Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Blogoversary!

Today is Metroreader's third birthday.   Thank you for following my thoughts here at Metroreader!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

First Chapter -- First Paragraph -- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. This week's intro is from There are Things I Want You to Know About Stieg Larsson and Me by Eva Gabrielsson:

People often ask me if the Swedish drink as much coffee as the characters do in the Millennium Trilogy. Well, we drink a lot of it indeed, given that Finland is the only country in the world that consumes more coffee than we do. And if I had to single out just one thing in common between Stieg Larsson and Mikael Blomkvist, it would surely be their impressive daily quota of coffee.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- May 28th!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday the Memorial Day Edition! This month mailbox Monday has been hosted by Martha's Bookshelf. Below are the books that I received this week:

1) In One Person by John Irving.  Publisher's Summary.A compelling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of In One Person, tells the tragicomic story (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a “sexual suspect,” a phrase first used by John Irving in 1978 in his landmark novel of “terminal cases,” The World According to Garp.

His most political novel since The Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving’s In One Person is a poignant tribute to Billy’s friends and lovers—a theatrical cast of characters who defy category and convention. Not least, In One Person is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself “worthwhile.”

Thanks to Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea.

2) A Widow's Might by Sandra Brannan.  Publisher's Summary. In this second book in the eponymous series, gutsy, sharp-witted Liv Bergen vows to clear her brother's name as a murder suspect. Her way is hindered, though, by a half million bikers and gawkers who have turned the Black Hills of South Dakota into a modern-day Sodom in the dog days of summer.

When Liv witnesses a second homicide, she attracts the uninvited attentions of Mully, the menacing leader of bike gang Lucifer's Lot. Their cat-and-mouse game puts Liv once again in the path of FBI agent Streeter Pierce, who's gone undercover to find the perp in the first murder -- plus a shadow criminal called the Crooked Man. Liv taps every ounce of brains and skill she has to avoid becoming the killer's next victim, and the intriguing Streeter shoots to kill.

Thanks to the Publicist!

Friday, May 25, 2012

What to Expect When You're Expecting

There is a new movie formula in Hollywood: borrow a famous nonfiction book title; pair it with a fictitious plot; and fill it with an all star cast. What to Expect When You're Expecting is the latest such formula movie. The all-star ensemble (e.g. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, Dennis Quaid etc.) features several couples on their paths to parenthood: Cameron Diaz plays a Jillian Michaels type fitness trainer who finds herself pregnant by her Dancing with the Stars dance partner; Jennifer Lopez's character is one half of an infertile couple who are adopting from Ethiopia; Elizabeth Banks' character is in a pregnancy competition with her 26 year old stepmother-in-law who is sailing through pregnancy sans side effects; and Chace Crawford plays a father-to-be after a one night stand. Holding these diverse plots together are the occasional storyline intersections between the characters. 

As expected there is nothing new with What to Expect When You're Expecting. The story in What to Expect When You're Expecting is entirely predictable. And the constant switching between characters left me a little cold because I never grew to care about any of the characters. Still the film was light entertaining fare (apart for one "heavier" storyline). And occasionally certain scenes were very funny. I'm thinking of the "dudes group" a group of new fathers who meet in the park every Saturday with their offspring. The group is lead by the talented comedian Chris Rock who could probably just look into the camera and it would be funny. 

In short, What to Expect When You're Expecting is probably best enjoyed on DVD or on demand, rather than as a $10 theater feature film.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First Chapter -- First Paragraph -- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. This week's intro is from These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen:

'Hold it' A voice commanded. 

The elevator was already crowded -- at a few minutes before 10:00 AM, everyone was heading for the upper floors of the Manhattan skyscraper that housed office space for a half dozen glossy magazines -- but Cate Summers instinctively reached out and prevented the doors from closing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- May 21st!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by Martha's Bookshelf. Below are the books that I received this week:

1) Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage. Amazon Description. Rising sixth grader Miss Moses LoBeau lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, NC, where everyone's business is fair game and no secret is sacred. She washed ashore in a hurricane eleven years ago, and she's been making waves ever since. Although Mo hopes someday to find her "upstream mother," she's found a home with the Colonel--a café owner with a forgotten past of his own--and Miss Lana, the fabulous café hostess. She will protect those she loves with every bit of her strong will and tough attitude. So when a lawman comes to town asking about a murder, Mo and her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, set out to uncover the truth in hopes of saving the only family Mo has ever known. Full of wisdom, humor, and grit, this timeless yarn will melt the heart of even the sternest Yankee.

Thanks to the Penguin Group!

2)The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith. Publisher's Summary. Geiger has a gift: he knows a lie the instant he hears it. And in his business—called "information retrieval" by its practitioners—that gift is invaluable, because truth is the hottest thing on the market. Geiger's clients count on him to extract the truth from even the most reluctant subjects. Unlike most of his competitors, Geiger rarely sheds blood, but he does use a variety of techniques—some physical, many psychological—to push his subjects to a point where pain takes a backseat to fear. Because only then will they finally stop lying. One of Geiger's rules is that he never works with children. So when his partner, former journalist Harry Boddicker, unwittingly brings in a client who demands that Geiger interrogate a twelve-year-old boy, Geiger responds instinctively. He rescues the boy from his captor, removes him to the safety of his New York City loft, and promises to protect him from further harm. But if Geiger and Harry cannot quickly discover why the client is so desperate to learn the boy's secret, they themselves will become the victims of an utterly ruthless adversary.

 Thanks to Henry Holt!

3) Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel. Publisher's Summary. Sam Elling works for an internet dating company, but he still can't get a date. So he creates an algorithm to match people with their soul mates. The technology fixes Sam up with Meredith, the love of his life, but it also gets him fired when the company starts losing all their customers to Mr. and Ms. Right. 

When Meredith's grandmother Livvie dies suddenly, Sam reconfigures the algorithm so that Meredith can keep in touch with her. Mining from all her correspondence--email, Facebook, video chat, texts--Sam constructs a computer simulation of Livvie, who responds to email or video chat just as if she were still alive. It's not magic or the supernatural; it's computer science.

Meredith loves her virtual Livvie, so the couple launches a business to help others through their grief. But as the company takes off, it proves more complicated than any of them imagined. For every person who just wants to say goodbye, there is someone who can't let go. Meanwhile, Sam and Meredith's affection for one another deepens into the kind of love that comes once in a lifetime, a love that neither of them could live without. But what if they suddenly had to? Thanks to Doubleday Books!

Friday, May 18, 2012

30 Failures By Age 30

Author's Summary. Everyone has that birthday. That one day we look in the mirror and ask ourselves: "How did I get here? Is this really the person I intended to be when I grew up? Am I grown up?" Author Katharine Miller presents her own self-assessment in the form of micro-memoir 30 FAILURES BY AGE 30. 30 FAILURES BY AGE 30 is a compelling memoir, conversational in tone with moments both hilarious and heartbreaking. Miller gives voice to the under-represented masses and encourages readers to reconsider the definition of "failure." 30 FAILURES BY AGE 30 resonates with anyone who's ever endured a life crisis or felt like a social misfit. Katharine's 30 Failures include: • Successfully drive a car • Join organized religion • Develop an ample bosom • Learn self-defense • Master the art of small talk The full list can be viewed on her blog. 

  Review.  On the threshold of her 30th birthday, Katharine Miller decides to celebrate this milestone in a rather unusual fashion; she composes a list of the 30 things she has FAILED to do!  Say what?  That was my response when I first read the title. 

Miller, however, is not Debby Downer and her list is far from depressing.  Miller’s failures include the following: failure to develop an ample bosom (Failure # 3); failure to participate in public nudity (Failure # 9); failure to develop a drug addiction; and failure to run afoul of the law (Failure # 21).  Reading Miller’s essay-memoir reminded me of Jen Lancaster’s humorous tales.  There were many times I had to put the book down because I was laughing so hard.  For instance, under Failure # 6 (Stick to a Fitness Regimen):

The problem is that I like to eat but I do not like to exercise.  This because I am lazy.  If presented with the option of playing frolf (Frisbee golf) in the park or watching a marathon of Welcome Back, Kotter, I’m probably going to choose the Sweathogs over actual sweat.  Lounging on the couch while watching things I’ve seen ten times before is more appealing to me than going out in the fresh air and sunshine and outdoors.  I probably smell like Cheetos.

Still buried beneath the snarky humor are some serious observations such as in Failure # 7 (Failing to Procreate) when Miller discusses the social gulf between women with children and childfree women.

30 Failures By Age 30 would make a perfect 30th birthday gift or for anyone else who enjoys edgy humor. 

Review based on courtesy copy from the author.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mrs. Dalloway

Wikipedia Summary: Clarissa Dalloway goes around London in the morning, getting ready to host a party that evening. The nice day reminds her of her youth at Bourton and makes her wonder about her choice of husband; she married the reliable Richard Dalloway instead of the enigmatic and demanding Peter Walsh and she "had not the option" to be with Sally Seton. Peter reintroduces these conflicts by paying a visit that morning. Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of World War I suffering from deferred traumatic stress, spends his day in the park with his Italian-born wife Lucrezia, where they are observed by Peter Walsh. Septimus is visited by frequent and indecipherable hallucinations, mostly concerning his dear friend Evans who died in the war. Later that day, after he is prescribed involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital, he commits suicide by jumping out of a window. Clarissa's party in the evening is a slow success. It is attended by most of the characters she has met in the book, including people from her past. She hears about Septimus' suicide at the party and gradually comes to admire the act of this stranger, which she considers an effort to preserve the purity of his happiness.

Review:   "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.”

   And so begins the eventful day of Clarissa Dalloway, a middle-aged, upper-class British wife in post-World War I England. It is the middle of June 1923, in Westminster England and Mrs. Dalloway is throwing a party. This is not Mrs. Dalloway’s first time as a hostess, but rather it is merely the most recent one in a life filled with celebrations.  Because what Mrs. Dalloway “liked was simply life.” "Her parties were “an offering. . . . . An offering for the sake of offering, perhaps. Anyhow, it was her gift.”

   The entire novel takes place during the course of this one particular and unusual day.  Because while Mrs. Dalloway performs the usual hostess preparations she encounters people who cause her to review her life.  Mrs. Dalloway is not upset with her choices, but rather is more reflective of the alternate roads she could have taken.  Also during the course of the day other characters are introduced whose lives tangentially intersect with Clarissa’s.  The most prominent of these being Septimus Warren Smith, a World War I veteran, who suffers from what was then known as “shell shock.”

   Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf was a structurally challenging read for me because there are no chapters and most of the action occurs in the characters’ thoughts. Still I persevered on, because the writing was rich and profound. Mrs. Dalloway Woolf touches on the big questions: death, religion, mental illness and the meaning of life.  I also enjoyed the symbolism throughout the novel. For example, when Mrs. Dalloway meets her first love, Peter Walsh, for the first time in decades they are both armed with sharp objects: she with her sewing scissors and he with his ever present pocketknife.  Try pondering that scene for awhile to see what it means.  Moreover, I really liked the heroine Clarissa Dalloway who was a no-nonsense woman who simply enjoyed life with no apologies.

   If you’re up for a challenging, reflective read then Mrs. Dalloway is a perfect tome!

 Review based on personal copy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Chapter -- First Paragraph -- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. Following up on last week's intro is the Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played with Fire:

She lay on her back fastened by leather straps to a narrow bed with a steel frame.  The harness was tight across her rib cage.  Her hands were manacled to the sides of the bed.

She had long since given up trying to free herself.  She was awake, but her eyes were closed.  If she opened her eyes she would find herself in darkness; the only light was a faint strip that seeped in above the door.  She had a bad taste in her mouth and longed to be able to brush her teeth.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- May 14th!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by Martha's Bookshelf. Below are the books I received this week:

1) White Horse by Alex Adams. Publisher's SummaryThe world has ended, but her journey has just begun.Thirty-year-old Zoe leads an ordinary life until the end of the world arrives. She is cleaning cages and floors at Pope Pharmaceuticals when the president of the United States announces that human beings are no longer a viable species. When Zoe realizes that everyone she loves is disappearing, she starts running. Scared and alone in a shockingly changed world, she embarks on a remarkable journey of survival and redemption. Along the way, Zoe comes to see that humans are defined not by their genetic code, but rather by their actions and choices.White Horse offers hope for a broken world, where love can lead to the most unexpected places. 

 2) These Girls by Sarah Pekkanen. Publisher's Summary. Cate, Renee, and Abby have come to New York for very different reasons, and in a bustling city of millions, they are linked together through circumstance and chance.
Cate has just been named the features editor of Gloss, a high-end lifestyle magazine. It’s a professional coup, but her new job comes with more complications than Cate ever anticipated.
Her roommate Renee will do anything to nab the plum job of beauty editor at Gloss. But snide comments about Renee’s weight send her into an emotional tailspin. Soon she is taking black market diet pills—despite the racing heartbeat and trembling hands that signal she’s heading for real danger.
Then there’s Abby, whom they take in as a third roommate. Once a joyful graduate student working as a nanny part time, she abruptly fled a seemingly happy life in the D.C. suburbs. No one knows what shattered Abby—or why she left everything she once loved behind.
Pekkanen’s most compelling, true-to-life novel yet tells the story of three very different women as they navigate the complications of careers and love—and find the lifeline they need in each other.

 3) Shelter by Frances Greenslade. Publisher's Summary.  For sisters Maggie and Jenny growing up in the Pacific mountains in the early 1970s, life felt nearly perfect. Seasons in their tiny rustic home were peppered with wilderness hikes, building shelters from pine boughs and telling stories by the fire with their doting father and beautiful, adventurous mother. But at night, Maggie—a born worrier—would count the freckles on her father’s weathered arms, listening for the peal of her mother’s laughter in the kitchen, and never stop praying to keep them all safe from harm. Then her worst fears come true: Not long after Maggie’s tenth birthday, their father is killed in a logging accident, and a few months later, their mother abruptly drops the girls at a neighbor’s house, promising to return. She never does.
With deep compassion and sparkling prose, Frances Greenslade’s mesmerizing debut takes us inside the devastation and extraordinary strength of these two girls as they are propelled from the quiet, natural freedom in which they were raised to a world they can’t begin to fathom. Even as the sisters struggle to understand how their mother could abandon them, they keep alive the hope that she is fighting her way back to the daughters who adore her and who need her so desperately.
Heartbreaking and lushly imagined, Shelter celebrates the love between two sisters and the complicated bonds of family. It is an exquisitely written ode to sisters, mothers, daughters, and to a woman’s responsibility to herself and those she loves.

All thanks to Simon & Schuster!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.
Abraham Lincoln

To our mothers we owe our highest esteem, for it is from their gift of life that the flow of events begins that shapes our destiny. A mother's love, nurturing, and beliefs are among the strongest influences molding the development and character of our youngsters.

 Ronald Reagan

 Thanks Mom!  Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

First Chapter -- First Paragraph -- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. This week's intro is from  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
It happened every year, was almost a ritual. And this was his eighty-second birthday. When, as usual, the flower was delivered , he took off the wrapping paper and then picked up the telephone to call Detective Superintendent Morell who, when he retired, had moved to Lake Siljan in Darlarna. They were not only the same age, they had been born on the same day -- which was something of an irony under the circumstances. The old policeman was sitting with his coffee, waiting, expecting the call.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mailbox Monday -- May 7th!

Welcome to Mailbox Monday which is hosted this month by Martha's Bookshelf. Below are the books I received this week:

 1) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Publisher's Summary. Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist is hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance of Vanger’s great-niece Harriet. Henrik suspects that someone in his family, the powerful Vanger clan, murdered Harriet over forty years ago. Starting his investigation, Mikael realizes that Harriet’s disappearance is not a single event, but rather linked to series of gruesome murders in the past. He now crosses paths with Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker, an asocial punk and most importantly, a young woman driven by her vindictiveness. Together they form an unlikely couple as they dive deeper into the violent past of the secretive Vanger family.

2) The Girl Who Played with Fire. by Stiegg Larsson. Publisher's Summary. Lisbeth Salander is wanted for a triple murder. All three victims are connected to a trafficking exposé about to be published in Mikael Blomqvist’s magazine Millenium, and Lisbeth’s fingerprints are on the weapon. Lisbeth vanishes to avoid capture by the justice. Mikael, not believing the police, is despairingly trying to clear her name, using all his resources and the staff of his magazine. During this process, Mikael discovers Lisbeth’s past, a terrible story of abuse and traumatizing experiences growing up in the Swedish care system. When he eventually finds her, it’s only to discover that she is far more entangled in his initial investigation of the sex industry than he could ever imagine.

 Both thanks to Paperback Swap!

3) A Chance in the World by Steve Pemberton. Publisher's Summary.  Home is the place where our life stories begin. It is where we are understood, embraced, and accepted. It is a sanctuary of safety and security, a place to which we can always return. Down in the dank basement, amid my moldy, hoarded food and worm-eaten books, I dreamed that my real home, the place where my story had begun, was out there somewhere, and one day I was going to find it. Taken from his mother at age three, Steve Klakowicz lives a terrifying existence. Caught in the clutches of a cruel foster family and subjected to constant abuse, Steve finds his only refuge in a box of books given to him by a kind stranger. In these books, he discovers new worlds he can only imagine and begins to hope that one day he might have a different life—that one day he will find his true home. A fair-complexioned boy with blue eyes, a curly Afro, and a Polish last name, he is determined to unravel the mystery of his origins and find his birth family. Armed with just a single clue, Steve embarks on an extraordinary quest for his identity, only to learn that nothing is as it appears. A Chance in the World is the unbelievably true story of a wounded and broken boy destined to become a man of resilience, determination, and vision. Through it all, Steve’s story teaches us that no matter how broken our past, no matter how great our misfortunes, we have it in us to create a new beginning and to build a place where love awaits.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

First Chapter -- First Paragraph -- Tuesday Intros

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday Intros. This week's intro is from It Rains in February by Leila Summers:
You slump to the ground on the veranda, hold your head in your hands, and begin to weep. My skin feels hot I start trembling even though it's a sweltering summer evening in the South African coastal city of Durban. The veranda wraps around two sides of our old Victorian wood-and-iron house in the suburbs. It is trimmed with white wooden lace and a railing that we added as soon as Jane could crawl.

 'I'm so in love' you choke through sobs. Your pause exists outside of time, suspended in the humid air.

 'I can't lie to you any longer Robyn. I just . . . I love Amanda so much.'