#122 ~ The Art of Social War

November 17, 2008 at 4:00 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Reading, Secrets and Lies | 5 Comments
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cover-of-art-of-social-war
The Art of Social War by Jodi Wing

Stacy Knight was at the top of her game the evening that her “I HEART New York” campaign was announced toward the end of Rudy Giuliani’s reign has mayor.  She sparkled as a member of his administration and, based upon the reception of her PR campaign, had great prospects after Giuliani left office.  On top of that, she was engaged to James Makepeace, the man of her dreams.  They both were hard working New Yorkers who supported each other in all things.  All things, that is, until Jamey’s skyrocketing career required a transfer to Los Angeles soon after their wedding so that he can take over the helm of Pacificus, a floundering film studio.  Stacy and Jamey need to learn how to navigate the shark invested waters in Hollywood to save Jamey’s career and their new marriage.

What I enjoyed the most about The Art of Social War was what set it apart from most other chick lit novels I’ve read.  While Stacey’s marriage was tested in LA, it was not in the way that most novelists would have chosen.  For me, this was a breath of fresh air.  Wing also shaped the feudal battle between the Makepeaces and the former owners of Pacificus around the 6th century Chinese military treatise The Art of War by Sun Tzu.  I enjoyed the way that Stacey orchestrated Jamey’s counter attack using the enemy’s weapon of choice.  As preparations for the final battle were made, I couldn’t book the book down.

It took me a little while to warm up to Jodi Wing’s first novel full of corporate espionage, intrigue, and Hollywood high jinx.  Her characters are very human and I honestly liked Stacey and Jamey very much.  I found Jamey’s decision to break the news about his career to Stacey at her big party.  Given everything I was to learn about him, it was against his character.  Most noticeably, I had a difficult time believing that Stacey’s 10 to 15 years of experience in New York’s corporate environment, most recently as a member of Rudy Giuliani’s administration, left her so unprepared for corporate life in LA.  While understanding that Stacey’s deep longing for home explains some of her views, I can’t see New York as a warm, welcoming, and fair environment.  From what I’ve heard, Omarosa could give Stacey’s arch nemesis Julia Mallis (the last name says it all) and the rest of her gaggle a run for their money.

I smiled appreciatively as I finished this tasty piece of chick lit.  Although the first half of the book moved somewhat slowly for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the pay off.  Knowing the ultimate outcome did not take away from my delight as the ride took off.  Quite appropriately, The Art of Social War has already been optioned by Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.   I’ll be looking forward to finding out who will be playing Stacey, Jamey, Julia and Simon.  This novel has all the potential needed to become a great chick flick.

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The Art of Social War will be released tomorrow!  To order this book, click here.

#89 ~ 37

July 26, 2008 at 9:39 am | Posted in Books, Culture, Family | 5 Comments
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37 by Maria Beaumont

As someone whose 37th birthday is quickly approaching, I could not turn down the opportunity to read this novel by Maria Beaumont. It chronicles the approaching midlife of Fran Clark, a talented former voice over actress living in London.  Fran left acting 10 years earlier when she started her family with her husband Richard. As her 37th birthday party nears, her life and drinking habit get more and more out of control. When everything is finally turned upside down on the night of her party, Fran has to choose  between finding a way to recreate herself or give in to the alcoholism that runs in her family and potentially ruin her children’s childhood. What seems obvious to everyone surrounding her proves to be very difficult for Fran.

37 was written in a comfortable, conversational tone. As someone who has never been to England, I very much enjoyed the dialog. It was delightfully different from what I am used to. Part way through the book the voice in my head while I was reading it even took on a British accent ala Madonna. I love how so often sentences were ended in rhetorical questions. No one uses the word brilliant quite like the British.

Conversation aside, life in upper-middle class London isn’t all that much different than it is here in the United States. Fran has two wonderful best friends, but they are but a life raft in shark invested waters.  Fran’s relationship with her husband suffers from what sadly happens far too often after children are born.  The mothers running her school’s equivalent to the PTA act and react just like catty women everywhere.  Beaumont nailed the competitive nature between women that has no real reason to exist.  Women are our own worst enemies.

37 was somewhat heavier than I had anticipated, but it read quickly.  I related to Fran and empathized with her experiences.  The ending was satisfying and inspiring.  I hope that Maria Beaumont continues to write.  Her voice is what made this story special.

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To buy this book, click here.

#66 ~ Gilding Lily

April 23, 2008 at 11:07 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, entertainment, Family, My Life with Books, Reading | 1 Comment
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Gilding Lily by Tatiana Boncompagni

Sometimes getting what you dream about can become a nightmare. At least that is Lily’s experience in this engaging, fun, and fast-paced novel. Gilding Lily tells the story of a young woman from a middle class background who marries into an established, wealthy family in New York City. Her romance with Robert Bartholomew, which brought her swiftly into society as one of New York’s “It girls,” rivals any Disney Princess story. Only for Lily, her wedding day didn’t signal a victory over a vicious step-mother or blood thirsty dragon. It was only then that her nemesis came out into the full light of day – Josephine Bartholomew, her mother-in-law.

Lily’s time in limelight in New York’s social scene ended as quickly as it began. She became pregnant before the ink was dry on her marriage license. Along with baby came Robert’s career crisis. By the time Will is a few months old, Lily hadn’t lost a pound of her baby weight, is having trouble making ends meet on the income from her husband’s trust, and is lonely and miserable. Robert, without the prospect of a job in sight, spends his days networking with his mother or playing squash at the club. At night he’s often out escorting Josephine to social events. Finally, after a particularly heated argument about the two Ms (money and mother-in-law), Lily decides to go back to work. Her talented writing, her connections, and her knack for getting stories other reporters could only dream of provide Lily with an opportunity to return to New York’s socialite scene. Soon she has to decide if getting the story, becoming a socialite in her own right, and, perhaps, earning her mother-in-law’s respect is worth the risk of losing the man she loves.

From the first chapter where we meet Lily tripping on the hem of couture dress on her way to gala, I was drawn in to the book. I got so involved in the characters that by the end I could hardly put the book down. In fact, if it were not for this book I might never have discovered that I have an unusual talent for reading a paperback while curling my hair and drinking the morning’s first Diet Coke. This novel revolves around New York’s elite, but the highly competitive animosity that often exists between women is universal. When push comes to shove, women are often our own worst enemies. So, where there is a group of women you will usually find a catty woman like Di or a Morgan who is trying to undermine everyone else to insure her position. When your disapproving mother-in-law is the queen bee of that social set, eventually all hell will break lose. As much fun as it is to watch the fur fly, you’ll be hoping along with Lily that having a happy family with Robert really isn’t too good to be true.

Boncompagni’s writing, which is smooth and easy to read, is what really made this book for me. So often when reading chick lit I get the impression that the author thinks nothing about the readers beyond the dollar signs. When reading Gilding Lily, you can sense the pride that Boncompagni has in her work. If this first novel is any indication of what is to come, hers will be a career to follow.

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Gilding Lily will be published in September of 2008. As the publication date draws near, look for a contest here to win your own copy!

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To buy this book, click here.

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