Archive for the ‘ Fiction ’ Category

Must Read Then Watch: ‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘The White Queen’

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

I’ve had two summer obsessions–and it wouldn’t be fair or nice to keep them all to myself. These are books turned into TV shows that I can’t get enough of. They are so brilliant that they won’t let me sleep or even bother to watch my kids. (I exaggerate, but just a little.) I’ll just be honest, I also love how sexy these stories are.

I kept hearing about Orange is the New Black from friends and in news stories online. I wasn’t too excited about it, but I thought I’d check it out since I have a Netflix account for my kids. Besides, did you see True Blood this season? It was barely watchable. Summer TV was a vast wasteland of bore. That was, until I binge-watched OITNB. It’s about Piper Chapman, a seemingly nice girl with a nice fiance who all of a sudden gets a call from the Feds. Her secret is that 10 years ago, she carried a suitcase full of drug money for her flashy, intriguing and sexually satisfying girlfriend who imported heroin. For her indiscretion, Chapman pleads guilty and must serve 15 months in minimum security federal prison. The main character is such a delightfully complicated mess on the show that I dare you not to watch. But even better are all of the supporting actresses–the women in prison with their own imaginative stories. Her fiance, played by Jason Biggs, dutifully visits her while her ex-drug-dealer-girlfriend (Laura Prepon) taunts her in their shared prison quarters.

Even better, I found out that the basis of the story is real. Orange is the New Black was a memoir first, written by the real Piper whose last name is Kerman. The book is fantastic, too, but it’s not nearly as dramatic. Kerman got herself together in real life. Her alter-ego Chapman has a very long way to go. I can’t believe I have to wait another year for season two.

My husband is jealous of my love of The White Queenboth the book by Phillipa Gregory and the TV show on Starz. I voraciously read it in two days, and then I sat down to watch the first three episodes on demand. OMG, if you are into crazy English history–war, blood, romance, plots, witches–you will believe you’ve hit the jackpot. The show follows the same arc as the book. The mostly true story is about the beautiful common woman Elizabeth Woodville who entrances the young King Edward during The War of the Roses in the 1400s. She reigns as queen and must constantly woo and scheme to keep her royal position and her head. The story is told through the eyes of women and suggests that they played more of a role in medieval politics than they’re often given credit for.

The White Queen book is part of a series, and I’m already onto The Red Queen. It’s every bit as addictive and good. I don’t know if Starz plans to follow Gregory’s brilliant writings into a second season, but I certainly hope that they do.

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My Two Favorite Summer Books: ‘The Interestings’ and ‘Sisterland’

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

What did you read this summer? What will you read? After all, we still have more than a month left! My friends and their kids started school in the Midwest, so their beach vacations are over. But here in the Northeast and elsewhere in the country, getaways are still in full swing. Well, regardless of your schedule, here are a two of my favorite books this summer so far.

The Interestings
by Meg Wolitzer
Who doesn’t love a book about friendships and love and happiness and heartache? This book, written by an expert commentator on culture and conundrums, spans decades nailing life’s changes that define each one. The story follows a clique of people who met as teens at summer camp in 1974. Jules, Ash, Ethan, Jonah, Kathy and Goodman all represent a part of yourself or someone you know. This book is not about a stunning, dramatic plot line. Instead, it’s for readers who love characters and their richness. On nearly every page, Wolitzer writes some poignant line that is something you’ve thought before but not been able to put into words: ““After a certain age, you felt a need not to be alone. It grew stronger, like a radio frequency, until finally it was so powerful that you were forced to do something about it.” I didn’t want this one to end.

 

 

 

Sisterland
by Curtis Sittenfeld
I’ll just be honest. The only reason I read this book was because I loved the author’s debut novel, Prep, so much. I knew Sittenfeld had a knack for recounting intimate thoughts and revealing tidbits about slices of life I knew nothing about. She still has those chops when it comes to Sisterland. But the subject matter is totally different. Stay with me here: Twin sisters Kate and Violet have ESP. One doesn’t dig it at all and tries to live a quiet, normal life. The other, Violet, is a flamboyant psychic who predicts a major earthquake in their state of Missouri. Head-butting ensues. If you can get over the gimmicky plot, the book is great. That’s because the author really gets that sibling relationship down. Her pace and her characters kept me turning the pages. Read it–find out if that earthquake really happens.

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Author Randy Susan Meyers Reveals How She Writes About the Dark Side of Motherhood

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Fiction alert: I hear a new book called The Comfort of Lies is a great beach read. Told in alternating points of view, the novel reveals the darkest and most private thoughts of three very different women who are all connected to a 5-year-old girl: Tia, the birth mother; Caroline, the adopted mother; and Juliette, the wife of the birth father. The year their lives collide, the women must confront their choices while discovering sobering truths about their relationships and most importantly, themselves. Author Randy Susan Meyers explores the complications of love and collateral damage of infidelity, as well as universal themes of motherhood, identity, trust and forgiveness.

Below, Randy tells us how she writes about motherhood–the good, the bad and the very, very ugly.

“Between perfect mothers and flawed (real) moms lay murky truth: We always love our children; we don’t always love being mothers. We’re M&M’s, our shells of goodness covering malleable centers of insecurity, always seeking evidence we’re not alone.

Great books of being raised by evil parents abound; rarer are authentic stories of imperfect mothers, written without cover of apologies for the character’s negative thoughts like, She’s drunk! She’s crazy! I understand this all too well. Writer-mothers also fear judgment, and who’s less revered than bad moms? But oh, how soothing to learn one’s not alone in ambivalence. We need reminding that feelings don’t equal actions, and that angry inside thoughts (even while murmuring soothing words to a screeching infant, calming a toddler in midst of a tantrum, biting back screams while coping with surly fourteen-year-olds) don’t define us.

A million things engender inside thoughts: Our checkbook’s empty. We hate building Lego castles. Maybe we’re divorced and distracted by fantasies of sparkly sex with a new beau—or simply too exhausted from a day of working at home or outside to make a single pan of brownies for that class party.

Novels capturing these moments from the mother’s point of view saved me when my children were small. Books like I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson and Jump At The Sun by Kim McLarin. Brave writers led me through the thicket of motherhood ambivalence. Even now, with grown children, I feel the push-pull of parenthood and work. Mothering isn’t just a 24- hour job, it lasts a lifetime, and there’s always more you can give, no matter how old your children. Toni Morrison said it in Beloved: “Grown don’t mean nothing to a mother. A child is a child. They get bigger, older, but grown? What’s that suppose to mean? In my heart it don’t mean a thing.”

I had my first daughter at 21; I don’t remember what it’s like to be an adult without children. How could I not write about mothering? Memories of revelatory books still bring comfort, but writing the core of raising children may be the toughest write of all. We’re not forgiven transgressions of motherhood. Saying everyday truths aloud—stretch marks, boredom—is difficult, but the harder truths sometimes feels impossible. How to reveal that the health, happiness, and success of our children make or break us every day and forever? Done right, motherhood begs the question, do you mind stepping aside for a lifetime? This is the truth I want to tell.”

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Book Pick: ‘Forever Interrupted’ Author Taylor Jenkins Reid Hopes You Love Her Debut Novel

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Today, a great beach read came out in paperback–perfect for toting in your bag and leaving by the pool for someone else when you’re finished. I got hooked on Taylor Jenkins Reid‘s new novel, Forever Interrupted. It’s about what happens after your worst fear comes true. In this case, the main character, Elsie, loses her husband after she asks him to get her Fruity Pebbles. His bike ride to the store goes horribly wrong. Does she lay down and die? Yes, at first. But not for long. Check out this book, which received a starred review in Publisher’s Weeklyand see what inspired this debut novelist to write about such a tragic subject. Taylor Jenkins Reid tells us about her new novel below:

“I started writing Forever, Interrupted out of fear.

Shortly after my husband and I got married, I found myself constantly plagued by the idea that he would die. I would start to worry if he was a few minutes late to meet me. I cried for days after seeing The Time Traveler’s Wife in the theater. Sometimes, I would lay in bed unable to sleep, worried I was about to lose the best thing that had ever happened to me. It didn’t matter that my fears were unfounded and irrational; they still haunted and paralyzed me. What if. What if. What if.

In hindsight, I can see that I was scared of being happy. I can see that my husband, and my life with him, seemed too good to be true. I understand why I was so certain that tragedy was looming, waiting for me just around the bend. I had to learn that sometimes wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling things happen to you, and the point of life isn’t to worry when they will end but to enjoy and cherish them.

But I didn’t know that then. I just knew that this feeling was inside of me, and I had to get it out. I needed an outlet for my fears, and I figured the only way to out was through.

So I started writing a book.

I created the character of Elsie Porter and within the first ten pages of the story, I killed off her new husband. I then proceeded to put every fear I had into her words. I wrote about the panic and shock that terrified me. I wrote about the loneliness and desperation that kept me up at night. I let loose on the page.

And then I found that something sort of extraordinary happened: Elsie fought back.

I would have sworn to you, as I lay in bed terrified I would lose my own husband, that when someone loses a spouse, it means their life is over. And yet, I found myself writing a book about a woman that learns to get back up.

The fact of the matter was, when I really considered what it would be like to face a loss like this, I didn’t believe it was the end of the world. In the deepest part of me, I believed in hope. I believed it was possible to be happy again.

And suddenly I realized that the book I had been writing wasn’t about fear or grief as much as it was about hope and friendship. Yes, this is a story about a woman losing her husband. But more to the point, it’s a story about how a woman puts her life back together after it happens. Elsie was stronger than I realized she was when I made her up.

And now, when I think back to the person I was when I started writing this book, I want to tell her to stop tossing and turning and get some sleep. I want to tell her that worrying gets you nowhere. The fact is, the world has a number of things in store for us and we have no idea what they are.

But we also have no idea how strong we will become.”

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Kids’ Picks: Check out Tiptoe Joe and Giant Dance Party

Friday, June 28th, 2013

If you see these two new books at your local store, check them out. My three children gave them both a big thumbs up.

Tiptoe Joe
by Ginger Foglesong Gibson, illustrated by Laura Rankin
This book for preschoolers also delighted my kindergartener and twin first graders. Tiptoe Joe and his very loud friends frolic through the woods. But of course, when a bear runs with a rabbit, turkey, donkey, moose, beaver and owl, it’s difficult to stay quiet. The book has a fun rhythm and cadence, and includes beginning words that are perfect for early readers. The sweet ending makes my kids ask for this book again and again.

Giant Dance Party
by Betsy Bird, illustrated by Brandon Dorman
Lexy loves to dance–but oh no, she doesn’t want to go to her recital. When her parents figure out she just has major stage fright, they suggest she loosen up by giving lessons. The problem is, no one shows up to take them except for a bunch of big, blue, furry giants. Boy, they need Lexy badly. With lively words, characters and pictures, this book will especially appeal to ballerinas. But it’s also great for all kids who sometimes get scared.

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