Book Review: The Mortician Diaries

The Mortician Diaries

June Nadle

New World Library

212 pages

This is the first book I’ve read since starting my blog that I considered not reviewing.  I guess the problem is that it wasn’t a good book . . . but it wasn’t bad either.  I was ambivalent after finishing it. 

I’ve always been interested in death.  Who isn’t?  It’s something that everyone experiences but it’s a big mystery at the same time.  So I guess in my fascination with death, this book intrigued me.  It’s written by a mortician (obviously) and what I expected was a book of musings and experience.  Instead, it was half guide book about dealing with death and half lackluster stories from Nadle’s experience as a mortician. 

Part of the problem, in my mind, was Nadle’s age.  She just seemed out of date, which was reflected in the text.  She graduated and began working in the 1950s and while you would think the ideas  and stories Nadle related would transcend time, they didn’t stylistically. 

Some of the chapters did include scenarios that were more what I imagined.  The one that sticks out most vividly is when Nadle is called to a home in the 50’s where a young child has died unexpectedly.  He took ill in the morning and was dead by that evening.  His grief stricken mother refused to let go of him physiaclly, despite the fact that he had been dead for hours and the effects of death were beginning to show.  Nadle was called in to coax the baby away from his mother, which she was eventually able to do.  The entire scenario was so distressing and real.  THAT was what I was looking for in this book, but it was so few and far between.

Would I recommend this book?  No, probably not.  It was a pretty quick read and I don’t regret reading it, but I am sure there are better choices other than this book.

Other Reviews:

None that I can find!

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: Push

Push

Sapphire

Vintage

192 pages

I brought this book to my last book club meeting as a possible selection in the future.  Ultimately, my book club turned it down due to how many triggers are involved.  After reading Push, I agree that it is a very sensitive book and may not be the right choice for some people.

Precious Jones is sexteen and pregnant with her second child while living and going to school in Harlem.  She bore her first child at age twelve and both were the result of an incestuous relationship forced on Precious by her own father.  She has been dealing with sexual abuse from both her parents at a young age.  He mother is morbidly obese  and spends her time ordering Precious around and beating her. 

Once Precious’s school finds out that she is pregnant, she is expelled from her school.  While not having to complete school may be a welcome excuse from most teenagers, Precious is upset to no longer be in school.  She is able to enroll in an alternative school where she continues her education even after her son is born. 

The ignorance of Precious is heartbreaking.  She can barely read, despite being sixteen.  She yearns to get an education but there is still a lot she doesn’t know or understand about the world.  She named her daughter Mongo because she was born with Downs Syndrome and she is unable to care for her, so Mongo lives with Precious’s grandmother. 

The dialect in Push took a little time to get used to.  Precious’s language was indicative of where and how she was brought up.

I was left back when I was twelve because I had a baby for my fahver.  That was in 1983.  I was out of school for a year.  This gonna be my second baby.  My daughter got Down Sinder.  She’s retarded.  I got left back in the second grade too, when I was seven, ’cause I couldn’t read (and I still peed on myself).  I should be in the eleventh grade, getting ready to go into the twelf’ gradeso I can gone ‘n graduate.  But I’m not.  I’m in the ninfe grade.

I got suspended from school ’cause I’m pregnant which I don’t think is fair.  I ain’ did nothin’!

The resilience Precious had was astounding.  Pretty much anyone in that situation would be beaten down by life.  She just kept getting blow after blow and yet her hope is unwavering.  Although Push is a difficult read because of it’s contact, it leaves the reader with the idea that even those in the worst situations in life can prevail. 

Other Reviews:

The Red Lady’s Reading Room

BermudaOnion’s Weblog

Stuff as Dreams are Made on . . .

I bought this book from Kroger (I can’t even buy groceries without buying books too!).

For those of you who have read the book AND seen the movie, was the movie true to the book?  Which did you like better?

Book Review: Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang

Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang

Chelsea Handler

Grand Central Publishing

256 pages

Oh Chelsea, how do I love thee . . . Seriously, I cannot get enough of Chelsea Handler.  She first made it onto my radar when she would make guest appearances on VHI shows such as Best of the and Best Week Ever.  Then she got her own show, Chelsea Lately, on E! and it was over for me.  I became a devoted fan.

Handler’s written three books, this one being the newest (released this month) and I have read all three.  Her first, My Horizontal Life: A History of One Night Stands, killed me.  In a good way.  The crap she gets herself into is laughable, especially given the fact that she has absolutely NO censor and will tell a good story whether it sheds her in a good light or not.

Handler’s second book was just as funny, although, like this book, it didn’t have the same connecting factor.  Both Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang and Are You There Vodka, It’s Me, Chelsea involve stories from Handler’s life, both growing up and as an adult.  Undoubtedly, the best “character” in the books, especially in CCBB is Handler’s father, Melvin.  Melvin is an over-the-top eccentric and trying to talk sense into him is an impossible effort.

Melvin’s stubborness is especially apparent in the chapter “Dear Asshole”, in which Melvin rents out his dilapidated vacation home to unsuspecting vacationers.  After spending a week in what can only be described a hell hole, the renters send Melvin a multiple page letter describing the most awful living conditions one could imagine in a vacation home, such as a broken refrigerator with liquified squid dripping from the freezer.  The letter from the renters makes its way between Handler and her siblings, who are all mortified.  However, their father sees nothing wrong with the living conditions and believes the renters are just making a stink over nothing.  His obstinancy was unbelievable and quite humerous.

If you’ve enjoyed Handler’s previous books, this is one that can’t be missed.  Now, if you are new to Handler, I would suggest any of her three books to read.  They are all ridiculously funny and entertaining.

In closing, here is a picture of me and two of my sisters at a book signing for Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea.  I am the one in the middle.  I think my enthusiasm is obvious!

Other Reviews:

Bookin’ With Bingo

I received this book from the publisher for review.

The Sunday Salon

So . . . I am a little late to the game today!  Springing forward really screwed me up!  I woke up late and then stayed in bed for over an hour reading.  Then I moved my reading to the bathtub!  It’s now about 3pm here and I just now got dressed and started making lunch. 

I had a pretty good reading week.  I read four books.

Frederica, Georgette Heyer

Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang, Chelsea Handler

The Mortician Diaries, June Nadle

Push, Sapphire

Four books is pretty good for me, although I spent a lot more time reading during the week plus three of the four were pretty short as well.  I am now reading The Cradle, by Patrick Somerville, which is also fairly short, so it’s possible that I may finish it today or tomorrow.

I also acquired some new books this week.

This one came courtesy of Hatchette.  Mine actually has a different cover but I had trouble finding it.

Both of these came from the library and I am so pumped for both of them!

Then my fiance was nice enough to buy me some books from Barnes & Noble. 

I hope everyone has a great Sunday!

Classics Circuit: Frederica

Frederica

Georgette Heyer

Sourcebooks Casablanca

448 pages

Welcome to the Classics Circuit.  This month’s featured author/theme is Georgette Heyer.  I want to start off by admitting that this has been my most anticipated tour yet.  That is somewhat shameful to me because I sign up for the tours in order to have motivation to read classics that I have yet to read.  However, I need no encouragement when it comes to Heyer.  I hadn’t even heard of her until I began blogging this past August and a few months after that, I read The Convenient Marriage.  The wonderful thing about Heyer is she takes Jane Austen-esque themes and time periods and makes them modern and hilarious without being over-the-top.  And let me tell you, they are SUPER readable.

Frederica is the story of the Merriville orphans.  They have come to London under the tutelage of oldest sibling Frederica.  Frederica’s goal is to introduce her sister Charis into society so that a well to do marriage can be established.  Charis is drop dead gorgeous but takes absolutely no note of it.  She is a very humble girl but seemingly dingy as well.  Frederica is the opposite—considered pretty, her looks pale in comparison to those of Charis, but all the common sense Charis lacks, Frederica has in excess.

The two girls are accompanied by their younger brothers Jessamy and Felix.  Head of the household Harry is away at school.  I wonder if anyone who has read this book could not have fallen in love with Felix.  He is the youngest (twelve I think . . . maybe younger) and he is as mischievous as they come.  Much of the book involves Felix and his childish antics.  He is one of the most loveable characters in fiction, in my opinion.

So anyway, the Merriville’s move to London and Frederica decides she must encroach upon her distant relation, Lord Alverstoke, in order to have Charis introduced in society.  Lord Alverstoke is quite selfish, but in an odd way.  I guess because of the fact that he realizes his character flaws, Lord Alverstoke is a very likeable character.  He decides to act as guardian and introduce Charis at a “ton” held at his home in honor of his niece Jane.  In fact, he only agreed to host the gathering as a way to get back at Jane’s mother, Louisa, his sister, because she was always pestering him to things for her as if it were his duty.  Louisa is relentless, and she is aghast and infuriated when she sees Charis at the ton and realizes what a beauty she is.

I really haven’t delved too far into the book synopsis at this point, but I think the little I have described embodies the merriment of the whole book.  Even with hystertically funny books, I usually only laugh on the inside, but with Frederica I was whooping it up as I read.  Take this exchange between Lord Alverstoke and his sister Louisa.

He had gone across the room to the side-table; and, as the butler withdrew, he turned his head, saying: “Sherry, Louisa?”

“My dear Vernon , you should know by now that I never touch sherry!”

“Should I?  But I have such a shockingly bad memory!”

“Not when you wish to remember anything!”

“Oh, no, not then!” he agreed.

That is just a small taste of Lord Alverstoke’s wit.  Like I said earlier, he’s a likeable character and very entertaining as well.  Frederica is also quite likeable, even when you’re not entirely sure if she is doing the right thing.  She is overly sensible, to the point where she refuses to do anything herself and instead lives for the fulfillment and happiness of her siblings.

As far as characters I didn’t particularly care for—I loathed Harry.  He was such a good for nothing and because Frederica was able to take better care of the family, he attempted to undermine her.  I also found Charis somewhat deplorable, although I almost felt guilty for it because she was such a nice girl.  I just got irritated by the way she acted towards the end.  On one hand, I wanted her to stand up for herself, but on the other hand she did it so half heartedly that I couldn’t respect it.

One thing I thought of while reading Frederica is that a Georgette Heyer challenge would be so much fun.  And then I discovered that there is one!  It’s a perpetual challenge hosted by Becky of Becky’s Book Reviews and you can find more info here.  I would like to read more of Heyer, so I am going to strive for one of her books every three months (that’s four a year!).  Hopefully I can read Why Shoot a Butler ? Soon since it’s been languishing on my shelf since Halloween!

In closing, I would just like to implore any of you who haven’t read any of Heyer’s work to do so ASAP.  You won’t regret it.

Other Reviews:

One Librarian’s Book Reviews

The Curious Reader

Fabula: A Book Blog

Becky’s Book Reviews

Lesa’s Book Critiques

The Bookworm

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book Review: Slam

Slam

Nick Hornby

Riverhead Trade

320 pages

Slam first came on to my radar after I read I Know it’s Over during the read-a-thon this past October.  Both books have the same premise, basically–a teenage boy gets his girlfriend pregnant.

It’s not out of the ordinary to find books written about teenage pregnancy from the perspective of the girl–it’s not often you read about the same issue from the perspective of the boy involved. 

Sam enjoys skateboarding and Tony Hawk.  In fact, he speaks to a poster of Tony (referred to as TH) when he needs guidance.  Sam’s mother is young–she had Sam when she was sixteen and tried to steer Sam away from her path in respect to becoming a teenage parent.  Her fear doesn’t resonate with Sam at the beginning of Slam because he isn’t dating anyone seriously and the thought of being sexually active has never seriously crossed his mind.  That all changes when Sam meets Alicia.

Alicia and Sam quickly embark upon a sexual relationship which results in Alicia’s pregnancy.  At the beginning of the relationship, Sam and Alicia were completely enamored with one another, but by the time the pregnancy is discovered Sam has grown tired of their relationship and their relationship has begun to taper out. 

Alicia decides to keep the baby and she and Sam attempt to work things out for the sake of their son, Roof (aka Rufus).  They have ups and downs and it’s obvious that they wouldn’t be together if not for their son, but I felt Hornby’s portrayal of the situation was very realistic.

Theonly part of the book that got under my skin was the fact that Sam twice had some sort of vision where he was able to foresee what would happen in the future.  At first I thought they were just scenarios that Sam imagined, but then they turned out to actually happen at the end of the book.  I really can’t figure out why Hornby chose to stray from how realistic the novel was with the exception of those two parts.

I can’t decide whether I enjoyed Slam more than I Know it’s Over.  They both rang true to me and although the relationships were different in the books, I could appreciate both scenarios.  Slam is the third book I have read by Hornby and although I haven’t really been wowed by any of them, I do think he is a talented author and it’s possible I will read more books by him.

Other Reviews:

BookNAround

Confessions of a Bibliophile

things mean a lot

I’m Booking It

Karin’s Book Nook

I borrowed this book from my local library.