O a Presidential Novel, Anonymous
This is the perfect novel for all of you out there suffering from WWWS (West Wing Withdrawal Symptoms, a yet-to-be recognised by the WHO illness which symptoms include seeing every White House official as a West Wing cast member). Anonymously written by former McCain speechwriter Mark Salter, O is the fictionalised account of President O, the first black American Democrat to reach the White House, running for reelection in 2012. Half the fun of the novel is trying to guess who hides behind Salter’s acerbic description of political operatives, party player and journos while remembering the cold truth of a political campaign: no matter how hard you work, the outcome will likely be decided by an event you have no effect upon (San Andreo nuclear incident anyone?). Although Salter’s autorship hasn’t been formally confirmed, it’s easy to believe O is the work of a Toby Ziegler wannabe. His use of modals to switch from future to present as well as his ability to switch view point within the same scene, not to mention his scarce use of the present tense to focus on O’s feeling on the eve of the reelection reek of elevated Keep It Simple Stupid penmanship. The novel is, of course, open-ended: only the American electorate will decided who succeeds O at the White House on 20 January 2013.
Entre Nous A Woman’s Guide to Finding her Inner French Girl, Debra Ollivier
If you’re a regular on this blog, you probably know that I have a soft spot for books explaining how to become a French woman, passport optional. Entre Nous isn’t the best I’ve read so far. More how-to than memoir, it lacks the humour of an All You Need to Be Impossibly French. Yes, it does introduce anecdotes from Ollivier’s time in France to illustrate her advice on how French women dress, eat, cook, party, work and play but many of them don’t ring that true or border on the cliché. I would also grant a lot more weight to Ollivier’s expertise in Frenchness if her French quotes contained less mistakes. All in all, a forgettable exercise in the anthropology of French women.
A Vintage Affair, Isabel Wolf
Roman à l’eau de rose veteran Isabel Wolf has two tried and tested scenario: scenario #1 - the main character ends up with a man who came out of nowhere; scenario #2 - the main character starts dating Man A who turns out to be bad bad bad. She then realises that Man B, who she dismissed early on, is her soulmate. A Vintage Affair is a case of scenario #2 (yes, spoiler alert). After a double heartbreak (breaking off an engagement plus her best friend’s death), Phoebe realises her life-long dream of opening her own vintage shop. Cue to listings of vintage garments and designers which feel straight out of a specialised book rather than real-life conversation. Wolf tries hard to maintain suspense and reader’s interest throughout the novel but expectable twists and proven characterisation mean she fails to deliver.
Deadly Decisions; Bones to Ashes; Fatal Voyage; Devil Bones, Kathy Reichs
Four more books in the Bones series, one to go and I’m starting to suffer from repetitive reading fatigue. Reichs sticks to her proven recipe through and through, suggesting that reading one of her thriller after the other is a bad idea in killing suspense. On the plus side, my knowledge of the human skeleton has skyrocketed.
Fried Why you Burn Out and How to Revive, Joan Borysenko
There are books you really don’t want to identify with and Fried is definitely one of them. Borysenko has made a name as a self-help book writer on “spirituality, integrative medecine and the mind/body connection”. In the process of becoming “a New York Times bestselling author” (both quotes from her publisher), somewhere between meeting another deadline and speaking at another conference, she suffered from the 21st century illness: burn out. She’s recovered and, as she advises in her book, decided to get something productive out of the experience: another book and a few bucks. Broken down into the twelve stages of burn out and chapters covering the origins of the issue, from childhood trauma to big pharma, Fried compares burn out to Dante’s Inferno. The most interesting part of this book however is the way she wrote it, crowdsourcing experiences of burn out via Facebook.