Monthly Archives: July 2012
Which is totally okay.
‘Cause it turned out to be a way better read than I had anticipated.
“Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister” is actually a rather lovely, practically historical fiction, re-telling of the Cinderella story — if Cinderella was an agoraphobic girl convinced she was a changeling, and the Stepmother and Stepsisters were simply trying to scrape a life out for themselves when the Stepmother’s cunning squeezed them into the household in the first place. Here, our heroine is the younger and smarter of the two Stepsisters – plain, unremarkable Iris. Iris, her sister Ruth, and their mother Margarethe are forced to flee England for Holland, where they first wind up working in the household of a painter, and then eventually work their way into higher society. The Stepsisters are never painted evil, and even Stepmother Margarethe’s actions are (usually) justifiable as driven by ambition and a desire to not be poor and hungry again. In a smart twist of writing, while Iris is incredibly likable, so is Clara (the girl who would become Cinderella.) Clara begins a strange and spoiled little weirdo, but grows on the reader. Typically, Cinderella is a tale of a sweet girl whose family situation forces her to take to the ashes and cinders, but not here. (Stopping before I spoil.)
Maguire is probably best known for the novel that launched one of the biggest Broadway musicals of all time – “Wicked.” Yet, I’ve read that book, and “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister” is by far a stronger book.
I really liked it. Post-”Wicked,” I didn’t really think I’d pick up another Maguire work. Not that “Wicked” wasn’t a good read, but Maguire was seeming to me a little bit of a one trick pony. After reading “Confessions” (which I got at a used bookstore for a few bucks) I might actually go in search of another of his works – “Mirror, Mirror,” the Snow White re-tellling.
I’ll always hold John Irving to a high standard as a writer. After all, this is the man who gave the world “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” a book my husband and I love so much we both gave it out during World Book Night this year. [FYI -- Our beloved "Owen Meany" was also made into a movie called "Simon Birch." Which we just pretend didn't happen.]
So the talented Mr. Irving wrote a book called “The Fourth Hand,” and from the synopsis of the book, it looked interesting, so we bought it and it’s been on our bookcase waiting to be read ever since.
And, mid-packing and moving, I finally read the book.
And it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.
And that’s okay.
The jacket and quotes for “The Fourth Hand” lead one to believe it’s going to be a hilarious read about a handsome journalist who loses a hand in a lion attack, then gets a new one, though the new hand comes with a caveat — the widow of the hand donor wants visitation with the hand. Wocka, wocka! Laughs ensue!
Yeah, that’s not really the book. I mean, it really is about a handsome journalist who loses a hand in a lion attack, then gets a new one, and the hand does come with the widow and her caveat… but that’s hardly the whole book. In actuality, Patrick (our handsome journalist,) is kind of a womanizing schmuck before the incident that brands him “the lion guy.” After his transplant, he starts to realize what a waste of space he is, falls in love, and gains a soul. It’s really a tale of a dude’s redemption, triggered by (by not dependent on) a missing hand.
Whether it was as promised by the jacket or not, “The Fourth Hand” is a very solid read by an author worth everyone’s time.
Do you love sunshine, books, and Women & Children First Bookstore? Volunteers are
needed to help us during our annual used book sale (July 28 and July 29). Meet nice
people, enjoy fun in the sun, and have first pick of the goods.
Our annual Used Book Sale, a fundraiser for the Women’s Voices Fund and the bookstore,
is the last weekend of July, and we need your help to make it successful. If you have the time
and willingness to pitch in for a three-hour shift on Saturday, July 28, or Sunday, July 29, we would
really appreciate it. The work is somewhat strenuous, especially for the set up and break down shifts,
so please only volunteer if you are strong enough to carry out long folding tables and boxes and
boxes of books. The afternoon shifts will require transporting some boxes of books but mostly re-stocking
the tables and keeping them straightened up–and, of course, helping customers and selling books!
The four shifts both days are:
8:00-11:00 a.m. (set up)
11:00-3:00 p.m. and 3:00-6:00 p.m. (re-stocking, and selling books)
6:00-7:30 p.m. (break down)
For more information or to sign up, please stop by or call the store (773-769-9299)
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the above reasons, it simply took me a long time to finish James A. Michener’s “Alaska,” and I’m not quite sure why. I like Michener – his “Hawaii” was a seriously great read – and I’ve always had an interest in Alaska, so this book seemed like it’d be a no-brainer.
“Alaska” is Michener’s telling of the creation of the 49th state, from the very beginnings of the wilderness of the area through Eisenhower’s signing the statehood act that made it part of the United States. It’s a massive undertaking for a book, but Michener has done this before many times – “Hawaii,” “Chesapeake,” “Texas,” and, I mean, “Space.”
From the get-go, I was excited. It started off as a pretty good read, but then I found myself trudging through pages and chapters without really caring.
Also, if I’m being totally honest I have to admit that I eventually just skipped over the remainder of the section revolving around Vitus Bering (of the Bering Straits.) Bad BookNerd. Whatever.
This is not to say this book isn’t worth a read. Michener is the very best at crafting historical epics to tell the entire tale of a place’s history. I was originally captivated by the opening sections of “Alaska,” particularly the very beginning where he talks about the tectonic plates shifting to form the land mass that would become Alaska — which is actually way more interesting than I just made it sound, I swear. Also, the first five sections which deal with the native people and mastodons were quite engaging. I guess I just slowed down as the book entered more modern times, and never recovered.
I’m certainly not going to stop reading Michener’s work, and I still want to visit Alaska. I just didn’t fall head over heels for this book.
Win some, lose some.