Archive for August 2010

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

So you’ve all read or seen the movie of “The Devil Wears Prada“, right?  If not, shame on you.  (P.S. the book, of course, was better than the movie.  I was slightly disappointed by the movie.  As usual.)  Author Lauren Weisberger just released her newest novel and I was ready – I had pre-ordered it months ago for my Kindle.

“Last Night at Chateau Marmont” is about a young New York City couple, Brooke and Julian.  Brooke works as a nutritionist at both a hospital and a private girls school in the city.  Julian is an amazing singer and pianist – that’s actually how they met.  Brooke had seen an impromptu performance of his at a local bar one night and was immediately drawn to the quiet, shy guy who always wore white t-shirts, Levi’s, and a knit cap.  She would go out weekly to see him perform, sitting alone in the corner.  One night, her blind date took her to the bar where Julian normally performed and guess what!  Her date was Julian’s cousin and they were finally introduced and they fell in love, got married, and lived happily ever after.

Well… not really.  The first two parts of that last phrase are right.  Brooke and Julian are just getting by on the salaries of Brooke’s two jobs and Julian is on the verge of being signed by Sony but is still struggling.  A rep from the Jay Leno show attends one of Julian’s shows and invites him to perform and his career just blew up from there.  He begins recording an album and performing all over the country.  Brooke is thrilled for Julian and has been supporting him the entire way, but their lives start to get shaken up when rumors start to swirl after Julian is photographed with a famous young starlet at an event.  It was completely innocent, but that’s when the public (and the gossip rags) really started to take notice of Julian Atler…. and Brooke.  More rumors start about Brooke and Julian’s marriage and this is not what Brooke signed up for.  As Julian does appearances and goes on tour, he and Brooke grow apart.  Brooke also loses BOTH of her jobs due to Julian’s hectic schedule and the [usually negative] attention that she’s getting.  Then the bomb drops –  photographs surface of Julian and a girl at the Chateau Marmont hotel in LA.  Brooke doesn’t know who to believe and where her life is going.  Can they get their lives and their relationship back on track?

I’ve loved all of Lauren Weisberger’s four books.  I was really entertained by this one and read it pretty quickly.  I could really imagine Brooke and Julian as two regular people that could be people that I know and I could totally imagine how Brooke would feel to be a “civilian” thrust into the spotlight with her newly famous husband.  I also liked that Weisberger threw in some pop culture references – current actresses/actors, singers, et cetera.  She also made up some characters (although it had me wondering if maybe they were modeled after a particular famous person – I’m still trying to guess!).  It’s a fun, easy read and you won’t want to put it down.  And if you haven’t checked out her other two novels yet, put ‘em on your list!

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Browsing around on Amazon one day, this book came up as one of the “Recommended for You” picks.  I don’t tend to pay much attention to book summaries because after I received the book in the mail, I realized that it was a Young Adult novel.  But that’s okay – I still think some Young Adult books are entertaining and interesting.  I also took a YA literature class in college to fulfill my lit course requirement and I really liked the class (plus I got an opportunity to read some books that I never got a chance to in high school).

Thirteen Reasons Why” is about a pretty serious subject – teen suicide.  Although it’s a little different than you may think… Hannah Baker has already taken her life.  One day soon after the incident, one of her high school classmates, Clay Jensen, receives a mysterious package on his doorstep.  When he opens it, he’s shocked to find what’s inside.  Inside are seven cassette tapes, each numbered front and back written in blue nail polish.  When Clay pops the first tape into the cassette player in his garage, he can’t believe that he’s hearing Hannah’s voice speaking to him.  Hannah has very strict instructions for the listener of these tapes and they must be followed through with or else.  What are the tapes about?  On each tape, Hannah talks about one of the thirteen people who drove her to end her own life.

As Clay starts hearing about things that his classmates did to ruin Hannah’s life, he’s wondering what he could have possibly done to hurt her.  They had worked together at the movie theater and Clay actually had a crush on her but was afraid to ask her out.  As he switches each tape, he is curious as to which tape is his.  As Hannah speaks, she also refers to a map and certain locations that relate to parts of her stories.  Clay had found this map in his locker several weeks before, when Hannah was still alive, but didn’t understand what it was and just had shoved it into his backpack.  Clay continues to listen, tape by tape, learning secrets about his classmates that only the other twelve people on the tape plus Hannah will ever know.   He also realizes that he may have been the only one who could have saved her.

Even though I mentioned that this was a YA book, I didn’t think it was inappropriate for an adult to read.  I actually liked it (for it being about a very serious and sad subject).  The way it was written, the story would be told from Clay’s perspective but then the transcripts from Hannah’s tapes were also incorporated as Clay was listening to them.  It really also makes you think about how your actions may effect someone else, even when you think it’s no big deal.  Some of the things that happened to Hannah didn’t seem like something to end your life over, but to her, obviously they were.  For someone who has a child that is high school age (not me!), it also may open up your eyes to see what goes on in their lives and maybe they need some support or someone to talk to.

This is Jay Asher‘s first published novel.  The official website for “Thirteen Reasons Why” is pretty cool – it includes an interactive map that Clay follows in the book (Clay’s was a real paper map, not interactive – just to clarify) and videos of each of Hannah’s tapes.

Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace

When I created my @FortheLoveofLit Twitter account recently, I was browsing around looking for other book bloggers and authors to follow.  I came across an author named @Joe_Wallace, saw some Twitter chatter about his newest novel, and decided to check it out! It turned out to be cheaper for me to buy it as a used paperback from Amazon (plus free super saver shipping!) rather than buy it for my Kindle.

I’m not a baseball fan.  My fiancé is a HUGE baseball fan, but I just find it incredibly boring.  I go to baseball games to people watch rather than to actually watch the game.  Anyway, I digress.  From the reviews I read online, this book didn’t seem as much about a history of baseball as it was a story about a unique young girl in a man’s world.  The story starts out with Ruby as a young girl back in the 1920′s.  She attends a professional baseball game with her family and ends up catching a ball during the game.  She was in awe of the players and how they could throw the ball, so when she got home, she went to the park to give it a shot and realized she had an amazing throw.  Ruby had been teased as she was growing up because she had really long arms and they called her “Monkey girl”, but now she realized that her arms had a purpose.  Then a devastating influenza pandemic sweeps through New York City.  Unfortunately, Ruby loses both of her parents, one of her brothers, and her other brother’s wife to the disease and is left with her other brother, Nick, and Nick’s two daughters, Amanda and Allie.  Ruby takes over the role as the girls’ mother while Nick is out getting drunk and going through jobs like someone goes through socks.  Ruby takes a few jobs here and there in order to get by and feed her nieces, but it’s not enough.

With some effort and struggles, Ruby ends up taking a job on Coney Island with a “freak show” of sorts where she is called “Diamond Ruby” – they built a pitching area for her in one of the buildings where people could come and pay to pitch against her to try to beat her speed and accuracy (which is practically impossible).  She is a huge hit and even garners the attention of some of the Yankees players including Babe Ruth himself.  Since baseball is still a men’s only sport back then, she faced some harassment and threats from different people to try to get her to stop throwing.  When she is finally able to get away from that situation, she is asked to join one of the minor league baseball teams as their pitcher; the Brooklyn Typhoons and that whole entire league were struggling and they thought that adding Ruby to the roster would help make their league popular again.  Well, it worked!  Thousands of people would show up to watch Ruby play and after awhile, she did earn the respect of her fellow male teammates and the other teams.  When she is faced with some serious threats, she has to make some difficult decisions…. you’ll have to read the book to find out what they were.

This story was based upon the true story of a girl named Jackie Mitchell back in that same era who was signed to a baseball team in Tennessee and struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  After that, women were banned from playing baseball.  I really enjoyed the story and didn’t find the baseball theme boring at all because there were so many other things going on with Ruby’s life.  And of course, I liked the historical part of it.  It’s also one of those stories that makes you want to be all “Girl Power!” and stuff.  I think that men could enjoy this book too though, so guys, don’t get scared off by my last statement.

Joseph Wallace actually responded to be on Twitter when I tweeted that I had started reading his book.  I think it’s awesome when authors interact with their readers either through Twitter, Facebook, blogs, whatever.  He’s written a number of other books, including books about baseball history (see, now there’s something that my male readers can enjoy!).

Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite chick lit authors, not to mention one of my favorite authors, period.  I couldn’t wait to read her newest book when it came out recently!

Fly Away Home” is about a high-powered New York City family – Richard, Sylvie, and daughters Diana and Lizzie.  Richard is a State Senator who (“ripped from the headlines”!) gets caught having an affair with an intern then admits to helping her get a job.  When Sylvie, his dedicated and loyal wife of many years, finds out, she can’t bear to be with him any longer.  She realizes that she has molded herself to fit in as a politician’s wife and is sick of the act.  She flees to her family’s house by the beach where she spent so much time growing up.  She sheds the designer skirt suits, Spanx, and hair straightening to revert back to her wavy hair, comfy clothes, and no-makeup-ed face.

At this same time, Richard and Sylvie’s oldest daughter, Diana, a married mother of one and an emergency department physician, is in the middle of a heated love affair with a younger med student at the hospital.  She admits that she had “arranged” her own married and never really loved her husband but decided to marry him because he cared for her and she didn’t think he would ever hurt her and she thought she would grow to love him.  During this time, Diana’s younger sister, Lizzie, gets released from rehab for drug and alcohol use and moves in with Diana to be the nanny to her son.

When things start to go wrong for both of the girls, they also retreat to the beach house with their mother.  Sylvie, by the way, is having the time of her life being independent, learning how to cook, and doing things that she was never able to do as the wife of a prominent politician.

The story doesn’t end there, but you’ll just have to go out and buy it if you want to know what I left out!  I really really liked this book – each chapter was told in the perspective of one of the female characters, Sylvie, Diana, or Lizzie, but never Richard.  I like when an author does something interesting like that to mix it up a little bit.  I enjoyed the characters as well because they were all so different and had their ups and downs at different points in the book.

Jennifer Weiner has written six other books, all of which I own and loved.  You may recognize her one title, “In Her Shoes“, which was made into a movie a few years ago starring Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette (which by the way was not as good as the actual book – if you’ve seen the movie but not read the book yet, please go out and read it!).

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
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