Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book 3: The Fallback Plan by Leigh Stein

I'm attempting to read and review 100 Books in 2013. You can read all about The 100 Books Project here.

The Fallback Plan is fantastic. Fantastic. I read it in three days on my Kindle. I just devoured this novel. It was so much fun to read.

The novel is about a college graduate, Esther, who, after spending her last semester of college in a mental health ward, graduates and then moves back in with her parents. Her mother gets her a job babysitting for the Browns, a family who lost their youngest child earlier that year. Esther spends her time getting to know the family, both by interacting with them and by snooping around their house. Interspersed in the narrative are scenes from The Littlest Panda, the screenplay Esther tells people she is working on when she is actually daydreaming about her friend Jack.

Although she is clinically depressed, Esther's voice is humorous through the novel. She makes the reader laugh even as she is obsessing over the dead baby of the family that she works for. Not that the novel makes light of the death -- there are many sad, serious moments in the novel as well. 

The pacing is done well, you're never in one scene long enough to get bored with it. There were a few moments I wished had been drawn out longer, but part of Esther's charm is that even in the tense moments where she claims to be having an anxiety attack, she manages to keep moving forward. She never dwells on one moment longer than she has to. 

You know a book is good when the only criticism I can come up with is that I wish it were longer. This book is smart and funny. It captures your attention and holds you there until you're finished reading. I am recommending this book to all of my friends.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Book 2: I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier

I'm attempting to read and review 100 Books in 2013. You can read all about The 100 Books Project here.

I can't really remember when I got this book. I think I inherited it with my first bookshelf. I mean, it's probably been on the shelf since before I was old enough to read it. I just kind of kept it there because it was part of the scenery. It was so much a part of my bookshelf it seemed wrong to take it off the shelf long enough to actually read it.

Anyway, I found it when I moved my bookshelf recently, and realized that as long as I'd owned it, I'd never read it, so I decided to change that.

It's a strange book. It's definitely not what I ever thought it was going to be. It's about this kid named Adam (it's hard to gauge what age he's supposed to be, but I'd say somewhere in his early to mid teens) who is riding his bike from Monument, Massachusetts to Rutterburg, Vermont to give his father a package. Every other chapter there is a transcription from an interview between Adam and a psychologist discussing his life prior to the bike ride.

I won't give away the ending, but I will tell you that having watched Shutter Island, I figured out the ending long before I got to the end of the book. Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily. I was just left disappointed because that kind of ending leaves much to be desired. In this case, the story is left incomplete because it ends where it began. Yes, you're given enough information to fill in the blanks, but as a reader, I don't want to have to work that hard, I want to see the story unfold on the page. 

Anyway, it was a quick read and I'm glad I finally read it, but I'm not interested in reading it again. Maybe it will go back to being part of the scenery. Maybe I'll hand it down to someone who's the right age to appreciate it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Book 1: French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

I'm attempting to read and review 100 Books in 2013. You can read all about The 100 Books Project here.

As a rule I don't read diet books. I sometimes read cookbooks because I'm interested in food, and I love a good memoir. Having recently finished The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World's Most Famous Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn and wanting more of the same, I picked up French Women Don't Get Fat hoping I'd like what I found.

It's not really the same, but I did enjoy reading it. I liked Guiliano's style, more gentle guidance than scolding. She starts off with her own background - how she found out the hard way about the difference between French food life and American food life on a high school year abroad. She was handed much of the advice she gives in the book by a man she calls Dr. Miracle. She also includes many of the lessons she learned from her mother. It's nice to think that she's just sharing advice with the world that worked for her for most of her life. 

The thing I liked about this book was that it's not really a diet book. It's a common sense book. The first thing she says is to write down what you eat everyday for 3 weeks. This is to get a handle on the kinds of things you're eating, the obvious patterns that get you into trouble. The rest of the advice is simple: drink lots of water, walk as much as you can, take the stairs, don't eat standing up, and eat slowly. 

Guiliano posits that being a French woman is a state of mind. The goal is not to be thin but to be "bien dans sa peau" or comfortable in one's skin. I felt good reading this book; there was advice in it that I could use and I didn't feel like I was reading some crazy Hollywood diet book.

Announcing the 100 Books Project!!

I have a crazy idea for a project I want to attempt this year. I'm going to read 100 books in 2013, and write reviews for you as I finish them.

Yeah, you read that right. 

I know it sounds crazy. And maybe it is, but I'd like to see how it goes. The purpose of this project is to read the books that I've said for years that I would read and never got around to. I want to figure out why I ignored these books for all this time. 

It's this weird phenomenon- all of the book lovers I know have these huge TBR (to be read) piles that they keep adding to and are only slowly subtracting from. Why do we buy these books if we can't make time to read them? I'm trying to figure this out, at least for myself, so that maybe I can break the cycle.

I think it's entirely possible if I plan it well, so I've set up a few rules for myself:

1. Unabridged Audiobooks and ebooks will count as part of my total. Why? Because a book is a book is a book. It's the same story, it takes the same level of imagination to follow the story and picture the scenes in your head. There are a lot of books that I've wanted to read but I only have so much space in my tiny apartment. The library has tons of free to borrow audiobooks/ebooks, so why not take advantage? Plus, audiobooks make sitting in traffic a much more pleasant experience.

2. I'll review the books whether I like them or not. Ordinarily, I only write reviews of books that I love because I think talking about a book is the best publicity you can give it. If you don't like a book why talk about it? For the purpose of the project I'll have to. 

3. I will read and review 2 books each week. Just writing that down sounds daunting. But it's not unheard of. When I was in college this was approximately the pace I was expected to keep up for a semester at a time. In 2009 I read 57 books, while keeping up that pace for about 6 months out of the entire year, so if I stick to the plan, I think I can do this.

4. I'm not taking outside recommendations. I'm reading only the books that are already on my TBR list. There's a good third of my bookshelf on that list. Any of the books I want to read but don't own a copy of, I will attempt to find as an audio book at my local library, and I will make a note of these books in my review. No one is paying me to read these books, this project is simply for my own enjoyment, so I will be the one deciding what to read and when.

So, that's the project. Those are the parameters so far. I'll be posting my first review shortly, as I've already read my first two books.