Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Nanny Diaries by Nicola Kraus & Emma McLaughlin

nanny St.Martin’s Griffin, 2003, 320 pages.

Who doesn’t love a nanny story? Screaming, tantrum-throwing kids, impossibly demanding employers (parents)–isn’t it nice to read about horror lives that are thankfully not yours?

While I loved Mary Poppins and the chim-chiminee guys–my utmost ‘exposure’ to babysitting in literary form go way way back in the early 90’s–the Babysitter’s Club.

Now from the simple, pleasant, peanut-butter-will-fix-it-all kid of babysitting of the Babysitter’s Club in Connecticut—we jump to the semi-memoir of  “Nanny” (thats the only name the central character is known in the book) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, present day.

It’s about her struggle to juggle finishing a degree, spending time with her own family, trying to have a relationship–and most of all, trying hard to please her employer, the very annoying perfectionist haute couture and organic loving Mrs.X. To top all that, there’s Mr.X’s mistress who haunts her day in and out.

Although the novel is filled with generalizations (about people, society,etc), it is highly entertaining and witty. The fun read is worth the annoyingly pushover characrter Nanny is. Just when you begin to root for her, she lets you down with her extreme passivity. (Just give Mrs. X Bith a dose of her own medicine now, will you??)

I’m glad it didn’t have a very cliche ending. I saw an interview of the 2 authors of the book, both of whom have actually been nannies in New York in the mid 90’s–when economy was such a boom in the US, hence the rise of posh non-working mothers who hire nannies to take care of their own children.

The movie adaptation disappoints thoroughly. But I loved the fabulous Laura Linney as Mrs. X.

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Authors Nicola Kraus and Emma Mclaughlin were real life nannies for a time.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

ink The Chickenhouse UK, translated from the German by Anthea Bell, English translation copyright 2003. 543 pages.

Writing stories may be a kind of magic, but storytelling is also an entirely kind of skill and magic in itself. This is learned so by Meggie Folchart, a 12-year old booklover. Her father, Mortimer, is a book restorer, whose extraordinary talent in storytelling has involuntarily dragged out characters from the darkbook, “Inkheart” into the real world.

They soon find themselves abducted by Capricorn and his Black Jacket men–villain characters from “Inkheart” who are demanding to be read back into their ‘story world’.

But its not as simple as a group of bad guys who cannot read wanting to have their bedtime story. Capricorn (Boss BOSS of the bad guys) wants the darkest unmentionable character in the story to be brought out into the real world.

Also, if stories were not read properly, wrong characters would be drawn–that, or you get the right character, but they emerge with ‘defects’. On top of that, everytime you call out a character from a book, a person from the real world takes its place. (Which is what happened to Meggie’s mother).

With the help of an eccentric book collecter aunt, a mysterious and burly fire-eater, and a young Arab boy from ‘The Arabian Nights”, and Inkheart’s author–Meggie and Mortimer involuntarily enters an adventure–where a story within a story unfolds.

As a young adult book, “Inkheart” is very adventure packed (500+ pages of action) and has an undeniably ingenious and original concept.

I’m not entirely sure if tis a case of things being different or could be a case of things being lost in translation but the narration can sometimes be too dragging with its description and details. Also, a bit of discretion with the chapter titles could help so as not to give away the chapter plot. (for instance, a chapter titled “Meggie Disappears into the Night” takes away the exciting factor).

“Inkheart” is the first of the ‘INKWORLD’ trilogy (Inkspell and Inkdeath) and is also a major motion picture starring Brendan Fraser.

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Author Cornelia Funke, touted as the German J.K Rowling (?)

Real Women Don’t Wear Size 2 by Kelley St. John

9780446617215_388X586 Warner Books, 2003, 350 pages.

It’s fairly easy to see from the book’s statement title that the theme is all about pro-‘healthy/real size’ and boo skanko-rexic size zero.

Clarice Robinson is the typical ‘real-sized’ heroine–insecure, has a generous and amazing personality, was a wallflower in school, and more glaringly, has a younger sister who is thin, glamorous, and confident. And of course, she has a deep and long admiration for her boss and close friend, the dashing Ethan Eubanks.

But unlike all rom-com about real sized heroines, the object of her desire Does like her too–and in fact becomes her sort-of sex slave, helping her fulfill all her fantasies.

In short–no conflict in plot. 80% of the book is a ‘sex confession’ (true to the cover warning saying, “Dangerous Curves Ahead”)

So really, there’s almost no story essential like plot , conflict, or resolution. But if you are in for a hot (raunchy) read, you might like this.

And as a book that embraces sizes and cirves, it seems to do it overly and almost patronizingly. (All characters in the book, even waifish sales assistants seem to love curves and secretly hate their thin bodies. RIGHT.)

And so much for trying to have a grabbing title–are al women size 2 and below fake then?

The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

the wedding Doubleday Book Club (With Time Warner Books UK), 2003, 263 pages.

Since I first saw this book on shelves some years ago, I had nothing but scorn and skepticsim on my mind. Come on–yet another romance novel by Nicholas Sparks–entitled “The Wedding”??

After having read a few Sparks novels, (A Walk to Remember, True Believer, The Notebook, and The Rescue) I am 100% convinced that Sparks should hold the title of King of Cheese and Corn.

But I found myself, one afternoon in the Cairns Library looking for a fast and easy read.

At 262 pages, with nice fonts, I finished the book overnight.

A sequel to to the very popular “The Notebook”, “The Wedding” is about Wilson Lewis, son-in-law of Noah and Allie Calhoun (well loved characters from ‘The Notebook’), whose 29-year marriage to his wife Jane has reached a stalemate.

He seeks advice and counsel from his father-in-law Noah Calhoun, who, by the way is famous for having swept the heart of Allie (and all women readers and viwers of ‘The Notebook’).

If you haven’t read ‘The Notebook’, ‘The Wedding’ doesn’t lack in flashback reminders to let readers know what an awesome romance Noah and Allie had.

Told in the point of view of Wilson, who claims he’s not romantic or sentimental–the pacing is rather slow and becomes overly sentimental at times. He searches for ideas how to make his wife fall for him all over again. And just as I was preparing myself for a very safe and predictable ending, I was pleasantly surprised to have found a nice little twist to the ending.

Wives will want to make their husbands read this from cover to cover, and husbands will no doubt create a dartboard target for ‘this sentimental Sparky’ dude.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

americangods Headline Book Publishing, 2001, 635 pages.

Awards: Nebula and the Hugo Awards (For Sci-Fi), the Bram Stoker Award (Horror), and Locus Award (Fatnasy)

This book has an introduction written in 2005 by Neil Gaiman, explaining that this particular book is the “Author’s Preferred Text Edition”. (This is 12,000 words longer than the original edition, the one that won all the awards).

Classified as “Americana Folklore/Mythology”, American Gods follows the adventures of central character, Shadow, a man serving 6 years in prison and is due to get out (after serving 3 years) for good behavior. 2 days before his scheduled release, he receives news that his wife has died in a car accident. He is devastated as it was the thought of being with his wife once again was what kept him going all these years. When he boards the plane to fly back to his hometown, he meets the God of America, a mysterious character who goes by the name Wednesday, also known as “Odin” and “All Father” throughout the book.

Wednesday gives Shadow a job offer, to act as his bodyguard, protect him, and “in the unlikely event of his death, hold his vigil.” Shadow, having no life left or ahead of him, accepts the offer.

Little does Shadow know what he’s going to be in the middle of a great battle between the Old and the New Gods of America.

American Gods isn’t really a cross country ride across the US as some descriptions of the book say it to be (the journey is mostly along midwest states)

It’s an epic sized adventure about the throne-fight between gods who ruled before, and gods who are invading present day life (technology, etc). There is a part where I was reminded of an imagery of Jesus Christ when Shadow was hung on the tree for 9 days to hold vigil for Wednesday.

I still enjoyed Gaiman’s ‘smaller’ works (Stardust, Neverwhere, Coraline) over the great big American Gods.