Trenton Reads

Our literary adventures …

Somebody Else’s Daughter Now Available

Elizabeth Brundage’s new novel, Somebody Else’s Daughter, is now on sale.  If it is anywhere near as good as her first book, The Doctor’s Wife, it will be a treat.  Somebody Else’s Daughter has its own website.

Review: The Opposite of Love

In the opening pages of Julie Buxbaum’s debut novel The Opposite of Love, New York City attorney Emily Haxby reminisces about her recent break-up with her boyfriend of two years. At first glance, Emily seems flippant about the split, which she initiated. Andrew is perfect on paper – an emergency room doctor who actually changes the toilet paper roll and cleans the hair out of the shower drain, he was on the brink of proposing to her – but the reader assumes she just didn’t love him. After all, her biggest regret seems to be the setting she chose to break the bad news (a barbeque joint.)

As the novel unfolds, however, it becomes evident that Emily’s feelings for Andrew were much deeper than it originally seemed. She does love him, and she misses him, enough to lay aside her pride and make a fool of herself trying to win him back. There is a lot going on beneath the surface with Emily that hinders her ability to trust in happily ever after. Her mother died when Emily was only 13 and her father is distant and emotionally unavailable, completely absorbed in his political career.

Emily’s law career and her relationship with her paternal grandfather provide interesting subplots. As a junior at a huge firm, she has to fend off the inappropriate advances of a senior partner and gets stuck working with him on a big case that she finds ethically offensive (think Erin Brockovich, only Emily is defending the bad guys.) Her grandfather is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease and she has to make many of the decisions about his care, while dealing with her own feelings about losing the only family member she is close to.

If all of this sounds a little heavy, don’t worry – it’s not. It is a quick, easy read, a great beach read in fact. I read it while vacationing in Florida, sitting on the balcony of a beachside condo. The book is full of interesting, likeable characters. Once I started reading, I didn’t want to put it down. The best part is that, as the reader, you really get inside Emily’s head – and it’s funny in there.

Related Reviews:
Book Reporter
Jenn’s Bookshelf
Powell’s

Reading Group Guide

Review: The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters

When Olivia Hunt was a child, she used to make up bedtime stories for her little sister Maddie; she called them the True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters. In Elisabeth Robinson’s debut novel, Olivia is now a thirty-something movie producer living in Los Angeles. Maddie is in her mid-twenties, married just over a year, and fighting leukemia. Olivia jets between California and Ohio to be with Maddie and finds herself spinning new tales of the Hunt sisters as she sits by Maddie’s bedside.

During this time Olivia is also struggling to accept demise of a long-term relationship with her artist boyfriend and producing a movie based on the novel Don Quixote. Her take on Hollywood and the movie business is hilarious and likely quite accurate since Robinson herself was a movie producer prior to becoming a novelist.

When I realized that this entire novel is told in letters – from Olivia to her sister, her best friend, her newly ex-boyfriend, her parents and colleagues – I wondered how the author could possibly give enough background and depth to her story. I was pleasantly surprised when she succeeded in doing just that.

Her letters were more detailed than any I have ever written or received, but given Olivia’s character and the tone of the book, they were believable. Through her candid, introspective communication, I came to know Olivia as conflicted and lovable, a mix of hopeful naivety and world-worn cynicism, dedicated to her family and reservedly so to her career, a writer at heart, who could bare her soul most easily with pen and paper.

Related Reviews:
Book Reporter
New York Times
USA Today

Reading Group Guide

Summer Reading List, #5

The Los Angeles Times published its summer reading list earlier this month. 

If I had to choose one book from this list that I know I will read, it would be What Happened to Anna K. by Irena Reyn.  It made an appearance on NPR’s summer reading list, too.

 

Review: Franklin and Lucy: President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherford, and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life

In his biography Franklin and Lucy: President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherford, and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life, Joseph E. Persico looks at the life of Franklin D. Roosevelt from a unique perspective. The reader sees the women who influenced this great historical figure as he led the country out of a severe economic depression and through a devastating world war.

Persico examines Roosevelt’s relationship with his mother, wife, and a handful of other women who were close to the nation’s 32nd president. His mother, Sara, was a grande dame of New York society, obsessively involved in her son’s life up to the day she died. President Roosevelt relied heavily on her, to the point that early in his political career, when asked to run for certain office, he hesitated, saying he would first need to discuss it with his mother.

FDR’s relationship with his wife, arguably the most influential First Lady in history, has been the subject of much speculation throughout the years. As a great fan of Eleanor Roosevelt I was pleased to find that this was as much a biography of her as it was of her husband. Having read two thick tomes by Blanche Wiesen Cook covering Mrs. Roosevelt’s first 54 years, not a lot of this information was new but it was interesting nonetheless. Both the President and the First Lady appeared to have had extramarital relationships throughout his political career that, depending on who is speculating, ranged from intimate friendships to barely concealed love affairs.

The Mrs. Rutherford of the title is Lucy Mercer Rutherford, who entered the Roosevelt’s life as Eleanor’s personal secretary, and eventually became romantically involved with Franklin, although the extent of this involvement is again a matter of speculation. Persico relied heavily on documents recently discovered by Mrs. Rutherford’s descendents to recreate the trajectory of the relationship between Franklin and Lucy.

History buffs and political junkies will certainly appreciate this biography as it examines historical events such as the Great Depression, World War II, and creation of the New Deal in light of Roosevelt’s personal life. However, I think the appeal is broader than that. Persico has combined eloquent writing with detailed research to spin a gripping tale that reinforces the old adage that truth is often stranger than fiction.

Related Reviews:
A Bookworm’s Dinner
Chicago Tribune
Internet Review of Books
New York Times

Review: Save Me from Myself: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs and Lived to Tell My Story

 

Save Me From Myself is a memoir best described by its subtitle: How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs and Lived to Tell My Story. Brian “Head” Welch, former lead guitarist of the heavy metal band Korn, recounts his past with a vulnerable honesty and easy-going sense of humor that makes for a very readable book.

I will admit that when a friend lent me this book, I was hesitant. The cover alone was a little off-putting and I’ve never heard a song by Korn in my life. Heavy metal has never held much appeal for me, other than a few Metallica songs that were so main stream they got playing time on pop stations.

Welch’s writing style is very down to earth. It feels like you’re having a conversation with him. His story is peppered with phrases particular to his generation and past lifestyle that lend an authenticity to his memoir. For example, he repeatedly refers to being high on methamphetamines as being “geeked out”.

Ultimately I’m glad I read Save Me from Myself. After reading the book, even my feelings about the cover photo changed; it is fitting to Welch’s past and his present. (Interestingly, most of those tattoos were received after he converted to Christianity and each has a special meaning to him.)

This memoir is truly a story of redemption, and a testament to the reality that the life behind the outward façade of celebrity is rarely what it seems to those of us looking in.

Related Reviews:
Entertainment Weekly
Screwtape Chronicles

Summer Reading List, #4

Lisa at Books on the Brain (my favorite book blog) has posted a list of 7 New Books to Throw into your Beach Bag this Summer

I see one I’ve been wanting to read – Love and Biology at the Center of the Universe by Jennie Shortridge – and several others that will now be making their way to my To Read list.