Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Frustrating Characters EVER

As always, "Top Ten Tuesday" is brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish! Check them out!

Today's top ten...and I love it....

Top Ten Most Frustrating
(and/or Annoying) Characters EVER:

Note: I have extending the topic of my list to include annoying characters, too. I know that many people will not agree with me, but...oh, well! I will be ordering these as a true top ten for me...so, I will lead up to my #1 most frustrating character. :)

(Lily Dale in A. Trollope's The Small House at Allington. Ugh. Source: Public Domain.)

10. Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games. I just don't like him that much. He bores me.

9. Stone Barrington from Stuart Woods's Stone Barrington novels. Why? Read here.

8. Alice Quinn in The Magicians. A Hermione Granger wannabe. I really dislike her.

7. Lavender Brown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Reasons clear enough.

6. Lily Dale in The Small House at Allington. Ugh. This one. She is so clueless and just stagnates.

(Pip in C. Dickens's Great Expectations. Get a clue, kid. Source: Public Domain.)

5. Pip in Great Expectations. Pip. PIP. Get a freakin' clue. He is so annoying!! "ESTELLA!!!"

4. Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. There is no reason to "be good" and put up with crap all of the time. I want her to get over her southern belle training and kick some people out.

3. Callie McFay from The Demon Lover. SO PRETENTIOUS. I couldn't finish the book because of her...not good, considering she is the main character.

2. Christian in The Pilgrim's Progress. Talk about a whiner and someone who is clueless. I'm sorry, but this book is just the worst. And Christian is a big part of that. So is the author, who loves to give Christian noble sins to deal with, but chooses to give Christian's wife sexual sins to deal with...because we all know that women had so much privacy to commit sexual sins way back in the day. What a jerk.

1. Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey. I'm all for fantasy, but the middle-schoolish plot, writing, and character development in this book is appalling. I really don't like any person in this book, but I especially don't like Ana. For so many reasons. Most of all, I can't stand that the author even created her and decided to use her character to perpetuate the horribly dangerous myth that a woman, with enough patience and understanding, can reform an abusive and damaged man. Real life example "A": Rihanna. Mark my words. It is going to happen again.

Books, Dallas, and other things

Right now, I am in the middle of reading two books. One is Through Angel's Eyes, which is about the Civil Rights movement in 1960s Birmingham, and the other is a novel about the Borgias. In spite of my best efforts, I found I needed a break in between Augusta Evans Wilson novels! I am reading her stuff out of order, too, because I need to shake things up a bit. I will be reading Infelice soon.

I am dragging a bit today because I was up late watching the double episodes of Dallas. It is great to start a new season, and Larry Hagman is just brilliant. I know I will cry when he dies on the show! I just love him. No one could ever play JR, and I am glad that the writers decided that making his death real on the show was the way to go. I do love the character of John Ross Ewing, JR's son! Wow! He has potential to sort of fill in the enormous gap left by JR. He is excellent!

As many of you know, I am a big Dallas fan! I used to watch the show when I was a little girl (when the original was airing on television), but I didn't remember much about it. When I moved to Tampa years ago, my mom sent me the DVDs of Dallas for my birthday (the first three seasons). I was totally addicted!! I have enjoyed the new show so much, because the writers/directors/producers have made so many good decisions about its revival. Linda Gray is just amazing, and, though I am not a fan of "Bobby Ewing," I still enjoy seeing Patrick Duffy onscreen. So, anyway, I am VERY happy with the show!

In other news, I have been doing a lot of researching and writing (mostly for my Augusta Evans Wilson projects). Also in totally random news: I am becoming a bit obsessed with beekeeping. Yes. I know. Totally out of the blue! I am considering going to a beginning beekeeping course sometime over the next year. There are lots of beekeeping associations around here, and the local honey is sooooo delicious! I am a huge fan of honey. Anyway, I don't want to become a beekeeper (just too much time that I don't have), but I would like to learn about bees and local honey...and, basically, just how that all works out.

So, that is my update for today! Hang in there with me. I will have a new review soon...but production has started up at the magazine again, so you know that means that my life is a bit hectic at the moment!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Settings I Would Like to See More of in the Future!

Top Ten Tuesday is a blog prompt brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish! Check them out!


Cities or Countries....
1. Oxford, England. (I can't ever get enough.)
2. Prague, Czech Republic.
3. Mobile, Alabama. (Specifically, eighteenth and nineteenth century settings.)
4. Mexico (in general...and nothing about cartels!!!)
5. Thailand (in general).

Places/events/ etc...
1. Seminaries or other religious schools...odd, I know, but I would really love to read a grownup "school" novel in this setting.
2. More books set during the Borgia papacy!!! The books out there are not always wonderful, and I am totally obsessed with the show.
3. Ranches... and I don't mean romances set on ranches or hard-core westerns set on ranches. I want something that appeals to the Pioneer Woman in me (but that won't make me gag).
4.  Edwardian-era settings.
5. Archaeological sites. (And no Mayan doomsday novels...it's over, people.)

About a Boy, by Nick Hornby

Title: About a Boy
Author: Nick Hornby
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
Date of Publication: 2002
Where to Buy It: Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble

From Amazon (and the back of the book):

Will Freeman may have discovered the key to dating success: If the simple fact that they were single mothers meant that gorgeous women—women who would not ordinarily look twice at Will—might not only be willing, but enthusiastic about dating him, then he was really onto something. Single mothers—bright, attractive, available women—thousands of them, were all over London. He just had to find them.
SPAT: Single Parents—Alone Together. It was a brilliant plan. And Will wasn't going to let the fact that he didn't have a child himself hold him back. A fictional two-year-old named Ned wouldn't be the first thing he'd invented. And it seems to go quite well at first, until he meets an actual twelve-year-old named Marcus, who is more than Will bargained for...

I have had About a Boy on my shelf for a really long time. I loved the movie and firmly believe that Hugh Grant's role as Will proves that he can act in more serious roles. Though it is a comedy, the story of the awkward Marcus and his unlikely friendship with the emotionally dysfunctional Will is a dark one at times. Still, I always find it hard to read a book after I have seen the movie, and I find it equally hard to see a movie if I have read the book version first. I understand that they (meaning the book and the movie) are separate things. I loved About a Boy--the movie--so much that I didn't want to ruin it for myself. But I don't think that I have.

For the most part, the book and the movie are very similar. The main difference? There is no "Killing Me Softly" scene at the end of the book...and if you haven't seen the movie, you  must do so. This scene alone makes it worthwhile. But back to the point. The last third or so of the book, however, is completely different from the movie. (Yes, there are other differences along the way, but these are the most significant.) But the core story of young Marcus deciding that he needs more people in his life, and Will's ultimate acceptance of himself and Marcus's ideas as his own, remains the same.

It always makes me laugh that the back of the cover seems to stress that this is Will's story. Sure, Will, the adult slacker of the novel, gets a lot of page time, but this is more Marcus's story than Will's. So, after much rambling in this post, here is a brief synopsis:

The book takes place between 1993 and 1994, and it follows Marcus, who is a young middle-school-aged kid whose parents have just split up. His dad, who is more interested in his new girlfriend, remains in Cambridge, while Marcus and his mom move to London to begin a new life. Marcus is an awkward child who lives to make his mom happy. She is severely depressed (as in so depressed that she tries to kill herself), and Marcus believes that he needs to keep her on an even emotional path each day so that he can come home to her each night. He doesn't have any friends and is the victim of bullying, but his life starts to change when he meets Will, a man who lives off of his father's one-hit-wonder and who is pretending to be a single parent so that he can meet single moms (who he believes will be so desperate to sleep with him but then want to get rid of him...no commitment...just the way Will likes it). Marcus sees straight through Will during their first meeting. But Will becomes involved in Marcus's life when they discover Marcus's mother, Fiona, nearly dead, and then Marcus forces his way into Will's life from this point forward. In the end, Marcus and Will discover their own purpose in life and the importance of making your own family.

Another character in the book who gets a lot of page time (but not much film time) is a high school-aged girl named Ellie. She doesn't get mentioned in many of the summaries of the book or the movie, but she is an important character. She helps Marcus realize several important things about himself and life, and she captures the teen angst of the early 1990s well.

My thoughts...

My thoughts about this book are complicated, because I like it so much. I also think that it is an interesting addition to the YA cannon in some ways. Is this book YA? Not exactly, but I think it would appeal to many YA readers. Marcus is about to be a teenager and Will is a perpetual teenager. Ellie is the real teen of the novel, but she helps show us why leaving the teen years behind is so important in the end. Teenagehood, to use a lack of a better word, is a crucial stage in our lives and one that remains mysterious long after we exit it. We may try to capture the artistic beauty and mystique of that time in our lives, but we probably should never try to go back to that time in reality! (In fact, I can't think of anything worse.)

So, this book, for me, calls into question our fascination with teen lit/YA lit. Why are we so hooked on it? Why are adults flocking to the teen section of bookstores and libraries just as much as the actual teen readers? I think it is about capturing that essence of who we were and figuring out if any of us at sixteen still remains with us today. When you are a teenager, you feel misunderstood. The world really is crap in a lot of ways. Teen lit, at least for me at that time in my life, was a way to escape and wallow in the mystery of that period of my life. It was poetic and beautiful...at least in my mind away from the reality of it. I think the same idea applies to adults reading teen lit now. Sure, the plots are fantastic, but there is something so alluring about going back to that period in your life when you were overwhelmed with feeling, emotion, and drama...and not much else. No kids. No mortgages. It is a unique point in our lives.

So, that is why I think About a Boy is interesting and important. It shows  us three different stages at once, and in the middle of it all, we see something real. I would recommend this book to just about anyone. It would appeal to men, women, teen readers, and readers of general fiction. So, pick it up and let me know what you think!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Debuts I Am Looking Forward to Reading


As usual, this "Top Ten Tuesday" is brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish! Check them out!

Note: My list includes authors who are not debuting work for the first time...not sure if that is a "requirement" of the list, but these are new novels for 2013!

1. Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger. I can't wait to read this one! I love her Soulless series!

2. Habits of the House by Fay Weldon

3. Nameless: A Tale of Beauty and Madness by Lili St. Crow

4. Beauty's Daughter: The Story of Hermione and Helen of Troy by Carolyn  Meyer

5. Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty

6. Blood and Beauty: The Borgias, a novel by Sarah Dunant

7. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

8. A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard

9. Omens: A Cainsville Novel by Kelly Armstrong

10. The Age of Ice by J. M. Sidorova

Monday, January 14, 2013

Another review is up at Alabama Letters!

I have posted my review of Augusta Evans Wilson's Beulah at my Alabama book blog, Alabama Letters! Also, I posted it at my Victorian book blog, "One Word More," because it is included in my "Classics" reading list.

The Butterfly Tattoo by Philip Pullman

NOTE: This book is also published under its previous title, The White Mercedes.

Title: The Butterfly Tattoo (The White Mercedes)
Publisher: Pan Childrens, 2001
Length: 160 pages
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

From Amazon.com:

Chris falls in love with Jenny the moment he sets eyes on her at an Oxford ball. She's beautiful but secretive and he can't help but want to be with her. But fate is cruel and, as their relationship blossoms, tragedy and violence wait in the wings. Chris's boss has a shady past that won't stay hidden. And his ruthless enemies will use two innocent teenagers to exact their revenge on him ...

Wow. What a reading-filled weekend I had! I finished up Augusta Evans Wilson's Beulah, and then I picked up the short novel The Butterfly Tattoo last night and finished it. Neither book is lighthearted reading material, and, for fans of Philip Pullman, don't pick up The Butterfly Tattoo and expect to get the same story as The Golden Compass (though there are similarities in theme between that book and this one).

This book is considered to be YA, but I wonder if it doesn't fit in the adult category better. Labeling something as YA today obviously sets the reader up for certain expectations. This book is dark without being hopeful. Cynical without offering a sense of peace at the end. As the blurb above states, it is the story of Chris, a 17 year old living in Oxford, England, who is working a job one night at a garden party hosted by one of the Oxford colleges (my best guess would be Worcester, where I stayed...to get an idea of the grounds, see my previous post here ). While wandering the college grounds, he aids a young woman who is being chased by three students. The implication is that they are going to rape her, and Pullman uses this set up to explore issues about class and privilege. After this chance meeting, Chris searches for the young woman, named Jenny, and eventually the two of them begin a relationship. (For those of you who enjoy your books sweet or at the PG level, be warned that Pullman gets explicit in descriptions about their physical relationship.) Meanwhile, Chris discovers that his boss is involved in criminal activity, and, in a horrible turn of events, Chris's world is shattered once and for all.

Chris is the center of the story in many ways, though Jenny takes on a huge role, too, and readers get to read about her point of view. The novel is really about Chris's awakening to adulthood and the loss of innocence. As expressed repeatedly in the "Dark Materials" novels that are so popular, innocence is dangerous--not beautiful. The last line of this book, however, will leave you stunned and saddened beyond belief after thinking about Chris and his struggles to overcome his naive worldview. Of course, Pullman does a better job getting his point across in the "Dark Materials" books, but the same ideas come through loud and clear in this one, too.

Many people haven't enjoyed reading this book. I saw tons of 1-star reviews on Goodreads.com, and I can't help but believe that their strong reactions came from the poor labeling of this books as YA fiction (perhaps even as children's fiction). It might be YA, but it isn't your typical YA. There is not one moment where you will feel all warm and fuzzy, and you won't see any light at the end of the tunnel (esp. considering that last line!). But I think that is the point of the book. It is meant to be a wake-up call to young adults...to adults, even. Some readers went as far to say that there was "nothing redeeming" in this book. I disagree. Pullman advocates truth. We may not all agree with his version of truth, but he must be commended for making his point.

I am giving the book 3.5 stars because of the following:
1. Though I enjoyed the book, there were several portions of it that left me a bit bored. I didn't feel as if I needed quite so much discussion of Chris's boss's criminal history.
2. I felt that Pullman, while he did an admirable job with Chris's character, really fell victim to stereotype in portraying Jenny's character. If you read the novel, you will know what I mean.

Still, I am glad I read this book...but don't pick it up unless you  have something to cheer you up right afterwards!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Lux Series

Have any of you read the Lux series? I am hearing really good things about it. I have the first one (shown above) on my iPad, because it was offered really cheap (maybe it was even free...I can't remember) on Amazon.com at one time. I haven't read it yet, but I do remember downloading it because I read an excellent review. There are 450 ratings for the book on Amazon, and most seem positive. Anyway, just curious...

Thursday, January 10, 2013

An update on my strange New Year's Resolution...

So, several days ago, I told you about my New Year's resolution...that I wasn't going to buy any new books because I had purchased so many or received books as gifts (thank you, everyone!). I also resolved to only use the library over the next year, mainly to discover how easy/hard it is to access their services and get what I want to read.

Progress report: so far, so good! I am so busy preparing for all of my Augusta Evans Wilson-related events/assignments that I haven't had much time to even get to a library. So, considering that I usually break New Year's resolutions early on, I am quite pleased. :)

Thanks, Arabella!

Thank you to Arabella for being my 100th follower! I appreciate it!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Follower 100, where are you?

Hi, everyone! I have been hovering around 99 followers for months! Someone join and make it 100!! I promise that I will try to entertain you and introduce you to some good books.



"Waiting On Wednesday"

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a blog prompt sponsored by Breaking the Spine. Are you anxiously awaiting the publication of a new book?

I can't wait for this one:

Clockwork Princess
By Cassandra Clare
Publication Date: March 19, 2013

From Amazon.com...

Don’t miss The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, soon to be a major motion picture in theaters August 2013.Danger intensifies for the Shadowhunters as the New York Times bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy comes to a close.

If the only way to save the world was to destroy what you loved most, would you do it?

The clock is ticking. Everyone must choose.

Passion. Power. Secrets. Enchantment.

Danger closes in around the Shadowhunters in the final installment of the bestselling Infernal Devices trilogy.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Augusta Evans Wilson...all the time

To prepare for my speech, the chapter I am working on, and my role in helping with the documentary about Augusta Evans Wilson, I am rereading all of her books and catching up on any new literary criticism. I hate to break it to you, but I will be all AEW, all of the time, for the next couple of months. I will post other things, of course, but that is my life for a while! In any case, I will keep you updated here and (in more detail) on my Alabama Letters blog. XO

Friday, January 04, 2013

So exciting! I am so happy for Malala!!!

This makes me so happy! Much love to you, Malala!

Women and Money by Suze Orman...The Most Important Book You Will Buy This Year. Period.

From Amazon.com:

The million-copy bestseller is finally in paperback!

In this groundbreaking book, Suze Orman, the nation’s go-to expert on all things financial, investigates the complicated, dysfunctional relationship women have with money.

With her signature mix of insight, compassion, and soul-deep recognition, Suze Orman equips women with the financial knowledge and emotional awareness to overcome the blocks that have kept them from acting in the best interest of their money–and of themselves. At the heart of the book is The Save Yourself Plan: a streamlined five-month program that delivers genuine long-term financial security. But what’s at stake is far bigger even than money–it’ s about every woman’s sense of who she is, what she deserves, and why it all begins with the decision to save yourself.

In addition to The Save Yourself Plan, you’ ll find inside

• a thoughtful analysis of the causes and effects of reckless financial behavior
• a persuasive argument for change that is free of shame and blame
• the 8 qualities of a wealthy woman
• a challenge to value yourself fully in all aspects of your life
• new information to help you grasp the impact of recent economic changes on your life right now and for the long term
• a thrilling, inspiring depiction of what it means to be in control of your financial destiny

Okay...yeah, the pitch is the typical cheesy pitch from most personal finance books, but I love Suze Orman's Women and Money. I don't care if you are a working single woman or a stay-at-home mom: get this book. If you have to check it out from your local library or buy it with a gift card (as I did), just do it.

I am a fairly successful woman. I have a professional job in an exciting field. I have a lot of knowledge about a lot of things. But one area of my life that caused constant confusion is my financial life. Sure, I know how to balance a checkbook and pay my bills. I understand the basics about credit and FICO scores. But my biggest hurdle has been trying to understand retirement, investing, and planning for my senior years. I have tried to make good decisions all along, but I never really understood completely everything that I was signing or investing in when I started a new job. And I think it is a big mistake to trust someone unquestioningly with my money. I wouldn't just hand my kid (if I had one) over to a stranger...so why do that with my money? I'm not saying that I am suddenly getting super involved and becoming a stock broker. Not at all. I just want to know how to read my retirement reports and when to say no or change things around.

So, that is the main reason I picked up this book. Let's face it: I am 36 and single. Chances are, I will be 76 and single. I'm not complaining. I am totally cool with that (and prefer it). I'm not saying I would never marry, but I don't really see it happening. That being said, I need to make sure I am taken care of when I get older. I have people in my life who I can trust to help handle things, but I need things (i.e. money) for them to handle. AND, if I were to marry, this opens a whole new can of worms, right? You suddenly become a "we," and then, as a woman, you have to be super careful about your assets and financial life. I am a big believer in protecting yourself. There is nothing horrible about prenuptial agreements. There is nothing wrong with saving just for you, should something happen to your husband. Let's face it: divorce is rampant. You need to protect yourself. And this book explains why and how.

Orman lays everything out in a five month process, beginning in month one with explaining the basics about which checking and savings accounts you should set up, how much you need to have in there, etc. The next chapter is about credit and FICO scores. All pretty basic, but that is why I love this book. There are so many women out there who have no idea how all of this works--and they MUST learn. I have watched too many women get into financial trouble after a divorce or when their husband died. I can't tell you how many friends and relatives have said, "Well, he handled all of that." NO. YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO HANDLE ALL OF THAT.

The remaining chapters explore retirement investing, wills and trusts (very interesting), and other important points. Her explanation of retirement plans was so helpful to me. I feel so much better now about what I am looking at when I get my statement. And knowledge is power.

In fact, empowerment is the core of this book. All women need to realize that they should take care of themselves financially. I was reading the first few pages of the book when something Orman said made a light bulb go on for me. She said to stop putting myself "on sale." In other words, women tend to do a lot of things for free and get little to no monetary reward. It is true. I have made money for so many people around me throughout my life. There have been countless times when I have settled for less (many times for MUCH LESS) than what I am worth (and what my time is worth). So, I am no longer on the discount aisle. :)  This doesn't mean that I am materialistic. I am just interested in self preservation and independence.

I especially love the attention Orman pays to stay-at-home moms, some of the most financially vulnerable people out there. I love stay-at-home moms (I've talked about this before on this blog), but it is absolutely true that you need to have your own savings account and retirement assets. Orman explains why in her book, and her reasoning is absolutely true. I can give you a personal example, also: A friend of mine's sister-in-law recently lost her husband to a sudden heart attack. She has two boys, 13 and 15. She has never worked. Her husband had no life insurance. She has NOTHING. Literally. Luckily, her church is paying three months of her house payment, but that isn't long. And for someone who has never worked and who has no emergency fund set up (and we all need one, even if your spouse or partner has made arrangements to provide for you...READ THE CHAPTER ON WILLS. It takes way too long and by the time it is over, well, the courts have your money), well, she is in bad shape. Her job prospects aren't wonderful at this point. Can she make it? Sure. She can absolutely do it. But her path is going to be so much more difficult because of some things she and her husband should have done.

I have seen some people criticize this book because it is "too basic." If you already know what she is saying, wonderful. But this book is written for the majority of women out there who are confused about finances in some way, shape, or form. Like Orman says, there is "no shame" in being uninformed and "we can't change our past." But you can take control of the future. There is no excuse not to. If you have to rationalize that you are doing it for your kids, then do so. Because the last thing you want is for them to be burdened with your upkeep. Things are hard enough as it is. So, get this book!! I can't stress it enough, ladies.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in 2013

And...coming off of the last post...here's another "Top Ten Tuesday"! A prompt brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish, of course!

Top Ten Books I Resolve to Read in 2013!!!

1. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien. I have always wanted to read this book (and if I like it, then I will read the trilogy). I have tried so hard to do it before, but I just need to suck it up and read. I am only committing to one book, though!

2. Lesley's Guardians by Augusta Webster.
3. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence. 

 4. Chance by Joseph Conrad.
5. My Antonia by Willa Cather.
6. The Well and the Mine by Gin Philips.

7. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.
8. Big Fish by Daniel Wallace.
9. Light in August by William Faulkner.

10. Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron.



A New Year's Resolution

Usually, I think New Year's resolutions are crap. I mean, all of us go in with good intentions, but we know that a month later (if that long) we probably have fallen off the wagon. I recently heard that one reason resolutions fail is because we try to do too much. I think this is true. But, in spite of my personal feelings, I decided to make a resolution this year. :)

I have decided that this is the year that I will not buy any books. GASP.

Yes, I know.

But I received so many book gift cards (already redeemed, of course) that now my to-be-read list is huge.

NOTE TO ALL: Don't get me wrong. I LOVE GIFT CARDS. :)

But I need to get through this pile of books! So, I am reading only what I have. Also, I wanted to make this resolution because I think the public should make use of the public libraries more often. Ours is always busy, but usually the people in there are engaging in tutoring sessions or meetings. I used to get all of my books from the public library, but I just haven't in recent years. SO...I am going back, people. It is time. Not only will this save money, but I can also experiment with the services offered by the library. I have never tried half of what they offer, so I am excited about it.

So, there we are. No books for a year. Can I do it? We will see! The only exceptions I am allowing myself will be for my birthday and Christmas, when I know that I will receive gift cards. It isn't good to let those sit around too long...  :)  Anyway, here's to the new year! It will be really hard for me to wait to read a new book by a favorite author, but I keep telling myself that, realistically, I have been disappointed too often over the last few years when I have rushed out to get a new book by a favorite author and then not enjoyed it.

I hope you all have good resolutions and can keep them. On to the challenge!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

A New Year! A New Review! (The Chocolate Money by Ashley Prentice Norton)

Hi, everyone! I am sorry that I haven't been around that much, but I needed to "unplug" from the internet and technology for a while. It was time to recharge. But, it is now a new year and tomorrow it is back to work for me. I feel ready to take on new challenges and projects and feel a lot of creative energy right now. (Wow. I just sounded like a horoscope. Geez.)

Anyway, speaking of challenges, I didn't quite make my goal of 50 books for my 2012 Goodreads challenge. That is fine, though, because I finished my dissertation and graduated. :)

I did join the 2013 Goodreads challenge, because  now I can actually read what I want (for the most part...I do have some projects that require me to read certain things). So, even though I didn't meet my last goal, I upped my book goal to 75. This means that I won't be reading a lot of really long books, of course, but I am determined to succeed!

I actually have already read one book: The Chocolate Money by Ashley Prentice Norton.

From Amazon.com:

Set in 1980s Chicago and on the East Coast, this electric debut chronicles the relationship between an impossibly rich chocolate heiress, Babs Ballentyne, and her sensitive and bookish young daughter, Bettina. Babs plays by no one’s rules: naked Christmas cards, lavish theme parties with lewd installations at her Lake Shore Drive penthouse, nocturnal visits from her married lover, who “admires her centerfold” while his wife sleeps at their nearby home.

Bettina wants nothing more than to win her mother’s affection and approval, both of which prove elusive. When she escapes to an elite New Hampshire prep school, Bettina finds that her unorthodox upbringing makes it difficult to fit in with her peers, one of whom happens to be the son of Babs’s lover. As she struggles to forge an identity apart from her mother, Bettina walks a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction.

As funny as it is scandalous, The Chocolate Money is Mommie Dearest, Prep, and 50 Shades of Gray all rolled into one compulsively readable book.
PS: As for that last sentence...yeah...maybe it is like Mommie Dearest and Prep, but don't buy this expecting anything close to 50 Shades. I am so sick of books using that as a marketing tool. Ugh. I mean, there is a new edition of Shirley Conran's Lace...and on the cover, it says that if you loved 50 Shades you will love this early novel. Lace is NOTHING like 50 Shades. But I digress.


I really enjoyed reading The Chocolate Money. It is very "readable," but it is not for the faint of heart or someone looking for a story to make them feel a warm and fuzzy inside. The narrative voice is very strong, and Bettina is a believable flawed character put into sometimes incredibly unbelievable situations. The book is a coming of age story about Bettina as she grows up with a completely neglectful and abusive mother (who happens to be heiress to an enormous chocolate company fortune). Anyway, I really liked it and, as dark as it was, it left me satisfied.

Plus, the cover absolutely rocks.

What I didn't like is that some of the cultural/popular references to dress and products in the early 80s didn't ring true to me. So many times I felt as if the author were trying to modernize the story in ways that she didn't need to do. I also found certain situations unbelievable--especially Bettina's life at the end of the book. I just don't buy it. I won't spoil anything for you, but there it is.

In any case, I did enjoy reading the book...so much so that I read it nearly in one sitting. As I mentioned, be warned that the book is explicit and doesn't censor anything. So, if you want a dark bildungsroman, go for it.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5