Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Journal of Mortifying Moments by Robyn Harding~★★★

Author: Robyn Harding
Title: The Journal of Mortifying Moments
Release Date: September 28, 2004
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "Kerry Spence is unfulfilled by her soulless career in advertising, disappointed by her dysfunctional relationship, and horrified by the ever-increasing size of her ass. Ever since her gorgeous, self-absorbed boyfriend Sam demoted her to late-night hook-up status, she has fortified herself with prime-time TV and blissful binges on cream-cheese frosting, awaiting an epiphany that will reveal her next move. 
Of course, everybody in her life is full of advice. Her free-spirited divorcee mother---when not necking furiously with her much younger boyfriend---sagely counsels her daughter to do whatever it takes to get Sam back, since, quite frankly, he is the best she can do. Her friends ply her with fruity cocktails and dispense bit of Cosmo wisdom like 'Divide your age in half and add seven---that's the youngest man you are allowed to date" and 'Scotch tape can eliminate forehead wrinkles." Then there's Kerry's calm, unflappable therapist, who suggests she start 'a diary of past encounters with men that may be contributing to her negative and dysfunctional quasi relationship.' Or, as Kerry sees it, a journal of mortifying moments. 
Beginning with a kissing game gone bad in grade school, the journal jump-starts Kerry's stroll down the memory lane of man troubles. But just as Kerry decides that her poorly dressed therapist is as crazy as everybody else in her orbit, she begins to realize that the journal may actually make some sense. So on a quest for personal awareness, she plumbs the depths of her most embarrassing experiences, hoping that this will give her the strength to turn her life around---and, just maybe, to find love again.
The Journal of Mortifying Moments is a hysterically funny glimpse into the quirky, slightly obsessive, and completely lovable mind of Kerry Spence. But somewhere amid the laugh-out-loud hilarity of Kerry's exploits emerges the story of a woman who learns to stop trying to be someone she's not and to start loving the wonderful, quirky person she is, once and for all."

Taryn's Review: While I was wandering around the library, I wasn't looking for anything particular, but just going up and down the aisles waiting to be inspired. The title on the spine of this book had caught my eye, but I ignored it and went to the computer to look up some book ideas. This book came up after I searched for books about women and I thought it quite the coincidence that I had spotted the book earlier, so into my bag it went!

I'm disappointed to report that this book was just a standard chick-lit book with the same variations that have been done thousands of time before it. It lacked the funny, clever, and fresh feeling of good chick-lit and it did not deliver what the book jacket promised. 

Kerry, in my opinion, was incredibly unlikable. She complained about her job constantly yet it was very apparent that while at work Kerry was a time-waster and she didn't take her job seriously. She often skipped out on her work duties to have lattes with her work bff and she even deleted an important document from her laptop that she needed for a presentation because she had sex on top of her laptop. I'm all for a bit of spontaneity, but a laptop? The ridiculousness continued as Kerry seemed clueless with how to deal with issues and she was overly forgiving with some red-flag issues. At one point Kerry was being sexually harassed by a coworker and her work bff tricked her into meeting harassing coworker for dinner so they could "clear the air." Kerry was briefly upset with her bff, but then brushed off his "help" as no big deal. 

Harding used some odd verb choices when writing about Kerry and her attitude. At one point Kerry was being placed with a student for mentoring through an outreach program. While on the phone with the outreach coordinator, the coordinator explained the student's background. After she had finished explaining, Harding wrote these words for Kerry: '"Oh, my God!' I scream. 'I'm sorry Theresa, but she sounds like she needs a psychiatrist or a...warden, not a mentor.'" Charming, huh? Kerry really "screamed" that judgmental thought at the coordinator without consequence (and in the book the coordinator laughed)? There were a few other instances like this throughout the book.

The book passed the time, but is nowhere near as fun as reading books by Sophie Kinsella or Maria Murnane. I'd probably read another book by Harding, as this was her first novel, but I can't say I'd recommend this one knowing there are much better chick-lit books out there to read.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard~★★★

Author: Hannah Pittard
Title: The Fates Will Find Their Way
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Publisher: Ecco
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "Sixteen-year-old Nora Lindell is missing. And the neighborhood boys she's left behind are caught forever in the heady current of her absence. 
As the days and years pile up, the mystery of her disappearance grows kaleidoscopically. A collection of rumors, divergent suspicions, and tantalizing what-ifs, Nora Lindell's story is a shadowy projection of teenage lust, friendship, reverence, and regret, captured magically in the disembodied plural voice of the boys who still long for her.
Told in haunting, percussive prose, Hannah Pittard's beautifully crafted novel tracks the emotional progress of the sister Nora left behind, the other families in their leafy suburban enclave, and the individual fates of the boys in her thrall. Far more eager to imagine Nora's fate than to scrutinize their own, the boys sleepwalk into an adulthood of jobs, marriage, families, homes, and daughters of their own, all the while pining for a girl---and a life---that no longer exists, except in the imagination. 
A masterful literary debut that shines a light into the dream-filled space between childhood and all that follows, The Fates Will Find Their Way is a story about the stories we tell ourselves---of who we once were and may someday become."

Taryn's Review: Some people are afforded the luxury of leading charmed lives, yet others are introduced to tragedy at a young age. In this book, the narrator was a grown man focusing on the mystery of the vanished Nora Lindell, who disappeared when he was just a teen. The narrator also discussed the lives of his friends and their preoccupation regarding Nora's fate. The group of friends, both as teens and as adults, made up stories about possible outcomes for Nora, and occasionally some members of the group believed they had seen Nora in various places. The stories seemed to help keep the memory of the girl alive for the boys, especially since they seemed to realize that without the memories, Nora Lindell wouldn't exist.

After the boys had grown into men, they struggled with the reality that Nora may not exist anymore, but still hoped that she did exist somewhere. But at the same time, they were also sleepwalking through their own adulthoods. After one of the men was caught having sex with the 13 year-old daughter of a man he had grown up with, the group fragmented even more and faced the reality that they could not understand life's harshness. As the group grappled with the betrayal by their lifelong friend, the narrator asked, "What, right now, is taking place that we should be stopping but that we can't even see?" That begged the bigger question: can we even change the course of life or does fate already have our routes mapped out?

The book was dark and after a while the focus of "What became of Nora Lindell?"  became a bit dull. I think the struggle of life and existence for the boys/men was interesting, but it was difficult to connect with the characters in the story, especially as the men grew older. I didn't hate the book and I did appreciate Pittard's focus on how such events affected lives, even for those people who were not directly related to or involved with Nora Lindell. Pittard is a good writer and I'd read another of her books, but this book was so-so for me.