Book Talk-What I’ve Read Recently

Book Talk–A regular feature where I tell you the books I’ve read and what ones I’m eyeing for the future. Discussion encouraged. Neglecting your family in favor of books, optional.

In what I now consider the smoothest bribe to get your wife to move to Poland ever, Michael bought me a Kindle for the trip where we visited Poland the first time. It was love at first sight, with the Kindle. Some might say the Kindle is an affront to almost all the good qualities of books. But I adore mine. The pages look like real book pages. It fits in my purse ever so easily. And? When I finish a book at 10 pm and feel the gaping chasm of no-more-words, I can just buy a new one and be reading by 10:02. Upon our return to Texas, Michael scored yet again by upgrading me to the Kindle Paperwhite. It still has book-like pages and now has a built-in light so that I can continue to fall asleep with my face in a book.

Here are the books I’ve read since returning to Texas:

The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes

This is only the second Marian Keyes book I’ve read, and I love her style. She is clever without being obnoxious. Her characters are flawed but not idiotic. This book appealed to me because it features three main characters who are all involved in the book business, two authors and one agent. I found the book industry humor and strife fascinating. One of the main characters grew on me by the end; I hated her at first as I believe we were supposed to do. This is a good read for those who only have small blocks of reading time; you’ll remember where you left off easily.

The Good House by Ann Leary

I chose this book based on recommendations by some smart people I follow on Twitter. It takes place in New England which was also a plus for me as I hope to one day own a summer home there, after publishing a bestseller, of course. The plot revolves around an empty-nest mother and her drinking problem. Well, her kids see a drinking problem while she sees nothing amiss with keeping wine in the trunk of an old car hidden in her garage. Hildy, the owner of the good house and the alcohol problem, is also a busy-body with her hand, nose, and opinions in the lives and secrets of everyone in town. This would be a great book club read.

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

I received this book for free from the publishers at Quirk Books when I first wrote a post for their Raising Quirk site. I was beyond excited because I had this book in my Samples section for a while. (Another plus of the Kindle is the ability to read samples before buying. I currently have 40 titles in my Samples. It’s possible I’m addicted.) The premise is that an asteroid is heading towards Earth. The main character, Detective Hank Palace, is tasked with maintaining some law when it seems there is no hope for the human race. He seems to be the only policeman concerned with solving crimes; all the others are just keeping peace and reading any and all updates on the path of the asteroid. I loved the look into human nature this premise provides. My dad was annoyed at how by-the-book Hank is, but I think he’s a great specimen to examine. This book is part of a trilogy; the second book, Countdown City, comes out in July 2013.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

I found this book after reading Gone Girl. I searched for similar noir-type titles, and this one came up. In fact, The Wall Street Journal called it, “A European Gone Girl.” But it’s not. At all. It is however, really good. It is definitely a look at the dark side of the characters, and it will leave you not sure who to root for by the end, but it’s not really a battle of crazy like Gone Girl. The story revolves around two couples meeting for dinner. There are flashbacks interspersed among the real-time events. The pacing of this novel is excellent. It’s a book you will not want to put down.

Sad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose

Have you read much on the site Jezebel.com? If so, this novel will read like an extended post for you. The author is a former editor for both Jezebel and Slate. I wanted to like it because it delved into the whether or not writing for the internet is ‘real’ writing or not. But, it just wasn’t that exciting. There is a scandal, and then the person who breaks the scandal is faced with repercussions, but I didn’t feel the resolution rang true. It was a fun read for someone like me who spends a lot of time on the internet, but if you only have limited reading time, this won’t be worth it.

Life Among Giants: A Novel by Bill Roorbach

The title of this novel just made sense to me as I wrote this sentence. In other words, this book is a thinker. It is very long and very deep. It’s about one thing and then another and then back to the first thing. I liked it, but I needed to read it in longer sessions. It’s about a boy, his sister, a rock star and his ballerina wife from across the pond, (Literally, they live on a pond.) and revenge. It touches on mental health struggles and the definition of love. So, you know, not light-hearted fun but really well-written.

The List by Karen Tanabe

Amazon led me to this book after I bought Sad Desk Salad. I know I didn’t give that one rave reviews, but this one still caught my eye. This time, the internet writer is working for The Capitolist, a news site based in Washington, D. C. Our lead character, Adrienne, is a style writer for the site looking for respect and a leg up on the company ladder. She too faces a moral dilema and a soul-search for what her true calling is. This was a fast read with lots of insider talk as the author used to work for Politico. I liked it and would read more by this author.

Moral of this post? Do not tell my husband how much I read; the dirty bathrooms at our apartment will surely piss him off now.

In addition to feeding book addictions of people all over the internet, I’d also like to talk books with you. I would love discussions about plots, characters, and themes. I decided one great way to get that going is with Book Club.

Our first book will be Someday, Someday, Maybe by former Gilmore Girl, Lauren Graham.

(And the first rule of Book Club is invite Ed Norton, Jr.)

Such a silver fox.

Such a silver fox.

So, are you in the club? Any books you want to hear about or talk about? What do you think of the books I’ve read so far this year? This is my first post with Amazon links; what do you think? Is okay?

Lost

Hey! I’m writing again when I said I wouldn’t because I was kind of dared to do it. And because this story has been in my head for months. It’s a fiction piece for the YeahWrite Speakeasy. Enjoy!

The magic was all in the finishing touches. It wasn’t enough to circle a word or two here and there, place a checkmark in the margin. No, to make it look legitimate, the essay had to look like it had taken a long time to grade. The pages had to be creased repeatedly at the staple. It needed food stains.

Tonight she was even more rushed with the essays. It was time to write something worth selling. Her main problem had been the old adage, “Write what you know.” How could she make a novel out of her job of glorified babysitting? Ms. Cooke needed more excitement.

She chugged her second beer and turned on the computer. She headed to the personals section of Craig’s List. She had spent the last three weeks trying to find a story idea in the desperate messages there. She wanted something exciting that she herself didn’t have. But all she found were beginnings of maybes and more writing for her to edit and correct, evidence of other terrible English teachers. She decided the only way to get a story out of it was to answer an ad.

However, she only found ads that made her sad, not inclined to answer. Tonight was her last go at it. She read the first five new posts for the day and saw the usual dejected pleas. But then she opened the sixth one.

“My wife has hidden my car somewhere, and I need it for work tomorrow.”

Her nervous energy turned to adrenaline-fueled confidence. She couldn’t reply to the ad fast enough.

“How can I help?”

She hit send and tried to think of what might happen next. But either the beer or the Twilight novels had dulled her imagination. Why was this man thinking Craig’s List was his best option? Was his wife dangerous? Couldn’t he take the bus? How would she help?

In less than five minutes, the ad’s author sent her a reply. Her hand hovered over the mouse; she suddenly wasn’t sure if she should go further. Maybe she could just use that one line to get started.

“Oh, Thank God. Can you meet me in 20 mins?”

Now she was on full alert. The man would abduct her and steal her car, though probably not to go to work. Being a teacher was fine. Eventually her students would be more interesting, and she’d have literary gold.

“Are you insane? I don’t know you. I’m not meeting you anywhere.”

She stepped away from the computer and paced her living room. What was she thinking? Craig’s List for adventure? Death and dismemberment had been in play all along.

“Gah, I’m sorry. I’m desperate. I assumed anyone who answered the ad would be ready to act. It’s 8pm, and I am running out of time to get my car and what’s inside. I’m sorry to bother you.”

He wasn’t just wanting his car; he needed what was inside. Fast. That was interesting. Crap. She was getting sucked in to his trap. But, on the other hand, what kind of criminal apologized and used words like, ‘gah’?

“Okay, surely you can see why I’d be hesitant? Can you tell me what happened? Why did your wife hide your car?”

A conversation was the way to go here. Surely the other lonely losers did that before putting themselves at the mercy of a weirdo.

“It’s a long story, and, like I said, I don’t have much time. What I need is someone who can help me decipher the clue quickly. Are you smart?”

“Well, I’m answering a Craig’s List ad from a guy who lost his car; do I seem smart?”

“Look, are you going to help me or not?”

“You have to tell me what you need in the car.”

“It’s nothing illegal. It’s nothing weird. It’s just embarrassing.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s for my job, and I don’t like telling people my profession. They criticize it.”

“Do you want your stuff?”

“Yes! Listen, my wife said the car was where Jack Shepard met Kate to beg her to return to the island. There are zero words in that sentence that help me.”

Okay, this guy was a weirdo. Who didn’t recognize the characters from Lost? Ms. Cooke could practically rewrite that scene from memory.

“I know where it is. But, I still want to know what’s inside.”

“Just tell me!!”

“No, I just want to make sure I’m helping someone who deserves it.”

“Trust me. No one deserves what’s in that car. It’s awful.”

Now she had to know. It seemed like this guy was in a worse state than she was.

“I’m not trying to be mean. I’m trying to be less nervous about what I’m doing. I feel like I’m part of a crime now.”

“It’s not a crime; I promise.”

“Then tell me.”

“Fine. I’m a seventh-grade English teacher. I left my classes’ essays in my car, and grades are due in two days. I haven’t graded a single paper because I know they will be awful. My wife is sick of my whining and procrastination, so she acted out. There. Commence to telling me how pitiful my job is. Tell me that I am nothing but a glorified babysitter. Tell me, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” Yes I have a novel I’d like to get published, so I can quit. But no, I guess I’m not a good writer if it’s been rejected 13 times. I’m stuck as a teacher.”

Ms. Cooke raised her shaking hand from the mouse. She reached around to the power switch and flipped it. She gathered her graded papers and shoved them in her tote bag. Then she backed into her tiny bedroom, threw the tote on the chair next to her bed, and perched on the edge. After several still moments which didn’t even rumple the plain white sheets on her twin bed, she turned off the lamp and let the dark cover her.