Tag Archives: book reviews

Summer Reading Round-Up

As with exercise regimens and New Year’s resolutions, summer reading lists are those kind of goals that, despite the best of intentions, never seem to get finished. Still, I’m pretty jazzed about the amount of reading I’ve managed on the subway and at lunch, and I forgive myself for not getting to the rest of the list – I had two trilogies to attend to!

I realize that I never expressed my post-reading feelings about some of these titles, so here’s a round up of the books I promised I’d read, and actually did!

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo AND The Girl Who Played With FireStieg Larsson /

Murder mysteries aren’t exactly my thing, but I can see why this trilogy has so much buzz. If you can get through the first 250+ pages of exposition and keep up with the host of Swedish names, Larsson’s first book is a truly engrossing thriller, and the sequel takes it right on par from there.

I’m not sure why Dragon Tattoo, and especially detective/journalist/man-about-town Mikael Blomkvist, would be considered feminist in the least, as pointed out by The Rejectionist in this deliciously seething review. Blomkvist is exactly the man who male fiction writers like to fantasize they are (see Robert Langdon), and he spends way too much time being a lady-magnet in tweed to actually be a believable character. Salander, on the other hand, may be seriously screwy, but at least she is interesting.

I also agree that reading or watching highly disturbing scenes of rape and torture is not my idea of a good time (really, I only watch Law and Order SVU for Chris Meloni and Ice-T). I could stomach parts of the no-holds-barred Swedish film with the sound off, and reading those gruesome scenes left me needing some Glee songs and a cupcake.

That being said, take Stieg Larsson’s trilogy for what it is – crime fiction – not some icon of feminist literature. Maybe, like me, you don’t only read characters who hold to real-life moral standards (if that’s the case, knock yourself out with Left Behind, please). Get lost in Larsson’s cold, cold Scandinavian underworld… then come up for air and find something happy to do.

This Is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Tropper /

Several months after hearing Tropper speak and praising the cover design, I finally, finally read This Is Where I Leave You… and found a voice that I wasn’t exactly prepared for. Sure, the dark comedic elements were impeccably timed, as expected. But Tropper’s protagonist, Judd Foxman, also left me with a perspective on the middle-aged male psyche that I never experienced in any other story – not even Nick Hornby’s.

First of all, the entire premise of the book lends itself well to hilarious chaos: 4 siblings and in-laws in an otherwise non-religious family are forced together when their dying father’s last wish is for them to sit Jewish shiva.  Each quirky character brings a fresh, funny element to the dysfunctional family drama… but the pain and issues are real, too.

What surprised me, though, was how much insight I got from the inner dialogue of Judd, who is falling apart after his wife’s infidelity. The way that he narrates his relationships to women, brotherhood and ego are truly revealing, especially for a 22-year-old female reader. I may not have been able to relate to the book at all, but I could certainly appreciate it’s honesty.

Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld /

Prep was, by far, the biggest surprise of my summer.  I was looking forward to a juicy, fluffy YA read, but this was high school drama taken to a whole new level.  Prep chronicles the four years of Lee Fiora, a scholarship student at an elite boarding school. But the book contains none of the over-the-top, Gossip Girl-style cat fighting you’d think.  Instead, it is a poignant coming-of-age tale that is brimming with truth.

After a few weeks of devouring both the American Prep and British TV show, Skins, I have to wonder… is high school really that crazy for everyone?  Somehow, I’m not feeling that I missed out on much.

Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs /

I read the first chapter on my way to work this morning, and I’m not sold… yet.  I think it’s time I Wikipedia some background on Augusten and grab a ’70s print cocktail dress before I jump into this freaky family.

The Hunger Games AND Catching Fire AND Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins /

Do I really need to review this?  WHY HAVEN’T YOU JUST READ IT YOURSELF ALREADY?!

Or just read my blog posts about it.

image source

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I Don’t Care About Your Band – But I Do Care About Your Blog


In celebration of my first week at work, I thought you’d all like to know that Penguin actually has a pretty sweet blog.  And this week, I can’t get enough of their guest blogger/author, Julie Klausner!  She’s got a snappy, self-deprecating (and yet, somehow uplifting?) sense of humor that not only makes me not only want to tune into the next post-Valentine’s-day post, but also buy her book, I Don’t Care About Your Band: What I’ve Learned From Indie Rockers, Trust Funders, Pornographers, Felons, Faux-Sensitive Hipsters, And Other Guys I’ve Dated, which came out Tuesday.

I Don’t Care About Your Band is the latest in a line of books dedicated to the single and too cynical to mingle, focusing on the author’s hilariously awful failed relationships.  In the end, though, her message comes through loud and clear:  that all the jerks and weirdos in the world can’t cramp your style – or your hopes and dreams. Don’t believe me?  This Jezebel review will prove it to you.

If you’re like me and can’t get to Barnes and Noble to buy the book until after pay day tomorrow, skip the Valentine’s Day movie and check out a list of more single people treats:

1.  The Blind Leading The Blind – From Imboycrazy.com (how many times can I say “go to there”??), my weekly bible that’s a “pep talk in the form of a slap in the face in the form of a blog”.

2.  Schmitten Kitten – A hilarious blog with topics like, “Things In His/Her House That Make Us Sad”… it has the writing talents of both ladies and gents, and if they weren’t Philly-based, I’d be rocking all of their events.

3.  Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me (Grand Central, 2008) – Bro out with side-splitting short stories about break-ups from the male perspective – our favorite comedic males like Stephen Colbert, Nick Hornby, Andy Richter, Dan Savage etc. etc. etc.

4.  Along For The Ride by Sarah Dessen (Viking, 2009) – Missing some summer YA-lit in this cold, snowy weather?  Get out of your studio mode and release your inner night-owl with this gem of a novel about a perfectionist teen who learns to ride a bike and fall in love before hitting the books at college.

5.  If a celeb can do it, so can you – Lauren Graham is 40 and – SHOCKER – happy.  Cheers!

photo credit – put a heart on your pug’s face!

Lopsided (This Book Is Wonderfully Distracting)

9780143115632HJust sat down with some afternoon caffeine to finish my latest read, Lopsided: How Having Breast Cancer Can Be Really Distracting, a memoir by Meredith Norton.  This is exactly the kind of book that I love to read, as it combines two of my favorite pastimes: laughing inappropriately while traveling on the subway, and laughing inappropriately at serious and uncomfortable subjects.

Her point of view is fantastic because she never makes any pretensions about having some kind of enlightenment, or becoming a stronger/weaker person, because of her harrowing cancer experience.  Just because something threatened her way of life, doesn’t mean that her way of thinking changed (although there are poignant moments too).  And trust me, her way of thinking is hilarious!

“Every day of chemo that I ate a Krispy Kreme doughnut or took a nap instead of doing yoga I cursed Lance Armstrong and his toned abs, tiny butt, and three kinds of cancer.  ‘F you, Lance Armstrong.” I muttered as I sucked down my Dr. Pepper, “You can park your bike right here and kiss my ass.’ ” (p. 133)

(Plus, a FAB graphic cover design, yes?)

Similar Things I Like:

I Was Told There’s Be Cake, by Sloane Crosley (my hero!)

Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris (classic classic)

– Oh, and anything, anything Sarah Vowell!

Panorama: A Fold-Out Book

Panorama: A Fold-Out Book

Just received the book, Panorama, as a gift for being alive post-finals.  The accordion-fold layout is a rare variation from a traditional 32-page book format, and it really is a stunning presentation.  Read it page-by-page, like every other book, and journey through scenes of individual countries – with Fani Marceau’s poetic quip for each.  Then, night falls, and the viewer is invited to turn back through the

 other side of the pages… in a nighttime version of every spread.  As if Joelle Jolivet’s (365 Penguins) black-and-white woodcut illustrations weren’t gorgeous enough, they fold out into a 13 foot expanse of… well… the world!  Everything connects into two mural-like landscapes, day and night, that literally had me jumping with delight.  

The catch?  Yes, this book will be destroyed by eager 6-year-olds within minutes of any library purchasing this beauty.  But I’m all for fresh ways of approaching what it means to be a book (thank you, Independent Publishing class…), so look forward to much more of that here to come!  

– ABE