Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TLC Book Tour Review - And When She Was Good


And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman
HarperCollins 2012

Format: oversized paperback advanced ARC

Source: from the publisher via TLC Book Tours

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of And When She Was Good from the publisher in exchange for a review.  The opinions in this review are my own and made without bias.

Why?  I'm a sucker for a fast paced, women's issues loaded, scrappy female protagonist, thriller, and this one is all of that and more.

Cover?  The cover of my ARC is not the same as the cover on the final copy.  The ARC cover almost makes the story seem softer than it is...and there's nothing "soft" about Heloise's life, but it certainly lends itself to Heloise's profession, albeit a romanticized notion of prostitution .  But, the cover on the final version almost seems too simple...or maybe that's the way its supposed to be.  Heloise's hair is red only to match the color of her son's...in order to keep him safe from questions which might lead to the truth about his father.  But, Heloise's life is like that, one secret on top of another, a constant juggling act to keep up with the cover-up stories she's created.

What Now?  This one's a keeper...I'm happy to pass this ARC on to a reader who hasn't read Lippman, but I will be purchasing this one in hardback for my keeper shelves.  Yeah, cause I'm weird like that... :/  Give away the free book and buy it for myself.  Oy. 
Just leave a comment letting me know that you are interested, if you've read any other Lippman, your email and blog address (if you blog), and one week from today, I'll choose a winner. :)

Golden Lines

Compartmentalize, compartmentalize, comparetmentalize.  Sometimes she felt that her entire life was about creating boxes and storing pieces of herself in each one.  She never got the boxes mixed up, but it required ferocious concentration on her part, an eternal vigilance.  How could she trust anyone else to keep it straight?  No one else had as much to lose.

Smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart.  That was one of Hector Lewis's sayings, his way of explaining that it was lack of luck that held him down, not his own laziness.  Well, she could still be smart.  She would find a way to get educated somehow, without upsetting Val.  She was a good liar when it came down to it.  She had to be.

No one values her.  That was a painful lesson to learn at her father's knee - at the end of her father's arm, at the flat of his palm - but once she absorbed it, she flourished.  It doesn't matter what others think she is worth.  She sets the price.

It was baffling to Helen, this belief that personal knowledge would lead to intimacy, something good, anything good.  It was information.  Information was power.  Why would she give away any more power?

Helen splashed water on her face, dried her hands on the old-fashioned towel, the kind that hung in a single loop.  You pulled down and supposedly dried your hands on the fresh part, but when had it last been replaced?  Her life was like this.  She pulled and pulled but always ended up making a full circle, and each pass was dirtier than the last.

Lucky for her, Val was in the market for a new protegee, locked up as he was for killing the last one.
But she had as good as killed him when she put him here.  Did that make it hypocritical to take his advice, to let him instruct her in how to set up her own illegal enterprise?

Probably.  But if there were no hypocrisy in the world, there wouldn't be any prostitutes.
Helen felt naive, a feeling no one enjoys, ever, despite the fact that we often pretend it's a virtue.   Naivete is just a euphemism for ignorance.

"Gas.  I need gas.  Can't risk running out even if we have such a short distance to go."
She doesn't; she has more than half a tank.  But sitting in the full-service lane allows her the time she needs to control her wildly beating heart, which now seems to have broken free from her chest and risen to her throat, where it's on the verge of choking her.

Summary

Helen/Heloise escaped an abusive household right into the arms of her first "pimp" Billy...who then passed her along to Val.  With no education, no money, no skills, and no self-confidence whatsoever at all, Heloise falls into a life from which there is no escape.  Over time Heloise does learn survival skills, sometimes doing things that she wishes she didn't have to in order to stay alive and keep hoping for a better day.  An unexpected pregnancy is the impetus for her escape attempt and puts the wheels in motion for a life of running from the truth.  Heloise creates her own prostitution business and stays barely a step or two ahead of being discovered for what she has been and really is...all the while learning more about life and what it takes to make it in a world where no one receives a break for free.  The takers are the only ones who win.

What I Liked

Val - as evil as he was...and he was evil (and mean), I thought this character was incredibly well developed.  He's a thug, no doubt, but the reader can't help to respect him and even fear him a little. 
Heloise's self made education through books and courses online that she found relevant to her life and her sense of self.  Isn't this what education should be all about?

Audrey - Heloise and Audrey's relationship was complicated.  As Heloise's right hand woman, the reader's first instinct is for them to be close...but both are damaged, and damaged just enough that neither completely lets down her guard...ever.  Yet, the relationship works.  There's a lot to be said about true unconditional friendship between women.  I think women in today's society have grown too accustomed to tearing each other down rather than helping hold each other up.  No whining here at all...just two strong women, accepting life for what it is and moving forward any way they can.

Scott - Scott is what I believe holds Heloise together and keeps her from becoming a statistic or another unidentified druggie hooker body in the city morgue. 

The pace - I couldn't put this down.  You've gotta love a book like that every now and then.  Your heart races; your eyes are blurry from no sleep, but you can't stop.  This will definitely not be my last Laura Lippman read.

The language - this is a fast paced, heart racing thriller with literary quality.  I'm no literary snob, I promise...I read all kinds of "stuff."  But, good writing is good writing, and Lippman is the real deal. 

Obviously the issue here is prostitution.  I have never bought the excuse that some women enjoy prostitution and do it because they want to.  And, I'm appalled at the lack of support, financial, psychological, sociological, etc. for women who work in both the prostitution and porn industries.  The good ole boy network is alive and well within these "careers" and women are used and abused...no matter how you look at it.  Lippman deals with prostitution in the only real way it can be dealt with...there are no answers.  It is complicated, the consequences are varied, many times ugly, have far reaching effects, and is sometimes deadly.  Yet, some women "choose" to earn money this way.  Why they "choose" prostitution is sometimes even more convaluted than the industry itself.  I'm a firm believer in no easy answers...and I thoroughly enjoy a writer who doesn't try to create a fairy tale ending for a fairy tale world that frankly doesn't exist...for anyone.

What I Didn't Like

Hector and Beth - Hector is a no-brainer, an abusive husband/father, jerk, two-timer, arsehole...nothing to like there.  But Beth?  She was supposed to be Heloise's mother.  Just because she chose to live the life she did shouldn't mean allowing Heloise to suffer as well.  I didn't expect Heloise to forgive her, but it was obviously difficult for her to walk away from Beth forever.  Lippman handled this relationship perfectly in the end.

Terry - this relationship didn't fit for me at all...and it seemed unlikely that given Heloise's past, she would fall for someone like Terry.  I didn't like him at all...too needy and too beggy and too sweet.  Too good to be true.

While Heloise is tough as nails, there were a couple of times where she almost panics and tells more than she should...to the wrong person.  She has a conversation with Bettina, another prostitute from the old days, for example, where I literally was yelling, "NO, don't do this...don't tell her all that!"  Of course, she didn't listen to me.  So then, I was shaking my head in disbelief and then also wanted to say "I told you so" when that particular information was used against her.  At first I found it unbelievable that Heloise would break like that, but she's holding a loaded deck and the handful of cards she's focusing on is getting harder and harder to keep straight.  It makes perfect sense that she would panic since she is at heart a very good person.  I just didn't like it.  I honestly wanted her to beat the crap out of the people who did her wrong.  So there.

Overall Recommendation

While this is my first Lippman, I know that it is a stand alone rather than a continuation of her series about Tess Monaghan.  Whether or not you've read any of Lippman's series, I think you'll find And When She Was Good to be an exciting ride with the added bonus of quality writing and complicated women's issues embedded.  (As if there are any other kind of women's issues :/)

Author Info

Laura Lippman's website and Facebook page

Other Stops on the TLC Book Tour

Tuesday, August 14th: The Blog of Lit Wits
Wednesday, August 15th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Thursday, August 16th: Book Dilettante
Monday, August 20th: Chaotic Compendiums
Tuesday, August 21st: Olduvai Reads
Wednesday, August 22nd: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, August 23rd: The Book Bag
Monday, August 27th: Book Addiction
Tuesday, August 28th: Mary’s Cup of Tea
Wednesday, August 29th: In the Next Room
Thursday, August 30th: Between the Covers
Friday, August 31st: Mysteries and My Musings
Monday, September 3rd: Don’t Mind the Mess
Tuesday, September 4th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, September 5th: libbysbookblog
Thursday, September 6th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, September 7th: so much shouting, so much laughter
Monday, September 10th: Twisting the Lens
Tuesday, September 11th: A Bookworm’s World

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Giveaway! The Shoemaker's Wife

Today marks the release of the paperback version of one of my this year's favorites, The Shoemaker's Wife!


This is one not to miss, folks and will, in my opinion, be read for a long time :) This was my first Adriana Trigiani, but it will definitely not be my last.
I reviewed it for TLC Book Tours in April here, but today I'm excited to offer a giveaway from the publisher to one of my readers! Yay!

Simply leave a comment indicating that you are interested in reading this fabulous story, leave your email, blog address (if you have one), and if you're a longtime reader of Trigiani, tell me which one of her books I should read next! 

I'll close the giveaway one week from today, August 28, 2012 and announce the winner in Wednesday's post :)  The book will be shipped directly from the publisher.

A very special thanks to Harper-Collins for sponsoring this giveaway!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Media Monday - Hunger Games

Well, I finally did it. 
Even though I missed the film version of Hunger Games when it was released...much to the chagrin of my oldest daughter...I finally watched it Saturday, the day it was released on DVD.



My first impressions were positive...and I'm not usually friendly to movies made from books.  It's been a while since I read the book, so I was almost able to go into the movie without pre-conceived notions (the details, my initial response to the book, etc were not fresh on my mind).  I didn't see the movie when it was first released bc I wasn't finished reading, and I didn't want to color my initial response to the movie or the rest of the series by interrupting the flow of my own brain and imagination...yeah, yeah, yeah, right.

I started watching the movie with a little trepidation later in the evening than I had originally planned...I even gave myself permission to watch part of it, press stop when I got sleepy and then finish it the next day, especially when I realized it was over 2 hours long.
That didn't happen...and by the time my eyelids got heavy, the "finale" was well into play and there was no way I was stopping there.

First, let me say this...Jennifer Lawrence is an AMAZING actor.


I secretly whispered a thanks to the Hollywood community for casting a little known actress in the role of Katniss.  If they'd cast a Miley Cyrus or Lindsey Lohan in this role, I probably wouldn't have watched it.  And, I'm not kidding here.  I'm exhausted with all the drama surrounding these little starlets, their bad behavior, their addictions, and their quest for stardom.  And, if Jennifer Lawrence becomes one of these doofus heads, I won't watch the rest of the movies either. So there.

There's plenty of action in this movie to keep action lovers entertained but still enough attention to the plot to keep the movie from become a giant kill fest.  Which, of course, the Hunger Games is.
But, I think that mix lets you truly care about these characters...their lives...what their world has become...and the true evil that is and will be The Capitol.

A few of the characters/actors that stood out to me were:

Donald Sutherland is a genius as President Snow.


A perfect fit for the silent, cool, plotting leader of The Capitol, playing both sides of field with ease...the president and the psychopath.
Can't wait to see more of him, especially in the Mockingjay installment.

The casting of Peeta and Gale were just fine with me...two more unknown actors (another good call I think) but I wasn't blown away by either of them.


Gale's character is underplayed in the movie version, and I never felt the connection between him and Katniss as I did while reading the book.  And, Peeta was much more likeable in this movie than in the book.  I actually disliked Peeta after reading Hunger Games.  He was so whiney :(  The Peetah of the movie was a little wiser than I thought he should have been...immediately taking to Haymitch's recommendations to play the crowd...even on first train over.  I more than sorta felt like Hollywood was setting us up to like Peeta better than Gale.  We'll see how that goes.

I was split on my feelings about the casting of the youngsters in this movie...Prim and Rue...the two characters who keep Katniss going.



Willow Shields is dynamic as Prim Everdeen...and plays the character with a ferocity that made me want to see much more of her.  I care about her already and can't wait to see what she has for us next.
The character of Rue, however, was so downplayed that Amandla Stenberg never really had a chance to touch our hearts.  I sobbed when Rue died in the book...just said "meh" and kept going when it happened in the movie.  I think this was a mistake on somebody's watch bc it's incredibly important to the whole Mockingjay connection that you get this part.  Future moviegoers may never see the intensity of this relationship, its meaning and the way it pulls Katniss through all the way to the end.

Never in a million years would I have cast Woody Harrelson as Haymitch...but boy oh boy, it works.


He's the perfect mixture of an unlikeable character (and person in my opinion) and plays the role fantastically.  When he first enters the picture, I sorta snarled a little and rolled my eyes.  It didn't take me long though to realize that somebody knew exactly what they were doing.  I can so see his up and down relationship with the games, the Capitol and alcohol as the story progresses.

Katniss's mother was also downplayed in the movie...lots of detail left out here, but I'm not sure how that will affect viewers in the long run.  The finale as well was incredibly vivid and violent in the book...not so in the movie...not sure about this either.

My review of the book was quite some time ago...and I purposely didn't re-read it before writing this review.

Let the Hunger Games begin...and "May the odds be evah in your favah"
:)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Salon - The Birthday and Tired Teacher Edition


Happy Birthday, Whitney!! :)

My middle daughter is 18 years old today...she's a freshman in college and has taken to it like a duck to water...or a cat to cream...or a fish to swimming...etc.  You know what I mean.  I honestly felt pretty sure she would blossom once she left high school, and so far, so good :) 


Please forgive me for taking a picture of a picture.  There was really no way around it in order to keep from tearing the picture...and that I won't do.
This was the first time I was able to hold my little snookums outside of the nursery without the little oxygen hose.  She was born a little early and needed some extra help breathing for the first few days.  Notice the serious look on my face; I was determined to make her better.  This is probably the day that my intense Mama Bear instinct was born.  You know...the "touch my cub and I'll eat you" instinct :/


My Whitney is a special kid...she cares deeply about everything and everybody...wants the world to be a perfect place...and wants to do everything.  She refuses to do anything halfway and has become our family's own personal IT person :)  She's working part-time for the IT dept. at our school and my closest colleagues have wasted no time in calling her our little group's personal student worker with priority work orders of course, sent directly through her rather than all the pesky middlemen :) 
Whitney loves every minute of it.  

18 years ago today, my little Whit made her dramatic entrance into the world...a little early...hence the drama. With her trademark dimples, she has charmed us since day 1 and now has embraced college with her natural confidence and street smarts. We love you, Whitney. There's not a daughter in this world with your wit, your sensitivity, your unconditional love, your expectations of the world and those around you, and the ability to bounce back when things maybe don't go just as you planned them. Mama Bear is proud of you and standing nearby as you make your way in this world. I love you! 

Schedule/Schmedule
It always amazes me how much wind the first week of school can knock out of me.  
I thought it would be better after taking some much needed time off this summer...but it wasn't. 
I've done a lot of napping this weekend as well as some reading and cleaning up around the house.  The youngest switched rooms with the oldest (who actually lives in the dorm now and doesn't know yet that we moved her stuff...gulp), and we've been trying to clean out unwanted things in the closets that seem to just keep getting pushed further and further back.  
Oy.
The closet job is a doozy...is not finished...and will probably not be finished for a few more days.  You should see the hallway on our daughters' side of the house.
Did I say Oy yet?
Oh well...Oy again then.
One of the worst parts of the first week that we're all back in school at the same time is figuring out the morning routine.  I had planned to be up at 6, but by Thursday it was apparent that 5:30 was necessary.  By Friday, I was actually contemplating setting my alarm at 5 a.m.  Parking is terrible on our campus; faculty doesn't have reserved parking so we fight for spots just like everybody else.  The first day of school was also the regularly scheduled day for the school's board meeting.  I work in the building where the board meets, so half of our parking lot was reserved for the board.  Did I also mention it was raining?  
I might try 5:15 tomorrow...I just don't know if I can handle 5 a.m. :p

Classes 
My favorite place at work, however, is in class with my students.  Really.
Our classes are large...ahem, really large...but I have a job and we're fighting this terrible economy just like everyone else.  I announced to my Comp II students on Friday that we would be doing an election special research project this semester.  I always do something like this during the fall semester of a presidential election year.  We'll be finished with the final research paper before the election so hopefully we'll learn a few things about our candidates and make some evidence based decisions on who to vote for.  
I swear I have no idea which side I'm on.  Honestly, I don't like either one.  But, I take my right to vote very seriously and will eventually make a decision which way to vote.  I've been very honest with my students about my feelings and have told them we may have some discussions about difficult topics, but we need to learn how to have those conversations...respect everyone's point of view...and then make the best decision for each of our individual selves.  I'll let you know how it goes.

After the research project is complete, my Comp II students will be reading Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief.  Can't wait!

Reading/Blogging

Last week I only managed my review of Bridget Hoida's So L.A. and my Snapshot Saturday of the youngest's first day back to school.  I have two copies of So L.A. to share with my readers so please go on over to that link and let me know if you're interested.  It's a great read...not chick-lit even though that might be your first impression...with some really deep/complicated twists.

This week I'm reviewing Laura Lippman's And When She Was Good on Wednesday, and tomorrow I'll give you my thoughts on The Hunger Games movie which I watched just last night.  I'll also announce another giveaway for Adriana Trigiani's The Shoemaker's Wife through Harper Collins on Tuesday in celebration of the paperback release.  The Shoemaker's Wife will definitely be one of my favorites of the year!

I've got some thoughts to share on audiobooks, so hopefully that will happen Thursday or Friday...I don't seem to be doing a very good job of reviewing my audiobooks an I haven't quite figured that out yet.

A pretty intense Layla story is coming up as well...reading Tom Ryan's Following Atticus helped me work through some of the issues that I found myself dealing with as a responsible German Shepherd owner in a multi-animal household and multi-family neighborhood.  I think I'm ready to share our challenges.  Depending on how/if the schedule goes this week will depend on how much time I have to write.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Naptime, people!  Gotta rest up for 5 a.m.
GULP.