Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Winter in Wisconsin, 1907 is a stark, sometimes brutal sometimes beautiful season, words that can also be used to describe this novel. Catherine Land, a beautiful, but no longer young woman, has answered a newspaper ad for "a reliable wife." Ralph Truitt, aging, rich, and lonely has selected Catherine from dozens of replies, based on her description of herself as a simple and honest woman and the picture she sent, which is actually of her much plainer cousin India. Despite her obvious deceptions, Ralph goes forward with his plan to marry her.

The reader soon learns that both parties have ulterior motives in mind - Catherine to inherit Ralph's money and live in luxury with her much younger lover, and Ralph to use Catherine to bring his long-estranged son back home and quench his eternal loneliness. The novel quietly twists and turns along these plot lines while each of them realizes that fulfilling their deepest wishes may not be what brings them satisfaction after all.

Goolrick's writing is hypnotizing - his rich visual descriptions drew me in until I could hear, smell, feel and see through the character's eyes. The book quietly seethes with passion and teeters on madness, examining the human condition in all of its capablilities. While it is a book to be savored, it is suspenseful enough to keep the pages turning until the end. I highly recommend this book to fans of gothic or romantic novels, or anyone who is a lover of language. Some readalike suggestions are:

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Monday, July 20, 2009

Downloadable Book!!! My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler

If you are ready for a politically incorrect, unapologetic and unhealthy look at love in the fast lane, you might be ready for Chelsea Handler's first book, My Horizontal Life. Handler, the host of the E! network show, "Chelsea Lately," has written a hilarious, if not raunchy, memoir of her sexual history, leaving few, if any, stones unturned.

Chelsea's alcohol and drug-fueled conquests sometimes left me feeling hungover myself, but they also always left me laughing. Her ability to poke fun at herself and her loved ones are one of the reasons this book works for me - who doesn't like to hear about other families' dysfunctions? While this book certainly isn't for everyone, I would recommend it for fans of Chelsea or comedy in general. There is strong language, alcohol and drug use, and, of course, plenty of sexual situations as well as frank sexual talk. If you can get past these factors and are looking for a funny and light read, give Chelsea Handler a try. You might also want to try her second book, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea.

I chose to listen to this title on my iPod, by downloading the book through our new OMNI library website (http://www.blogger.com/www.omnilibraries.org.) Chelsea does not narrate this book; however, Cassandra Campbell does a masterful job of capturing Chelsea's attitude and her sense of comedic timing is impeccable. I am typically not an audio book type of gal - I am far too easily distracted - but this particular book is written in little snippets of stories, so it is easy to pop in and out of the book without losing the momentum of the story. At times, it almost seemed more like a stand-up routine rather than a book, but I enjoyed it either way. I am looking forward to more from Chelsea Handler in the future.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is one of those authors whose books I cannot wait for - beginning with her first book, Good in Bed, she has captured audiences with her wonderful characters and story lines. Her new book, Best Friends Forever, meets all these expectations and then some.

Addie Downs seems to have it all - she's young (33,) attractive, has a successful career and a beautiful home - the only thing she is lacking is someone to share it with. Other than her brother Jon, brain-damaged in a car accident as a teenager, she has no family or friends. One night, her best friend from high school shows up at her door after a 15 year absence, desperately asking for Addie's help and completely disrupting her quiet life.

Valerie Adler, Addie's best friend from childhood, has left her small town behind, working as a "meteorologist" for Fox News in Chicago. She and Addie's relationship fell apart during their senior year, but the reader does not learn the details until well into the book. The whole reason for their falling out is what has led Val into the trouble she is currently experiencing. Despite Addie's usual common sense, she allows herself to be drawn into Val's web, and joins her on her plan to "get out of town for awhile." The two unlikely fugitives head south in Addie's parents' old station wagon, with the town sheriff, who has the hots for Addie, not far behind. What transpires is a wacky tale of friendship and forgiveness, complete with a BIG surprise at the end.

If you enjoy this particular book, give Jennifer's other books a try. Also check out her wonderful website and blog at http://www.jenniferweiner.com/. This is a perfect book for some light summer reading - it will leave you smiling. The only problem I have with this book is that now I have to wait forever for her next one to come out!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

August Book Clubs at the Library

The Adult Book Club meets on the second Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room. Members will discuss The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton on August 12, 2009. In this novel, cultures collide when an American librarian goes to Africa to start a traveling library.

The Mystery Book Club meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. in Meeting Room B. On August 19, 2009, members will discuss Brass Verdict by bestselling author Michael Connelly. This is Connelly's latest crime thriller featuring LAPD Detective Harry Bosch.

Stop by to pick up your copy at the Adult Services Reference Desk on the second floor.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Love You, Beth Cooper! by Larry Doyle

Denis Cooverman, valedictorian for his Buffalo Grove High School graduating class has no idea that he is about to experience the night of a lifetime (which in his case would not take much.) Rather than present the usual rabble that goes in one ear and out the other, he takes the opportunity with his graduation speech to single out a few of the people who made his life more difficult during his high school years. He also calls out his best friend to admit that he is gay, but not before announcing to the sweaty mass of humanity filling the gymnasium that he, debate team captain and frequent target of harassment, Denis Cooverman, was in love with the head cheerleader and most popular girl in school, Beth Cooper.

At the post-graduation reception, Denis is anticipating receiving the accolades of his peers; however, as usual, no one pays attention to him, until Beth Cooper herself approaches him. Panicked, he invites her and her 2 friends to an impromptu party at his house later that evening. The chain of events that follow after Beth and her friends actually show up at his "party" consisting of Denis and his possible gay best friend, Rich, are unprecedented in Denis's young life.

This is your typical high school nerd breaks out of his mold story; however, the writing is snappy, the book moves along at a frenetic pace, and the dialogue is clever. It reminded me very much of one of John Hughes' movies from the '80's, such as "Sixteen Candles" or "Weird Science." Be forewarned, however - there is excessive violence, sexual encounters of all sorts, and substance abuse galore so if any of that subject matter offends, this may not be the fun summer read you are looking for. If you plan on seeing the major motion picture of the same title that is currently out, it would be an interesting comparison to read the book before you see the movie!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard

Abby and Mitch, high school sweethearts devoted to one another, were about to take a very big step in their relationship when the fates intervened, altering their lives forever. While heading downstairs to Abby's father's medical office for some protection, Mitch witnesses Abby's father, a respected doctor, and his best friend's father, the sheriff, bring in the frozen young body of a beautiful young woman. Before he can recover from the shock of what he sees, he is further traumatized when he witnesses Abby's dad covering the girl's face with some plastic bags and battering it with a baseball bat. The next morning, Mitch has unexpectedly left town, leaving Abby and his best friend, Rex, hurt, confused and dealing with his unexplained absence.

Fast-forward 18 years: Abby is a small-business owner, still single, and still affected by Mitch's disappearance all those years ago. She is dating Rex's n'er-do-well brother, Patrick, who may be responsible for the Virgin's death. Rex has taken over as the sheriff of the county, his father's old job, and is also still at a loss over Mitch's absence. The body of the young girl whom Mitch had seen at Abby's house was never claimed, but the town raised enough money to bury her with a large headstone. Over the years, she became known as the "Virgin" around town, and was even rumored to perform miracles for people from beyond the grave. With the advent of the internet, the "Virgin's" reputation has grown, and people come from all over to ask the deceased woman for help.

After all the years of the mystery of the Virgin simmering just under the town's surface, Abby, Rex, and Mitch are about to be reunited to discover the truth of the crime once and for all. What they discover shocks and sickens them and the entire town of Small Plains. Will anyone else have to die in order to keep the secret of the Virgin safe?

Nancy Pickard tells an intriguing tale of suspense in this quick read. Although some of the plot seems a bit contrived and hard to fathom, I was still into the book enough to stick with it through the end. The story begs the question of how far one will go to protect a friendship, a family and a town. The use of miracles in the book illustrates how one person's miracle is another person's tragedy, and how, in the end, people will reap what they sow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

enLIGHTened by Jessica Berger Gross

In my never-ending quest for a healthier lifestyle that works for my lazy self, I picked up this book about yoga, diet, and overcoming the obstacles in our lives that prevent us from ultimate mental, emotional and physical health.

Jessica Berger Gross grew up in an abusive household where both of her parents worked to support the family. Meals were most often ones of convenience, with little thought to the effects the food was having on the family's health. Between eating to comfort and insulate herself from the issues in her family and the unhealthy nature of the food that was eaten, Jessica developed a weight problem that would plague her on and off through much of her young life.

One semester in college, she traveled to Nepal to study. Here she was forced to walk to most places, while eating primarily vegetarian meals, and she lost weight without even trying. She was also able to continue her dabbling with yoga, which she was first introduced to in high school. While these healthy habits would not continue consistently upon her return, the seeds had been planted for healthier, more sustainable habits that would eventually bloom into a full-blown lifestyle.

I enjoyed this book a great deal - it is never preachy or condescending, it includes some yogic teachings and poses, as well as small tips and recipes that were helpful to the author as she found her way. Jessica also shares some of the very personal struggles she endured before she found herself in the healthy place she is today. I found this book to be very inspiring but not heavy or pressure-inducing. While I don't ever see myself living as clean a life as Jessica, this book gives me hope that small steps can make a big difference.