Archive for July, 2008

July 26th, 2008

The Smart One by Ellen Meister – So funny that I was tearing up!

by Gwen

First off, let me just say that there is one section of dialogue in this book that had me laughing so hard that I was almost crying. I can’t remember the last time that a book did that for me, if ever.

The Smart One is a tale of three very different sisters. We have the oh so pretty Claire that continues to cause tongues to wag when she walks into a room even after two kids. Then we have Joey, the wild child, that was a one hit wonder with music years ago, but saw it all disappear to drugs and is now trying to start over clean and sober. Last, but not least, we have Bev, the smart one that everyone thinks she is wasting her intelligence and should be a doctor like her father.

Bev has finally decided that she wants to be a teacher. A noble profession, no doubt, but she is struggling with doubts as she grapples with what she thinks is scorn for her wasted intellect from her family. Her parents neighbors ask her to help show their house that is up for sale while they are down enjoying their retirement in Florida.

Easy peazy, right? She is waiting to hear back from a school out west and the lease is up on her apartment, so why not? Not so fast. All quickly goes out the window when two things happen. First, the boy that broke her heart as a young girl by sleeping with her sister, Joey, shows up. Second, it seems that her neighbors aren’t quite whom she thought they were. She and her sisters find a body closed up in a metal drum in the crawl space.

What follows is a sometimes heart wrenching, but always funny story of just what those identities or labels that are put on you as a kid can do. And oh yeah, we have to find out how is in the barrel and who murdered her! The pretty girl Claire has to realize that even though she is getting older, that she is more than her looks. The wild child has to get past her wild life and prove to her siblings that she can be trusted again. Then of course, the smart one has to realize that it is okay to be yourself and that no one will hate you if you try and fail.

Ellen Meister has slipped a murder mystery into what might have been a really good book on it’s own and it packs a one two punch. What is even better is the humor. Sarcastic and witty, the interactions of the characters often had me in stitches. The chapter dealing with Glenda the good witch and the little people will be one that I remember for a long time. (see, don’t you want to read it now??)

The Smart One by Ellen Meister
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon A (August 5, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0061129623
ISBN-13: 978-0061129629

July 22nd, 2008

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead by Saralee Rosenberg

by Gwen

Okay, I admit it, the title made me laugh, but I was still wary. Was this going to be another quick summer read? You know the type, entertaining, yet after it is over, not leaving you with much….

I was so wrong! First, there is Mindy, a thirty something mom that is hanging on by a thread financially and emotionally while she runs out to get yet another doughnut because she is too busy to eat healthy. Then there is Beth, her neighbor. Well Beth is one of those women that all women love to hate. She is fit and drop dead gorgeous after two kids, has time for everything and jaunts from this event to the next in her trendy new car. She has everything, it is practically our job to hate her and be jealous of her, right?

Mindy puts up with Beth’s constant low blows about her weight and other things because….well, she is her next door neighbor and their girls are close friends. They share carpool, but seldom small talk and just getting Beth to switch days for carpool is enough to send Mindy to the therapist if she could afford it.

Then suddenly all heck breaks loose in both family’s lives and the two women start to see each other as they really are. I don’t want to give away too much, but it starts when Mindy spots Beth in a car with a man that is not her husband and then her long lost step son from her husbands first marriage comes to stay with them while his drug addict mother is in rehab. (That isn’t giving away too much, I swear!)

Not only did Rosenberg’s story keep me glued to the book, but it left me looking at my neighbor’s and acquaintances in a new way. Sure that blond next door may be a perfect size 6 and always look like she just stepped out of the salon, but is she really happy?

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead is a story of friendship, uncanny connections, triumph over adversity and a celebration of what it means to be a family and a friend. It was a fast read, but I will definitely be looking for more from Saralee Rosenberg.

Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead by Saralee Rosenberg
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Avon A (July 22, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0061253774
ISBN-13: 978-0061253775

July 16th, 2008

Practically Posh: The Smart Girls’ Guide to a Glam Life by Robyn Moreno

by Gwen

Practically Posh: The Smart Girls’ Guide to a Glam Life by Robyn Moreno

Spoiler alert! If you are on my Christmas list and under say 25, you are getting this book, so stop reading!

Robyn Moreno has created a manual for life. Practically Posh isn’t just about being practical, it is a how to book on just about everything in life. The chapters cover all of the bases from how to decorate, to how to ask for a raise and there is even a chapter on volunteering and going green.

The information is presented in a comfortable and visually pleasing style. You feel as if you are chatting with a girlfriend, not getting sage advice from a soccer mom. (no offense intended here) The thing is, it is sage advice. There are tips on what goods and services to splurge on and what to save money on, (ie. Buy the better foundation, but save on mascara) how to be a better boss, how to shop vintage and thrift stores, what to bring on trips, how to buy wine, when to buy organic and when to pass. The list goes on and on!
It is amazing how much Moreno was able to cover in the glossy, photo filled 242 pages. When I say that it covers everything, I am not kidding. Just look at these chapter titles;

Nesting
In the Kitchen
Hip Hosting
Workin’ it
Smart Style
Budget Beauty
Poised & Cultured
Get Packing
Do Good

Practically Posh was a fun and I am not ashamed to say that I learned a lot. Still, I think I will stand by my disclaimer above. This is geared toward the girls that are just starting out in the world. I have already purchased extra copies to give as gifts and I know that they will be just perfect!

Practically Posh: The Smart Girls’ Guide to a Glam Life by Robyn Moreno
List Price: $18.95
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Collins Living (July 1, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0061349461
ISBN-13: 978-0061349461

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July 7th, 2008

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

by Gwen

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

What do a stylist, a reporter, a public relations rep, and a mortgage broker have in common? Well, in this case, they were all involved with one man, Paddy de Courcy. Paddy de Courcy has it all, looks, charisma, charm, ruthless ambition, and is a rising star in Irish politics.

Set in Ireland, Keyes characters are all almost ruined by their relationships with Paddy. For some, it was long ago and for others like Lola, she just found out that their relationship was over when engagement to Alicia was splashed all over the media.

Lola, Alicia, Grace, and Marnie have all developed their own coping skills. And eventually the true story of what Paddy does to women comes out when these women end up getting together and sharing their stories. They all face and deal with the past differently, but you would be hard pressed not to find a little of yourself in each of them. As their lives intertwine they find courage, strength, acceptance and ultimately power by pooling their resources and confronting the demon in their past, Paddy de Courcy.

Keyes has turned a story which could easily been another whinny, I hate men, “chick lit” and written an entertaining story that leaves you feeling empowered. Particularly funny was Lola’s story and how while hiding out in the country, trying to forget her betrayal, she ended up being the host for weekly meetings of the local, still in the closet, cross dressers. (just what every cross dresser needs…..a stylist!)

The ending is a stunning turnaround and I found myself cheering for them. This Charming Man is something I might call “chick lit” on steroids and way beyond beach trash. The issues are heavy, but Keyes treats them with respect and like I said, it leaves you empowered and victorious, not down in the dumps.

I would give this book an A. The only reason it is not an A+ is that in creating the different voices of the characters, Keyes has one that drops articles, pronouns, etc. It was a bit irritating at first, but by the end, I hardly noticed.

This Charming Man
By Marian Keyes

Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (June 17, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0061124028
ISBN-13: 978-0061124020