Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Not spongeworthy

OK, I looked on youtube for a clip from the "Spongeworthy" Seinfeld episode and couldn't find one. I haven't watched the show in about 13 years, but I still use that term...and my non-Seinfeld-watching husband always looks at me like I'm an idiot. As you may be if you never watched the show. So, if you're one of "those" people, instead of spongeworthy, insert the term blogworthy. As in, the following books weren't worth a blog post of their own.

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

Entertaining, somewhat smutty fun.  Will never be mistaken for great (or even good) literature, but it was an easy read.

Good beach read.

Faithful Heart by Al Lacy

Christian romance novel set in the old West.  I like Christian novels.  There are some wonderful authors writing for the Christian market.  Al Lacy, at least based on this book, is not one of them.  Lame plot, poorly written, underdeveloped characters, and a story full of "tell, don't show". 

Don't bother.

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Since Vowell is a contributor to This American Life, one of my all-time favorite radio programs, and because I'm something of a nerd, I was excited to find her book on clearance.  The story is about the Puritan settlers from just before their trip across the Atlantic through their settlement in America and dealings with each other and the Native Americans already here.  Vowell uses quotes from Puritan writings (of which there were a lot, hence the title) to illuminate this feisty group.

Lots of good information and an interesting concept, but it was a slow read.  Definitely not a book that grabs you and keeps you on the edge of your seat.  Worth reading, but not, you know, when you're driving or otherwise need to stay awake. 

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand
When a married couple at the center of a close-knit group of friends is lost at sea, what exactly happened is a mystery.  The point of view rotates among each of the surviving characters, and we gradually learn that this group was more intertwined that any of them even realized.  As the story progresses, the history of the group is unveiled.
This book managed to keep my attention (which really isn't such a difficult feat, but it seems like I'm always saying in reviews that a book was hard to get into or stay interested in).  The characters were well-drawn as were the relationship among the individuals in the group of friends as well as the group dynamic, and the mystery surrounding the circumstances of the shipwreck kept me interested.
Interested, but not riveted, which is what I really want in a book.  Worth reading if there's nothing better on your bookshelf.

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner
I have really enjoyed some of Weiner's books, but after a while, they all seem to sound the same.  My thought on the Weiner-Franzenfreude brouhaha: he may or may not be a "white male literary darling" of the New York Post, but the reason that books like those of Weiner and Picoult are "overlooked" isn't their general topic or the fact that they're written by women; it's that if you've read one of theirs, you've pretty much read the others.  Only the details change.
And don't get me wrong--I have read books by both Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult that I have loved, that have kept me on the edge of my seat (OK, in Weiner's case it was the movie version of In Her Shoes; I haven't actually read the book yet.  But Picoult's The Pact was a powerful, disturbing book that I thought about long after closing it).  I just don't know that they qualify as "great literature".  That's fine.  They're wonderfully readable and enjoyable books.
Anyway...Best Friends Forever...formerly chubby main character (FCMC), though she's lost a ton of weight and has a cool job, still lives alone in her parents' former house, where her former best friend (FBFF) comes knocking on the door one night after their class reunion.  FBFF (despite having betrayed FCMC back in high school when FCMC was only looking out for FBFF) is in a bit of a bind, fearing that she may have accidentally killed one of their former classmates.  FCMC warily agrees to help out FBFF, and they make the rounds of some additional former classmates trying to figure out if the guy is still alive or what.  Meanwhile, still vulnerable divorced cop (FVDC) is investigating a blood trail from the reunion site.  If that preview isn't enough for you, read the book.
Not one of her best, but it's OK.

Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King

Believe it or not, the king of horror wrote a bit of a snoozer here.  It was OK.  Growing up, Vietnam War, a little spooky stuff thrown in there.  Say what you will about King's genre, he writes some serious page-turners.  And he writes so well that no matter how crazy his topic, you believe it.  The man had me sleeping with my mattress on the floor (you know, so I knew there was nothing under it) for years after It (AKA scariest. book. ever).  This book...eh...not so much.

Verdict: Skip it and reread The Stand.

Candy Girl: AYear in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody

The writer of Juno regales us with tales from her year working in the sex industry.  Funny at times, disturbing at others (serious ewwww factor comes into play with stories of a regular who frequents the peep show windows she works at for a while), Candy Girl leaves no doubt that stripping is not the glamorous life it might appear to be.

Verdict: Yeah, read it.  Be prepared to scrub your mental viewscreen afterwards with Lysol, though.

My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands by Chelsea Handler

I expected more from someone who is supposed to be so funny (I'm not a big TV watcher, so I don't know from personal experience).  There were a couple of laugh out loud moments in the book, but overall the stories ranged from eh...to okaaaay....to "Your poor parents..."  If I'm identifying with the parents of the my-age person narrating the story...not a good sign for me.

Verdict: Skip it.  Watch her on TV if she's funny there.


  1. I read the Jennifer Weiner one and agree 100%. Very light reading.

  2. I much preferred her book Good in Bed. That's the only one I've read that I can still remember the title of.