How to Be a Woman

From goodreads

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children—to jump-start a new conversation about feminism. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself

Pages: 301 pages (Paperback)

Publisher:  Published July 17th 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published June 16th 2011)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Source: Checked out of the library multiple times

Date Completed: May 10, 2013

Everything I heard about How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran indicated that I would enjoy the book: funny, strong feminist perspective, and a quick read.  The book was picked for a book club that is no longer in existence, but I still wanted to finish the selection. When I read the prologue, I was immediately struck by the line "zero tolerance on all patriarchal bullshit."  As I dove into the first chapters, I started to struggle.  The references to pornography started to bore me.  The framework felt crass and forced. I was annoyed. 

I liked the last part of the book much better.  The chapters on sexism, marriage, fashion, why you should have children, and why you should not have children were all very good.  In those, I felt the connection between her personal observation that was filled with wit and insight to a larger structural problem.  The abortion chapter was a bit bumpy, but I appreciate the attempt to reduce stigma. 

When I first finished the book, I had more things I intended to write in my review.  As with most things these days, the details spilled from my memory and I want to check something off my never-ending to-do list. 

Posted on Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 6:01PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Geneva Option

From TLC book tours

Yael Azoulay does the United Nations’ dirty work by cutting deals that most of us never hear about. Equally at home in the caves of Afghanistan, the slums of Gaza, or corporate boardrooms all across the world, Yael believes the ends justify the means…until she’s pushed way beyond her breaking point.

When Yael is assigned to eastern Congo to negotiate with Jean-Pierre Hakizimani, a Hutu warlord wanted for genocide, she offers him a generous plea bargain. Thanks to Congo’s abundance of a valuable mineral used in computer and cell phone production, her number one priority is maintaining regional stability. But when she discovers that Hakizimani is linked to the death of the person she loved the most—and that the UN is prepared to sanction mass murder—Yael soon realizes that salvation means not just saving others’ lives but confronting her own inner demons.

Spanning New York City, Africa, and Switzerland, The Geneva Option is the first in a series of gripping conspiracy thrillers, a tour de force of international espionage and intrigue.

Pages: 368 pages (Paperback)

Publisher:  Harper Paperbacks; Original edition (May 28, 2013)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Source: Received copy for participation in TLC Book Tour

Date Completed: June 3, 2013

I was looking for a change of reading pace, so I was very excited to pick up The Geneva Option by Adam LeBor. As promised from the description, the plot was fast paced and intriguing.  The power struggle, politics, and corruption in the UN was especially interesting.  I liked that the challenges of international development were illustrated.  In the midst of noble undertakings, such as bringing peace to a region, monetary interests can complicate things. Reading about the work of the reporters, Yael, and other characters was like getting a back stage pass into how things really work at the UN.

While I enjoyed the book overall, I was challenged with the pace and plot twists.  The abrupt changes in location and viewpoint were confusing. While I liked all the attention to detail, some of the small things got lost in the bigger picture. In spite of these issues, I am excited to read the next installments. 

More tour information can be found here

In addition to the book tour, I am counting this book for the 2013 Global Reading Challenge. 

Posted on Monday, June 3, 2013 at 9:55PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | Comments4 Comments

The Good House

From goodreads

Hildy Good is a townie. A lifelong resident of an historic community on the rocky coast of Boston’s North Shore, she knows pretty much everything about everyone. Hildy is a descendant of one of the witches hung in nearby Salem, and is believed, by some, to have inherited psychic gifts. Not true, of course; she’s just good at reading people. Hildy is good at lots of things.  A successful real-estate broker, mother and grandmother, her days are full. But her nights have become lonely ever since her daughters, convinced their mother was drinking too much, staged an intervention and sent her off to rehab.  Now she’s in recovery—more or less.

Alone and feeling unjustly persecuted, Hildy needs a friend. She finds one in Rebecca McCallister, a beautiful young mother and one of the town’s wealthy newcomers. Rebecca feels out-of-step in her new surroundings and is grateful for the friendship. And Hildy feels like a person of the world again, as she and Rebecca escape their worries with some harmless gossip, and a bottle of wine by the fire—just one of their secrets. 

But not everyone takes to Rebecca, who is herself the subject of town gossip. When Frank Getchell, an eccentric local who shares a complicated history with Hildy, tries to warn her away from Rebecca, Hildy attempts to protect her friend from a potential scandal. Soon, however, Hildy is busy trying to cover her own tracks and protect her reputation.  When a cluster of secrets become dangerously entwined, the reckless behavior of one threatens to expose the other, and this darkly comic novel takes a chilling turn.

Pages: 288 (ebook)

Publisher: Published January 15th 2013 by St. Martin's Press

Rating: 7 out of 10

Source: Purchased for Nook

Date Completed: April 25, 2013

When the Partners, Professors, and Pals book club selected The Good House by Ann Leary I was excited to read about the connection to witches and enjoy the New England setting.  The story that unfolded was not what I expected; however, I still enjoyed the book.  The perspective of Hildy was so engaging.  Initially, I agreed that her children had over reacted.  As the story unfolded, I changed my mind.  

From Hildy's perspective, we get to know other characters and see events unfold. At several points, I wondered how things looked from the other characters' viewpoints. Based on the description, I was expecting a very twisted, intense, surprising ending.  There were some surprises, but I felt like the story kind of puttered out.  After all the build up, things finished very weakly. 

Posted on Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 8:00PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | Comments2 Comments

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

From goodreads: 

In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle's Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remembers a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s--Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family were evacuated to the internment camps, she and Henry could only hope that their promise to each other would be kept. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel's basement for the Okabe family's belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.

Pages: 317 (ebook)

Publisher: Published January 27th 2009 by Random House, Inc./Random House Publishing Group 

Rating: 10 out of 10

Source: Checked out from Library

Date Completed: April 23, 2013

I had heard good things about Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford from many people and had it on a larger than life to-read list.  At one of our book club meetings, one of the members brought it up again and refreshed my excitement.  As a person of color, who grew up in the Sikh community, I am particularly tuned into the perception by some that all people of a particular religion and those that look like they may be of a certain religion or from a particular part of the world are terrorists.  In the midst of wars, massacres by guns, and explosions, I wanted a hopeful story.  I needed to read something that illustrates how something beautiful can come in the midst of so much ugliness. 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet delivered.  Not only does the story reveal the (sorry for strong language) fucked up practice of condemning a whole group of people based on ethnicity, but Henry's growth and development showcase the difference between what is immoral versus what is illegal.  I also appreciated reading about Henry's experience at the (almost) all white school.  The choice many immigrant parents make in sending their children to the best school academically at the cost of taking their children away from a familiar community is poignitely illustrated.   My other favorite character was Sheldon. He was like a wise uncle to Henry and I loved how he validated and put Henry's feelings into perspective. 

In addition to all of these larger social justice themes, there is also a love story that is beautiful and heart breaking to watch unfold. Henry's relationship with Keiko grows from distrust, to acquaintances, to friends and into a courtship.  As with most love stories, obstacles and miracles are part of the tale.  I wish that we had read this for book club as there is so much to discuss. 

I am counting this for the following challenge: 

What's in a Name Six: I am counting this for the category of emotion as bitter and sweet are both emotions. 

Posted on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 2:21PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

From goodreads

We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.

Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. 

Pages: 325 (paperback)

Publisher: Published September 2nd 2008 by Europa Editions

Rating: 8 out of 10

Source: Borrowed from a friend

Date Completed: April 21, 2013

While I cannot pinpoint where, I had heard enough good things about The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel BarberyAlison Anderson that I kept nominating the story for book club.  In August, one of the other members was kind enough to lend me her copy.   It took me nine months to finish the book! 

The characters were interesting and funny, but the pace of the book was slow for me.  Things began to pick up about half way through. I kept going because of the promise that when you finished, you would find that it was a worthwhile journey.  Sure enough, with the appearance of Ozu, I could not put the book down.  I loved the exploration of class and the search for meaning.  I appreciated the observations and sass of Paloma. I liked her endpoint the best. At the risk of sounding cliche, her friendships with Renee and Ozu really did make her a better person.  My favorite character was Renee.  Her passion for the arts, particularly literature and film, combined with the keen observations she makes about the tenants made me smile. 

As predicted, the last quarter of the book was amazing. After I finished the last page, I felt so sad that it was over.  I was surprised by that feeling given that only a few weeks earlier, I wanted to be finished. 

Posted on Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 3:48PM by Registered Commenter[beastmomma] in | CommentsPost a Comment