weiner’s tone is a bit darker in this offering, the humor more subtle, and the characters a bit less lovable, though still very likable. I’m just over half way through it, as I write this, and it will probably be my last book for July.

Maybe not, though, because I do read fairly quickly, and I now have a stack of books I want to read in addition to the stack of books I bought last year, and have put off reading, and have promised I will wade through before I spend (much) money on new books.

Of course, my birthday is in August, so all bets are off next month.

Booking Through Thursday: Quickies


On Thursday, July 23rd, Booking through Thursday asked:

Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)

Reading for me is just as much an escape as rv camping is for other people, but just as the perfect starry summer night should never be spent alone, reading preferences should be shared. That’s how you find kindred spirits, after all. Here, then, are my preferences:

* Reading something frivolous? Or something serious? It depends. Does Chris Moore count as frivolous? I’ve been reading a lot of his stuff lately, but when I was going through heavy stuff, I read all of the Holmes/Russell series, which are hardly light and fluffy.
* Paperbacks? Or hardcovers? Paperbacks in the bath, hardcovers in bed. I’m more likely to let others borrow/keep paperbacks.
* Fiction? Or Nonfiction? Fiction, but I do love biographies, and non-fiction has it’s place.
* Poetry? Or Prose? I read more prose than poetry. I think poetry is meant to be heard more than read.
* Biographies? Or Autobiographies? Either, as long as the subject is interesting and the writing is good. Some really fascinating people just aren’t good writers.
* History? Or Historical Fiction? Either. Both. It depends on the period and the writing.
* Series? Or Stand-alones? Both. Stand-alones are great when you want to try many different authors. Series are good if you want to immerse yourself in another world.
* Classics? Or best-sellers? Actually, I prefer contemporary fiction that isn’t quite onto the best-seller list, but is still good. Though I was raised on classics, and I certainly think all well-rounded people should have a working familiarity with them.
* Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose? It depends. In a bodice-ripper lurid prose is necessary. Generally, I prefer basic prose, but good word choices.
* Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness? Plots, please. James Joyce and his ilk make me fall asleep – their style is too much like my drowsy brain.
* Long books? Or Short? The longer the better. Although I do enjoy short stories.
* Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated? No illustrations, please. I prefer to create my own mental images.
* Borrowed? Or Owned? I like to borrow books from friends who are serious readers, especially if a book has really touched them. I don’t like library books, though, because those funky plastic covers drive me crazy.
* New? Or Used? New is preferred. I don’t like books that smell musty, or have absorbed cigarette smoke.

Review: Water Witches by Chris Bohjalian

Water Witches
by Chris Bohjalian
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Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight can tell you that water is one of the best diet supplements. Anyone who knows me can tell you that water is my element, even though by birth I’m a fire sign. What can I say? Opposites attract.

It should come as no surprise, then, that when I saw a novel entitled Water Witches staring at me from the shelves at Barnes and Nobel, I HAD to take it home, and yet, I left it on my own shelves for months before cracking it open earlier this week.

What I found was a gently comic novel with a hint of fantasy, about dowsers in Vermont trying to fix a drought, while the protagonist of the novel, who was father, husband, and brother-in-law to these dowsing women, was working to aid a ski resort in gaining the proper permits to tap a local river in order to make snow.

As is to be expected in a novel about rural Vermont, there were colorful characters, cozy home scenes, and talk of maple syrup. What I did not expect, what surprised and delighted me, was the way the politics of environmentalism were worked in without the novel ever feeling preachy.

I don’t think I’m likely to pick up a divining rod and go searching for hidden springs under my front lawn, but I did, after reading this lovely little novel, spend a happy hour poking around the website for the American Society of Dowsers.

Review: Fluke, by Christopher Moore

by Christopher Moore
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Nothing makes you want to lose belly fat like a Christopher Moore novel about whales and swimming and Hawaii. This is both because his writing makes you want to be the one diving into the water, and because you will laugh so hard that any jiggling bits you may have will eventually become painful.

Fluke like many of Moore’s novels, is an adventure comedy. This one is about whale biology, and the main character is Nate Quinn, who turns around one day to see a whale with “Bite Me” painted on it’s tail. Or so he claims. Strangely, the frame of film with the proof is missing when the film is eventually developed, and he is greeted by a vandalized home and office upon he returns from his voyage.

As with all of Moore’s offerings, to elaborate would be to spoil the plot. Just know that Moore has managed to combine the study of humpback whales with enough laughter, sexual innuendo, and preposterous misadventure, and to do so in such a way that the reader can almost feel the ocean spray.

Read this novel poolside, or better yet, take it to the beach.

Booking Through Thursday: Unread


On Thursday, July 2nd, Booking through Thursday asked:

“So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ “

Right now on my nightstand I have too many books by Vonnegut, Murakami and Chris Moore. Too many because while I enjoy all of those writers, I don’t really like immersing myself in them, the way I immerse myself in Maeve Binchy or Anne Rivers Siddons, or Laurie R. King. Those women, I could read forever. Without a break. As long as they kept giving me new stuff.

Vonnegut, on the other hand, is weird. A writing coach I’ve worked with called him quirky, and encouraged me to embrace my own quirkyness. The problem is that Vonnegut’s quirkiness involves breaking the fourth wall of his novels. He’d have no compunctions, for example, about moving from a chapter about two guys going fishing, to explaining how insurance plans work.

(Disclaimer: As far as I know, Vonnegut has never written about fishing. Of course, I could be wrong.)

In any case my Unread books include:
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, by Christopher Moore
Timequake, by Kurt Vonnegut
Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins
The Electric Michelangelo, by Sarah Hall
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, by Joshilyn Jackson

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, that’s only one each from Vonnegut and Moore, and no Murakami.” That’s because this list only represents the books I can reach without waking the dogs. It’s 4:41 AM – what DO you expect?

Booking through Thursday: Kiss and Tell?


On Thursday, July 2nd, Booking through Thursday asked:

Do you read celebrity memoirs? Which ones have you read or do you want to read? Which nonexistent celebrity memoirs would you like to see?

I don’t really read that many celebrity memoirs, unless the celebrities are politicians. For example, I read Living History by Hilary Clinton, and Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life, by Queen Noor, but when it comes to kiss-and-tell memoirs from actors and such, I’m not all that interested. Frankly, chasing down leads for insurance articles is more interesting than most hot celebrity tell-alls.

I did quite enjoy My Life in France, by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme, and I had a blast reading Anthony Rapp’s offering Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent, but the first was more a true autobiography than a celeb memoir, in the sense that there was no name dropping, and the second was so simple and sincere, that it was hard to count it among the carefully calculated, polished, publications that the folks on People‘s “most beautiful” list are giving us.

In Progress: Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood
Harumi Murakami
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I’m about half-way through Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami. I had the book on my wish list forever, and then finally bought after last summers writing conference, because so many people there were talking up Murakami. Honestly, I’m not impressed.

I mean, I don’t hate the book. The characters are well written, certainly the protagonist is every inch an unfocused college student, but I’m finding his story more frustrating than compelling, perhaps because I have no focus of my own right now.

Part of my negative response, I think, is that there’s about as much romance, even in the “romantic” scenes of this book as there are in lists of Ferrari parts. Actually, considering that the Ferrari bits eventually lead to a working Ferrari, the list is probably more compelling.

And that’s the problem. With this book, there’s no real, driving, plot. There’s no “there” there, and there’s no motivation to take the journey.

I’ll finish the book, because I’m trying to not buy new books (except dog training manuals) until I’ve finished my existing stack, but unless something changes drastically, I’m afraid I won’t be burning to read any more Murakami in the near future.