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readersrespite has commented on (39) products.

The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them by Amy Dickinson
The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter, and the Town That Raised Them

readersrespite, February 2, 2009

These are the loose memoirs of Amy Dickinson, the woman chosen to replace advice columnist extraordinaire Ann Landers. Her childhood, failed marriage, single motherhood and wayward pets are all fair game for this humorous look-back at her life before and after Ask Amy.

Billed as a memoir, Dickinson's book is perhaps better described as a loose collection of cute anecdotes about her family, her divorce, her pets, or anything else that comes to mind. Pieced together a bit haphazardly, Dickinson nonetheless has a sharp, witty voice that shines through no matter the seriousness of the subject matter.

The ex-husband gets repeatedly skewered throughout the book (apparently time, in fact, does not heal all wounds), but that's the price one pays when an ex-spouse has a national platform on which to skew as she wishes.

While the anectdotes were very enjoyable, there is a lack of focus on the original focus of the book, namely the female family members who inspire the title. The snippets of aunts, sisters and especially her mother leave you feeling it just wasn't enough. What the reader does get, however, is a snapshot of life that is easy to relate to and produces a chuckle or two.

If you love humor applied to the human condition, we're willing to bet you'd enjoy this one, as long as you don't have expectations of a thorough and introspective autobiography. Uplifting and never trite, Amy Dickinson touches on struggles common to all of us, meets those troubles head-on and shows us why we should never, ever give up.
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(7 of 9 readers found this comment helpful)



Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Coraline

readersrespite, January 27, 2009

Young Coraline isn't all that happy with her life. Her parents work too much and, as young children are wont to be, she's bored. But when she discovers her alternate life behind a hidden door, she begins to think that her real life isn't so bad. Evil lurks behind every corner as Coraline tries desperately to regain her "old" life.

Advertised for ages eight and up, Coraline is, for all intents and purposes, a horror book for kids. Scary, but without the gore.

And although I haven't interviewed any eight year olds on the matter, I suspect Gaiman largely succeeds in scaring the pee out of them. The alternate world Coraline stumbles into strangely mirrors her own, containing another set of parents who, despite their outward declarations of love and devotion, don't seem quite right. (Black buttons instead of eyes are a pretty big clue here.)

The alternate world Gaiman creates is quite well thought-out. And while the themes of the novella may not be original, the conveyance of it certainly is.

As rich as the plot is, however, there is something lacking in Coraline. We know she is a kind girl and even quite a smart girl. But that's about all we ever get to know. Ultimately, she's rather one-dimensional in a cardboard cutout sort of way. Perhaps this was by design, but I missed getting to know Coraline.

Hmmmmm. Here's the brutal truth: the thrill just wasn't happening for me. By no means is this an awful book. It won a Hugo Award, a Nebula Award, and the Bram Stroker Award.

I read it. I didn't hate it. But neither am I running out and buying copies for every kid I know. Maybe I missed something. It's been known to happen.

I do, however, have high hopes for the forthcoming film version.
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(4 of 7 readers found this comment helpful)



The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
The School of Essential Ingredients

readersrespite, January 22, 2009

Renowned chef Lillian owns a restaurant in the Pacific Northwest and every Monday night she hosts a cooking class.

Yep, that's pretty much it. Sounds too simple, right?

This novel is, above all else, a beautifully written character study of each student in Lillian's class. Each character is given their own chapter and their diversity is bound to strike a chord in readers from all walks of life.

Bibliophiles everywhere will see themselves in Lillian's mother, a woman who used books to escape the harsh realities of life.

Mothers will be drawn to Claire, a young woman who gave up her identity to be a wife and mother.

Young adults seeking to find direction in this world will be drawn to Chloe, who is still trying to create an identity.

And there are more; each character more compelling than the last. Each character finds that the simple act of creating meals illuminates many of life's problems and can sometimes even provide solutions.

The story itself is not near as important as how it is told. There is a difference between writing and prose, and prose doesn't have to be difficult to read or enjoy. Bauermeister masterfully proves this again and again throughout the novel.

You find yourself revisiting passages not to understand some convoluted prose, but to savor and enjoy it.

A brilliant first novel and if you've never read a food-related novel, this is where to start. You will want to eat this book.
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(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)



The School of Essential Ingredients
The School of Essential Ingredients

readersrespite, January 22, 2009

Renowned chef Lillian owns a restaurant in the Pacific Northwest and every Monday night she hosts a cooking class.

Yep, that's pretty much it. Sounds too simple, right?

This novel is, above all else, a beautifully written character study of each student in Lillian's class. Each character is given their own chapter and their diversity is bound to strike a chord in readers from all walks of life.

Bibliophiles everywhere will see themselves in Lillian's mother, a woman who used books to escape the harsh realities of life.

Mothers will be drawn to Claire, a young woman who gave up her identity to be a wife and mother.

Young adults seeking to find direction in this world will be drawn to Chloe, who is still trying to create an identity.

And there are more; each character more compelling than the last. Each character finds that the simple act of creating meals illuminates many of life's problems and can sometimes even provide solutions.

The story itself is not near as important as how it is told. There is a difference between writing and prose, and prose doesn't have to be difficult to read or enjoy. Bauermeister masterfully proves this again and again throughout the novel.

You find yourself revisiting passages not to understand some convoluted prose, but to savor and enjoy it.

A brilliant first novel and if you've never read a food-related novel, this is where to start. You will want to eat this book.
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(7 of 11 readers found this comment helpful)



Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel by Marie Phillips
Gods Behaving Badly: A Novel

readersrespite, January 8, 2009

Need a good laugh? Look no further, especially if you retained any of the Greek mythology you were taught in college. Author Marie Phillips has given us the gods of Olympus all over again and this time, you'll never again forget just who was the god of what.

That's right, the gods of ancient Greece are alive and well (sort-of) and currently residing in a dilapidated house in the suburbs of London. That's right. London.

The good news is that they've evolved with the times. Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is putting her skills to good use as a phone-sex operator.

Remember Apollo, god of the sun? He still does the sun trick everyday (for the most part), but his stunning good looks and vanity have led him to a modern day career as an actor. Well, a failed actor, but still....

Eros, the god of love, has converted to Christianity, while Dionysus, the god of wine, runs a hip nightclub and contributes to all sorts of societal degeneration. Artemis, Hera, Hermes and even Zeus all make appearances and manage to contribute to the mayhem.

The bad news, though, is that their power is fading fast and they need to find a way to avoid dying off all together. Through two perfectly ordinary, endearing mortals into the mix and you have the makings of a riotous tale!

Raunchy behavior and language abound, so don't say you weren't warned, but aside from that Marie Phillips has written a thoroughly delightful tale that evokes both laughter and fond memories of your humanities professor. Enjoy!
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(2 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)



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