Thursday, May 27, 2010

Book Review of Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin





Two Sides of a Coin
Heart of the matter, written by Emily Giffin, is about infidelity that a man commits and also has two points of views, that of the wife and the mistress, one written in first person and another in third. This book was published by St. Martin’s Press and the ISBN # is 978-0-312-55416-3. This was published recently, in May of 2010. This book should appeal to chick lit fans and die-hard Giffin fans. This is contemporary
 The reason for the title of this review is that ultimately I see as both of them in same circumstances, from the infidelity. That’s how the story is like. There is no discussion on what holds the sides together, just like in the book. Ultimately, its heads or tails, nothing in between.
In the novel the characters strike me as flat and since I have read almost all her previous novels, (exception of Baby Proof,) the female protagonist Tessa sounds indistinguishable from Love the one you’re with or Something Borrowed (at least in Something Borrowed and Something Blue the characters were unique and even today I could name their distinguishing characteristics.) and something that Giffin fans will expect; a woman who is neurotic, very organized, easily prone to suggestions and also doesn’t seem to know what to do with herself or how to settle into her new life. The emotion of the novel is stifling and I don’t recall any quirkiness or unexpected surprises (aside from update on Rachel and Dex from Something Borrowed.) The other woman, Valerie, reminds me too much of Rachel from Something Borrowed. “She [Valerie] thought about his wife a thousand times, of course, wondering about her, their marriage…And more important, why has he fallen out? … [Valerie] ‘I am perfectly aware that there is nothing about this situation that is right…and for the record he [Nick] knows it’s wrong, too. But…’ [Twin brother Jason] ‘But you’re not going to stop seeing him? …are you?’ ‘No,’ she says. ‘I can’t.’” (202-203).
Unfortunately the character of Nick is little explored and I am still confused as to why he cheated on Tessa. What is it about the family life that Nick has disliked? It would greatly help if people can also see into Nick’s thoughts and actions as well as his past. Tessa’s and Valerie’s one knows well, but Nick is a cipher. For a book that’s supposed to be escapism at best, it’s not. It would also help if the reader could see that there is something wrong within the marriage. Usually there are signs prior to cheating aren’t there? But it seems that even at the start of the novel, Nick is always distant and works very hard, possibly to make up for the lack of second income that should have come from Tessa.
It’s very difficult to mention themes without spoiling the ending for those who haven’t read the book yet, but let me try it. Different factors contribute to cheating; it’s very hard to point it out which one was a nail in the coffin so to speak. Don’t ever give up your career and become a housewife because 98 percent of times it’s an unrewarding occupation. (I sympathize that it’s difficult, but there have to upsides to every downside, and Giffin used way too many downsides and no upsides.) Housewives are very stereotypical; that is, gossipy, tennis freaks, with blonde to red hair and are overly chipper and are also very class conscious. (Did anyone else notice that almost all her female characters in this novel have given up their occupations to be housewives?) If a woman becomes a housewife then marriage becomes unrewarding. (For one reason or another, the invention of two incomes becoming mainstream is 1940s or 1960s. Before that, wife working is at best a no-no unless situations were extremely desperate for the man.) Oh, one last theme is that housewives at best have very superficial friendships with one another. (All above were meant to be sarcasms.)
The plot starts with that fateful phone call on Nick’s and Tessa’s anniversary dinner and there we are introduced to Tessa and her family. The next chapter follows Valerie, the other woman and her struggles. (To be honest, I liked Valerie far more than Tessa, and wish that the whole book could have been about her.) The readers learn that her son suffered burns accidentally and that she’s a single mother who is closed off to the rest of the world. There she meets Nick and the two at first are friends. The cheating doesn’t start right away in other words. There we also learn more about Tessa and Valerie. Giffin attempts to portray as the two having chemistry, but despite me liking Valerie, I found it hard to believe that there is something to like about her. For me there is no passion between the two. Then almost halfway through the novel, the climax for me, it happens, the cheating begins. Due to text messages, Tessa begins to suspect there is cheating but doesn’t really confront Nick and tries to convince herself that it’s not happening to her. The ending wasn’t satisfying at all for me and some things are pretty hard to swallow. Just because this is a book review, I will not mention what those things were.
For those who are curious about the author, Emily Giffin writes chick lit novels, her most famous and well known are “Something Borrowed” (Rumored to be made a movie,) “Something Blue”, “Baby Proof” and the novel before this one, “Love the one you’re with.” I read almost all but “Baby Proof”. (Website for those interested: http://emilygiffin.com/)
Here is the summary: “Tessa Russo is the mother of two young children and the wife of a renowned pediatric surgeon. Despite her own misgivings, Tessa has recently given up her career to focus on her family and the pursuit of domestic happiness. From the outside, she seems destined to live a charmed life.  Valerie Anderson is an attorney and single mother to six year old Charlie, a boy who has never known his father. After too many disappointments, she has given up on romance-and even, to some degree, friendships-believing that it is always safer not to expect too much. Although both women live in the same Boston suburb, the two have relatively little in common, aside from a fierce love for their children. But one night, a tragic accident causes their lives to converge in ways no one could have imagined. In alternating, pitch-perfect points of view, Emily Giffin creates a moving, luminous story of good people caught in untenable circumstances. Each being tested in ways they never thought possible. Each questioning everything they once believed. And each ultimately discovering what truly matters most.”  (Taken straight from book flap).
This book is not “Something Borrowed” or “Something Blue.” I didn’t find it appealing and this is not something I enjoyed reading. (I finished, so I must have enjoyed it, not true. I finished it because the writing was addictive. Akin to this; you’re doing something because you’re addicted to it.) 75 percent of the novel was boring, but it only picked up or became exciting for me towards the very end. The characters of Tessa and Valerie were the same and this novel is not something I would recommend unless you’re a diehard chick lit or Giffin fan. If I were to read a novel about infidelity I would want to read all sides and not just the wife and mistress so to speak, and I couldn’t even connect or sympathize with the characters.
In conclusion, if you choose to read this novel, I hope you enjoy it and get something out of it that I couldn’t.
External Links:
Emily Giffin site 
Amazon Link
2 out of 5 stars

(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep itand never let it go.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Book Review of the The Plot Against the Pom Pom Queen





Revenge of the Pig Woman


The Plot Against the Pom-Pom Queen, written by Ellen Leroe, is a tale about a sixteen year old girl named Kelsey who is being bullied by a popular girl named Taffy Foster. Kelsey decides to concoct revenge against her. When that fails, however, she is introduced to the world of MMG-Magic Male Grabbers, which give her arsenal to become as popular as Taffy. Published by Berkley in 1985, ISBNS: ISBN-10: 0425088677, ISBN-13: 978-0425088678. This book is geared towards teen or pre-teen girls, and should appeal to those who are looking for a boost in self esteem, that values such as friendship are more important than popularity, and the importance of being comfortable in one’s own skin. This is 1980s contemporary?

Kelsey Marshall is the main character and despite her constant obsession of comparing people she knows to celebrities, she is a natural leader, as well as brains of her group and a motivator. She is able to see the potential within her friends, even when they don’t see it themselves. “Squinting at Bev and Sonia in my living room, I suddenly saw them as two-thirds of The Three Musketeers. Courageous, intelligent, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.” (16) not only that, she also is able to laugh off incidents that happen to her. Earlier in the book, Taffy Foster humiliated Kelsey by making pig noises while Kelsey was modeling an outfit. Afterwards, when she meets with her friends, she begins to use her humor. “’Look, if Taffy Foster has nothing to lose, then neither do I. Right? I mean, what’s worse than being called Pig Woman in public in front of several hundred laughing kids? How much lower could I sink? At least I kept my dignity yesterday. At least I didn’t hog center stage.’” (13).

However, despite these admirable qualities, Kelsey is also in possession of negative ones as well; one of those qualities is letting emotions get the best of her. In one instance, a friend of hers invited to Sandy Hawkins dance as a photographer, but due to an earlier incident she failed to show up and be there for a friend. Another quality is that sometimes she gets wrapped up with a project and tends to lose sight of what is most important. She is also stubborn and in some cases will not listen or take advice from those close to her.

Some themes that are used is that it’s better to be yourself than be popular, don’t lose sight of the major friendships, anyone can be popular, and nothing in life goes as planned. The summary of the novel is simple, yet when you dive into the story, there is a realization that it’s not as simple as previously thought, and only towards the end one begins to understand the lessons that are learned from the book. I agree with author’s themes, and these themes are important for young women to learn. It is better to be liked for real self rather than what people want you to be, along with the importance of not forgetting friendships and that it’s important to know that there are things that will not go as planned.

The introduction of the problem and the causes of the vendetta between Kelsey and Taffy is immediate, but introduction to her friends and family happens in a second chapter. The conflict continues on to the end, along with other numerous subplots. I find it amazing how the conflict seems to change from one thing to another without notice, or, rather, how it seems to finish in some parts, and how another angle is found to keep the story going, almost like real life. The climax of the story happens almost at the end as far as I can tell and it falls within the aforementioned themes. The resolution feels satisfying and also it seems that all the questions are wrapped up.

Unfortunately, the character and motivations of Taffy aren't explored. That is, what ticks this girl, and this novel is written in first person. The author manages to hold on to the first person point of view, which is very admirable I have to admit, and readers quickly know what Kelsey knows, rather than information that Kelsey doesn't know.

The author also wrote “Confessions of a Teenage TV Addict.” (Which I haven’t read or seen,) She writes mainly for teenagers and young readers, and also published a book of poetry. (Here's the website for those interested: http://www.ellenleroe.com/)
Here’s the summary from the back of the book: “Making an enemy of Taffy Foster, Pom-pom queen and golden-haired wonder of Balboa High, is Kelsey’s first mistake. Vowing revenge after Taffy humiliates her in front of gorgeous senior Cal Lindsey is her second. She’s positive her plot is foolproof, but she couldn’t be more wrong! Then Kelsey discovers Magic Male Grabbers-everything she needs to know to win boys and popularity. Finally she’s on her way to a dazzling social life-and headed straight for trouble! “


I read this book almost every year and it still manages to get hold of me and not let me go. I first got this book in June of 1999, when I was thirteen years of age, and the theme of being honest rather than playing games with different people stayed with me ever since. Even though the celebrity references are outdated,(Who is Jane Russell for instance?) It’s still a good novel for young girls who are pre-teens and teens to read and enjoy and to learn from. Perhaps it shall also teach them that revenge will not work out the way they want to, and that one day what they thought they wanted wasn’t what they wanted at all. This is something I would recommend for girls to read and enjoy as mentioned before for various lessons it imparts without being preachy or anything of the kind. From time to time, today even, when I peruse through articles about games or what to do or whatnot, I manage to recall the lessons learned from this book. Yes, it did have a lasting impact on me.

In conclusion, enjoy the novel.

Links:

Author’s website:
:  http://www.ellenleroe.com/

Amazon link:
: http://www.amazon.com/Plot-Against-Pom-Pom-Queen/dp/0425088677/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1274504443&sr=8-1

4 out of 5 stars.
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep itand never let it go.)
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