Old Favorites: Georgia Nicolson

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #1)On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #2)Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #3)Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #4)Away Laughing on a Fast Camel (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #5)Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #6)  Startled by His Furry Shorts (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #7)Love Is a Many Trousered Thing (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #8)Stop in the Name of Pants! (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #9)Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #10)

Whenever I can’t decide what to read next, or whenever I just need a break from reading new things, I always go back to one of my favorite series: the Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison.

Georgia is a British teen who hates her wide nose, her pimples (lurking lurkers), her embarrassing father (an utter madman), Stalag 14 (her school), and Slim (the Oberfuhrer who runs the school).

But Georgia loves her cat Angus (part mad housecat, part Scottish wildcat who spends his time mocking the neighbors’ prat poodle), her toddler sister Libby (who is sweet but smells a little hamsterish), the Love God (an older boy in a band), and the Italian Stallion (an even sexier boy in a band who speaks limited English and has a scooter). Oh, and snogging. Georgia loves to snog, but only if she has just the amount of makeup on so that she appears to not be wearing makeup.

She tolerates her friend Jas (obsessed with her fringe, nature walks, and her boyfriend Tom, a legume heir), Dave the Laugh (who may or may not be in love with Georgia and vice versa), and her basoomas (inherited from her free-spirited mother whose unapologetic middle- agedness is truly a cross for Georgia to bear).

I’ve read all of the books in the series at least twice. No matter what kind of slump I’m in (reading or otherwise), a few hours with Georgia cheers me right up. I’m sad Rennison died in 2016. I’d love to spend time with Georgia in her adult years. I’d like to think she’s still a loon on loon tablets.

 

 

What I Read: July 2018

July was a good month for reading, in part because my hiking vacation was canceled (due to extreme heat, flooding, rock falls, and locusts).

(Just kidding, there were no locusts.)

(But the other stuff was real).

We did a home staycation instead, which turned out to be marvelous. There was much reading, napping, walking, and eating–all of my favorite things. And because I was on brain rest, I had the mental capacity to read some longer and more complicated books that I never seem to get to during the school year. In between the harder books, I indulged in some brain candy.

I read nine books in July:

1. The Queen and I by Sue Townsend (fiction)
2. Sunburn by Laura Lippman (fiction)
3. If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (fiction) (see my review)
4. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (fiction)
5. The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter (fiction)
6. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson (nonfiction)
7. The Moral Arc: How Science Makes Us Better by Michael Shermer (nonfiction)
8. Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella (fiction)
9. Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter (nonfiction)

Genre
3 Nonfiction
2 Contemporary Fiction
2 Funny/Brain Candy Fiction
2 Mystery/Thriller

Publication Dates
4 Published in 2018
3 Published in last five years
2 Published before 2013

Here are July’s superlatives:

Most Entertaining
Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
I’d forgotten how much I like Sophie Kinsella’s standalone novels until I mentioned this one last week. I grabbed it from the library and re-read it. It’s not my favorite Kinsella, but it’s still funny and deeply entertaining in its ridiculousness.

My tagline: Three’s Company meets Neil Simon meets Are You Being Served?

 

Most Educational
The Moral Arc: How Science Makes Us Better by Michael Shermer (nonfiction)

I read my first Michael Shermer book on a 24-hour Greyhound bus ride from Oklahoma to North Dakota. It was basically the worst 24 hours of my life (second only to the return trip), but at least I had Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things to keep me company.

In The Moral Arc, Shermer argues that all of society’s biggest moral advancements  (specifically in terms of human rights) sprang from the kind of logic- and reason-based arguments that marked the Enlightenment. It was that kind of thinking–with an emphasis on the inalienable rights of individuals–that helped us build morality. It’s an interesting response to the claim that religion has a monopoly on moral living.

Most Disturbing
Perhaps surprisingly, the most disturbing book I read in July was not the one about Nazis (though that was plenty disturbing). The one that gave me nightmares was The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. I debated quitting it multiple times and finally slogged through to the end. It’s not a bad book. It was just too much for me. I’m not a particularly squeamish reader, but the violence in this one was just too visceral and didn’t feel totally necessary.

 

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by [Alter, Adam]Most Likely to Change How I Think About My Online Life
Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by  Adam Alter

After reading this book, I’m vowing to limit my own time on social media, the Internet in general, and on email (the greatest time-suck of my working life)!

Happy Reading in August!

 

Books About Weddings

I’ve attended a lot of weddings. My favorite was one wedding in which I was the maid of honor. I absolutely loved my dress. It was a bright, shiny forest green with huge poofy short sleeves. It had a fitted bodice and a full skirt. I wore velvet black pumps with it.

The whole outfit was the very pinnacle of 80s fashion (though keep in mind that I wore it in 1995–I was seriously behind the times). I loved that dress so much, I’d probably wear it now if I had it. And if I could fit more than my big toe in. (Remember that dress, Camille? I hearted you for letting me have it.)

A Place for Us: A Novel by [Mirza, Fatima Farheen]I just finished reading A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza, which is a family saga about a Muslim Indian American family gathering for a long-awaited wedding. I really wanted to love this book. And I did love parts of it. The writing is beautiful and often very insightful. It just didn’t come together for me.

I still recommend it because I’m in the minority opinion here. Everyone else really loved it, so it’s possible that I’m just wrong. I often am.

I did love the fact that a wedding is the central event that brings the characters together. Here are four other wedding books that I loved:

Midnight Champagne by A. Manette AnsayMidnight Champagne: A Novel (Mysteries & Horror) by [Ansay, A. Manette]
I love books set in the Midwest, and Ansay is my go-to author for such books. The opening quotation from Chekhov is all you need to know about this one: “If you fear loneliness, then marriage is not for you.” Also, bonus points for any book that can correctly identify what hot dish is.

The Arrivals by Meg Mitchell Moore
Rich people floundering around acting like fools is one of my favorite subgenres. This is a wedding that’s so full of family chaos, you’ll be glad you’re home reading instead of being at a family wedding.

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant GinderThe People We Hate at the Wedding: A Novel by [Ginder, Grant]
More family drama here with some wicked sibling rivalry. I thought it was funny and quite poignant. And isn’t it true that at any wedding, at least two people will hate each each other?

Wedding Night: A Novel by [Kinsella, Sophie]Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
I love that Kinsella’s books read like farces. It’s like watching a comedy of manners on stage. I often forget the plot details after I read one of her books, but I adore the experience of reading everything she writes. I enjoyed this one immensely, which means it’s time to read it again.

I’m not going to lie: If I had my shiny green dress, I’d put it on right now to re-read this book.

Reasonable facsimile of the most wonderful dress in the world. (This is actually for sale on Etsy.)

 

Review: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

If We Were Villains: A Novel by [Rio, M. L.]

Elevator Pitch: Oliver Marks has served ten years in prison for a crime he confessed to committing. On his first day out, the only thing the lead detective on the case wants to know is the truth. To get there, Oliver has to take him back to Dellecher Classical Conservatory, the liberal arts college where ten years ago he and six theater classmates lived and breathe Shakespeare–onstage and off.

My Tagline: Hamlet meets The Secret History by Donna Tartt meets a troupe of teen stage actors from a summer theatre camp in Peoria.lived and breathed Shakespeare–onstage and off.

My Opinion: I love seeing a really good Shakespeare performance, and this book felt like one at times. It’s full of murder, jealousy, hubris, sex, intrigue, and fate. The seven students who function as our main characters are pretentious as all get out, but it works here. I assume that college wannabe Shakespearean actors are occasionally, if not always, insufferable. And rest assured, almost all of them have redeeming qualities. They are just young and naive.

My favorite part was the dialogue. Every student speaks in a sort of pidgin language that’s one part millennial college student a two parts obsessive Shakespeare worshiper. The characters are creative in how they deploy Shakespearean lines, and the author takes some wonderful creative liberties that really work.

Verdict: If you like Shakespeare, a good tragedy, and college students, you’ll love it as much as I did. 

 

Vacation Time!

I’m on vacation next week, and my reading list has been determined by the holds that just came in from the library. So here’s what I hope to read next week:

The Good Daughter: A Novel by [Slaughter, Karin]   Macbeth by [Nesbo, Jo]

The High Season: A Novel by [Blundell, Judy]

I cheated and started The Good Daughter last night; it scared the liver out of me. After the first 10% I decided that maybe I didn’t have the constitution to keep reading it. I put it down and turned out the lights. Ten minutes later I got up and starting reading more. So I guess I’m in this one for the long-haul, even though the book is deeply disturbing and I fully intend to have nightmares for a week.

Cheers!

Glass of wine with book

Review: The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Elevator Pitch: Amber Patterson is sick of being a nobody, so she decides to get rich the the old-fashioned way: by marrying a super-rich dude. The only problem is that Jackson Parrish is already married to a beautiful and accomplished woman, Daphne, whom he adores. That doesn’t deter Amber, though. She insinuates herself into Daphne’s life, becomes her very best friend, and begins to rip at the fabric of Daphne’s perfect marriage. But like any psychological thriller, all is not what it seems.

Let’s be best friends while I work on stealing your husband with my super sex skillz. –Amber Patterson (I’m paraphrasing, of course)

My Tagline:  Lifetime’s Mother May I Sleep with Danger (starring the American film treasure, Tori Spelling) meets a stack of airport thrillers for sale at a garage sale.

My Opinion: I have really mixed opinions about this book. On the one hand, I read it in big gulps without ever once losing interest. It’s fast-paced and well-plotted. Even after I figured out the twist fairly early on, I kept reading to see how it would unspool. Plus, I love unreliable and unlikable narrators. The more I dislike a character, the happier I am. (I’ve decided that’s because I like being in the vicinity of hot messes, but I don’t have the patience for it in real life.) I also admire the authors–two sisters–for being able to craft a cohesive narrative while writing together. That’s tough to do.

On the other hand, it’s a pretty corny book. Most of the characters are deeply one-dimensional. The evil ones have few or no redeeming qualities; the good characters are too saintly. The authors use shorthand to convey “good” and “evil” in ways that just feels simplistic. (An evil character is an atheist; a dumb character is overweight; a snooty character has designer clothes, etc.)

The writing in general is a little wooden at times. The dialogue doesn’t always feel believable, nor do the character’s motivation. For instance, Amber spends an incredible amount of time working toward stealing Jackson. Given how smart she is and how fast she learns, she could have been a real estate mogul herself. Why waste her talent trying to steal someone’s middle-aged husband, no matter how hot he is?

There were other aspects of the plot that I found deeply problematic, but I’d have to give away the twist to talk about those. So I’ll just say that the comeuppance some characters get delivers a problematic message (even though I’m quite sure it’s an unintentional message).

But in spite of everything I just said, I enjoyed reading the book. It didn’t make me smarter or a better person, but it was the equivalent of having a huge snack with no nutritional value right before dinner. Totally enjoyable in the moment, but not something you can do every day.

Verdict: Read it if you need a distraction and don’t want to tax your brain. Best read with a bowl of popcorn nearby.