Book Club Feature: Dad Is Fat

Dad Is Fat From Left to Write Banner

Dad Is Fat From Left to Write Banner

Our next book club feature for April is the entertaining and laugh-out-loud Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan. I’m not sure how he, his wife and FIVE (yes, 5) kids manage not to kill each other in their two-bedroom Manhattan apartment. His family’s tight quarters mean more laughs for us:

In Dad is Fat, stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan, who’s best known for his legendary riffs on Hot Pockets, bacon, manatees, and McDonald’s, expresses all the joys and horrors of life with five young children—everything from cousins (“celebrities for little kids”) to toddlers’ communication skills (“they always sound like they have traveled by horseback for hours to deliver important news”), to the eating habits of four year olds (“there is no difference between a four year old eating a taco and throwing a taco on the floor”). Reminiscent of Bill Cosby’sFatherhoodDad is Fat is sharply observed, explosively funny, and a cry for help from a man who has realized he and his wife are outnumbered in their own home.

Just a warning if you read this book in public: people will shoot you crazy looks when your chuckles turn into full out laughs.

Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

From Left to Write book club members will discuss Dad Is Fat (Three Rivers Press) on April 22 in celebration of the book’s paperback release. If you can’t wait until Tuesday, order the hardcover or ebook (for instant gratification), and come chime in our discussion.

Keep up with Jim Gaffigan via his website, Facebook or Twitter.

Book Review: What Nora Knew

What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin Book Review

What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin Book Review

Over the weekend, I snuggled in bed with What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin. Reading the novel was like settling down with a good friend. All I needed was a glass of wine to make it a girl’s night in. If you’ve ever seen any of Nora Ephron’s movies, you’ll love this book.

Thirty-nine year old Molly Hallberg is a divorced writer living in New York City. Thanks to the Gawker-type website that she works for, she’s sent out on wacky assignments (vibrator testing, anyone?). Her editor assigns Molly a seemingly impossible article: write about romance and true love in the style of Nora Ephron.  Due to her divorce from a divorce lawyer, Molly is a cynic when it comes to such matters. This obviously makes it hard to research a story about love. However, will Molly allow herself to see the blossoming love right in front of her? Or will she miss her chance at true love?

Molly is funny. Not only is she funny, but she’s witty and sarcastic. I caught myself laughing out loud in my quiet sleepy home. Her banter with her love interest was smart and entertaining. I could imagine the zings she shot at him. Her best friends were almost as entertaining as Molly. As someone who’s is addicted to Twitter, Angela cracked me up. She was always attempting to find creative ways to tweet sales (under a false identity) for her grocery store client.

If you’ve seen Ephron’s romantic comedies such as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, you’ll have fun picking out all the movie references.  I won’t spoil them for you.

What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin was a fun, easy read and perfect for spring break or beach reading.

I received a review copy of the book. This post contains affiliate links.

Book Review: The House at the End of Hope Street

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

I can’t believe I didn’t pick up The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag sooner. I packed for my trip to Disney World, telling myself that I’d dig into after the kids went to sleep. Except I was just as exhausted as the kids each night. Instead, I pulled it out on the plane trip back home and was immediately wished I could move into the magical house at 11 Hope Street. This has to be one of my favorite novels so far this year.

As the youngest Ph.d. student at Cambridge University,19-year-old Alba Ashby is metaphorically lost. After a tragedy that involved getting kicked out of school, she finds herself in front of a special house at the end of Hope Street. Once she steps insides, she discovers refuge in the magical house. Peggy, the proprietress, informs Alba that she may stay in the house for 99 days and hopefully be able to turn her life around. Along with her fellow housemates Carmen, a singer, and Greer, an aging actress, Alba also befriends the talking portraits of those who stayed there before her: Dorothy Parker, Virginia Woolf, and many other now famous women.

I loved the human characters in the novel, but the house had a personality too. Each character (except for the house) had a different type of personal crisis. When you got down to it, each woman had to learn to embrace their true self, and in turn, to embrace their passion. The house was not shy about giving hints or nudges to help each lady achieve it.

Just like 11 Hope Street embraced its residents, the author had me under her spell throughout the entire book. The House at the End of Hope Street was such an enchanting novel that I was truly sad for it to end. I fell in love with Alba and the house at first sight. It was hard to let them go.

Congrats to Allison F who won the giveaway for a copy of this book!

I received a review copy of the book. This post contains affiliate links.

3 Ways the Divergent Movie Brought the Books To Life

Divergent Movie Poster

Divergent Movie Poster

Editor’s Note: I’m excited to welcome our newest contributor, Catherine. I’m glad she’s here to cover YA books because I just can’t read all the books. -Thien-Kim

I devoured Veronica Roth’s Divergent series as it came out, so I was more than excited to see the movie Divergent on opening night. As I settled into my seat I wondered if the movie could possibly satisfy the book lover in me. Because let’s be honest – the movies never do.

But this time, I am happy to report that the movie version of Divergent brought the books to life. Sure, a few things were changed here or there, but the essence was maintained. And there were at least three ways that seeing the story increased my enjoyment of the books.

1. Sweet Home, Chicago

I live in Chicagoland, so I love that Divergent takes place right here. While reading the books I had no trouble picturing Lake Michigan, the Sears Tower, the Loop, the “L” trains, or O’Hare airport. I was hoping the movie would give my imagination a good picture of how Roth envisioned my city in its dystopian future – and I was not disappointed. From the opening shots panning over Chicago, to Tris and Four’s climb up the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier, the images brought Divergent’s Chicago alive.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

2. The Simulations

It’s a fascinating idea. You sit in a chair and receive a serum injection…and moments later are in another world of your mind’s own making. Thanks to technology, your proctor can watch your thoughts on the screen. But what if this was used to determine your character? What if it was used to control your mind? This sci-fi experience in Divergent was crystal clear in my imagination as I read the books, and it was interesting to experience it with Tris on the big screen.

3. Tris and Four

You can’t love Divergent without loving Tris and Four, and their often true-to-life love story. Roth does such a great job conveying the personality, character, dreams, and fears of her two main characters, as well as the mixed emotions and insecurities two courageous fighters have when learning to be vulnerable to one another. Surprisingly, I felt the writing and actors captured not only Tris and Four’s character development, but their relationship development as well.

The movie is never as good as the book, but in this case I’m glad to have both – the Divergent movie stayed true to the book and brought the world to life. Now to find time to sit down and re-read them all…

Have you read Divergent? Are you planning to see the movie?

Book Review: Oleander Girl

Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Staying up until the wee hours finishing a book on the cusp of daylight savings time was not a wise decision, but I couldn’t stop reading Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The novel was definitely worth the sleep deprivation on Sunday morning. There’s also a surprise towards the end that, looking back, I should have been able to guess. But I didn’t guess it and that’s a testimony to Divakaruni’s well crafted writing.

Korobi Roy, orphaned at birth,  was raised by her traditional grandparents in Kolkata, India. As their only grandchild, they made sure Korobi had the best education possible and not want for anything. She knows nothing of her parents except that her mother died during childbirth and her father in an accident. She yearns deeply to know the woman who was her mother but her family remains tight lipped. After a tragedy occurs on the night of her engagement party, she feels compelled to travel solo to America to uncover her family secrets. During her search in post 9/11 United States, Korobi must reevaluate everything she thought she knew about true love, family, race and identity.

Divakaruni deftly weaves the complex threads of her characters into a beautiful tapestry.  She also deftly tackles issues such as “flying while brown” in the United States; race and class in India versus race and class in post 9/11 America; traditional Indian values; and even religious differences. None of it feels preachy, but rather it’s a peek into the many layers of living in India, for both Hindu or Muslim characters.  She keeps it real for her readers without romanticizing  or exoticizing their complexity.

While most of the novel follows Korobi, some of my favorite characters were her warm, nurturing grandmother Sarojini; her fiance’s teen sister Pia; and her fiance’s loyal Muslim chauffeur Asif. While Pia and Asif have minor roles in the novel, they are just as alive on the page as Korobi and her fiance Rajat.

This novel would make a terrific choice for your book club because we can relate to Korobi’s search for her family’s history yet the issues it raises offers plenty to discuss.

My big issue with this book is its cover illustration. It seems the trend for book covers in women’s literature involves a lone woman in soft colors.  That doesn’t usually bother me. What bothers me is that the woman on the cover does not look of Indian descent. She doesn’t even come close to the author’s description of Korobi: brown skin with long, dark, curly hair. The woman on the cover is a whitewashed version of Korobi.

The hardcover  is just the oleander flowers:

Oleander Girl Hardcover

While the Indian version is a chair with a sari:

Oleander Girl Indian Cover

Is the whitewashing of Oleander Girl‘s cover illustration supposed to make it more appealing to book clubs and non-Indians? We readers should be given more credit.

Don’t let the cover keep you from picking up Oleander Girl by Banerjee Divakaruni.  You’ll be missing out if you do.

I received a review copy of the book. This post contains affiliate links.

Book Review: The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes

The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes

The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes

The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting by Clara Parkes is a geek read. Parkes utilizes a variety of knitting metaphors to illustrate personal life lessons in these twenty-two short essays. Although eloquently written, if you aren’t familiar with terms such as steek, Kitchener, and frogging, reading The Yarn Whisperer can leave you feeling a little discombobulated. The themes are universal, but the lens is narrow. It’s a little like trying to describe the joy of basking in sunlight and fresh air to a fish who has known only the cool depths of the sea. You might as well be talking in a foreign language.

Life is a fabric that is made, mended, cut, and embellished. It can be unraveled; it can be reworked. It is a fabric we work on every day, bit by bit. As such, I can appreciate the knitting metaphors – the exciting potential of a new yarn, the slow addition of stitches, and patterns that gradually emerge. However, if I wasn’t obsessed with knitting, I’m not sure I would have made it to the end of The Yarn Whisperer. There were no revelations here – only the indulgence of spending time with someone who speaks my language.

Do you knit? Why do you love it so much?