Friday, September 28, 2012

My take on: The Time of Women

I don't normally post my reviews with such a large photo of the book, but I made an exception this time.  The cover of The Time of Women by Elena Chizhova attracted me before I knew what it was about. Just looking at the cover you know this has to be about mother's and daughters. After reading the book, I'm wondering which one is the mother and which one is the daughter. The women in this book have a reason to have their eyes open. They look out for danger. While the child in this book often seems very innocent.

Or you could look at the cover another way. The child is the one with her eyes wide open to the world. She is full of questions. She doesn't always understand what is going on around her. Anyway you look at it, the cover is beautiful. Up close it looks like a painting.

Set against the backdrop of Soviet Russia, three women nurture a young mother and her mute daughter. What they say is paramount. Almost nothing can be done without their approval.

Antonina is the unwed mother of Suzanna. The father is long out of the picture, but Antonina is lucky. She has found a room in a communal apartment with three old women. Glikeria, Ariadna, and Yevdokia serve as surrogate grandmothers to Suzanna, who has yet to find her voice -- literally. While Antonina is toiling away working at a factory, Suzanna is under the influence of her grandmothers. They reminisce about life before the rise of communism. It was different for everyone, which Suzanna often depicts in her artwork. She can't or won't speak, but uses her artwork to express herself.

Glikeria, Ariadna, and Yevdokia are very traditional, but also quirky at times. When Antonina brings a potential suitor to the house, he is met with skepticism. Any attempts to see Antonina's bedroom are out of the question. They're not married and such things just aren't proper. When a TV is brought into the household, it is a source of much comic relief. They didn't seem to grasp that the people on screen didn't live inside the TV.

It is fascinating to learn about other cultures. It's all told from a female perspective. You can feel Antonina's uncertainty about her life. She wants a better life, but is afraid to form one away from her surrogate mothers. Despite not being mute, Suzanna has an obvious curiosity about life. I was very close to rating this one superb, but a few things held me back. Sometimes it's hard to follow. The narration shifts between characters a lot. There were times when I thought Suzanna was narrating, but it was actually Antonina. It's not linear, which I'm not always a fan of. But overall, it was an entertaining read.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Glagoslav Publications) in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Please welcome Karen Bergreen!!

Here are a few questions I had for Karen Bergreen, author of Perfect is Overrated and Following Polly. She also happens to post some very funny videos on Youtube, so be sure to check them out.

1. You previously worked as an attorney, just like the main character in your latest book Perfect is Overrated. How much is fact and how much is fiction in the book?

Kate is a much better attorney than I ever was.  I worked in the litigation department of a big law firm right out of school, and I spent a lot of time writing memos and admiring the vending machine. Then I clerked for a federal Judge, which meant a lot of time in the courtroom --and sometimes it was very dramatic.  But I'm not as brave as Kate.  I think real life criminals would scare me. I like manipulating the fictional ones. 

2. Why did you make the transition from attorney to writer/comedian?
After several years in the legal world, I felt myself going numb.  I needed to be living a creative life. It wasn't even a dream--I simply had to do it. So I worked as a lawyer only part time--to pay the bills -- and immersed myself in the comedy world. I took acting lessons; I even singing lessons, I performed with an improv troupe in scary parts of town.  Eventually, I started to get paid for all of this.  If I hadn't left the law, I would be typing the answers to these questions from a mental health facility.

3. I was looking at some of your Youtube videos. I was wondering do your kids mind being the subject of your comedy act?

My kids love being in the videos, and now they tell me whether their ridiculous comments should be posted on facebook or twitter.  
My husband and I have explained to them that I am playing a character on stage.  I may regret all of this when they become teenagers. 

4. Do you ever see yourself writing books that don't have a comedic spin? Or is there just too much good stuff to make fun of?
I like funny.  Funny for me is a way to tell the truth in a non-self -righteous manner.  That said, I am trying to write a story now that isn't that funny--hopefully it isn't self-righteous.  Of course it has one funny character.  I like to play to my strengths.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tales from a graduate student

Don't worry grad school isn't that bad. Actually it's going quite well. It's been eight years since I finished college. I was so sure I would never go back. I got an internship right after graduation. That internship turned into a full-time job. I worked as a newspaper copy editor and page designer for seven years. In the beginning, it was great to be employed. Towards the end I was just hoping to not fall victim to layoffs. While it was a shock to be laid off last December, it was a blessing in disguise. Don't get me wrong, the night I found out, I was extremely pissed. No one wants to leave a job without having another in place. But after I calmed down, I realized it was time for me to do something else. It was time to see what else I could do.

I have always loved books. I started this blog because I love books and I desired a more creative outlet. Working as an editor or a designer for a book publisher would be a dream job. Now that I'm in graduate school, that dream is closer to becoming a reality.

I got into graduate school (I'm not telling you which one, you never know with stalkers out there!!) in the spring. As September approached, I started getting nervous. Leading up to my first class, my head was a jumble of thoughts. Can I handle the work load? What if everyone knows more than I do? I'm not a big fan of the shift towards digital publishing. I love the physical book. Can I adapt with this changing landscape? Is it worth it to get into debt? After one week, I think the jury is still out on most of those questions. Outside of my finance class, the work isn't as daunting as I thought. Why do I single out the finance class? Math has never been my strength, and that goes way back to elementary school!! I'm also an intern at a literary agency. The internship is unpaid, but I don't think you can put a price on the experience. I want to soak up as much information as possible.

Hopefully, I will ring in 2013 with a full-time job.

I wish I could post as often as I did in the past, but that's just not possible. I'm still reading, but I have to put more energy into my school work than my blog. Don't worry publicists and authors, I will still honor all reviews with a set date. Hang in there with me!! Happy reading!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

My take on: The Book Lover

How could I not read a book titled The Book Lover? A book about people who love books is right up my alley. Lucinda "Lucy" Barrett and Ruth Hardaway both have a passion for books. But both of them are at a crossroads in their life. Lucy's marriage has failed, and the only thing she has to hold onto is her dream of being an author. Ruth has devoted her life to her children and her book store, but the store is facing financial ruin. Before they can think about the future, both women will have to face their pasts in The Book Lover by Maryann McFadden.

For years Lucy and her husband, David, have been going through the motions. David is "focused" on his career. He is really focused on gambling away their savings and ruining his business. Despite constant rejection, Lucy is determined to become a published author. After the death of their infant son Ben, Lucy and David have yet to deal with the pain. Five years have passed, but Ben is an unspoken topic between the two of them. Her book, A Quiet Wanting, gives Lucy something to live for. Rather than waiting for an agent or publisher, Lucy self-publishes her novel. Her dream won't happen if she doesn't take the extra push. When the law catches up to David, Lucy sets out on a cross-country journey to not only promote her book, but to deal with her demons.

Ruth has a passion for books, but that passion isn't enough to keep her business afloat. For decades, Ruth has devoted her life to her book store, The Book Lover, and her children. It's hard for Ruth to take time for herself. She's a mother, a therapist, a social worker, and a business woman. A secret friendship with Thomas, a convicted felon, are the only times Ruth can let her hair down. Thomas and Ruth can not only talk about their problems freely, but they also share a love for literature. Their relationship is a secret Ruth isn't willing to share with her children or friends. She's afraid of being judged. She's afraid her children will want to butt into their relationship.

Lucy and Ruth's path inevitable cross each other. When Ruth discovers A Quiet Wanting, she becomes like a second mother to Lucy. Ruth gives Lucy a chance to recharge her batteries at her lakeside cabin. All Ruth wants in exchange, is for Lucy to look after her son Colin. Why would a grown man need looking after? Colin is a recovering Iraqi war veteran, who is paralyzed from the waist down. Despite Colin insisting that he is fine, Ruth feels the need to keep tabs on him. Colin is hard to figure out sometimes. One day he is happy, one day he is moody. Despite the mixed emotions, Colin and Lucy form a friendship. When that friendship becomes more, you wonder how will this last? Lucy is still reeling from her failed marriage. Out on the lake, the two of them are in their own world. What happens when they come back to reality? Has Lucy truly thought about what a relationship with Colin really entails? She could end up being a lover and a caretaker for Colin.

Lucy is supposed to be looking out for Colin, not falling in love with him. If Ruth finds out the truth, their friendship could be in jeopardy. This is the part I didn't quite like about the book. Ruth comes across as a very caring and understanding person. She learns to accept Thomas, why can't she accept Lucy and Colin's relationship. Yes Lucy was supposed to live near Colin for other reasons, but they are ADULTS!! Just like Ruth doesn't want others to judge her relationship with Thomas, they same principle should apply for Colin and Lucy.

Overall, this a good read. If you love books, you will love this. I don't know the ins and outs of getting a book published (not yet that's what grad school is for), but Lucy's journey is very insightful. For Lucy, the journey to publication is a roller coaster ride. As soon as a bookseller hears the words "self-published," Lucy is met with skepticism. She gets good reviews, but there are also bad reviews. She has to tell herself that bad reviews are not the end of the world. If she keeps pushing, her dream will come true. Ruth has always pursued her dream. If she didn't have the store, what would she do? It's more than just a store, it's like a member of the family. She can't let go of the store without a fight.  The ending is wrapped up a little quickly, but if you love happy endings you won't be disappointed.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from Kelley and Hall in exchange for an honest review. I started grad school and I'm interning at a literary agency, so bare with me. I'm reading a lot, but during the semester my posting will be sporadic.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor: How did you get here?

I hope everyone is having a great day gorging on barbecue food. Today's a day for celebrating workers. On my blog lets celebrate writers and...the day jobs they left behind. Thanks to Open Road Media I have a video to share with you. Enjoy!!