May 28, 2009 Whitethorn Woods by Maeve Binchy
I've loved Maeve Binchy's books since I first read Circle of Friends. Some are better than others, but they are all very good.

This wasn't the best book I'd ever read by her, but it was better than my last outing with her. It reminded me a bit of Love Actually, with all the characters being inter-related in some way. Each short chapter told the story of a man or woman that was in some way connect to Rossmore, home of St. Ann's well. Some stories were better than others, but it was an enjoyable read. The ending seemed abrupt to me and it was hard to keep track of all of the many characters (Binchy's trademark), but it was a good read. And I'm looking forward to reading her next novel when it comes out in the US next year.

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posted by Jenn at 5:58 PM 0 comments

May 19, 2009 Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox
Okay, I can't go into this "review" without admitting my bias up front. I totally ♥ Michael J. Fox. Seriously - grew up on Family Ties, saw all 3 "Back to the Future" movies in the theatre, always stop when "Doc Hollywood" is on AMC. So the chances were I was going to like this book.

And I was right.

He sprinkles his recounting of the last nine years with hilarious anecdotes from his family and professional lives. There were times that I was laughing out loud as he told the story of teaching his son to ride a bike or of sharing the back of a truck with Robin Williams and Eric Idle as Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France. And I got goosebumps when I read that he and his family were supposed to be on the Concorde that crashed just after that but they went back a day early. Ooh, I get chills just thinking about that.

He talked about being a non-Jew in a Jewish family, which was really interesting. I never really think about the religions of other people, but his section on faith was thought-provoking. I found myself disagreeing with some of his "new-age-y" (as he would call it) beliefs and then questioning myself on the disagreement. Sometimes you don't realize you have strong feelings about something until something else comes up to contradict what you feel. I really liked this quote by his rabbi too.

Let us be grateful to those who have chosen to be part of our destiny and our family. Let us throw open our doors to all who would choose to enter, and let us open our arms wide to embrace the non-Jews, those who are sitting among us today. They are precious and they are courageous and they are ours, and they are part of our future and our destiny. So let us all together, with them, be strong...with God's help. Amen.
Great, strong beliefs for any religion about the non-believers of that religion. Ones I wished were followed by everyone.

There was only one part of the book where I just got viscerally angry and had a hard time going on. He described where he was (Los Angeles for a guest shot on Spin City) and his reaction to September 11th. He, too, had woken up way before his alarm by a phone call with someone crying on the phone to turn on the television. We both saw the same thing and couldn't process it. And we were both not where we wanted to be.

On September 11, 2001, while my family was in New York, I wasn't really in Los Angeles; if I was not with them, I was nowhere.
Substitute "DC" for "New York" and that's a perfect summation of how I felt that day. I was morbidly excited to hear from someone else who was isolated in that sunny City on the darkest day we've faced in recent history.

But then I read that he called up Gavin De Becker, a personal security expert and author of The Gift of Fear, who arranged for two guards to drive him across the country in 48 hours, stopping only for gas and food, so he could be home in NYC with his family. And even though we don't know each other and it had nothing to do with me, I was so angry; I felt left behind. KB and I discussed trying to drive back to our respective hometowns to check on our families, but then we'd be back there for who knows how long, paying rent in LA and still having to drive back. And maybe when we got there, we (at least me, living so close to DC) might not be let in. The Towers had fallen, the Pentagon was still on fire and there were still planes missing. Three of the four planes had been bound for LA and we were all bracing for what might be next. My dad was stuck in a foreign country (and he wouldn't be able to return home to my mom for another two weeks) and all I wanted was to hug my mom.

I've never been particularly jealous or envious of celebrities or their wealth, but in that moment, reading that, I was. I was 20 years old, stuck in a city where I knew about 3 people, and only one of them well at all, and my hometown was under attack. But I had about $100 in my bank account and no cell phone number for the personal security to the stars, so I sat home on my Ikea couch and tried in vain for hours to get a cell phone connection to go through so I could at least hear my mom's voice. A cynical voice in my head shouted that perhaps it's easier to be "always looking up" when you've got lots of money to throw at the life's problems. It doesn't change my "like" (something you've got to read the book to understand) of Mr. Fox, but it was still hard to read.

That said, I did love the way he ended the main part of his book because I found it to be true of my life as well. There are days when I feel like a nomad, always moving, searching, trying to figure out "is this it?" And perhaps it is, but I like the way he put it:

We are where we are. If we keep moving, we'll be someplace else. We'll know when we get there.

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posted by Jenn at 6:37 PM 0 comments

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig
I finished this book about two weeks ago, but had yet to blog about it. It was kinda forgettable, so that's probably why.

This book didn't really tie into the rest of the canon created by Ms. Willig, so it seems like an unimportant sidebar. It's vaguely entertaining, but I found myself skimming a lot. It had also been a while since I last read a book, so I had a hard time remembering which book/couple the main girl's BFF is in this book. I think I need some kind of chart or something because it's a little hard to keep up with. Plus the "cousin" thing really freaked me out. I know it was more of a polite term for mixed company, but still - ewww!

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posted by Jenn at 5:50 PM 0 comments

May 02, 2009 The Sex Was Great, But... by Tyne O'Connell
I thought this would be a fun little romp in the Hollywood Hills and it was. Sorta.

But I couldn't get past the main character. She's supposedly a super famous A-list celebrity, but she hosts a makeover show for washed up celebs that then throws those celebs back into the spotlight again. The mom issues seem a little bit like Jennifer Aniston and her mom, but the hosting thing just does not jive with the A-list thing. The book was written and published while I lived in LA, so I know the climate in which it was created. I mean, I know it's fiction, but even today, people who HOST shows just are NOT consider A-list celebs. And there's a big to-do about a poll where women think Holly is shallow. But there's nothing that points to why women think that. I mean, I guess we're supposed to infer that because she lives in the Hills and has a house staff (of only 2 BTW) and a few assistants, that she IS shallow, but that's just how people live there.

The book was also written about the entertainment industry, but it was written like someone who has no idea what really goes on, how things work or what's involved in making a show. But since it's written in first person, it would seem like there would be much more detail, inside baseball and the like. But there's just not. Combined with the lack of anything interesting actually happening, it was disappointing. Perhaps if I had never lived and worked in LA, then it would have been fine, but I was totally underwhelmed by the whole thing.

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posted by Jenn at 11:16 AM 0 comments

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