As many of you may know, I am no longer a New Yorker, so please check out my new blog A Library of My Own. If you are just reading Life and Times, you are missing out. Thanks!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Margherita Dolce Vita - Stefano Benni

While at the Book Expo this year in the City, I came across a display for Europa Editions and just loved their titles and covers. I even did a post on how much I loved their covers. The cover for Stefano Benni's Margherita Dolce Vita especially caught my eye. I just love it. So, without reading what it was about, I reserved it at the library.

You know how sometimes when you want to love a book so much and you just don't? Well I definitely didn't have a problem like that with this book. I LOVED it!

Here's the summary:

Margherita (dubbed Margherita Dolce Vita by her grandpa, is a 14-year-old girl living with her family in Italy.

Her father Fausto is "tall and skinny, and he is meteoropathic, meaning his moods change with the weather".

Her mother is Emma, looks "like a used teabag" and "is good as gold, but she has an addiction" which is watching soap operas while smoking imaginary cigarettes.

Her eldest brother, Giacinto, is "like a really stupid version of me (Margherita)" and a soccer hooligan.

Her younger brother Erminio or Heraclitus "is a ball-busting likable little terrorist genius" who also can converse with their grandfather via ESP...or so they both say.

Grandfather's name is Socrates has "done it all" and thinks there are so many toxins in the world that to counteract this, he slowly poisons himself throughout the day...example being eating out of date yogurts and water with bleach.

And Sleepy, their lovable dog with hysterical narcolepsy.

All is well until the day the Cube is built next to their house. The Cube is a modern mansion and the wealthy neighbors start to integrate themselves into this little family's life. Emma stops cooking and starts doing botox treatments and new hairstyles. Fausto tries implants to hide his balding spot and starts working with the neighbor in their mysterious import/export business. Giacinto falls in love with the spoiled daughter and even converts to another soccer team (the horrors!) because of her. And Erminio is drugged complacent by gifts of video games.

Only Margherita finds it all to be strange and starts to investigate because the happy family she loves is slowly deteriorating. And what type of business are the neighbors really into and why isn't she allowed into her father's shed anymore? Oh, and she develops a crush on their odd son who is a type of rebel and crazy institutionalized person all rolled up into one.


I have to say the writing is hilarious, poignant, rich, and beautiful. Even though it's narrated by a 14-year-old, I wouldn't call this a young adult novel. And the ENDING!!! Someone please read this so you can tell me what you think. Ok.

Oh! And totally forgot to mention. This is deeply satirical about consumerism and what it's doing to people. I loved that part but it might not be for everyone but I absolutely loved Margherita.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Funny Quiz

You are dashing and debonair—but your heart is as rotten as a zombie’s. Ladies, watch out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I'm Back!

Well I'm back from my vacation to London and just a bit jet lagged but hanging in there. I had a great time with my sister...I'll post photos soon. We saw some sites, went to the Tower of London and St. Pauls, and more importantly, just talked and walked and hung out.

We loved the National Gallery. My sister and I loved a painting done by Akseli Gallen-Kallela of Lake Keitele done in 1905. I love finding new artists.

I didn't do much reading but am in the middle of Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell. It's a fun modern mystery tale revolving around Shakespeare. I thought it appropriate since we were in London. :)

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Excited to Read

So I am going to be MIA for a little bit this next week because my sister and I are going to London. Woohoo!!!

I wonder how much trouble we can get into while we are there. Muuuhahaha.

I'm debating on which books I'll be taking with me. I definitely will be reading Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain.I was recently asked to review it and I was so excited because my husband had just bought the book, read it, and loved it. He was traveling too and said he was just tearing up (funny and sad) while reading it at the airport.

And just because, here's my own pup.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Off Season - Anne Rivers Siddons

I won a copy of Anne Rivers Siddons' novel, Off Season, a while back in a huge giveaway from Hachette. This is a book I would have never normally pick up and read but I thought, what the's summer, it's a summer book...why not.

Yeah. It's not really my cup of tea. But it wasn't horrible. I did finish it. So...


Recently widowed, Lilly is going back (with her husband Cam's ashes) to their summer house on the coast of Maine. She needs some time alone, away from her daughters and grandchildren, to reminisce and remember.

Flashback to Lilly as an eleven year-old and all the events that happened in that summer of 1962, including a first love with a boy named John. What proceeds is young Lilly going through loves and losses and how that defines who she is. Then it flashes forward a bit to when she met Cam.

Honestly, the book was a bit rambling and I wasn't sure of the point of the whole thing. I did like the story of eleven-year old Lilly. But then everything after that, including the ending (which was the worst ending I've ever read) just put me off of the whole thing. I wish she had stuck to the young Lilly part and then stopped. On a side note: she is a good writer. I really loved her description of the ocean and how connected young Lilly was to the whole summer place.

So all in all, not my type of book. Have you read this? Did you like it? And what did you think of the ending?? Email me if you don't want to post spoilers.

Also Reviewed by:
Lit and Life

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Unit - Ninni Holmqvist

A little while back I was contacted by Whitney from Other Press asking if I wanted to review The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. I always state that I only read what I want to read and may or may not review or like it. She was totally fine with that and I received a copy. So I snagged it yesterday from my shelf to read...and I read it all in one day. That's pretty unusual for me. It was that good.

I'm a sucker for dystopian novels. I just love them. I'm even doing my own dystopian novel challenge. So this just fit right in.

If you enjoyed Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, then you'll love this. While Atwood's tale was especially scary for women, this tale is gender un-biased on it's creepiness.

Ok, here's the synopsis:

This terrifying not-so-distant future takes place in Sweden. Dorritt Weger is turning fifty and her life is about to change. Although she is fit, healthy, and relatively happy, she is as labeled dispensable. She is not married nor does she have kids. So she packs her bags, has to give her beloved dog a new home, and is packed off to The Unit.

The Unit is like a slice of paradise. There's beautiful gardens, delicious food, swimming pools and saunas, and stores with luxury clothing. And it's all free. The catch...they are guinea pigs and organ donors bit by bit until their final donation. Some tests are simple psychological ones. Others test drugs and have horrible side effects. Some organ donations are easy such as kidneys, others, like cornea donations have obvious setbacks to the donor. Some people in The Unit live there for a handful of years and some are just there a short while.

Dorritt doesn't really question all of this. Obviously she'd rather not be there and misses her dog and her old life terribly, but escape is never really thought of. That is until she finds love with someone in The Unit and it gives her a reason to live. What then?

Like Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, I thought this future was terrifying. The idea that some people are more dispensable than others is just horrifying. This book really sucked me in and I think it's a must-read dystopian novel.

Thank you Other Press for the chance to read and review this book!

Also Reviewed by:
A Book Blog. Period.
A Bookish Way of Life
Bookfoolery and Babble
Devourer of Books
Shelf Love

Happy Birthday!

So my little nephew is turning five today. I can't believe it's been two years since I've seen him!

He's actually not that small anymore. He's one tall kid! Here he is with his mom.

Happy Birthday!!!

Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier

Before I write this review, I have to state that Charles Frazier's second novel, Thirteen Moons, is one of my favorite books. I just love it. That said, I had pretty high expectations of Cold Mountain. Well, that and I had already seen the movie a while back and to be honest, it just kind of confused me.

I found a copy of Cold Mountain at a library book sale and had to pick it up since I loved Thirteen Moons. Since it's a National Book Award winner I thought it would be a great time to read it for the National Book Award Challenge.

Brief synopsis:

Four years after he left to join the war, Inman is hospitalized with an injury. Knowing the South is losing the war and knowing he may be killed for desertion, Inman decides to go home to Cold Mountain and to Ada, his sweetheart he left behind.

Back home at Cold Mountain, Ada's father, the local pastor, has passed away. Originally from the city, Ada is unprepared to fend for herself and her farm without help. Enter Ruby, the feisty girl who teaches Ada how to survive and work the land.

What I liked:

I loved that this was a Civil War era novel with a slightly different perspective. Granted, the only Civil War novels I've read are The Killer Angels and Gods and Generals , but this novel wasn't about the fighting, the war, or which side was in the wrong. It is about people. People trying to survive and find a place in a country that was rapidly changing.

I loved that he interspersed a bit of Native American folklore and history into a bit of the story. He does it a lot more in Thirteen Moons but it works well here. One of my ancestors walked the Trail of Tears and it provided such an interesting glimpse into a country where all the native peoples were rounded up and forced to leave. It's mind boggling the atrocities that have happened in the past.

I loved that it showed that the war was felt not just on the battle fields but all over the country. The war gave quite a bit of unscrupulous people the excuse to rob and terrorize innocent people.
There's a movie with Toby Maguire and Jewel called Ride with the Devil that shows this as well. It's something, I think, that is overlooked a lot in the history books.

And I love how it feels like a modern Odyssey re-telling. I was talking to a friend about the movie, before I read the book, about how the story is like the Odyssey, with Inman just trying to get home to Ada and all the trials and tribulations he goes through. And at one point in the book, Ada and Ruby are reading the Odyssey which I think was pretty interesting.

What I didn't like:

I never really connected with Ada. I appreciate the changes her character goes through but I never really sympathized with her. Not like I did with Ruby and Inman.

And the book was really slow going with me. I'm not sure why. The writing is beautiful and the story was pretty good but if I hadn't wanted to know how it ended, I may have not finished the book.

I am going to have to go back and re-watch the movie now.

From the movie, here's Ada and Inman:
And Ruby:
**Have you seen the movie and/or read the book? What did you think?
**Are there any Civil War books or movies you like?


Lisa from Books Lists Life reminded me that Gone With the Wind is a great Civil War story. I love both the book and movie. Which reminded me of this poster for Cold Mountain. Doesn't it seem very Gone With the Wind-ish to you?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cool Covers

If you've been reading some of my book reviews then you'll notice that I am a sucker for a great book cover. I get annoyed when covers are misleading. For instance, a book with a girl by a pool when a pool is never mentioned in the story. Alternatively, I love when a book cover is given greater meaning after reading the story. That and just the color, the texture....I just love a good book cover.

So while Rachel and I were at the book expo we found a publisher whose covers I LOVE.

Europa Editions

Check out some of my favorites:

Ok. How cool are these? And I really like their titles. I haven't read any of them but I really want to. Have you read any Europa Editions books?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Link to Past Posts

So I asked someone about this and someone just asked I thought I'd just briefly blog about it.

There's a widget called LinkWithin that you can put on your blog that at the end of your posts, picks three of your past similar posts and provides links.

Ok, it's obviously the end of the work day and I feel like I'm not making much sense, but you can check it out on my blog if you view it directly and not in a reader or whatever.

I don't know how they pick which posts to link to. Somtimes they are really relevant and sometimes not so much. But since I've been blogging for over TWO years's kinda fun to see some of my older posts.

100+ Update for June

I'm a little disappointed I only read 6 books in June. Hmmm.

But then I thought about it and some of the books I read were LONG books.

The first two books were very quick reads and pretty good. Perfect summer reads, Shoot the Moon and Made in the U.S.A., both by Billie Letts.

But then again NYC was super rainy ALL THE TIME this June. So a different type of book was needed. I LOVED Dennis Lehane's The Given Day. I have to read more of his stuff. But it was a long long book. I'm serious. 720 Pages.

Ok. Then I was needing a bit more summery feeling book and Kate Morton's The House at Riverton was perfect. It wasn't insanely long but at 480 pages it was almost a chunkster.

Then I read A Madness of Angels. A good book but I took my time with it. A great book for a rainy city day. But it was 464 pages. Not insanely long but not short either.

And finally Alice McDermott's charming book Charming Billy. A good read and quick read. Not long at all.

I'm almost done with Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain and man is it taking me a long time to finish. Not that I don't like it, it's just one of those books that I want to finish it to the end but it's not that gripping. So it's taking me ages to read it.

**How were your June reads? Do you tend to read a ton of short books or just a few chunksters?