Wendy (here_be_dragons) wrote,

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Books - #83 through #85

A few more recent reads . . .

#83 -
Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination - by Helen Fielding

This was a fun book. Fluffy, but fun. By the author of the "Bridget Jones" books, it's about a journalist whose job forces her to cover "soft" news - fashion, mostly - when what she really wants to do is cover real news stories - world events, terrorism, that sort of thing. The problem is that her boss (and others) don't take her seriously because of her "overactive imagination." So, when she suspects that a French film producer she's met in Florida (while covering the launch of a face cream) is really a member of al-Qaeda, the few people she tells laugh in her face. Even she can't decide if she's jumping to an outlandish conclusion or not, but she decides to pursue "the story" anyway. I don't want to say anything more, or risk spoiling the plot which was very unbelieveable and over-the-top, but was also totally unpredictable. Unexpected things kept happening that surprised and amused me, and it was a fun ride. Olivia is a great character - sweet, funny, and able to laugh at herself when she's being ridiculous - which she is, at times, as are we all. But she's also right about things more often than not.

On somewhat of a side-note, she has a set of "Rules for Life" (which struck me as interesting, considering the previous book I read was The Four Agreements. There is some overlap in the two lists ::grin::). I include them here because I liked them, and wanted to be able to reference them later. Actually, I'm planning to create my own list, and may swipe a few of these. ::grin::

Olivia's Rules for Life:

1. Never panic. Stop, breathe, think
2. No one is thinking about you. They're thinking about themselves, just like you.
3. Never change haircut of colour before an important event
4. Nothing is either as bad or as good as it seems
5. Do as you would be done by, e.g., thou shalt not kill
6. It is better to buy one expensive thing that you really like than several cheap ones that you only quite like
7. Hardly anything matters: if you get upset, ask yourself, "Does it really matter?"
8. The key to success lies in how you pick yourself up from failure
9. Be honest and kind
10. Only buy clothes that make you feel like doing a small dance
11. Trust your instincts, not your overactive imagination
12. When overwhelmed by disaster, check if it's really a disaster by doing the following: a) think, "Oh, fuck it," b) look on the bright side, and,if that doesn't work, look on the funny side. If neither of the above works then maybe it is a disaster, so turn to items 1 and 4
13. Don't expect the world to be safe or life to be fair
14. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow
15. Don't regret anything. Remember there wasn't anything else that could have happened, given who you were and the state of the world at that moment. The only thing you can change is the present, so learn from the past.
16. If you start regretting something and thinking, "I should have done . . . " always add, "but then I might have been run over by a lorry or blown up by a Japanese-manned torpedo."

Olivia Joules was a quick, easy read - I read large parts of it while supervising my son at an indoor play area, and I was able to keep track of things in spite of having to shift my attention back and forth incessantly. (Read a bit . . . "Walk!" . . . read a bit . . . "Go down the slide on your BOTTOM" . . . read a bit . . . "Do you need me to button that for you?" . . . read a bit, etc.). ::grin:: I've read all of Fielding's books, and compared to the others, probably enjoyed this more than any of them, with the possible exception of Edge of Reason, which I also thought was hilarious. (Library)

#84 -
The Ghost That Came Alive - by Vic Crume

I think this probably qualifies as a "tween" book (a bit too juvenile for young adult); I read it aloud to my son as a bedtime book. It's about four children (ages almost 13 to late teens) who get stranded in a somewhat spooky "haunted" house with the unpleasant family they find living there. The Blairs have to find a way to get out and get back to their parents, but along the way the youngest daughter, Jenny, decides to solve the mystery of the ghost that is said to haunt the house. A somewhat Scooby-Dooish storyline, but these kids are nowhere near as charming as Shaggy and Co. In fact, I disliked this book because I thought the kids were, at times, flat out rude. If I'd been the people living in the house, I'd have been mean to them, too, as much as they complained and talked back. ::grin:: I also didn't think it was very well-written, especially the dialogue. So, erm, I wouldn't personally recommend this book to anyone, but I do admit to being outside of the target audience, so maybe it would appeal to a pre-teenager. And, to be fair, my five-year-old son enjoyed it, too. Although I sure hope he doesn't take any behaviour cues from the cheeky Blair children. ::grin:: (BookRelay, has been re-relayed)

#85 -
Chango's Fire - by Ernesto Quinonez

This is an Advanced Reader's Copy I received from HarperCollins. It's about Julio, a young man living in Spanish Harlem who has been supporting his aging parents by making a living as an arsonist, but realizes that he wants to get out of this line of work and do something legitimate with his life. It was a terrific read. I especially enjoyed the characters - Julio in particular. Although he is a self-admittedly a criminal, he really is a good person who understands that he's in a line of work that isn't ethical; watching him struggle to get out of this lifestyle was fascinating. The story also deals with the dynamic between the Hispanic population who've lived in the area for decades, and the whites who are moving in because of low property values, hoping to "gentrify" the area. When Julio falls in love with the blanquita who moves into his building, these issues become personal for him. He also works through a crisis of faith, feeling that the Christianity he's practiced all his life is no longer meaningful, and wondering whether it is time for him to try a new path and follow the Orishas of Santeria. Beautiful prose, interesting plot and sub-plots, and characters I really cared about, plus some interesting - and relevant - political commentary. My only complaint was that at times, there was dialogue in Spanish which I couldn't translate (I was only able to understand about half), and I got the feeling I was missing out on things because of it. Perhaps I wasn't, but since it seemed that in some places the author hadn't entirely reiterated the Spanish by repeating it another way in English afterwards, I had to assume that the Spanish I didn't understand was not being reiterated, either. But this only impacted my enjoyment of the book in a small way. (ARC from FirstLook program)
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