Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Kate's To-Do List:
1. Go to rehab
2. Befriend/spy on "It Girl"
3. Writer killer expose
4. Land dream job
When Kate Sandford lands an interview at her favorite music magazine, The Line, it's the chance of a lifetime. So Kate goes out to celebrate - and shows up still drunk to the interview the next morning. It's no surprise that she doesn't get the job, but her performance has convinced the editors that she'd be perfect for an undercover assignment for their gossip rag. All Kate has to do is follow "It Girl" Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop - and complete the thirty-day program - they'll reconsider her for the position at The Line. Kate takes the assignment, but when real friendships start to develop, she has to decide if what she has to gain is worth the price she'll have to pay.
Kate is an alcoholic, but doesn't realize it. She drinks all the time and for any reason. Her roommate has been purchasing good wine as an investment and Kate has been drinking it all in secret. In order to pay for her drinks, Kate is a freelance writer. She loves to write and loves music, so she is hoping to one day write for her favorite music magazine, The Line. As luck would have it, an opening appears at The Line for a writer and Kate sends off her resume ASAP. She receives a phone call asking her to come down for an interview. Giddy with excitement, Kate goes out drinking and winds up showing up drunk to her interview. Five minutes in, she has to rush out of the room and run to the bathroom to vomit up last night's drinks. Unsurprisingly, she does not get the job. In order to drown her sorrows at having mucked up the interview, Kate settles down on the couch with a bottle of her roommate's wine. She doesn't connect the dots - the bottle she is holding is the reason she didn't get the job. Anyhow, The Line winds up calling Kate back in for another interview about a different job. You see, they think Kate is an alcoholic (based on the facts that she showed up reeking of alcohol, couldn't answer any questions and wound up throwing up - how could they not? ) and have just come up with an idea for a story for their gossip magazine. Apparently the latest "It Girl" is in rehab and they want someone on the inside who can feed them interesting tidbits about the "It Girl's" stay in rehab. Knowing that Kate can write (based on her resume) and that she suffers from a drinking problem, they figure that she would make the perfect informant. Embarrassed that they think she is an alcoholic, but eager to get a job with The Line, Kate agrees to the assignment. You see, if Kate succeeds in giving them inside scoops, then they will give her another shot at interviewing for The Line.
Okay, so you can pretty much guess what happens next, right? Kate enters rehab, discovers she is an alcoholic, befriends the "It Girl", and falls in love. Of course, nothing can end so simply, so a little drama must ensue - like, The Line threatening to sue Kate for $40, 000 (the money spent to pay for Kate's rehab and the other costs detailed in the contract she signed when she accepted the assignment) if she doesn't complete her assignment. After all, how can Kate write an article about her new best friend, right? Well, considering her bank balance is nil, the decision gets made rather quickly. Anyhow, more OMGs occur and the next thing you know Kate is all smiles. So, suffice it to say, happiness abounds. The end.
Now for my thoughts on the book, hmmm...I love chick lit or women's fiction or whatever its called nowadays. In fact, I dip into this genre every now and again - its perfect for reading on a rainy day or for the beach or for helping get someone out of a reading rut (which is usually how I use chick lit - as a quick read to get me reading again). However, Spin didn't do the trick. It wasn't a fun read on a rainy day and it didn't help get me out of my reading funk. You see, I wound up reading Spin bit by bit, like, during commercials while I watched Glee or while I waited in line at the post office. It was just a book that I couldn't really get into. I found myself skimming ahead and happy when the last page was turned. I just felt like this was a book I had read before. The writing was okay-ish, but the characters were under-developed and the story felt a bit flat to me. I just couldn't get on board with Spin.
Monday, February 20, 2012
When fifteen-year-old Jake Bergamot receives - and then forwards to a friend - a sexually explicit video that an eighth-grade admirer sent to him, the video goes viral within hours. The scandal that ensues threatens to shatter his family's sense of security and identity - and, ultimately, their happiness. This Beautiful Life is a devastating, clear-eyed portrait of modern life that will have readers debating their assumptions about family, morality, and the choices we make in the name of love.
Worst nightmare ever! Or at least it would be, if I had children. Okay, if I had children, it would probably be one of my worst nightmares. I mean, come on, what parent wouldn't be horrified to learn that their son had been a part of a scandal so huge that it would threaten to derail his high school career? In fact, a scandal so provocative that it could even damage your own career aspirations, social ties and possibly cause your entire family unit to implode. I'm actually convinced I was reading a Lifetime movie - this book was just so addictive, mesmerizing and completely chock full of drama I couldn't help but envision it being played out as a Lifetime movie (yes I do watch those - for shame)!!
So, what is the nightmare scenario? Well, here goes: The Bergamot family reside in New York City and are happily enjoying a life filled with career highs, slumber parties, organic foods and everything else you can imagine a family of four enjoys. Dad is crazy-busy at work; mom is driving daughter, Coco, all over town to dance classes, doctor's appointments, and play dates; Coco is thriving at school with her gaggle of friends; and Jake is simply trying to make it through high school, all the while hoping his crush, Audrey, will finally notice him. However, everything is about to change for this seemingly happy family of four - with the click of a button.
Jake winds up at a party being thrown by an eighth-grader named Daisy - no parents are home, alcohol flows freely and everyone who is anyone seems to be there. (seriously, all these high school kids are hanging out with a bunch of twelve and thirteen year old kids? That just doesn't make sense to me, but then again I'm thirty-three, so what do I know of the social customs of today's youths. But I digress.) At this party, Jake drinks and makes-out with Daisy, the hostess of the party. Daisy is crushing hard on Jake and even tries to get him to head up to her bedroom with him, but Jake sobers up enough to realize that he shouldn't even be kissing Daisy (she's too young) and that he needs to leave this party ASAP. He mainly sobers up, because Audrey (his crush) and several of his so-called friends have witnessed him and Daisy together and well, Jake is feeling foolish and embarrassed. Anyhow, once at home, Jake receives an email from Daisy. Unsure why she would email him, Jake clicks open the video she has attached and soon enough he finds himself watching Daisy in all her glory. Shocked by what he's just seen, Jake immediately forwards the sexually explicit video to his best friend, and well, you can imagine what happens next. Yep, the video goes viral and soon enough people from out of town are asking Jake if he's seen this crazy video with a girl named Daisy in it. At school, boys high-five Jake and girls scowl at him - he is infamous. As for Daisy, she's signing autographs and seems to be taking it all in stride. However, things quickly go from up to down for Jake when he's called into the head of the school's office. And, this is pretty much where everything goes downhill for the entire Bergamot family.
Now, I'm not going to tell you what happens next, suffice it to say, everyone is affected by Jake's viral video. The happy home is no longer a happy one. Disappointment, fear, annoyance, and cabin fever ensue, along with trips to their attorney's office. All the while you are left wondering so many things: like what are my kids really up to when I'm not around to what kind of parents' leave their thirteen year old kid home alone all the time? Of course you also wonder, where Daisy would even get an idea to make a pornographic video from in the first place. Plus, why would Jake send the video to anyone and not realize the repercussions that would arise as a result. Seriously! Is everyone that naive? I know they are kids, but their actions are far from child-like. And aside from the kids, you are left to think about the role that the Internet plays in your family's life and how a tool that is supposed to be used for research or for booking plane tickets, could wind up ruining a family's livelihood.
Talk about a riveting read! Schulman has created a story so tantalizing that you can not and will not put it down until you have turned the last page! Her writing is terrific - you are captivated from page one! The characters are fully realized - you either hate them or empathize with them. And the flow of the story rides high and low, just as the Bergamot's emotions go up and down. This is one book that you do not want to miss! It is undoubtedly a must read! I will be recommending This Beautiful Life to everyone and anyone I know.
Monday, February 13, 2012
In the summer of 1976, during their annual retreat on Cape Cod, the McKotch family came apart. Now, twenty years after daughter Gwen was diagnosed with Turner's syndrome - a rare genetic condition that keeps her trapped forever in the body of a child - eminent scientist Frank McKotch is divorced from his pedigreed wife, Paulette. Eldest son Billy, a successful cardiologist, lives a life built on secrets and compromise. His brother Scott awakened from a pot-addled adolescence to a soul-killing job and a regrettable marriage. And Gwen - bright and accomplished but hermetic and emotionally aloof - spurns all social interaction until, well into her thirties, she falls in love for the first time. With compassion and almost painful astuteness, The Condition explores the power of family mythologies - the self-delusions, denials, and inescapable truths that forever bind fathers and mothers and siblings.
Okay, so I might be the only person who didn't care much for this book, but so be it. I've read several wonderful reviews of Haigh's other works, and so I thought that I would definitely enjoy reading The Condition. Well, I didn't. I just did not engage with the McKotch family at all. They are the most superficially and stunted group of people I have ever read about. I just didn't care for them one bit and that made it difficult to get through the book. Now the weird thing is that I've read books where I can't stand the characters, yet I can't help but caught up in their stories. That did not happen this time. Instead of getting immersed in the McKotch's lives, I found myself skimming ahead and reading bits and bobs until I found a part that caught my interest. This did not make for an enjoyable reading experience, but nonetheless I got through the book.
So, what's the book about? Well, its about a family that falls apart one summer and what we read about is the aftermath of that break. Years later, Frank, the father, is still obsessed with his work and still unable to connect with his children as much as he tries to with one day visits. As for Paulette, the mother, she's now obsessed with her antiques and finding out what is happening in her children's daily lives. The children pretty much keep to themselves. Billy, the eldest brother, is a cardiologist living in New York with his boyfriend, a fact that he is keeping secret from his family, who have no idea that their son is gay. Scott, the youngest sibling, is unhappy in his marriage and struggling to deal with a job he truly hates. As for Gwen, the middle child, she is ensconced in her job at a university and avoids dating and friendships because of her Turner's syndrome, a condition she discovered she had the summer her family fell apart. Turner's syndrome is a disease in which a person's body will not fully develop or grow - instead their body will remain like that of a child's.
All in all, a fully dysfunctional family that seems to unite during the holidays. There are moments when the entire family is reunited and those are the most interesting sections of the book. As for the times when I had to read all about Paulette's worries over Gwen's new beau or the fact that she lent money to her contractor (whom she crushed on) - well, those were boring times. Her story was rather dull and predictable and I just found myself skimming through it. Maybe that was my problem with the book - Paulette. Perhaps, had she not been in it or been a different type of character, I might have actually enjoyed the book. Or maybe not. After all, Scott's story lines were rather ridiculous at times - like traveling to an island to find his sister and bring her home (even though she's an adult and is finally enjoying life and love for once). While on the island he gets high with kids and pays off his sister's boyfriend - seriously!?
As far as the actual writing goes, it was good. It was the storyline and weak characters that made for a rather unforgettable book. This is definitely one book I'm happy to be done with. Now, I'm sure there are others who will rave about this book and find it immensely enjoyable - I'm just not one of those people. However, I don't want to discourage anyone from reading The Condition, so here is a link to TLC Book Tours' page on Haigh's book - you can find all of the other bloggers who participated in this tour. And the good thing is that we have all read Haigh's various works, so you will be able to find out more about her other books. Check it out here!
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
In All There Is, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay shares stories of love and marriage from the revolutionary oral history project, revealing the many remarkable journeys that relationship can take.
In stories that carry us from the excitement and anticipation of courtship to the deep connection of lifelong commitment, we discover that is love is found in the most unexpected of places - a New York tollbooth, a military base in Iraq, an airport lounge - and learn that the course it takes is as unpredictable as life itself. As the storytellers in this book start careers, build homes, and raise families, we witness the life-affirming joy of partnership and the comfort of shared sorrows and triumphs.
These stories are also testament to the heart's remarkable endurance. In All There Is we encounter love that survives discrimination, illness, poverty, distance - even death. In the courage of people's passion we are reminded of the strength and resilience of the human spirit. This powerful collection bears witness to real love, in its many varied forms, enriching our understanding of that most magical feeling.
Alright, so for those of you who don't know what StoryCorps is: (this is from the intro)
StoryCorps launched in October 2003, when we opened our first booth in Grand Central Terminal in New York City. It's a very simple idea. You make an appointment to bring in anyone you want to honor by listening. When you arrive at the booth you're met by a StoryCorps facilitator who takes you inside and sits across a small table from, say, your grandmother. You face one another, a microphone in front of each of you, and for the next forty minutes you ask questions and listen. At the end of the session you walk out with a CD of your interview, and with your permission, a second copy goes to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, so that your great-great-great-grandchild can someday get to know your grandmother through her voice and story. Since our launch StoryCorps has spread from coast to coast. To date nearly seventy-five thousand people, representing the breadth of American experience, have participated in the project.
This book is a collection of stories from the StoryCorps project - specifically, the stories focused on love. There are three sections: Found, Lost and Found At Last - the first dealing with falling in love, the second with losing a loved one and the third, finding love when you least expected or had given up on ever finding love.
All There Is truly melted my heart. All I did was cry or smile through the tears. It was the best read I'd had in quite some time. I think the fact that these stories are all real and that you can see the faces of these people after you read all about how they fell in love or had the heartbreaking experience of losing a loved one, you can't help but feel connected to the story and the people involved. Plus, I love the idea of reading all of these different stories about love, because it made me realize that I am a romantic and that I do love the idea of falling in love. Its silly to think I hadn't realized that about myself, but its true. This book really opened my eyes and I appreciate that. This is a book that I want to share with all of my family and friends and you! It makes you see how much love matters in life - in fact, its all that matters.
Each of these wonderfully, sweet and genuine stories offer a peek into the lives of people who have experienced the beauty of love and the sorrow of losing a love. I found myself smiling as I read about the couple who met and married a week later - they just knew! Or laughing at the woman who refused to date this man she considered to be goofy and who was constantly waiting for her on her stoop - well, she wound up marrying that goofy man and loving him for many years. And there were some sad stories that truly broke your heart, like the woman who shared her last minutes talking with her husband who was trapped in one of the towers on 9/11 and having to read how she heard the loud rumble of the building collapsing and knowing that her husband was gone. Those stories tore at your heartstrings like no other.
Truthfully, all of these stories affect you in one way or another and I think that is a true testament to the power of storytelling. Plus, the fact that these stories are all true, makes the reading experience even more powerful and emotional. You simply can't help but get caught up in these peoples lives and personal experiences and reflect on your own personal entanglements with love. This is a book that I will be telling everyone I love about. Its a book that you want to dip into now and again and re-read when you need a good cry, or when you want to put a smile on your face, or when you simply need to remember that love is all around.
All There Is is a gem of a book! You will fall in love with it just like I have, which is why I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone and everyone interested in nonfiction and love stories.
I want to think TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me a copy of this book!