#82 ~ Escape

July 1, 2008 at 10:33 pm | Posted in Beach, Books, Family, Reading, Religion | 2 Comments
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Cover to Escape

Escape by Robert K. Tanenbaum

It’s been quite some time since I’ve read a courtroom drama/thriller. So, when I was offered the opportunity to read Escape, I eagerly agreed. There is something about procedurals, be they on TV (Law and Order) or on paper that are soothing to me. I know that this does not necessarily make logical sense because quite often those very same things include murder, rape, and other egregious behavior. I guess in the end it’s the way procedurals follow a set pattern that relaxes me the way it does. Escape did not disappoint. It is a well written and nicely paced edition to Tanenbaum’s Butch Karp series.

Escape follows two distinct yet loosely intertwined story lines: the usage of the insanity defense and the struggle from keeping evil forces from taking over the United States. Jessica Campbell, an extremely liberal college professor, suffered from post-partum depression that grew steadily more severe with the birth of each of her three children. After she kills all of her three young children, she finds herself in court facing prosecutor Butch Karp. All the while Karp is preparing to go up against Campbell’s insanity defense, his friends and family work with varying degrees of knowledge, intuition, and good luck to thwart a new attack on New York City that is being planned by Islamic fundamentalists and the Sons of Man, a covert and powerful group of wealthy anglo-saxons hoping to “clean” the American landscape and take over the government. Can a rag-tag group of homeless men, retirees, and various members of Karp’s associates and family prevent another well planned terrorist attack?

This is the 20th installment in Tanenbaum’s Butch Karp series, but I have never read any of his other novels. I didn’t find this an impediment to following the story, getting to know the characters, and enjoying the stories. As with other serials, there were flashbacks to what happened in previous novels to fill in any gaps. I appreciated this information and do not feel that it was excessive enough to bother those who have been following the Karp family and friends all along. Sometimes it’s nice to be given a reminder.

As someone who experienced post-partum depression, I appreciated the way that Jessica’s character was written. I found the descriptions of her emotional suffering realistic. The outcome of the trial, however, was no surprise to me at all. If I were to find fault with this novel, it would be that Jessica’s attorney came off ineffectual in the courtroom and defense witnesses were all very odd characters. To me, it wouldn’t have taken much of a DA at all to run circles around the defense.

I enjoyed reading Escape. In many ways, the book was just that for me – an escape. At just under 600 pages, it’s hefty enough to be the only book you’ll need to travel with on vacation. It would definitely make a great book to read lazily around the pool or while leisurely swinging on a hammock underneath your favorite shade tree.

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To buy this book, click here.

#65 ~ Artist’s Proof

April 22, 2008 at 10:49 pm | Posted in Beach, Books, entertainment, LIfe, Reading | 1 Comment
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Cover to Artist\'s Proof

Artist’s Proof: A Twisted Tale of Fakes, Frauds, and Murder by Lander Marks

(click here to read Literate Housewife’s exclusive interview)

Has a hobby or a passion ever gotten you into a world of trouble? That is definitely what happens in Artist’s proof, a fast-paced novel that takes you with DJ Singer through the world of modern art auctions from Mexico to Italy in a search for the truth behind one man’s history and his art. Along the way, DJ makes what might be an even more dangerous leap into love – allowing herself to trust and depend on a man. If what you do never puts you in any jeopardy, reading this book might just make you want to get up and find yourself some intrigue.

Artist’s Proof is a novel about two women who have fought their way to the top to find wholly different results. Shannon Phillips is an art auctioneer for Monte Carlo House, an organization that offers art auctions on land as well as by cruise ship. Although the art world is man’s world, she feels that she’s conquered it when she is put in charge of The Monarchy, Monte Carlo House’s newest and most luxurious cruise ship. To her, DJ Singer is an easy mark. DJ singer is a quick witted Jewish car dealer from Las Vegas. Like Shannon, she fought her way through the auto sales to become one of the leading dealers of exotic sport cars. Her success in business has provided her with the means to build an art collection. What seems like an innocent purchase of works in Sol Fleming’s Bible series catapults them both into the dangerous world of international art forgery.

This is most definitely a modern story. From Norah Jones to luxury cruise ships, you feel like this story could be happening today. While this provides a familiar backdrop (okay, maybe not quite the cruise ships for me, but a girl can dream can’t she?), it also adds a layer of complexity. One of the most intriguing clues in the mystery of Sol Fleming are the series of diary entries leaked on the Internet and attributed to him. The impact these cryptic messages might have on the value of his work is what trigger DJ and Ron to dig deeper. It also addresses questions about the Internet and its authenticity. With traditional print media, it is safe to assume a bias. Still, you can usually identify the source of that bias if you want to know. In addition to being global, the Internet provides an atmosphere of anonymity that isn’t available to other forms of media. You can be anyone you want whenever you want.

Although DJ Singer is the heroine of this novel, both she and Shannon share the narration of the book by chapter. These transitions surprised me at first because the promotional literature mentions only DJ. In this context, however, alternating the voice of every other chapter helped to flesh out DJ more fully than what would have been the case otherwise. Despite being somewhat confused by a couple of transitions toward the beginning, I found that the “dueling narrator” approach was well suited for this novel overall. It is a whirlwind rush though Mexico, the United States, and Italy for the sake of art and love, so the extra levels of detail that would be required to tell this story in third person or entirely from DJ’s perspective would have bogged it down.

I do not have much of a background in the art world or in art history. You don’t have to in order to enjoy this novel. Unlike The Forgery of Venus, there’s no condescending tone. It never takes itself too seriously, although at its heart lies a sad social artifact from World War II. Artist’s Proof would make a fun read and would be great for a vacation. You’ll enjoy traveling with DJ and Ron in Italy. Today my husband and I might be herding preschoolers (a noble adventurer in and of itself that is not for the weak of heart), but tomorrow who knows what kind of crazy, sexy, risky spots we might get ourselves into – even if only in our own imaginations? Isn’t that what reading is all about?

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To buy this novel, click here.

#47 ~ Without a Map

November 11, 2007 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Adoption, Beach, Books, Childhood Memories, Culture, Inspiration, LIfe, Memoir, Parenting Dilemmas, Post-Partum Depression, Reading, Religion, Secrets and Lies, Sexual Identity, Writing | 2 Comments
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Without a Map: A Memoir by Meredith Hall

I am angry. Correction. I am pissed. Really, I’m f*cking pissed off after reading this book. I am angry and hurt for Meredith in specific and for all women in general. That one woman should have lived through a teenage pregnancy is horrific to me. That this is by no means an isolated incident makes this even worse.

Meredith Hall became pregnant, at the age of 17. This happened after a non-conventional summer romance that ended with one sexual encounter on the beach before Anthony, five years her senior, returned to college. Meredith’s mother, who had been left to raise her three children as a single mother, also found love that summer with a hippy. After spending so many years using negative pressure to keep Meredith a virgin, she began staying out until all hours of the night herself. She, in fact, left Meredith alone at the beach most days while she worked with her new lover. Going from suffocating boundaries to nearly none at all made that summer confusing for Meredith. She ended up paying dearly for it.

Meredith’s family was seen as an upstanding family in their small New Hampshire town. After her father left, Meredith’s mother became extremely involved in her local Protestant church. Once it was discovered that she was pregnant, Meredith was permanently expelled from her school. She was then abandoned immediately by her church and her mother. When Meredith’s father asked what they were going to do about the pregnancy, her mother simply replied, “She can’t stay here.” Meredith went to live with her father and step-mother, but being forced to stay alone in the house (and mainly in her upstairs room) for the remainder of her pregnancy was of no comfort. There was no one for her to cry with. There was no one to explain what was happening to her body. She was not allowed to take an active role in the decision to place her unborn son for adoption – except she was forced to set up a meeting with the baby’s father by herself and get him to sign the adoption papers. I will not even get into the verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of the obstetrician who allowed an abusive family adopt the baby.

I read this portion of the book on the plane from Atlanta to Denver last week. It was enough to make me want to lash out at society. Sex is a shame that is only worn by women, and most especially when they get pregnant outside of socially acceptable settings. There was no shame for Meredith’s father when he left his family with almost nothing to settle down with another woman. Yet, no one could speak to or about Meredith because her unplanned pregnancy was so shameful. I could scream.

So, Meredith was told either directly or indirectly by everyone who was supposed to love her that she was a dirty, shameful person. One sexual act and your life is judged as unworthy of any respect. You are shunned by the rest of society. She was not even allowed to have a roommate at the alternative school she graduated from after the birth of her son. No one wanted her to have the opportunity to even share her experiences with another girl for fear of “infecting” the others. Yes, because this was all working out so well for Meredith, right? Wouldn’t every young woman want to sign herself up for a complete societal shunning? So, alone in her grief and full of shame, Meredith did a lot of wandering after she graduated. The relationships she became involved with were not (in my opinion) good enough for her. They were only good enough for a woman who thought she was tarnished and trash. The reactions to her pregnancy became a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is what happens when people and institutions only use principles to guide their choices and reactions instead of love.

I have the greatest respect for Meredith Hall. She ultimately discovered her own self-worth. She has raised two exceptional sons and has established a warm and familial relationship with her first son. Due to circumstances, she was not able to ever confront her parents about how they abandoned her when she needed them the most. Her mother developed MS. When she needed her children the most, Meredith did not abandon her. Although it was painful for her never to get the opportunity to even tell her mother how the shunning impacted her life, she was an ever faithful daughter. Even though her brother and sister’s families were always invited to her father’s house, Meredith was not allowed because of an argument with her step-mother. Still, she made a point of meeting with her father before he died to tell him that she loved him.

This memoir stirred up many personal things in my heart. I can only hope that I can forgive as Meredith did. She was able to do for her parents the very thing that they and her church failed to teach her by example.

Meredith, thank you for sharing your story.

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To buy this book, click here.

#38 ~ You’re Not You

September 10, 2007 at 9:21 pm | Posted in Beach, Books, College Life, LIfe, Reading, Secrets and Lies, Sexual Identity | Leave a comment
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You’re Not You by Michelle Wildgen

Okay, so it took a LONG while for me to write this review. The book, while enjoyable at the time, was not that remarkable or rememorable. The main characters (whose names have since escaped me and I’ve sold the book), are a young college woman (CW) having an affair with a professor and a 30ish woman suffering from ALS (SW). CW takes a job with SW and her husband to help SW when the husband cannot be at home. As expected, CW has some trials at first but begins to gain confidence as time goes on. When SW divorces her husband because he cannot remain faithful to her (although her disease is working rapidly), CW truly begins to question her affair with her married professor (MP).

I do not enjoy reading about food or cooking. Unfortunately for me, CW begins to enjoy and prosper as a chef throughout her relationship with SW. I found myself speed reading through descriptions, etc. This isn’t the fault of the author – just a pet peeve of mine.

There is an interesting and embarrassing scene with a vibrator included in this book that I’m not at all sure what to think about. Sure, every woman needs her sexual release. Was it necessary in this story? One could say that SW teaches CW about many things about female sexuality and that this is one of them. Still, I can’t help my lingering feelings of exploitation. I enjoy a good, explicit sex scene. I just was uncomfortable about this. Maybe I’m a prude in some ways.

One thing that I did find refreshing in this book is the discussion of the lack of perfection in the male body – specifically how it relates to a sexual relationship. It’s often that you read about a woman’s insecurity over her naked body. Equally often you read about a man’s enjoyment of a perfect specimen or notice of imperfections. When CW describes her first sexual encounter with MP, she notices and comments upon the stretch marks on his hips. I about dropped my book. It wasn’t mentioned in a negative manner at all. They just were there. I really appreciated that.

Despite my lack of character name recall (and lack of ambition to research and hide this fact), this book would make a beach, vacation, work trip travel read.

Reflections on Beach Reading 2007

June 5, 2007 at 3:24 am | Posted in Beach, Books, Reading | Leave a comment

After taking to heart the comment Judy left regarding what to read at the beach, I decided to follow my fancy when selecting my beach books.  I took the following books with me to Myrtle Beach:

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I was able to finish Innocent Traitor (future review #26) and get half way through Veronica (future review #27).  I enjoyed a few peaceful moments on our ocean view terrace.  Reading was a wonderful and relaxing escape from the craziness of a family vacation with two preschoolers. 

Still, if I had kept my nose in a book the entire time, I wouldn’t have found out how darn awesome it is to cradle a baby alligator…

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Daydreaming about Beach Reading

May 23, 2007 at 9:32 pm | Posted in Beach, Books, LIfe, Reading | Leave a comment

 

Danny has wanted to take a vacation at the beach since I moved to Virginia 11 years ago.  Since my family is in Michigan area, our vacations inevitably take place someplace to the North West.  Danny’s long wait is about to come to an end.  We are headed to Myrtle Beach on Memorial Day and I cannot tell you how excited we all are.  The girls are excited to hunt for shells and play on the beach.  Danny and I are excited to get away from the every day and to be alone on a vacation as a family.  It’s going to be great.

Today I bought some noodle floaters, swim rings, swimmies, and sand toys for the girls at the dollar store and Wal-Mart.  I’ve bought Danny and me some bigger beach towels and have expanded my wardrobe accordingly.  Danny made the plans for lodging and we’re going to be stocking the refrigerator in our suite when we get there Monday afternoon.  Other than packing, there is only one thing left for me to plan – the books I plan on taking with me.

As the beach hasn’t been a frequent destination, it’s been a long time since I’ve needed some beach reading.  Usually, I don’t differentiate what I take to read on a trip; but, I want the entire beach experience.  When people talk about beach reading, they are talking about fun, happy, frolicking, quick books.  They definitely don’t bring intense, morose, or complicated books.  For example, I’m going to hold off on starting The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai.  This book won the Man Booker prize.  I am also excited to read that book because Ms. Desai is a fellow Hollins graduate.  Still, when I’m at the beach, I don’t want to read anything that has the word “loss” in the title.

Weeding out books that won’t be acceptable as beach reads helps to narrow down the field of contenders a great deal.  It doesn’t make my choices obvious, though.  I have had Memoirs of a Geisha for a long time now.  I haven’t seen the movie or read any reviews of the book.  My hope is that it is saucy and sensual.  To me, that would qualify as something to read on a vacation at the beach.  However, this book could also veer in the direction of Snowflower and the Secret Fan.  I loved that book.  It gave me a lot to think about.  It made me mad how women perpetuate male fantasies of female inferiority to the next generation, regardless of how painful or deadly living up to that ideal was.  I don’t want to upset myself on my vacation.  So, are the Geishas in or out?  I’m not sure.

Once I fully compare my stash of books against the fun, happy, frolicking, quick criteria, I need to figure out how many to bring.  How much time is a mother of a 4.5 and a 2.5 year old daughters going to have to read?  Do I need to even bring more than one book?  Taking only one with me might invite the girls to place safely, peacefully, and quietly play while Danny and I lay on the beach.  Hmmm…  A compromise would be to bring one huge book.  There is The Autobiography of Henry VIII: With Notes by His Fool, Will Somers that I’ve been dying to read.  Now that I’ve read books about all of his wives with the exception of Jane Seymour, I’m ready for his version of things.  What if that book rots?  It’s unlikely, but it could happen.  I’ll definitely bring more than one book.  Do I stick with one type of genre or bring choices from many?  Etc….

What have you enjoyed reading at the beach?  I’m always open to suggestions.

Do you have any beach reading experiences to share?  I’d love for you to share.

Also, don’t forget to enter my free book giveaway.

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