Bright Young Things by Anne Godbersen
(HarperCollins, 2010, 400 pages)
Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen was another “free Friday” Nook book. In the opening chapter of the book, the author tells you that this is the story of three women who lived during Prohibition. One woman becomes a star. One woman gets married. One woman dies. What the author fails to tell you is that those three events don’t necessarily happen to the three women in this particular book. Apparently, Bright Young Things is the first book in a series. The next book is entitled Beautiful Days: A Bright Young Things Novel.
Despite the fact that I was disappointed to find out that not everything is resolved in this book, I did enjoy reading it. The author takes you back in time to the age of flappers and speakeasies. Each of the characters is likeable in her own way. Letty wants to be a famous singer. Cordelia is looking for the father that she never knew. Astrid is a flapper who lives life among the rich.
Bright Young Things moves along smoothly. There is mystery and romance and betrayal and glamour. I would recommend this book if you are prepared to continue reading the series.
The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011, 176 pages)
This collection of short stories is melancholy but interesting. Set in India, the stories all explore people who have avoided the past, or have avoided making anything of themselves in the present. They all have regrets or something to hide from, although the thickly veiled stories make it hard to figure out what that is sometimes. The best story in the collection was about a young writer who translates a book from its native language into English, and is then disappointed by the author’s next work. Trying to rewrite the book, the translator effaces both herself and the author, and her career disappears. This book was a nice change of pace from more straight forward narrative accounts, but requires quite a bit of interpretation by the reader.
The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
(W. W. Norton & Company, 2011, 263 pages)
This novel was beautifully written. I’d had The Forgotten Waltz on my to-read list for a while so it was the perfect read while I traveled to a conference in California. Based in Ireland (where Enright lives) we are introduced to Gina who has fallen in love with a married man while she is married herself. The novel is presented in a manner of her reflecting back on how she came to find her life intertwined with Seán’s. Things are also “complicated” due to the presence of Seán’s daughter who Gina has tried to engage with since before the affair with her father even began.
I think this is a very honest portrayal of a situation that is often either hyper-sexualized or scathingly disapproved of. It’s a realistic depiction of how an affair can begin, the mental states involved, and the realities of facing the consequences when the unknowing parties discover the truth. Like I mentioned before, Enright is an incredibly talented writer, her style is kind of sparse and quiet in a way that draws the reader in. I just really appreciated her style and I’m eager to read The Gathering (which won the Man Booker Prize) next.
This title was also just honored with the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction by the American Library Association.
Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV
by Warren Littlefield, with T.R. Pearson
(Doubleday, 2012, 326 pages)
I’ve been watching NBC comedies since I was too young to understand half of the jokes and still watch Friends constantly. So when I saw the cover of Top of the Rock covered with my favorite characters, I was immediately excited to read it. Warren Littlefield helped create and develop some of the top NBC shows when he was an executive at NBC, shows like Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, and ER just to name a few. After 20 years at NBC, he was fired with his last projects being Will & Grace and The West Wing. But Top of the Rock is mostly focused on a behind the scenes look of how NBC shows from the “Must See TV” era were created and developed.
Top of the Rock is not your regular read as it has commentary from the actors, writers, executives, and many more from each show. As I was reading, I felt like I was reading the script from a TV documentary about NBC rather than a book since it jumped between people every few sentences. You get a lot of different views about each show and each person’s experience so that makes it interesting but it also makes it hard to keep track of what each person’s role was. Eventually I stopped trying to figure out each person’s significance, which made the read a lot more enjoyable.
There are a couple of chapters that I felt like people took just to complain about how NBC is run today and Jeff Zucker. I understand they probably needed to get if off their chest, but I could’ve done without it. After I finished, I quickly passed it off to my sister who has a Friends obsession like mine and she’s finding it as interesting as I did. But we both agree that once you start reading it, you’ll want to watch all those shows again. And the only shows from the “Must See Era” on Netflix are Cheer and Frasier. Believe me, we’ve already checked.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
(MTV Books, 1999, 213 pages)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book of letters that Charlie writes to an anonymous “friend” to tell about his life. Charlie has never met this person before but decides to start writing to them because he heard that they were a good listener. Charlie writes for a full year covering his freshman year of high school where he befriends a group of seniors, tries to participate more in his life, and struggles to determine the relationship and loss of his favorite person in the world, his Aunt Helen.
This is another book where I saw that there was a movie coming out based on the book so I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. I was surprised about how many adult subjects there were considering that it’s a Young Adult novel. But between the drugs, alcohol, sex, and suicide, Charlie maintains an innocence about him that continues to remind you of how young he is. This was an extremely fast read and I’m very excited to see how the movie turns out.
Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture by Andy Cohen
(Henry Holt and Co., 2012, 288 pages)
Andy Cohen is mostly known for being the man behind the Real Housewives series on Bravo, but he has done so much more than that. Cohen was born and raised here in St. Louis (he graduated from Clayton High School) and after college, he spent ten years with CBS mostly being a producer for their morning program. He is currently the Executive Vice President of Development and Talent at Bravo while hosting Watch What Happens Live nightly. Andy has been passionate about television since he was young so it is no surprise how successful he’s been. What is surprising is how this passion has sometimes led to some very cringe-worthy but memorable moments.
I’ve been an Andy Cohen and Real Housewives fan for years so when I heard that he wrote a memoir, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up. It’s true that I was most looking forward to the Housewives (or as I call them, the Crazy Ladies) chapters, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed the entire book. Cohen doesn’t hold anything back whether its retelling how he came out to family or friends or describing some of his embarrassing moments, and he’s definitely had his share of them. He stayed true to himself and didn’t try to sugarcoat his life or career.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
(Doubleday, 2011, 400 pages)
The Night Circus isn’t your typical circus novel. No, it’s about much more than the circus setting. Celia and Marco have been training almost their entire childhood to play a game of magic against each other. Their trainers, however, reveal little about the game, their opponents, or how the winner is determined. One of the few things they are aware of is the setting of the game, which is to take place at a circus. A circus that arrives at towns without forewarning and is only open from dusk to dawn. The mystery of the circus matches the mystery of the game as these two try to outdo each other with their magic skills. But once their identities are revealed to each other, that complicates things more than they could have imagined.
One of my favorite things about this book was how well written it was. The characters are strongly developed and the plots are interwoven so delicately that I didn’t struggle with the constant back and forth between years. I love when an author is able to come full circle with a plot and Morgenstern does that so well that I didn’t even realize that it was happening till the very end when it clicked. This book was pure magic from beginning to end and a great read.
Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin
(Vintage Books, 2010, 193 pages)
Home Cooking is listed as one of the “classics” when it comes to food writing. This collection of essays by Colwin range from baking bread and hosting dinner parties to cooking in an apartment where the bathtub also serves as the kitchen sink. Colwin is a very accessible writer and as I read her book I found myself wanting to try the dishes she talked about and thinking about hosting dinner parties of my own (this happened in the midst of reading, we’ll see if I can maintain that mindset…). Colwin has another collection of culinary essays titled More Home Cooking that I’ll certainly pick up. I’m also curious to see how her fiction reads.
If you enjoy food writing this is a nice, light read with an author you’d want to be friends with. Bonus – all the essays are reasonably short so it’s an easy book to breeze through.
A World I Never Made by James LePore
(Story Plant, 2010, 352 pages)
A World I Never Made by James LePore was a pleasant surprise. I received this book as a “free Friday download” for my Nook from Barnes & Noble so I didn’t have high expectations. However, this book grabs your attention from the beginning. An American father, Pat Nolan, is called to Paris to identify the body of his daughter who appeared to have committed suicide. When Pat Nolan sees the body, he realizes that it is not the body of his daughter. From there, the search is on to figure out why his daughter faked her suicide and to find her before something bad really does happen to her.
A World I Never Made is James LePore’s first novel. LePore got rave reviews for it. LePore followed A World I Never Made with a book entitled Anyone Can Die. Anyone Can Die consists of three stories featuring the characters from A World I Never Made.
I enjoyed reading A World I Never Made. The characters are interesting. The plot is different from what I usually read. If you are looking for a new author to try, check out James LePore’s A World I Never Made.
Locked On by Tom Clancy
(Putnam, 2011, 864 pages)
Locked On by Tom Clancy reintroduces us to Jack Ryan, Jack Ryan, Jr., John Clark, and a host of other memorable Tom Clancy characters. In this novel, Jack Ryan is running for President. Jack Jr., John Clark, and others are still working for the Campus, a secret intelligence agency founded by Jack Ryan, Sr. In the usual Tom Clancy style, many plots are interwoven in this attention-grabbing novel. The race for the White House turns ugly. There is trouble in the Middle East. John Clark is forced to go underground. And, Jack Jr. has found a love interest.
I have read some other reviews of Locked On. The reviews have run the gamut from great to disappointing. I enjoyed this book, but do agree with the reviewer who thinks that the Jack Ryan, Jr. love interest angle is weak. It looks like the love interest angle will be carried into the next book. Usually, the Jack Ryan books don’t carry plot lines over to the next book.
If you haven’t read any of the other books in the Jack Ryan series, I wouldn’t start with this one. You will be missing some background information which isn’t essential, but helps to clarify the relationships in the book. Having said that, Locked On is definitely worth reading. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride!