Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reviewing summer reads

I've been promising this group of reviews for weeks. I'm a lazy shit. Get over it. Actually, life kept getting in the way, but the pile of books has been sitting on my desk for weeks, waiting for some free time, and here it is!

These are all books that have been recently published and are all great for summertime reading. I'm not much of a 'chick lit' lover for summer, I'm much more likely to read detective novels and mysteries with psychological intrigue. I want to be totally hooked on the summer books I read. This group of books definately fell into that category.

Rubicon, by Lawrence Alexander. I could go all snarky here and say that this was a book that is almost a parody on our current government, but it goes so much further than that. It's the tale of a power-hungry Republican government (remind you of anyone) that has broken laws, pushed an agenda past Congress, and now is out to take over the US government by killing all the candidates running for office, thus tying up the elections so the president can take over as dictator. While the premise seems unlikely, reading this book is scarily like much of what has happened in the past 8 years of the Bush administration. It isn't hard to believe that if Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld all kept pushing Bush forward, the plot of this book could have become reality. This is a well written and very engaging novel of intrigue and suspense in the highest echelons of government. It is a great summer read, and I give it an A.

All the Way Home, by David Giffels. A perfect gift for Father's Day or any day for the man in your life who is a home improvement nut. If your guy is at all interested in home repair, this is the book for him! It is the memior of a young couple from Akron Ohio who decide to sell their first home and find something bigger after they discover that they're expecting their second child. Driving around Akron they spy a falling down wreck of an old mansion and fall madly in love with the house. It is absolutely unlivable as is, but in fact the owner is still there, living without water, toilets, electricity, etc. After the closing from hell, David commences to take on the huge duty of ridding the house of squirrels and raccoons, replacing walls, floors, and ceilings, and basicially rebuilding the house from the bottom up. While the physical rebuilding is going on, the couple's marriage also needs rebuilding. Two miscarriages have left their relationship fragile and difficult, especially while living in this crazy wreck of a house. But in the end David becomes the father he wants to be, and the house survives. Another great read, filled with pathos and laughter. I give it an A-.

The Scandal Plan by Bill Forman. The story of a presidential campaign that was failing because the candidate was too nice. His advisors come up with a plan to show him in a less positive light, just so people would see his human side. They make up an affair he was supposed to have had in the past, but the whole plan backfires and hijinks ensue. Of course, the more problems that fall into his lap, the stronger the candidate grows, until he has taken over the lead. What to say? I didn't particularly like this book. The premise was silly and reminded me of Wag the Dog. It was just as improbable. I didn't like the characters, especially the driver who became central to the plot despite his complete lack of English skills. Like nobody noticed? The characters were too one-dimensional, the plot was silly, and the writing was not great. I'll give it a C-.

Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall. I'm sure you've read about this book or seen Ms Wall on television recently. She is directly responsible for the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Warren Jeffs, the self-appointed Prophet of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints church. This is the autobiography of Ms Wall's upbringing within the church, and her forced marriage at 14 to her cousin whom she hated. Her cousin raped her repeatedly when she was first married and had absolutely no knowledge of sex or what was expected of her. She begged over and over again to Jeffs to get out of the marriage, but was deemed a troublemaker and forced to return to her cruel husband. Finally she found a way out of the cult, and started off a new life with another man who also left the church. This book is a chilling damnation of the church, telling the story of Wall's family being forced away from her father and her older siblings. To this day Wall has no contact with most of her family who have ostracized her on Jeff's command. This is one of those books you cannot put down. It's terribly sad, but it will make you so angry. I give it an A.

Knock Yourself Up by Louise Sloan. This non-fiction guide for single women who want to become parents discusses home insemination, advanced reproductive procedures, and adoption as paths towards motherhood. Filled with warmth and humor, this guide covers ground that other books just don't dare to tread. Interviews with many single moms, some by choice and some not, punctuate the book's topics, leaving much to think about both pro and con for each method discussed. This is a nice book. It's cozy and warm and not too clinical. It's the type of book that you want to give your friends and family to try and understand just what you're going through. Because there are so many choices to make with the context of having a baby as a single mom, Sloan presents each without negativity. I appreciated the humor and the gentle nature of this book. I give it a B+.

Moose, by Stephanie Klein. What superlatives can I throw into this review? Right off the bat I'll tell you that I loved this book. Loved it. Klein writes a stinging memoir of her summers in fat camp, but the book goes so far beyond fat camp. It's a revelation of what it means to be a young teenager with parents who aren't all that supportive and believe with all their hearts that looks are much more important than what's inside young Stephanie and her sister. Stephanie talks about middle school and the cruelty of her classmates, but she also covers the diet specialist her parents drove her to, the specialist that implants some of the weirdest notions of dieting ever into Klien's young mind. Stephanie reveals sneaking food, hording, and even her flirtation with bulemia all in the quest to be thin. Thin, for Stephanie, promised popularity and good grades, and boyfriends that were interested in her mind, not just her body. Thin was confused with being a good person. Her learned condemnation of obesity has followed her into adulthood, where she is still struggling daily with weight issues despite having lost her weight long ago. If you are the parent of a teenager, this book is required reading. If you are the parent of a teenage girl with self esteem issues, get a copy for your daughter, and make her read it. I can't even begin to say how important I think this book is. For all it's humor, and it is funny, underneath the jokes is the painful story of growing up in a world where looks are more important than anything else. Klein treads were so many other books just won't go, to the anger and resentment underneath the humor. The jolly fat kid pulls off her mask and we get to experience with her how painful it is to be unacceptable in a world gone mad with vanity. This is an A+++++ book!

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Blogger Kim said...

Thanks for sharing the list! I will have to check some of them out! NCLM

14/6/08 10:12 PM  

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