Friday, February 1, 2013

Book 5: Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster was a book that I read at the recommendation of a co-worker. Both of us like to read and will swap out reads all the time. 

Abby Abernathy was a classic good girl with a few secrets from her past. Her best friend America helps Abby to get more out of the college experience by bringing her to a fight club event. Shepley, America’s boyfriend, was there to help support his cousin, Travis.  Abby surprised Travis at the fight club event and he’s trying to get in her pants. Abby really isn’t sure about him especially since Travis doesn’t sleep with anyone more than twice.  But he was persistent and tricked her into a bet where she had to live at the apartment that was being shared with Shep, America and Travis.  Abby tried to move on from the idea of Travis since that was a heart break waiting to happen. But Travis makes it difficult since he would intimidate any guy who came around. The story gets really crazy as it goes on. The things in Abby’s past are not what you think. Then the ending, oh my goodness, I couldn’t believe it. It was insane. 

But the craziness makes the book fun. I was texting my coworker at different points. I hadn’t had that much fun since I read the Hunger games with Susan.

I will be honest, I actually didn’t really care for Abby. She was a bit of a brat at times.  Travis was loose cannon. A honed fighter.  But at least underneath he was actually a teddy bear. I found myself cheering for Travis more and more even though I wasn’t sold on Abby.

Every once in a while an author will include in a great side character to help with backstory that is just magnificent. This happened in Beautiful Disaster. Travis’ dad was so cute and relatable. I loved how he was sweet to Abby and ready to back hand his boys if needed. I really wasn’t expecting him to be so rich for a cameo part.

I personally can’t wait for Jamie Maguire’s next book in the series Walking Disaster. While I won’t be thrown many curve balls in that story since it’s supposed to be relatively the same story as Beautiful Disaster from Travis’ point of view.  I can’t wait to see what he sees in Abby and how he handled the Parker situation. 

Book 4: The Reagan Diaries

The Reagan Diaries was a real treat to read but a dense read. Ronald Reagan was definitely interesting and I think  Douglas Brinkley did a great job to help edit down the diaries into a 784 page book.

I’m an eighties child. I remember stuff about Reagan from when he was in office in a vague sense. Not a ton since he was out of office when I was 4.  But I do remember him. More importantly, I have studied many of Reagan’s actions in classes over the years.  I have a Master’s of Public and International Affairs who studied security and intelligence.  Reagan is so important in regards to MADD, breaking down the Soviet Union, and serious hard core intelligence. So I have a healthy respect for the former president.   But it was still really interesting to read back and saw his daily ideas of stuff.

What I loved about this book is the ability to see the human side to him. He wasn’t quite what I expected in a way. He saw both sides of the situation oh so often. He was madly in love with his wife and hated whenever they were apart.  He used to get mad at his kids whenever they complained too much about the secret service. He wanted to protect his kids from the different threats that he knew about from intelligence reports but yet he understood that he couldn’t make the secret service lives miserable as well.

One of the things that surprised me was despite his busy schedule,  Nancy and him would watch a lot of movies and he would try to go Camp David every weekend. I knew he was actor, so he would have a healthy respect for the art but he really took it to the next level.  He loved horseback riding and being on the ranch. Then again a president is like anybody else, they need time to relax and do activities that recharge their batteries.

There were two things that were a real treat for me. His writing transitions about the day or lack of a coherent transition. He literally would talk about the arm deals that were worrisome and how Jack Lemmon was a terrific actor.  I do that, if it’s on my mind, I include it and sometimes the transitions are nonexistent.

The other things that I really enjoyed was noting the differences between the 80s and today. Some of it was really small things or things I take for granted. Like jeans,  he would break them in by going swimming in them and then letting them dry to his body. For me, I buy the most comfortable jeans from White House Black Market, no breaking in required.  Another thing was the movies, he would get upset if a movie showed drug use (like smoking a joint in 9 to 5) or used crude language since he acted in an era with heavy censorship to different shots. Now days, drug usage isn’t very popular in movies (but alluded to often) and strong language is more or less the norm.  

Book 3: A Different Kind of Fairy Tale

A Different Kind of Fairy Tale by Morgan Rayne was not exactly what I was expecting. If you read my blog a lot, you would know I am a sucker for fairy tales and urban fantasy, and based off the title.

At first I was in love with this story. It was fun to see a sports nut who realizes that she is actually into her best friend/neighbor. It was in that realistic vein that I do enjoy. It something very relatable and so there was the dissatisfaction that this could happen with me.

Plus I was hoping that the story wouldn’t be as bumpy as it was. There were times where Stella would just fly off the handle a little too quickly. I get being burned in a relationship and not wanting to get hurt but she’s almost too guarded.  There are fire/ice personalities but she takes the cake. Plus it seemed like at times some of the drama was amped up a little too much. With a story with a title harkening a fairy tale, I want that happy ending a little sooner then the author. Although the final ending was wicked sweet.

 Unlike the last book I’ve reviewed or Waking Up Married, I’m not sure how much more I will read with these characters. It was fun and nice distraction but I wasn’t fully compelled to read more after I finished up the book. 

Book 2: Exclusively Yours

Exclusively Yours by Stacey Shannon ended up being a very addicting little read. One that was I glad to find on iTunes for free.  It was a bit of a romance story between two exes that reunite in the form of a family vacation/interview.

I don’t know what it has been with me this year, I’ve definitely have been favoring the romantic stories. But I don’t hard core romance where scenes are just sets up of foreplay or pure bodice rippers. Instead I want stories that are grounded in reality. Something to give me hope for from a romance.  Give me a man with flaws but a sweet spot. 

The set up with Exclusively Yours is that Keri works for tabloid magazine and her boss finds out that Keri’s ex is the reclusive author Joe Kowalski. So she is sent home to get an interview with Joe.  She was able to connect with Joe. They find out there is still some sparks between them. So Joe devises this idea: come onto the family vacation and for everyday that you spend with the family, you could ask one question. He also kept a few things off limits which doesn’t exactly help Keri’s interview or career status.  

Spending time with your ex and his family isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially when you are a city girl,  Joe’s sister is mad at you for unfriending her back in high school and then breaking Joe’s heart, and there are four rowdy boys in the mix.   But I liked that Keri was able to adapt as well as she did, okay she was a bit blackmailed into parts of the trip since if she refused activities, she couldn’t ask a question that day. She held herself well and it was nice to see her and Terri to repair parts of the friendship.

One of my favorite scenes was when Keri and Joe first hooking up. Part of it was how Joe got interrupted before that by his brother Kevin as he was retrieving condoms from the car.  Joe not being to happy about it kinda showed them to his brother poker style before he went to help his parents. But it really got good afterwards. Early into the vacation, Terry made the threat that if Keri and Joe were to hook up, she would hide all of Keri’s bug spray. Well nobody wants to risk their bug spray but it happened when in the woods.  And it was just funny how they all reacted to her swatting at herself until it was fessed up that Terry played a prank (not what started the prank).

I literally was hooked into the family dynamics. Sure I wanted things to end well, but it was more fun to see how everyone interacted. It was a rush to judgment for most people (other then Terry but that was her personality). I could see the kids doing what they were doing and it just felt like fun. I even wanted to go camping as I was reading it.

I'm going to be keeping my eyes out for more about the Kowalski family tales. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book 1: Play by Play

Play by Play: Radio, Television, and Big-Time College Sports by Ronald A. Smith was one of those rare textbooks that you want to read even after the class is done. In fact that was exactly what happened. I was assigned several chapters from this book as part of the required reading for my Sports and Media class. Since we only read several chapters, I decided to finish up the book while I was on break.

I loved sports my whole life. So it makes sense that I decided to pursue a life in sports.   But with sports it’s easy to forget the history of everything. It’s a big business now where back in the day, college sports were a form of clubs that grew up into something much larger. This book takes you to the roots of it all especially from the media stand point.

I loved reading about how it was the Ivy Leagues that really made competition what it is today. Now Yale, Penn, and Harvard aren’t exactly sport powerhouses. Instead it’s about academics first for them and a deemphasized view on sports.  It was fascinating to read. Plus it was neat to read how Fordham was the one competing in the first televised basketball game and the first televised football game. 

It was fascinating how schools didn’t want to promote certain products.   Cigarettes were okay to advertise and sponsor games but alcohol and drugs were completely off limits for most schools.

One of the things that didn’t surprise me was how the NCAA was trying to control everything. I remember growing up  where there was the game of the week but that was radically changing thanks to the Supreme Court Case (although when I’m less than 10 I had no idea it was an antitrust case, I just knew there was more options on TV).   But it was interesting to see the reason behind the NCAA.

This book was quite enjoyable.  It was both cursory but had excellent research. I’m glad Dr. Weaver had us read it for class and that I finished it up after the class was done.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Book 66: Girls In Trucks

Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch really had me confused. I was not in love with this book at all.

Girls in Trucks is essentially about Sarah, a Southern girl with ties to Camellias. She goes from Cotillion Training School to being all grown up in New York. She’s had her ups and downs in life.  It’s unfair to call this book a novel. It’s more of a series of vignettes.

To be quite frank I hated this book. I have no idea how it was ever a national best seller. It was a disorganized mess.  Chapters barely tied together. Grammar was all over the place. Same thing with the point of view. Plus I thought the characters were terribly weak.  Normally national best sellers are better or good. This was pure crap.  

I find a great deal of irony of reading the back about how the author prides herself as having well developed characters. I’m sorry but other then Sarah, nobody was developed. Even most of the time, Sarah was a surface character. Turning someone into a drunk or a heroin addicted turned fashion mogul, isn’t character depth. Not unless you nature it and really interact. The characters never really stepped off the page for me other then in one chapter. That was when Eloise asked Sarah to visit her at school. It was a shame,  Eloise was never really brought back (okay she was for her wedding but it wasn’t a memorable).

When you think about Southern Society, you think about class, etiquette, tradition, and sisterhood.  This book touched upon those ideas but failed to really deliver them.

It’s no wonder that Girls in Trucks was left on a table for someone to take for free. This book was horrible. I wish it was better. I’m not sure if I will pass this book on. It just didn’t live up to my standards. 

Book 65: The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of Orwell Volume 2, My Country Right or Left

The Essays, Journalism and Letters of Orwell, My Country Right or Left was an interesting writing collection by George Orwell. This collection wasn’t the book wasn’t what I expected. Then the last half the book with is wartime diary was just flat out fascinating.

I won’t lie, when I read George Orwell in high school, it left a mark on me. I ate up both 1984 and  Animal Farm. The critique he had on society was so interesting and dark. So I was interested in reading more from him. I requested this book off of book mooch ages ago and then it got put on my shelf and forgotten about until I moved. This seemed like one of the perfect books to read to get something a little bit more serious on my reading list this year.

One of the things that really surprised me was how interested Orwell was in both propaganda and the use of new words. I wasn’t anticipating him speaking so favorably of propaganda and in a way wanted more done by the British in the WWII.  In a way it shouldn’t be so unusual. In 1984, propaganda was essential to the running of their world and the support of the military.  I’m just not as convinced that propaganda is so essential and can do in essence mind control.   After growing up with ads and skewed news stories everywhere, I’m skeptical by most propaganda. But I do know that the more often we characterize something as being evil, the more likely it can leave an impact.  

This book also allowed me to see Orwell’s personality. He just came to life. He seemed like such a character.  Someone who was so passionate about life and wanted to serve his country.

Several of the essays didn’t always impact me in the same way as I would have hoped.  He would talk about political leaders and I didn’t know them. It doesn’t take long for party leaders to be forgotten in history if they weren’t fully in charge. I knew Churchill, but some of the other names, I didn’t know.

My favorite part of this book was his war diaries. Those were great. More meaningful then his letters reporting about the war. In a way it was interesting and not surprising to see how the air raids weren’t always taken seriously. Such is human nature. The talk about life and events were interesting.  It showed me different views of the world which I love.