Adriana Reads
2 Stars
My Only Wife
My Only Wife - Jac Jemc
I really don't know what to make of this one. It was an entire book of "My wife used to say this. . . ." My wife would always do this. . . ." "X amount of time into our marriage, this happened. . . ."

It would have been a touching love story, but it was instead a little off-putting due to the fact that each anecdote related about the narrator's wife just seemed a little off. It wasn't the sort of behavior that would inspire most people to hang around.

I couldn't help wondering as I got toward the end if maybe it wasn't the narrator who was more than a little off and imagining everything, but once I got to the end, I really didn't care enough to analyze the idea more thoroughly.

Maybe I'm just obtuse, but I didn't get it.
4 Stars
Vacationland - Sarah Stonich
3 stars felt too stingy, because it's just too well written, and since I can't give half-stars I rounded up, but 4 stars really is too generous - I didn't like it that much.

This book irritated me to no end for about the first 1/3. It is a beautifully descriptive and haunting collection of related short stories, but I didn't realize it until I started chapter 2, and it had absolutely nothing to do with chapter 1. Chapter 1 introduced us to Meg, one of the central recurring characters, and I really took a liking to her. Chapter 2 dealt with a retired couple and at first I thought the only link to chapter 1 would be the setting, Meg's home of Naledi, an old resort the couple used to go to when their children were young, but Meg did make a brief appearance.

What I found irritating, was that for the first few chapters, Ms. Stonich kept giving the stories of of people I had absolutely no interest in knowing. Sometimes Meg was a background character, sometimes it was her grandfather Vac, a curmudgeonly, taciturn Czech immigrant, and sometimes the only connection was the setting, an out-of-the-way resort called Naledi near a town called Hatchet Inlet.

I really liked Meg and Vac, and would have been thrilled to read a novel chronicling Vac's pre-WWII flight from Czechoslovakia with his young son, and the years afterward. Equally fascinating would have been a linear story about the inhabitants of Naledi and Hatchet Inlet, which were slowly introduced in later chapters.

Although later chapters gave a better semblance of creating one larger story, it wasn't enough to overcome the awkward structure of the book. It seemed a great injustice to the characters to have only bits and pieces of their stories told.
5 Stars
A Slight Change of Plan
A Slight Change of Plan - Dee Ernst
I'm convinced that Dee Ernst has a mind probe which periodically zones in on my brain. How else would she be able to so accurately describe my experience of first true love, its aftermath and ongoing effects after nearly 30 years? There's also no other way she would know how I can't possibly begin to regret that I didn't get the life I wanted at 20, because it would mean regretting the events that caused the existence of the three children I would die for.

It goes without saying that I connected with this book and its characters on so many levels. I was so sad when it ended, because I wanted it to continue. I wanted to see more of Kate's journey, and in the process, see what more I could learn about myself.

Thank you, Ms. Ernst, for writing a book that touched on all of my hopes, joys, disappointments and insecurities. I loved it so much, it almost hurts.
4 Stars
Magnificent Vibration: A Novel
Magnificent Vibration: A Novel - Rick Springfield
Douglas Adams meets Jonathan Tropper.

I realized as I was actually getting ready to post this review that it's just all over the place, so please excuse my lack of cohesion.

If poking fun at religion offends you, do not read this book.

I had initially planned on buying the book just so I could meet the man I'd had such a huge crush on when I was 15. He was doing a book signing nearby and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. As details of the book leaked out, I was intrigued. It seemed like something I would want to read anyway.

Recently divorced Horatio "Bob" Cotton is despondent when he stumbles across a book with telephone number to God scrawled on the inside. THE God, "Big 'G' little 'o,' 'd.'" And God has a sense of humor. It's a little dark, and a little off kilter, and it really throws Horatio for a loop.

I don't really want to give away the story, so I'll just saying it's irreverent and funny, and at its core has a very real and serious message for everyone who inhabits this "Beautiful Blue/Green/White Majestic Starlight," otherwise known as Earth. The only negative thing I have to say about it is that the prude in me couldn't help wondering if maybe it could have had fewer references to, um, self-gratification and Horatio's seemingly constant state of arousal.

Still not sold in it? How about this: it has the Loch Ness Monster, the Angel of Death and a hot nun! Referring to it as a fun romp sounds so cliche, and I am loathe to do so, but that's really what it is.

I like that we don't know what ultimately happens to Horatio/Bob. We're left wondering, imagining two possible outcomes. I hope Rick doesn't write a sequel. Good literature should make you think, not spell everything out for you.

The truly unfortunate thing about this book is that the segment of the English-speaking population who would most enjoy it will probably never even consider picking it up. I am referring to men. Ladies, those of you who actually get around to reading it and hopefully enjoy it as I did, tell the men in your lives to give it a shot. They'll probably be embarrassed to be seen with anything bearing the name Rick Springfield, but they won't be disappointed.
4 Stars
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress - Ariel Lawhon
I had never heard of the Judge Crater case before I won this book on GoodReads. This story is a fictionalized account of how events might have occurred. Given how the story ended, it is highly unlikely that the real events are anything remotely similar to the novel. I like that in the notes at the end of the book, the author clearly states which characters, actions and events were real and which were made up by her.

This was a very well written story which successfully evoked the era it took place in. I couldn't help comparing it to Amor Towles' Rules of Civility, which took place at around the same time. This story, however, was a lot less glamorous. There were a lot of seedy bars, seedy characters, and depictions of seedy parts of town. I've never read a murder mystery, but I imagine this is what one reads like. A murder took place, and while it seemed obvious what happened, when the final piece of the puzzle was finally placed, it became something else altogether.

All positive comments aside, there was one aspect of the story I felt was a little weak, and sadly I must detail it as a spoiler. Ms. Lawhon went to great pains to "tell" us how loathsome Judge Crater was to the three title characters. And while there is no doubt he was despicable, I felt her attempts came up a little short in the "showing" aspect of storytelling. Individually, they may have wanted him dead, but I don't believe his behavior and treatment of them was bad enough to bring them together to plot as they did. To me, the most despicable character in the story was Oweny. The way this piece of fiction was written, he is the one they should have plotted against. Well, maybe not the wife, seeing as she had very little interaction with him.

Another criticism, which some may not see as relevant, is that the three perspectives through which the story unfolded, the titular wife, mistress and maid, give the story a definite feminist bent, which is unfortunate. It's a little too "chicky" a read for most men, who I think would have enjoyed the story.
3 Stars
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy
I believe I read this in high school, for fun, not for class. I say "I believe" because I don't particularly recall, it, and now, after reading it for what may be the second time, I can (still?) say I am completely underwhelmed by it.

I think most people are familiar with the story, regardless of whether they have read it. The Scarlet Pimpernel is an English hero who rescues the innocent French nobility from the guillotine during a particularly bloody period of French history. Marguerite St. Just Blakeney is a former French actress who married an English nobleman, who happens to be the most idiotic, mindless fop of the British peerage.

Baroness Orczy goes to great pains to "tell" us that how smart and clever Marguerite is, but fails utterly to "show" us. It's like she was unable to reconcile her own idea of what she wanted Marguerite to be with the way she actually came across in the story. Because naturally, her fop of a husband turns out to be the Scarlet Pimpernel, and all his mindless friends (including her own brother) his accomplices. How could Europe's most clever woman miss that?

The second half of the novel was particularly weak. "The cleverest woman" came across more like a love-sick adolescent. After finally figuring out the mystery, all she wanted was to tell her beloved Percy how much she loved him, or die in the process, preferably with him so he'd know. The very end of the story read like a romance novel without the good parts.

The one good thing I can say is that it's a short, easy read.
2 Stars
One Hundred Years of Solitude
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
2 stars only because I was able to finish it, but I didn't like it. It seems like every character represented something, rather than just existing as characters in a story. This kept me from engaging with them, and as a result, kept me from engaging with the story.
4 Stars
Soy Sauce for Beginners
Soy Sauce for Beginners - Kirstin Chen
It's not quite up to the standards of a 4 star rating, but better than a 3 star, and since I can't give it 3 1/2, I rounded up.

Kirsten Chen is a newcomer, and while I found her debut offering, Soy Sauce for Beginners to be charming and her characters relatable, it did have a few rough patches. The book blurb and other reviews have done an adequate job summarizing the plot, so I'll skip that part of the review.

I'll start with the positive. Ms. Chen has a mastery of the language which allows the reader to feel fully immersed in what she describes. At the beginning of the story, she vividly describes the climate in Singapore, and does it so well, that I almost feel like it is a memory from my own past when I think about it, despite the fact that I have never been to Singapore.

My main issue with Soy Sauce for Beginners was with the ending of the story, which I found to be rather abrupt. Everything was tied up neatly and quickly, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. My issue was that it was just too quick and too neat.

Gretchen, the protagonist, went from being a woman floundering between two countries, two men, and two possible careers to a woman who had everything figured out within a span of about 2 days. I would have liked to have seen a little more character development (and maybe a little more drama where the men were concerned) over a longer period of time to make her choice a little more believable.

Despite this criticism, I still found it an enjoyable story, and I would be willing to read more from this writer.
3 Stars
Two On A Tower
Two On A Tower - Thomas Hardy
I have to agree with many other reviewers: this was not one of Hardy's best. One of Hardy's favorite themes was exploring the social roles of women. While he succeeded in Tess of the D'Urbervilles and Far From the Madding Crowd, I feel he quite missed the mark in Two on a Tower,

It is the story of Viviette and Swithin. I continuously vacillated between being annoyed with Viviette and sympathizing with her. She seemed to be in love, but her extreme caution made her come across as indecisive. The little experience she had with men had taught her to be cautious: her husband was a brute and she did not want to end up a victim again. And poor Swithin, so clueless about love and women, just allowed himself to be led.

Hardy also made ample use of another device seen in his other novels: the near miss. There were so many times where they were moments away from living happily ever after, but fate always intervened. And in the end, the greatest obstacle seemed to be that Viviette was SOOOO much older than Swithin: a whopping 8 years. Note extreme sarcasm :P Swithin himself was taken aback by the change in her when they finally reunited at the end. At 33, she was middle-aged and haggard. How times have changed! A woman of 33 today is just as appealing to a man of 25 as a woman his own age.

I think I would have forgiven most of these things, or at least looked less unfavorably on them if it hadn't been for the ending. I found it to be too abrupt and implausible.
4 Stars
The Wisdom of Hair
The Wisdom of Hair - Kim  Boykin
The protagonist of this charming debut novel, Zora, goes to beauty school in 1983. As it happens, I also went to beauty school in 1983, so how could I not read this book!

Ms. Boykin created some fairly compelling characters, and I could totally see myself making the same choices Zora made, particularly those concerning Winston, with the exception of the ill-fated Thanksgiving dinner. I know I would not have handled that situation with as much grace as Zora did (I was a fairly stupid and spineless 18 year old).

At any rate, it was a pleasant enough way to spend a few hours. I look forward to seeing what becomes of Ms. Boykin's writing career.
4 Stars
Thinner Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Female Body
Thinner Leaner Stronger: The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Female Body - Michael  Matthews
Update 12/3/13
Success! After 9 weeks, I've lost 15 lbs and dropped from 36% fat to 31%, even though I'm reasonably certain that the first measurement is wrong.

This is my 5th attempt at losing weight in the last 4 years. Previous attempts have seen me ready to quit by the 9th week: hours of cardio, all-you-can-eat of leafy veggies, small portions of bland chicken, and the occasional even smaller portion of bland beef. No thanks! Small amounts of cardio are recommended, but the main focus is on weightlifting. And it turns out that many of the exercises can be adapted to do at home as long as you have a barbell and a good selection of dumbbells (heavy hand weights have been adequate for me so far).

I'm now into my tenth week, still motivated, and still looking forward to what I'll look like a year from now. Yes, the weight loss is slower than it has been on other diets, but only because I knew that I'd burn out quickly, so I'd go at it fiercely to ensure I lost the most amount of weight possible before I gave up. But make no mistake: the Thinner Leaner Stronger approach does involve hard work. Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows it's a huge lifestyle change and requires major commitment and dedication. The key is to find a weight loss plan you enjoy. I've found mine.

Thank you, Mr. Matthews!

Original review:
I've struggled with my weight my whole life. I did manage to shed most of the excess about 20 years ago. I was a lean 115 lbs, a size 4, and exactly what Mr. Matthews described as skinny fat. Despite appearing slender while fully clothed, I was far from having the toned, bikini ready figure I'd always dreamed of. And this far from perfect physique was accomplished through rigorous dieting and intensive cardio. But let me tell you, I HATE cardio!!

So some 20 years have gone by, I've had three children and am now middle aged, and I find myself once again overweight. Well, at least I call it overweight, as do my friends and family. My doctor calls it borderline obese (you only need to have 30% body fat to be considered medically obese). So back on the diet, and back to the cardio. And you know what? I really, really HATE cardio! I just couldn't do it this time around. So after three years, and several failed attempts to lose the excess, I stumbled across this book on GoodReads.

Any weight loss plan that claims cardio is the wrong thing to do to lose weight has my attention!

Now, I've done this routine enough to know that losing weight is hard work, so I wasn't looking for some mythical "easy" trick, but if there is a way to do it that doesn't involve cardio, I'm more than willing to give it a shot. Mr. Matthews really seems to know his stuff. He goes into the science behind good nutrition, building muscle and effective fat burning. It's a good primer for those who have never studied basic nutrition. Not all of it was new to me, but there was enough new information that I had to re-read portions of the book, and even make some notes to myself.

What I was really hoping for was a system for weight loss that I could do easily at home without having to buy expensive supplements. Sadly, this did not turn out to be the case. The exercises do require specialized machines, and although they can be purchased, I am in no position to afford them, and even if I could, my little apartment is ill fitted to house a miniature gym. And as for supplements, while he does state that they really are not needed, he also stresses that not using supplements will make the process slower.

So now, I'm reading the book over again, making detailed notes and lists of what foods I can eat and what supplements I need to buy. Once I have everything I need and, I'll be ready to start. If I can get going before the end of September, I'll try to remember to check back in before Thanksgiving to give an update of how my first 8 weeks went. I'm actually looking forward to it. The little bit of weight training I've done has been enjoyable.
3 Stars
Mary Jo Putney's Lost Lord Bundle: Loving a Lost Lord, Never Less Than A Lady, Nowhere Near Respectable, & No Longer a Gentleman
Mary Jo Putney's Lost Lord Bundle: Loving a Lost Lord, Never Less Than A Lady, Nowhere Near Respectable, & No Longer a Gentleman - Mary Jo Putney
I after my most recent foray into the suspense genre (which I have now realized I thoroughly dislike), I decided to cleanse my literary palate of the bad taste it left with some utterly mindless escapism.

And mindless it was, because if we're going to be honest, we don't read these books to broaden our minds. We read these books to escape from the mundanity of our day to day lives. And as far as these particular stories are concerned, I found them to be a delightful two week romp. Fluff at its finest. The only real criticism I have is with the first and fourth stories. There were just too many happy coincidences. Even allowing for a generous dose of suspension of disbelief, the events in these stories are just too far a stretch.

Ms. Putney managed to create a perfect hero in each story, and I was surprised at how much I liked each of these gentlemen. Having now read all four, I do believe I'm partial to Mac from Nowhere Near Respectable (the third story) above the other three.

And it appears that Ms. Putney has two more books planned in this series, and I enjoyed the first four enough that I may well check out the new ones when they are released.
2 Stars
Six Years
Six Years - Harlan Coben
So, I've now read several books of this genre and I have finally decided I don't particularly care for it.

This one in particular, which was written by what would appear to be a veteran at this type of story, was full of enough plotholes to render the whole story completely implausible. I would much rather have had the concept treated as a straight romance than a suspense/thriller.

Oh well, live and learn.
3 Stars
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Deborah Moggach
It was okay. For me however, this is definitely the exception to the rule that the book is always better. I absolutely loved the movie.
5 Stars
The Light Between Oceans: A Novel
The Light Between Oceans: A Novel - M.L. Stedman
Heartbreakingly beautiful. Maybe after a few days when I'm no longer feeling so emotionally drained I'll write a better review.
3 Stars
Animal Dreams: A Novel
Animal Dreams: A Novel - Barbara Kingsolver
I've loved everything I've read by Barbara Kingsolver so far, but this one really didn't do anything for me. I just couldn't connect with the central characters, Codi and Doc Homer.

I wish Loyd (with one L) had been more of a central character. He was a sweetheart.
The Bowie Book Club's read book montage
The Bowie Book Club 153 members
This book club was created in honor of the extraordinary artist and avid reader David Bowie. May ...

Books we've read

The Master and Margarita
In Cold Blood
A Clockwork Orange
Billy Liar
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Madame Bovary

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