Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Adult Project Review: "The Nanny Diaries," by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (audiobook)

With all the talk about New Adult, we often forget that there's one genre that has been embracing twenty-something protagonists for a long time: chick-lit. The Nanny Diaries is a great example of a New Adult success, especially considering that in addition to hitting the best-seller list, it was also made into a movie.


Goodreads Summary:

Wanted:

One young woman to take care of four-year-old boy. Must be cheerful, enthusiastic and selfless—bordering on masochistic. Must relish sixteen-hour shifts with a deliberately nap-deprived preschooler. Must love getting thrown up on, literally and figuratively, by everyone in his family. Must enjoy the delicious anticipation of ridiculously erratic pay. Mostly, must love being treated like fungus found growing out of employers Herm├Ęs bag. Those who take it personally need not apply.

Who wouldn’t want this job? Struggling to graduate from NYU and afford her microscopic studio apartment, Nanny takes a position caring for the only son of the wealthy X family. She rapidly learns the insane amount of juggling involved to ensure that a Park Avenue wife who doesn’t work, cook, clean, or raise her own child has a smooth day.

When the Xs marriage begins to disintegrate, Nanny ends up involved way beyond the bounds of human decency or good taste. Her tenure with the X family becomes a nearly impossible mission to maintain the mental health of their four-year-old, her own integrity and, most importantly, her sense of humor. Over nine tense months, Mrs. X and Nanny perform the age-old dance of decorum and power as they test the limits of modern-day servitude.

***


I sort of cheated with this one, since I actually saw the movie a few years ago. So as I was listening to this book, I couldn't help but compare them.

And while I did like the book, I thought the movie did a few things better. (The movie took several liberties with the adaptation. They changed the character from a college senior to a recent graduate, changed her name, her college major, and her family situation, and even added a best friend and love interest.) For one thing, the movie did a much better job at incorporating this character's outside identity (her family and interest in anthropology, for example) into the story. In the book, however, you don't get too much of a sense of the protagonist as being anything other than a nanny. Her major is in child development, and until you see her writing her final thesis near the end of the book, you practically forget that she's a college student. I also didn't understand the authors' choice of names in the book. A nanny named "Nanny"? Really? And Mr. and Mrs. X? Another thing I liked about the movie was that there was a reason for the Xs' anonymity. (The whole story was an admissions essay for an anthropology program, and it would be inappropriate to reveal their real names.) I also thought the movie did better with pacing.

One issue I had that was specific to the audiobook was the choice of narrator. Julia Roberts' tone often felt too flat, so Nanny's irritation didn't come across as well as it should have.

If the above description makes this sound like your kind of book, then I would definitely read it. But if you're on the fence about it, then don't feel guilty about skipping straight to the movie. It's a lot better.

ETA: Turns out the audiobook is actually abridged. I wonder if that's the source of some of my problems.

***



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Audiobook Review: "The Alchemist," by Paulo Coelho


This book has been on my to-read list forever, even though I knew absolutely nothing about it. (It was mostly the title and it's 'presence' that attracted me. As in, "Yay, a literary book about an alchemist!") So when I saw this on the shelf of the library, I knew I should check it out. On the way from Cleveland to Cincinnati, I popped it in my car, and the mythical prose, read by the voice of Jeremy Irons (Scar in The Lion King), began to carry me away.

Emphasis on "began." Probably the only thing that this book did well was its prose. The protagonist is rarely (or never?) referred to by name. In this way, the author does manage to create an air of legend about the story.

But beyond that? This book is nothing more than faux-intellectual masturbation. The characters spend most of their time discussing vague philosophy: destiny and 'personal legends' and alchemy and 'the Soul of the World' and love and fear and blah, blah, blah. This book goes on and on about not being a victim of Fate and choosing your own destiny, but it's very hypocritical in that the main character hardly ever plays an active role in choosing his destiny. Usually, it's either luck or some mystical figure that prompts him to action. And the love? This is insta-love at its worst. As in "their eyes met and they were in love." Not kidding. And this amazing love interest whom he was always destined to meet has no personality or presence beyond "I love you and want you to pursue your destiny, because that's what REAL MEN OF THE DESERT do." Her entire existence is centered on wanting the man she loves to pursue his destiny. Does she get a destiny too? Fuck if I know, because she's only in the book for about five minutes.

If you're the kind of person who's inspired by vague, semi-hypocritical fictional philosophers, then this book might be for you. But if you're looking for, you know, an actual story with actual substance, don't waste your time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

ARC Review: "The Boy Recession" by Flynn Meaney


Goodreads Summary:

Where have all the boys gone?

Down-to-earth Kelly is always the friend and never the girlfriend. But as her junior year of high school starts, Kelly is determined to finally reveal her true feelings for her long-time crush and good friend Hunter - that is, until the Boy Recession hits.

Over the past summer, an overwhelming number of male students have left Kelly and Hunter's small high school class. Some were sent to private school and others moved away. Whatever the case, the sudden population shift has left the already small Julius P. Heil High in desperate shape. The football coach is recruiting chess champs for his team, the principal's importing male exchange students to balance out school dances,and Hunter is about to become an unexpected heartthrob.

Content with his role as the guitar-strumming, class-skipping slacker, Hunter is unprepared to be the center of attention. Desperate coaches are recruiting him for sports teams, and the drama teacher casts him in the lead role of the school musical. Even the Spandexers, powerful popular girls in tight pants, are noticing Hunter in a new light - with a little work, he could have potential. He might even be boyfriend material...

In order to stand out from the crowd and win Hunter's heart, Kelly needs a "stimulus package" in the form of cougar lessons from a senior girl who dates hot freshman boys and advice on the male mind from her Cosmo-addicted best friend, Aviva. As if dating wasn't hard enough without a four-to-one ratio!

***


A while ago, I wrote about a review I was dreading, because I didn't want to bash an already under-publicized book. Ultimately, I decided that I am an honest reviewer, and that I'm not going to hold back on my opinions.

Lucky for this book, I ended up not hating it. In fact, I kind of liked it.

I'll start with the criticism, since that's the first thing that came to mind. The concept of a "boy recession" was probably meant to be original and clever, but I found it silly. It's kind of surprising, since Flynn Meaney's first book (Bloodthirsty--no, I didn't read it) actually had an awesome idea behind it ("Some vampires are good. Some are evil. Some are faking it to get girls.")

In a lot of ways, this book felt juvenile. The characters seemed more like stereotypes than actual people. And if you're one of those people who hates when all "other women" are written as neurotic windbags, this is probably not the book for you.

But The Boy Recession did get better as it went along. While the style was nothing to write home about (it sometimes seemed like the author was trying too hard to sound like a teenager), there is no doubt that Hunter and Kelly's voices were distinct. And many of the side characters who first appeared as stereotypes actually did display some idiosyncrasies. Darcy, Eugene, and Aviva turned out to be really fun characters for example, though some of the others never did break out of "neurotic whore" mode.

And, well, the story and the romance were really sweet. Both Hunter and Kelly grew on me, and I "awwed" at the end. Oh, and there were some really hilarious moments.

So while The Boy Recession is not good for those who like thoughtful, serious reads, it's perfect for those days when you're looking for a sweet, funny, light-hearted contemporary.

***

The Boy Recession comes out on August 7th. My sister's roommate lent me the ARC.

Also, for those who are interested, Goodreads is hosting a giveaway here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

I know I haven't been updating much lately, and this is the reason why:


This chart shows my current progress with med school applications. I am writing a lot of essays right now, and anything else I do on this computer is needless procrastination. I do expect to have everything done by August 15th, and then I will be free, free, free.

In the meantime, I have a bunch of books that I've been promising to review. So here's a preview of the reviews you will be seeing in the next month (or two, if I really up the procrastination):

-The Boy Recession, by Flynn Meaney (ARC)
-The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho (audiobook)
-Living Dead Girl, by Elizabeth Scott (audiobook)
-The Nanny Diaries, by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus (audiobook) (New Adult Project)
-Keturah and Lord Death, by Martine Leavitt (audiobook)
-Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

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