Thursday, May 29, 2008

Review: Derby Girl

Derby Girl by Shauna Cross
3.5 stars

Reasons for reading: Caught my eye when I was ordering it for the library; Young Adult Challenge

Book description: "Meet Bliss Cavendar, a blue haired, indie-rock loving misfit stuck in the tiny town of Bodeen, Texas. Her pageant-addicted mother expects her to compete for the coveted Miss Bluebonnet crown, but Bliss would rather feast on roaches than be subjected to such rhinestone tyranny. Bliss' escape? Take up Roller Derby. When she discovers a league in nearby Austin, Bliss embarks on an epic journey full of hilarious tattooed girls, delicious boys in bands, and a few not-so-awesome realities even the most bad-assed derby chick has to learn.

First line: "I don't know how it happened or what sort of backroom deal went down, but apparently I'm living in a small Texas town with two culturally clueless imposters for legal guardians, when I just know my real parents are out there somewhere."

My thoughts: I enjoyed this book, even though I know nothing about roller derby. I might have to learn, though, it sounds pretty cool! This was a quick read, but a good one. Bliss is a funny, sarcastic, authentic-sounding teen narrator. She might sometimes feel like she's adopted and wish her parents were cooler, but deep down she really loves them, and her little sister. Her friendship with Bodeen's other misfit girl, Pash Amini, is realisitic - they're best buds but not immune to a fall-out. They share the typical outcast-girl things - love of thrift store and vintage clothes, Manic Panic-dyed hair, music snobbery and working at the Oink Joint - the only after-school job in town that will take them. Favourite clothes and songs play a big part - in particular there's the saga of Bliss' Stryper shirt, which is both funny and sad.

I've never come across roller derby in a book, YA or otherwise, so I thought that was a great way to set it apart. I loved the costumes, the names of both the teams (Bliss is a Hurl Scout) and the girls (such as Dinah Might and Malice in Wonderland). As with Dairy Queen (with roller derby instead of football) it was great to see Bliss becoming skilled at something she really loved doing. I also really liked the rollergirls in general - they're tough and cool but they also really cared about and looked after Bliss and each other.

A lot of the themes are very common in YA lit - first love, heartbreak, problems with parents and friends - but I really enjoyed watching Bliss deal with them all and come out a rockin' skater girl with newfound confidence in herself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Review: Dear Sad Goat

Dear Sad Goat: A Roundup of Truly Canadian Tales and Letters compiled by Bill Richardson
3 stars

Reasons for reading: Love of Bill Richardson; the silly title; Nonfiction for Triple 8 Challenge, Animal title for What's in a Name? Challenge

Summary: A collection of personal stories sent into Richardson's CBC radio show Richardson's Roundup.

My thoughts: Yes, I kinda have a crush on Bill Richardson. I think he's one of the funniest folks around AND he's a librarian. That said, I've never listened to him on the radio, I'm just not much of a radio gal. But I have read his other books and columns and heard him speak at a conference - he's a hoot. And no, he didn't actually write this book but he did do the intros to each chapter and the whole thing is kind of infused with Richardson-iness.

I enjoyed this collection - it's very Canadian, which was cool. I was able to experience many parts of this country that I know nothing about - rural living, the far north, the Atlantic provinces... The stories are very loosely grouped in themes - first apartments, self-surgery, being a naughty kid, travelling teddy bears, grandmothers, farm incidents... They reminded me of those stories people send in to Reader's Digest, but not in a bad way - they're good, personal, real-people stories. Many were funny (the one that sticks with me is one of the very first - about a not-dead ice fisherman), some were touching (the one about a grandmother's fur coat), some were a wee bit maudlin or boring (but not many).

A fun, quick read if you like personal anecdotes. For more Richardson goodness, check out his utterly charming and funny Bachelor Brothers' Bed and Breakfast books.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Review: The Perfectly True Tales of a Perfect Size 12

The Perfectly True Tales of a Perfect Size 12 by Robin Gold
3 stars

Book description: "Delilah White, television’s semi-famous (to her own shock) and completely endearing Domestic Diva, likes herself just the way she is: a perfect size twelve. When her boss announces that she’s taking an early retirement, Delilah finds herself pitted against her rival, the statuesque Margo Hart, for one of the most coveted promotions in television. As the office politics are heating up, Delilah jumps at the opportunity for a long weekend at her friend’s family estate in the Catskills, only to have Margo make a surprise appearance and start stirring up trouble. Armed only with a pink polka dot bikini and her sometimes overactive imagination, Delilah must balance her budding romance (with a man who just might be otherwise committed) and a sudden meltdown at the office. As one disaster follows another, it takes all of Delilah’s charm, ingenuity, and spirit to come out on top."

First line: "The studio lights are too hot; they're melting the f***ing meringue!"

My thoughts:
The book description is correct, Delilah is endearing - she's funny, smart, talented, and driven, but doesn't take herself or life too seriously (most of the time). I could relate to her habit of "self-conversating." The lavish Trawler estate where the Fourth of July party is held sounded like a truly awesome place to visit, complete with its own private beach and mini-golf course. And the party guests, including a tone-deaf uncle who forces people to sing and an enthuasiastic inventor father who invented the little round thing that goes in the middle of delivery pizzas, add some extra entertaintment. There are some really funny parts, especially towards the end at the big party. But in this comedy of errors, there are a quite a few really obvious misunderstandings that I figured out long before Delilah did. Which is part of the genre, I know, but I did want to shout them out to her, like a kid in a pantomime audience.

And I have to say that the whole size 12 thing bothered me. It does help to establish Delilah's character -deep down she's still bothered by being fat little "Delilah Donut" as a kid and she has the challenge of working in a field where women are expected to be stick insects. But to me, as someone who truly is fat, it seemed like Gold was trying so hard to portray a cute, happy, well-adjusted "heavy" girl that she ended up drawing attention to the fact that even an average size is seen as fat by our society and that's just the way it is. Delilah's weight is mentioned to her, in various degrees of insultingness, by at least 3 people in the space of one weekend. I, truly fat girl with her share of mean comments, haven't even had that happen in that short a space of time. I can see evil, plastic-surgeried Margo using it to attack her, but not random strangers. I had the same feeling about Meg Cabot's similarly titled Size 12 is not Fat - it ruins good intentions by turning it into a protesting too much situation.

But, really, it was enjoyable - a light, quick, chick lit read with a neat heroine. And given the setting, it would be a good beach read, preferably over the July 4th long weekend.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Review: Strawberry Shortcake Murder

Strawberry Shortcake Murder by Joanne Fluke
3 stars

Reasons for reading: Set in Minnesota; May book for Every Month is a Holiday Challenge (May is National Strawberry Month)

Book description: "When the president of Hartland Flour chooses cozy Lake Eden, Minnesota, as the spot for their first annual Dessert Bake-Off, Hannah is thrilled to serve as the head judge. But when a fellow judge, Coach Boyd Watson, is found stone-cold dead, facedown in Hannah's celebrated strawberry shortcake, Lake Eden's sweet ride to fame turns very sour indeed. Between perfecting her Cheddar Cheese Apple Pie and Chocolate Crunchies, Hannah's snooping into the coach's private life and not coming up short on suspects. And could Watson's harsh criticism during the judging have given one of the contestants a license to kill? The stakes are rising faster than dough, and Hannah will have to be very careful, because somebody is cooking up a recipe for murder...with Hannah landing on the "necessary ingredients" list."

First line: "The sound of a crash startled Hannah Swensen awake."

Favourite line: "If chocolate were a mandatory part of breakfast, people wouldn't be so grouchy in the morning."

My thoughts:
I thought this was the first in the series, but it's the second, after Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. But I managed to enjoy it without having read the first - there's a bit of backstory about Hannah's relationship with Mike the cop and how she got her cat, but overall it was fine.

I'm fond of all things Minnesotan, so that was a big plus for me. I enjoyed the whole baking theme - there are some mouth-watering recipes included in the book and I liked that each one has a note about how different characters feel about the dessert, as if it was straight from Hannah's personal recipe box. It did make me really want to eat some cookies, though! And I envied how almost all of the characters munched on them regularly throughout the book - I feel guilty having one cookie!

There were multiple murders, which added interest to the story. I semi-guessed the killer towards the end, but it was still suspenseful. The final scene was a bit like a Bond movie where James doesn't get killed because his arch-nemesis is so full of himself that he has to explain everything rather than killing our hero, but it was still exciting.

I can see myself bringing another Hannah Swensen mystery on vacation to Minnesota with me. There are certainly a bunch of them, and their titles all sound delicious.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Book Awards II Challenge

My stars, another challenge! But this one goes into 2009, so I think I can handle it. (I hope!)

How does the AMAZING
3M manage to give us these great challenges?? She's a reading superhero!

Details and sign-up are
here. Basically it's:

  • Read 10 award-winning books in 10 months (August 1, 2008 - June 1, 2009)
  • Cover at least 5 different literary prizes in your list
Here's my list (subject to change, there are some overlaps with other challenges):

1. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Newbery Medal, 2009)
2. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Alex Award, 2007)
3. Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Carnegie Medal, 2004)

4. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane (Anthony Award, 2002)
5. Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner (Man Booker Prize, 1984)

6. Out Stealing Horses (IMPAC Dublin Award, 2007)

7. On Beauty by Zadie Smith (Orange Prize, 2006)
8. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Printz Award, 2005)
Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews (Agatha Award - Best 1st Novel, 1999)
10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (Newbery Medal, 1963)

Review: The Three Miss Margarets

The Three Miss Margarets by Louise Shaffer
3.5 stars

Reasons for reading: Southern lit; Number title for Triple 8 Challenge

Summary: "Thirty-odd years ago the three Miss Margarets did something extraordinary, clandestine, and very illegal. Although their lives are haunted by the night that changed their lives, they believe that their crime was simply a matter of righting an egregious wrong. But when a stranger’s arrival in town and a tragic death open the floodgate of memory, their loyalty, friendship, and honor are tested in ways they could never have imagined."

First line: "She'd gone to bed with her shoes on, and not by accident."

My thoughts: The three Miss Margarets are 80-ish Dr. Maggie, 70-ish Miss L'il Bit, and 60-ish Miss Peggy. The first two come from fine old families in Charles Valley, GA and Miss Peggy married into the Garrison family, for whom almost everything in the area is named. Circumstances decades ago forged a strond bond among the three women, and it's about to be tested.

This was a really interesting book. I really enjoyed that it had so many different stories to tell - about each of the Miss Margarets' lives, about an amazing black girl and her family, about another girl whose family was torn apart by their lie, and about the mighty Garrison family, especially its ruthless last son, Grady. And, the main one, about the tragic events that bind all of these stories together.

Each Miss Margaret is a fully imagined character, bound together by the past and by their own eccentricities. Depending on which Miss Margaret is speaking, they're either weird or outsiders or odd. They're at once completely part of their Southern world of 30 years ago while also being very rebellious - Maggie became a doctor and started out by treating poor black patients, L'il Bit was all but orphaned and inherited her house and fortune and 17, and Peggy rose above her humble station to marry into the most important family in the region and outlive all of the Garrisons.

It also explores some interesting moral questions. Can you justify hurting one family to save another? If someone deserves to be punished, does it matter how that punishment comes about? Are some people more deserving of being saved than others?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Review: Lock and Key

Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen
4 stars

Reason for reading: I love Sarah Dessen!

First line: "And finally," Jamie said as he pushed the door open, "we come to the main event. Your room."

Book description: “Ruby, where is your mother?” Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return. That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future - it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

My thoughts: This book has a lot to say about what makes someone part of your family or one of your friends - sometimes people you expect to be there for you aren't and sometimes people you've just met or never given much thought to will really come to your rescue. This theme is woven skillfully throughout the book (especially with the recurring lock and key metaphor), constantly coming back to the ideas of home, family and belonging.

Nate is a great character - uber-nice guy, but with a terrible burden to bear. I liked (well, thought it was interesting and good for the story) the aspect of a male victim of child abuse, on top of Ruby's horror story of neglect. And I really enjoyed seeing Ruby come out of her shell and learn to trust and care about people.

Overall, yet another winner from Sarah Dessen!

Quote that stayed with me:
"Needing was so easy: it came naturally, like breathing. Being needed by someone else, though, that was the hard part. But as with giving help and accepting it, we had to do both to be made complete - like links overlapping to form a chain, or a lock finding the right key."

Review: Bet Your Bottom Dollar

Bet Your Bottom Dollar by Karin Gillespie
4 stars

Reasons for reading: Recommended by my friend Vidalia; South Carolina setting

First line: "Yellow and red leaves spun around my face as I tramped up the cracked sidewalk to the Bottom Dollar Emporium."

Book description: Welcome to the Bottom Dollar Emporium, where everything from coconut mallow cookies to Clabber Girl Baking Powder costs only a dollar, and coffee and gossip are free.
For Elizabeth, Mavis, and Attalee, logging nine to five at the Bottom Dollar is not just work time, it's family time. So when news gets out that the Super Saver Dollar Store chain plans to set up shop and run the Bottom Dollar out of town, things go catawampus. Manager Elizabeth, who has a good head for business even though she flunked pin-curling in beauty school, teams up with a crew of dedicated do-gooders bent on saving the Bottom Dollar from the fate of spare change. But when Elizabeth's unlikely new love interest -- who also happens to be Cayboo Creek's wealthiest bachelor -- pitches woo, out come some startling revelations about her past that turn life more than a little interesting for all her friends and neighbors.

My thoughts: Yup, another SC book! I actually took this one on the trip but didn't have time to read it. I gulped it down it in about a day while I was home sick after we got back.

This was a lovely little book - I actually just recommended it as an "inspirational" read because it was such fun and the Bottom Dollar girls worked so hard to save the shop (come on, you knew they would!). It's another book full of quirky small-town folks and each chapter begins with a quote from a bumper sticker, sign in someone's shop, someone's favourite quote or a song from the jukebox in the Tuff Luck Tavern, such as selection F-7: "I Still Miss You, Baby, But My Aim Is Getting Better."

There are some twists to rival a soap opera, but they don't seem over-the-top. Elizabeth is a great character - a very clever small-town girl with a heart of gold. So drop into the Bottom Dollar Emporium - you won't be disappointed!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Review: The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square

The Pajama Girls of Lambert Square by Rosina Lippi
5 stars

Reasons for reading: An ad in Shelf Awareness; South Carolina setting

Book description: For John Dodge, moving to new places and reviving ailing businesses is a way of life. So when he sees an ad for Scriveners, a stationery shop in a small town in South Carolina, he decides to take the plunge. As soon as he arrives in Lambert's Corner, Dodge falls happily into the whirl of gossip, gifts, and quintessential Southern hospitality. Link Kay, one of his employees, warms up to him after Dodge admires his expertise on pens. Bean Hurt- a feisty and outspoken ten-year-old-becomes a fast friend. And Maude Golden, the mayor, supplies him with indispensable information. But the one person who really catches Dodge's eye is Julia Darrow-the beautiful but aloof pajama- wearing owner of the Cocoon, a popular store specializing in luxury linens. Dodge tries to befriend her, but she remains elusive and mysterious. Everyone knows that she is a widow, but no one seems to know why she came to town or why she never leaves Lambert Square-or does she? Like Dodge, Chicago-born Julia is fleeing a tumultuous past. But with the help of a hilarious and endearing cast of characters, Julia and Dodge learn that, sometimes, you don't need to go far to find home.

My thoughts: Just super! Words like "sparkling" and "fresh" come to mind. I read this in the first 24 or so hours after getting back from Charleston because I couldn't bear to leave SC (little did I know, Lippi is a Pacific Northwester - but she does a great job of the setting).

John and Julia are excellent main characters - they're both trying to escape something, but they still manage to be kind, intelligent, and interesting. I love that the girls in Cocoon wear beautiful pajamas and that Julia wears them almost exclusively. I'd love to do that!! Despite his permanent case of wanderlust, Dodge goes out of his way to be friendly and help people. One of my favourite parts were his attempts to record his answering machine message after each caller leaves him advice on how it was too terse or too wordy or not friendly enough or too friendly.

The townspeople of Lamb's Corner make excellent secondary characters - Link's habit of squirreling away the best pens, two of Julia's more elderly Needlework Girls who know everyone's business and (like the rest of the town) have no problem barging into Dodge's apartment to offer all kinds of food, gifts, and advice; bombshell mayor Maude; and Bean and her mother Mayme who just want to find happiness after Bean's daddy left them. Plus the rather bewildered Swedes who are coming to Lamb's Corner to open a plant for Kallsjo (or, as the locals say it "Kallie-Jo) cars. Another favourite scene has the Needlework Girls completely at a loss as to why Kallsjo can't just build Dodge trucks instead of those impractical, silly little foreign cars, anyway.

This book has it all - romance, humour, tragedy, family struggles, friendship... I definitely recommend it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Review: Sullivan's Island

Sullivan's Island: a Lowcountry tale by Dorothea Benton Frank
4 stars

Reason for reading: Its South Carolina setting, took it on my trip.

First line: "I searched for sleep curled up in my quilt - the one made for me at my birth by my paternal grandmother's own hands."

Summary (from Publisher's Weekly): "Susan Hamilton Hayes's comfortable Charleston existence is shattered when she finds her husband in bed with another woman. Faced with a failed marriage, a confused teenage daughter and a mediocre job, she sets about the business of healing. Slowly, supported by visits to her sister in their childhood home on sleepy Sullivan's Island, Susan becomes a successful newspaper columnist, regains her confidence as a woman (despite a hilariously deflating date) and finally explores the death of her complex, abusive father decades before. Chapters alternate between the present and 1963, the year her father died, as Susan faces both the strength and the damaging effects of her family legacy... both the setting and the characters are blazingly authentic. Frank evokes the eccentric Hamilton family and their feisty Gullah housekeeper with originality and conviction; Susan herself - smart, sarcastic, funny and endearingly flawed - makes a lively and memorable narrator. Thanks to these scrappily compelling portraits, this is a rich read."

My thoughts: This was the perfect book to take to Charleston with me! Even though we didn't get to Sullivan's Island itself, the novel is dripping with local details of Charleston and the surrounding area. I always get a charge out of reading about a place I've just seen, even if it's just something trivial. For example, the Citadel Mall - Susan and her daughter go there to get makeovers, we'd just been there to shop at Target.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel had this to say: "Authentic characters and setting...a very moving story of family, love, and place." And I think that sums it up very well. Susan's relationship with her older sister Maggie was very well done and Susan's relationship with her teenage daughter Beth is very realistic - incredibly loving but also a lot of frustration! The best part of the novel was the family's Gullah housekeeper, Livvie - a strong, wise, spiritual woman with a sense of humour and a fiercely protective streak, she basically raised the 6 children because their mother was a non-steel magnolia and their father was incredibly abusive. Maggie and Susan still speak Gullah to each other and their families, decades later. The family home on Sullivan's Island, the Island Gamble, is a character by itself - it has weathered hurricanes and is completely bizarre-looking, with rooms added on as the family needed them. Maggie turns it into a wonderfully welcoming home where her siblings can connect with the comforting parts of their past, rather than the tragic ones.

A glance at the Southern section at the Mount Pleasant Barnes and Noble revealed that Frank is even more prolific than I'd realized - I can tell she's going to keep me in South Carolinian books for quite some time! And I can't wait to visit Sullivan's Island on our next trip down there!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekly Geeks #3

This week's theme is near and dear to my ravenous reader/children's librarian heart - fond memories of books from childhood!

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery - Ah, Anne! I just adore her. Being adopted, loving to read, and having a big imagination, I really identified with her when I was a kid. I have very fond memories of my dad reading the series to me at bedtime and I re-read them many times on my own. It's time for another go-round, actually. To this day I fully believe in the concept of kindred spirits and I love the name Cordelia.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - Hilarious, unique and clever. Milo's quest to find the Princesses Rhyme and Reason is unforgettable, as are all the characters he meets along the way, especially brave, faithful Tock (the watchdog (who actually goes tick) and the ridiculous Humbug. (I still come out of the side of King Azaz, the words are more important than numbers.) A wonderful tribute to the importance of knowledge.

Gordon Korman's early books - particularly the Bruno and Boots series, No Coins, Please and, my favourite, I Want to go Home! Hilariously funny, period. I read them over and over myself, I bought them at the school's Scholastic booksale, I read them to my mom, I pretended to have an older brother named Bruno who went to boarding school in Ontario...

Heidi by Johanna Spyri - My mom had an old, old copy of the book and it was another bedtime read with my dad. The story completely captured my imagination. I'd draw pictures of the mountain covered in wildflowers with Peter and his goats. I'd hide behind our sofa eating bread and cheese and pretend I was living in the cabin with Grandfather. Dad's school did a stage version of it and I saw the movie with Shirley Temple, too - I couldn't get enough of Heidi.

A picture book of Cinderella - I have no idea who illustrated/adapted it, but oh, boy - do I remember how much I loved the illustration of Cinderella's dress - I thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world.

The Old Joke Book by Janet and Allan Ahlberg - I checked this one out of my local library so many times!! I still have a soft spot for the Ahlbergs because of it. I loved its comic-book style and corny jokes. I guess it was my first introduction to British humour, which would become a life-long love.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Southern Challenge 2008

It's back! Yay, Maggie! How appropriate that this challenge is back right at the time I'm feeling like an honorary Southern girl!

Here's the official post about it, the rules are the same as last year - 3 books by Southern authors that are set in the South.

Here's my list (at the moment, always subject to change):

1. Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch (South Carolina)
2. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (North Carolina)
3. Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (Mississippi)

I'm back!

Hi, y'all! I'm back from a glorious vacation in Charleston, South Carolina (good Googling, raidergirl! :) ). It's a beautiful city and it definitely deserves its reputation of friendliest city in the US. We already can't wait to go back.

There was so much to see, do, and eat that I only managed to read one of my books, Sullivan's Island, which was great and will be reviewed soon.

Thanks for dropping by while I was away, I look forward to catching up on what everyone's been reading!

I haven't organized my photos yet, so I stole this one from Flickr - it's Charleston's Pineapple Fountain and one of the things I most wanted to see. I love the whole hospitality pineapple thing the city has going on: " The pineapple is a symbol of hospitality in Charleston and throughout the south. Legend has it when the sailors returned to Charleston from the West Indies over 150 years back, they would often bring tropical fruit. Pineapples were hung over the door to signal that the man of the house was home and the family could accept visitors ~ or you may prefer the saucier version that it was a signal to the temporary companion that her true love had come back to Charleston." (From Charleston, Per Se)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I'm off!

I'm off on a week's holiday very early tomorrow morning. Wanna know where I'm going? Check out the books under Now Reading and see if you can guess. Two of them are my vacation books - I always like to take books about the place I'm going with me.


Rachel has tagged me for this one. I'd like to say that I think Muffins and Books is an awesome blog name - 2 of the best things in life, brought together! :-)


1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people and post a comment to the person who tagged you once you've posted your three sentences.

Okay, the nearest book (that wasn't a manual for the Sims) was Everything Bad is Good For You by Steven Johnson.

"That probing is a powerful form of intellectual activity - you're learning the rules of a complex system without a guide, after all. And it's all the more powerful for being fun. Then there is the matter of social connection."

Unfortunately, I'm going to cop out on the tagging people because I have to finish packing! As you'll see in my next post, I'm off on vacation tomorrow. But anyone who'd like to do the meme, feel free and drop me a comment if you do.

Review: Anybody Out There

Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes
5 stars

Reason for reading: I love Marian Keyes!

Summary (from Publishers Weekly): "Anna Walsh has returned to the bosom of her family in the Dublin suburbs to recuperate from the horrendous car accident that has left her with multiple fractures and a disfiguring scar across her face. Desperate to go back to New York and resume her normal life, she soon packs up her bags and returns to her job in beauty PR for [kooky] cosmetics brand Candy Grrrl. A lonely and debilitated Anna leaves e-mails and phone messages for her mysteriously absent husband, Aidan, pleading for him to reply."

First line: "Mum flung open the sitting-room door and announced, "Morning, Anna, time for your tablets."

My thoughts: Hooray, she's back! I was a bit disappointed with Keyes' previous novel The Other Side of the Story (still worth reading but I didn't feel she was at her best). But now, thanks to the wonderfully dysfunctional Walsh family, she's produced another excellent book.

Anna's mum and her scary, beautiful sister Helen are a hoot. Mrs. Walsh 'sends' Anna 'e-mails' filled with random words in 'quotation marks' for 'emphasis.' Helen sends e-mails where she "parrot-phrases" what's happening in her P.I. job working for the Dublin mob. This is the 4th book about the Walsh sisters, which means only Helen is left and I'm sad. Anna's work for Candy Grrrl also provides a lot of comic relief - Anna is forced to wear "quirky" outfits to work (terrible hats, purses shaped like unpurselike things, pink fishnets) when what she longs for is a charcoal suit. And the PR firm is filled with a vast array of weirdos from the girls who work for the crunchy granola brand and are all in AA to Anna's dragon lady supervisor and their uber-dragon lady boss.I'm often rather slow on the uptake when it comes to movies and books (especially with mysteries), and I was with this one, too. But, as I often find, that made it an even better read for me because I was totally shocked when it finally dawned on me what had happened to Anna and Aiden - I had an actual gasping moment. You'll figure it out long before I did, but I won't ruin it for you.

Final word, this book is equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious and is one of the best I've read this year.