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.

Advertisements

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.

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

confessions of a shopaholic jpeg Dell Paperbacks. 2001. 350 pages.

I’m late in the game hence the cover edition of the copy I have (given by an aunt for my birthday). I’ve been meaning to read the “Shopaholic Series” but never really got round to make an effort (I was just waiting to either borrow from a friend or the library). After seeing them in a book sale though, i ended up getting the rest of the series (except for ‘Shopaholic Takes Manhattan’)

Anyway, I knew the kind of funny and witty entertainment I was going to be in for as I had previously read Kinsella’s ‘Can You Keep a Secret‘ which I absolutely loved ( mainly because it made me literally LOL)

Rebecca “Becky” Bloomwood has a serious shopping addiction. She is the prototype of a true shopaholic –getting addicted to the highs of purchasing new things. And like most shopaholics–she is up to her eyeballs in debt. But Unlike most shopaholics that you know, Becky Bloomwood has the irony of all jobs : she is a financial journalist for ‘Successful Saving’ magazine–offering financial tips, advice and opinion on most situations, like facing debt responsibility.

It’s a one whole hilarious ride reading Becky Bloomwood’s misadventures trying to save money, make more money, and evade the financial institutions that are breathing down her neck. For 350 pages, it is quite thick than your usual smart ‘chick-lit’ read but i found myself wanting MORE after the very last page.

No wonder the series is such a hit.I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

I was able to watch the movie on a plane before reading the book. And though i prefer the book better (the movie seems to be a mish-mash of all elements of the series mixed and matched together in however way possible), it’s still hilarious, charming, and endearing. Isla Fisher is perfect for the role of Becky Bloomwood.

Shopaholicscenes

Sophie_Kinsella_279449a

the author, Sophie Kinsella

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

scissors 2003. Picador. 320 pages.

Someone said that they key to an instant non-fiction bestseller is to brand the book as a “memoir”. Although most memoirs leave a powerful mark,¬† I’ve read a handful of memoir packaged works that left me terribly disappointed.

Though i won’t say that Running With Scissors is very monumental, it’s a delightful read. Augusten Burroughs has the ingenious talent of stringing everyday ‘safe’ words together that will give you an electric shock.

Growing up in the 70’s, Burroughs was left by his mother to live with her psychiatrist, Dr. Finch. Together with the other adopted Finch children, Burroughs experiences adolescence and teenage/young adult years in a very radical house and family with too much freedom.

The family belives that a child reaches his maturity at the age of 13, and no adult can tell him or her what to do. This may sound like paradise to most teenagers. And while Burroughs initially embraced and enjoyed his freedom (he’s discovered and was enouraged to explore his homosexuality) in the end he realizes that he needs boundaries and rules, and that all he really wanted was a “Hamburger Helper” mother.

The Finch family creates a colorful out of this world dynamics (they read their future by the shape of their excrement, and consult the bible via “bible dips” –where one asks a question say, “should i take this job or not” and another flips randomly at a page in the bible, and the ‘asker’ points his finger anywhere in the page. whatever word his finger lands on is the answer to his question). A house where anger is celebrated, and cleaning up is almost forbidden.

It’s about how living with a dysfunctional family can make or break an individual. but most importantly, its about how one learns to better himself despite and inspite of his background.

I saw the movie right after reading the book. Brilliantly acted, but the book is 100X better, The movie has a dark aura to it, and has so many cinematic juxtaposition to create a feel of ‘irony’ or emphasize a mood. While it worked 1-2 times, too much of it is just blah.

Annette Benning was wonderful playing Dierdre Burroughs (Augusten’s mother). Augusten’s role, played by Joseph Cross, i felt wasn’t really justified 100%.

Scenes from the movie:

The author, Augusten Burroughs

John by Cynthia Lennon

john

Hodder and Stoughton, Copyright 2005, 393 pages.

I’m a fan of Beatles songs, but not really knowledgeable about their personal life. So it’s not surprising that I did not know about Cynthia Lennon, John Lennon’s first wife.

This book is not really a biographical attempt on John Lennon’s life (as the cover and title might suggest). Rather, it is more of a memoir of Cynthia’s life with the famous Beatle.

Cynthia Lennon is quick to admit that the public has long viewed her as “that girl who got pregnant so John Lennon would marry her.” Yet, as she has revealed in this book, that is far from the truth. She has long kept her silence, enduring having to deny that she was Lennon’s wife at the height of Beatlemania (upon the instruction of their road manager), and having to deal with a painful divorce. And so, she says,

” The time has come when I feel ready to tell the truth about John and me, our years together and the years since his death. There is so much that I have never said, so many incidents I have never spoken of and so many feelings I have never expressed–great love on the one hand; pain, torment and humiliation on the other. Only I know what happened between us, why we stayed together, why we parted and the price I paid for having been John’s wife.”

Those looking for an objective and thorough life story of John Lennon will be disappointed. This book was written with a mission: for Cynthia Lennon to air her side of things.

Cynthia Lennon’s writing style is very personal, and it is evident that she loved (and still loves) and cared very deeply for John Lennon. From her narration, one can feel the pain of a woman whose love for a man is almost on the brink of martyrdom. Though her personality is very simple, steady, and un-eccentric (in her own words, she admits she lacks confidence , and she prefers, and endured to be the wallflower while John was in the limelight), it radiates through her writing. It seldom happens to me, as I am aware these kinds of memoir/biographies could be one sided, but I found myself sympathizing with her.

The hurt, pain and confusion that she felt when John started drifting away from her and their son Julian is very raw.

I finished reading this thick book overnight–very engrossing, and filled with tidbits such as how the Beatles’ song, “She Loves You” could be inspired by John’s very first chirstmas card to her, on which he wrote, ” I love you–yes, yes, yes”, and that “Hey, Jude” was written by Paul Mc Cartney for young Julian Lennon (Cynthia and John’s son), when his father left him and his mother for Yoko Ono (it was originally titled, “Hey, Jules” but for better musical compatibility decided “Jude” would be better). And a whole lot more Beatle trivia that are interesting to know.

As the wife scorned, it is obvious that Cynthia Lennon has written Yoko Ono out to be cold, strange, manipulative and cruel. Though there may be some truth to it, I would love to read Ms. Ono’s take on things for a better rounded view.

The book left me feeling quite sad, but at the same time glad to see an honest and refreshing view on her overall life with John Lennon:

“I never stopped loving John, but the cost of that love had been enormous. Someone asked me recently whether, if I’d known in the beginning what lay ahead, I would have gone through with it. I had to say no. Of course I could never regret having my wonderful son. But the truth is that if i’d known as a teenager what falling for John Lennon would lead to, I would have turned right round then and walked away.”

johncyn-dezo1

John and Cynthia Lennon. Happier times.

cynthia_julian_001_111906

Cynthia Lennon with son Julian.

Fresh Off the Boat by Melissa de la Cruz

0060545429 Harper Trophy edition (2006), 243 pages.

My sister introduced me to Filipino-American author Melissa de la Cruz when she read De la Cruz’s “Au Pairs”. I haven’t read the debut novel, but I was particularly interested in “Fresh Off the Boat.” It’s a teen-lit novel about a 14 year old Filipina from Manila, Vicenza Arambullo, who migrates with her family to San Francisco.

Fresh off the boat (or “F.O.B.”) is a phrase used to describe immigrants that have arrived from a foreign nation have not yet assimilated to the host nation’s culture, language, and behavior. (Wikipedia)

So as Vicenza struggles about with the normal teen angst, she also deals with trying to adjust to a different lifestyle. Back in Manila, she and her sister were being driven by the family driver to their private exclusive all-girls school. Her family owned a posh restaurant in Makati, and her mom often played lovely dinner hostess to government officials and politicians. They had regular manicure and pedicure and hair sessions at their salon with personal stylists. But all that changed when her father made one wrong decision with business investment.

Forced to ‘save face’ , the Arambullos migrate to San Francisco and deal not just about cultural assimialtion but having to adjust to being middle-class as well.

Entertainingly written, witty and honest, “Fresh Off the Boat” offers a view to how new immigrants and their families cope, through the eyes of a typical 14 year old.

melissa-de-la-cruz

Author Melissa de la Cruz grew up in Manila and San Francisco. THIS is her website.

Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett

fatlaneLaurel Leaf Books, 260 pages, copyright 1998.

An ALA Best Book for Young Adults, Life in the Fat Lane is a must read not just for young adults but for women of all ages. The copy I read was published in 1998 (first publishing I guess), so it still had a very “R.L Stine-y” illustration on it. A newer puclication is out with a much modern cover (a girl in very tight jeans, grasping her tummy rolls)

Lara Ardeche is the most popular girl in her Nashville highschool–beauty pageant winner, homecoming queen, and perfect set of parents (her mother was also a beauty pageant queen and her father, the school jock who married the homecoming queen.)

Everything is at her feet, life is a piece of cupcake. Until she’s diagnosed with a metabolic disorder known as Axell-Crowne disease, where she exponentially keeps on gaining weight. The more she exercises and diets, the MORE the pounds pile on.

The novel is very direct, almost blunt and graphic, in detailing Lara’s new life as the “fat girl”. Issues such as bulimia, extra marital affairs, school bullying, and self-esteem are dealt with head-on in a no BS manner.

This book is a highly recommended read. And it would  be lovely to see a film adaptation of it, (ala Mean Girls).