9.18.2008

Books Read in August 2008

America America by Ethan Canin
Set in the1970s, Corey Sifter becomes a yard boy for the powerful Metarey family. And because he’s an exceptional young man, soon finds himself a student at a private boarding school thanks to the Metareys. Eventually he becomes involved with one of the Metarey daughters, and needless to say he leaves behind the world of his upbringing. Before long, Corey finds himself working for the great New York senator Henry Bonwiller, who is running for president of the United States. As the campaign gains momentum, Corey finds himself caught up in a web of events that eventually culminate in a tragic death.
I’m not a fan of political fiction, but this book is an exception. Even though the story was a classic “poor-boy-gets-taken-in-by-rich-family-and-falls-in-love-with-daughter” story, the characters were great, with enough turns and twists to keep me interested.

Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman
Private investigator Tess Monaghan lands an assignment with a movie company shooting a series in Baltimore. It seems the company has been haunted by a series of petty crimes and other mysterious incidents, and they’re concerned for the safety of the young female lead. Tess soon realizes she’s been hired as a body guard and babysitter to a spoiled movie starlet. It’s all pretty ho-hum until someone gets the axe.
Actually it’s pretty ho-hum all the way through. I’ve never read other Lippman books but they come highly recommended by her fans. That said – this one was not a great book. Too easy to figure out, too many clich├ęs, and the characters would be great cartoon personalities but didn’t resonate in real life.

Entre Nous, a Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl by Debra Ollivier
Ollivier is an American, married to a Frenchman, who spent ten years living in France -- so she knows a thing or two about the French. It’s no big secret (whether you believe it or not) that the world thinks French girls have it going on. So, how can an American girl tap into that mystic – a certain je ne sais quoi – that French girls are born with? Ollivier gives us lovely stories about fashion icons and fabulous food, French movies (watch and learn) and a list of must-dos. Thankfully, Ollivier's advice isn’t about buying more stuff. It has a hefty dose of making do with what you have, living life purposefully, defining your personal fashion sense and purchasing that one great item that’s meant to be worn for a long time. Quality not quantity. So refreshing! Every American woman should read this book -- it’s delightful with a plethora of great sidebars.

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman
Chessman undertakes a lofty goal – telling the story behind some of the most famous paintings ever done by a woman. The story is set in the 1880’s. American impressionist Mary Cassatt and her sister, Lydia live in Paris -- and the Paris art world is thriving. Lydia narrates the story and even though she is very ill with Bright's disease, and conscious of her impending death, she poses for five of her sister's paintings.
I enjoyed this book. Some may find it boring, but it matches Mary Cassatt’s paintings -- quiet, contemplative and beautiful – interwoven with the very real story of a woman looking at death while very much still alive. Historical art fiction.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Enzo is different from other dogs. First and foremost he narrates a damn good book. He’s also a philosopher with an obsession with opposable thumbs. He’s educated himself by watching television and by listening to his master -- weekend race car driver Denny Swift. It’s through Denny he learns that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. We meet Enzo on a very special evening, as he looks back on his life, recalling all the sacrifices Denny made; and the unexpected losses along the way. In the end Enzo, well, never mind what he does– I’m leaving this intentionally vague because I don’t want to spoil this book for you!
A heart-squeezing but really and truly funny story of life, love, family loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is my new FAVORITE BOOK to recommend. A beautifully written story that explores the wonders and absurdities of human life from a dog’s eye point of view. ♥♥♥