Perrotta, Tom. The Wishbones. New York: Berkely Books, 1998.

Reason read: The movie starring Adam Sandler, “the Wedding Singer” was released in February.

Dave Raymond is thirty-one years old and still living with his parents in suburban New Jersey, but then again, so is his on and off girlfriend of fifteen years, Julie. They find living with their parents a drag, especially when they need to sneak around to have sex but given the circumstances, who wouldn’t at that age? For Julie, living with the ‘rents is a matter of convenience but for Dave it is a necessity in order to be a New York City courier by day and a wedding band musician on the weekends. The courier job is just to get him by. Playing guitar with the Wishbones is all he has ever known. So what is it that makes him upset this whole little world by announcing to Julie one night “let’s get married”? Immediately he wants to stuff the words back in his mouth and pretend no such pronouncement passed his lips. Maybe that’s why he starts an affair with an edgy Brooklyn poet named Gretchen. As the wedding draws near Dave is at a crossroad in his life and for the first time ever, he needs to make a mature decision.

As an aside, I found it curious that the band didn’t have a lead guitar player. Bass, sax, drummer, accordion, keyboards… I guess Dave was supposed to act as lead along with backing vocals?

Silly humor to quote, “Margaret was a formally pleasant person whose personality had been ruined by constant dieting” (p 61).

Author fact: Perrotta knows his music. I loved all the references to different bands. Especially this one, “You couldn’t really imagine Chrissie Hynde or Natalie Merchant dancing around in twelve different hats” (p 34).

Book trivia: this could have been a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl lists The Wishbones as a first novel she was delighted to have read (Book Lust p 88) and she just describes the plot in More Book Lust.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “First Novels” (p 88). Also, in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jersey Guys and Gals” (p 130).

Wildwater Walking Club

Cook, Claire. The Wildwater Walking Club. New York: Voice, 2009.

This book was not on my list. Not indexed in Book Lust, More Book Lust or Book Lust To Go. It wasn’t on an Early Review list for LibraryThing. I didn’t request it from anyone, either. So. Here’s how I came to read this book. It just showed up on my doorstep. Just like that. Here’s the back story as far as I understand it: I have mentioned Just ‘Cause more than once in this blog (and even more in the other one) so, if you have been paying attention you know that Just ‘Cause is near and dear to my heart. It is a nonprofit organization that supports two different charities, the Virginia Thurston Healing Garden and the Massachusetts General Hospital Oncology Center. More organically, we are a group of women who walk 60 miles every year to raise money. Like I said, it’s very near and dear to my heart and soul. Along the 60 miles (over the course of three days) we women make amazing memories and cultivate fabulous friendships.

One such amazing friend calls herself “the other Heidi S” because there are two in the group. One Heidi is bad enough, but to have two, both with the same last initial….well, it’s an endless joke. This Heidi S and I *must* have spent some time talking books. There are so many different conversations that happen on the walk I can’t really be sure. But, this Heidi S sends Miss Stella Grace this book, The Wildwater Walking Club with no explanation. Completely out of the blue. I haven’t a clue. I really don’t remember having even the smallest of conversations about this book. We could have. I’m sure we did. Really, so much stuff is shared I can’t keep it all straight. (The one thing I do remember finding out is we both went to Pies on Parade for the first time last year…but that’s a story for another time.)

Anyway, in the mail arrives this cute package, tied up in brown string. It’s Claire Cook’s Wildwater Walking Club and I read it in three days. Bing Bang Boom Done. It’s cute. The plot is super simple. Noreen is a woman who just lost her job and her boyfriend all at once. Realizing she is a corporate has-been with no personal life and a little extra weight she decides to take up walking. Along the way she recruits two other women from her neighborhood. Before long they have formed a club, are planning trips and vandalizing the neighborhood together. Of course, it’s chick lit so you have to have a little man trouble called dating, a little mother grief and a lot of laughs. It’s a cute book from the woman who brought you Must Love Dogs (Okay everyone! Time for a collective “OH!).

I could relate to Noreen on a few levels. Her relationship with her mother is strained. She thinks mom is constantly comparing her marriage-less, childless life to her siblings (all married with children, all leading very full lives). Her job was all that she knew and until she was laid off she didn’t realize how much it was affecting her personal life. And the one thing I’ve always known, walking makes everything better on so many different levels.

Sex So Great

Keesling, Barbara. Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough. Lanham: M Evans, 2012.

Before you start scratching your head and thinking I’ve lost my mind let me say but one thing: yes, I am reviewing a sex book for men. Call me a raging feminist but as a woman I had something to prove by requesting this book from the Early Review program. LibraryThing called my bluff and here I am. I want to believe I can review any book and that I’m not restricted by my gender or narrow mind. When asking for books to review I don’t want to be limited by genre or preference. I think I am capable of taking any subject matter and giving it a fair shake – MY fair shake. I also requested Sex So Great to play devil’s advocate. What if a man is too shy to buy such a book? What if a guy is just the opposite, too egotistical to believe he needs such a book? Either spectrum of a man’s ego could deter him from furthering a sexual education with Dr. Keesling. What if I dated a man and knew he needed the good doctor’s help? Could I buy the book, translate her knowledge into my own words and garner a better sex life for myself in the process? Not exactly. This is a book primarily written TO men with one curious section for women discussing vaginal shaving. (As a side note, what’s a man supposed to do? Hand the book over and say, “here honey, this part is for you”? So, having said all that let’s turn to Sex So Great She Can’t Get Enough.

I want to commend Barbara Keesling for her calm, gentle, and understanding (and sometimes humorous) manner with which she writes. You can tell immediately by the language she uses and the tone she conveys that she is has expertise when talking to people about sensitive subjects, not just men about sex. She is super careful not to offend. Let’s face it, men are sensitive about their private parts. As a woman, you can never call him “little” or “wimpy.” Leave that up to him. Self degradation is completely acceptable. Based on Keesling’s writing style I would say she is a good therapist and her other books (at the least the ones related to sex) are equally approachable. Sex So Great is mostly common sense advice that would sound just silly coming from my mouth. Keesling exaggerates the vulnerability and timidness of a woman to prove a point. Every moment a man makes must be slow and thoughtful. He could easily frighten his woman away. That’s not entirely true, but I get it.
Don’t get me know. Sex So Great had it’s educational moments for me, too. For instance, I never knew men should exercise their pubococcygeus muscle or practice a series of breathing routines for improved sex.
So. In the end, could I read the book and pass along the information to my lover? Some of it, sure. But like trying to give myself a foot massage it won’t be as effective and it certainly won’t feel as good.

Brothers and Sisters

Campbell, Bebe Moore. Brothers and Sisters. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 1994.

Discrimination is discrimination. When asked about Brothers and Sisters Campbell said if a person of color is ignored by a white waitress it is just as psychologically damaging as if the person of color is made to sit at the back of the bus. I see her point but there is a small part of me that has to ask two questions. One, is the person of color being ignored because of skin color or is the person of color being ignored by a really bad waitress? Two, does a book like Brothers and Sisters bring attention and awareness or fuel the fires of racism? I was talking to someone yesterday about the holocaust. Being German he was complaining that his country, “beats a dead horse” when remembering and making up for the atrocities of World War II. He feels that the constant reminders actually keep hate alive and if the powers that be let history slide into hazy remembrance “it wouldn’t be such a big deal.”I disagree but I have to admit it is an interesting point.

It took me a few pages to get into Brothers and Sisters. The introductions of the characters is exaggerated ; their personalities are inflated beyond reality. I found them to be too stereotypical. The need to illustrate the main character, Esther Jackson, as perfect is overdone. In the first chapter Esther  is described as “efficient, tall, large breasted, slim hipped, strong, coordinated, powerful, smooth cocoa-colored skinned, muscular legged, pleasant faced, professional, congenial, full lipped, beautiful, meticulous, painfully perfect, impeccable, devoted to duty, well-enunciated, precise.” Yet, it is hard to like her because when it comes to dealing with white people she has these attributes, “rage, anger, venomous, hostility, violent, frowning.” She becomes wild-eyed and shaking at times. The opinions and racism Esther demonstrates are so vehement I have to wonder if they aren’t a reflection of the author’s feelings.

Esther Jackson is trying to make a career for herself at a downtown Los Angeles bank right after the April 1992 riots. She currently works in middle management but dreams of climbing higher. She knows that because of the color of her skin she must work twice as hard as her white counterpart to climb the corporate ladder. Despite the unfairness of the situation Esther herself practices prejudices when it comes to relationships and friendships. Beyond skin color she screens for financial status. Her motto is “no romance without finance.” But, when she allows herself to become friends with a white woman and finds herself dating a poor man things get complicated. In Brothers and Sisters you meet all kinds of characters with personal problems with society. The politics and backstabbing of all involved was fascinating. The entire story was a game of cat and mouse but exactly who was chasing who keeps you guessing.

Author Fact: Bebe Moore Campbell died at the age of 56 from brain cancer.

Book Trivia: Brothers and Sisters was written to encourage discussion about discrimination.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say (p 12). Then, in the chapter called California, Here We Come (p 50).

Wobegone Boy

Keillor, Garrison. Wobegon Boy. New York: Viking, 1997.

It is strange to (finally) read something written by Garrison Keillor. For years and years and years I have heard wonderful things about Lake Wobegon Days and it seems,  for even longer, I have heard Keillor on NPR radio. Yet – nothing in print has been before my eyes or in my hands. Ever. Go figure.

John Tollefson is the manager of an academic public radio station. He has an idyllic life that is boring him to tears. His job, his home, his relationships, all are going well – so well that he no longer feels like he is in the drivers seat. Coasting through everything his life lacks depth and more importantly, it lacks meaning. John, with the help of his can’t-commit-to-marriage girlfriend Alida, sets out to make his life more interesting by opening a farm restaurant and other daring risks. John is perpetually guided by history, the life stories of his ancestors – a butcher, publisher, politician, among a wild cast of others, and a philosophical slant unlike any other.

While the plot of Wobegon Boy is a little slow and laborious, the voice is exceptional. As John Tollefson tells his story you cannot help but often laugh out loud. The sly wit and juicy humor radiate from every page. I wanted to quote line after line until I realized I what I really wanted was to quote the entire book.

Here are a few of my favorites: “Lake Wobegon was a rough town then, where, all on one block, for less than five dollars, you could get a tattoo, a glass of gin, and a social disease, and have enough left over to get in a poker game” (p2). See, by page 2 it’s funny! Here’s another one, “You could romp naked in periodicals and copulate on the carpet, and the librarians would be grateful if, after climax, you took down a magazine and thumbed through it” (p 7-8). Knowing the importance of circulation statistics, yes. Yes, we would be grateful.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (Minnesota)” (p 28).

Dog Handling

Naylor, Clare. Dog Handling. New York: Ballentine Books, 2004.

When it comes to chick lit I think there has to be a trick to reading it. At least for me there are two tricks. Suspension of belief, first and foremost…and the ability to laugh out loud at some of the nonsense.

Dog Handling is the story (cute story!) of Liv Elliot, a soon-to-be married accountant in London’s Notting Hill district. When Liv’s fiance breaks off the engagement she flees to Australia to mend her not so broken heart. Australia brings new friendships, a new career opportunity, new men (of course), and a whole new way of dating them. Liv’s outlook on life changes once she learns the rules of “dog handling.”

Traditionally, I am not a big fan of mind games, overextended cliches and predictable sappy-happy endings and Dog Handling had all of the above. It took me sometime to stop making Bridget Jones comparisons and seeing Liv Elliot in her own bumbling, lovable, all’s well that ends well movie. Once I was able to get past all that I truly enjoyed the story. The characters were delightful and the plot, humorous. It was a great summer read.

Favorite lines: “After all, a foreign city is a foreign city, and until she knew the precise location of the nearest places to buy newspapers, tampons, and beer she wasn’t taking any chances” (p 40).
“Liv had been cutting split ends off her hair with a potato peeler” (p 232). What a great idea!

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Chick Lit” (p 54). Where else?

Nice Guys Never

Power Hungry

I think I’ve said it a billion and one times. Today makes a billion and two. I always root for the underdog. That doesn’t mean I like the self-professed Homer/Family Guy; the guy who is proud to be life’s class clown fukc-up. Kisa, when I first met him said “I’m dumb.” But, that didn’t mean he was describing his whole IQ in a nutshell. He meant when it comes to meaningful relationships he’s not Mensa. I like that honesty, that soul-baring GiveMeAbreak mea culpa. I’ve Never Done This Before kind of virginity.

Let me clarify one thing. Underdog doesn’t mean under-confident, under-powered, under anything. Really.
I think I speak for every woman out there when I say tough is attractive. There’s a reason why the bad boy wins and nice guys finish last. Sometimes. Confidence is kickazz. Awkward is…well…awkward. Daring James Dean trumps goofy Gilligan every single time. Why am I saying this? Well, I’m tired of that guy saying he’ll never find someone. I know why. He knows why. He sells himself short. He takes pride in being a punching bag, the punchline to someone else’s joke. Meek is murder on meeting people. It’s frustrating when the personality has flat lined five minutes into the conversation. The underdog is scrappy, a fighter, a face to be reckoned with – not walked over. I was telling a friend about Kisa and she exclaimed, “but he’s such a nice guy!” Yeah, he’s nice, but not exactly innocent when it comes to trouble.

I came across someone’s Woe Is Me-ness the other day. If I had a remote I would have changed the channel. No, if I had a remote I would have hit the mute button. No, no, no! If I had a remote I would have shut the whole thing off. Here’s a tip, boyfriend: you are smart, you are funny, you are even cute to boot. Stop whining about what wasn’t or what was at one time and wonder what could be. Stop telling me how everything about your life falls short. Do something about it. Do something about you. Really. Be a man for fukc’s sake. Or, if you can’t be a man, be a bad boy.