It's a good book, but it's not my Typee...

Friday, May 30, 2014

Free books: BookShout!

If there is one thing I love, it's a free book. Today I discovered which offers both free and paid ebook downloads.

I clicked on a free copy of The Scarlet Letter and it appeared in an attractive, multi-page format in my web browser. I've only just started toying with it, but it looks like a pretty good site. They offer classics as well as newer fiction and non-fiction. The majority of the free books are in the public domain, but some are newer works the site is promoting. You can link to Twitter and Facebook and share your list of books with friends.

BookShout also offers you $1 of store credit for each friend you refer. So if you're not content with the free books, you have a chance to get some of the paid books free or at a reduced rate.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Secret Lives of Dresses

The Secret Lives of Dresses by Erin McKean is not a bad book. It is also not a great book.  It's a lot better than many things that have been published and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, but if you are looking for something that will challenge you or even make you think just a little, look elsewhere.

Secret Lives is charming and comforting and the twists and turns of the plot should take absolutely no one by surprise. Dora returns home from college when her grandmother, Mimi, suffers a stroke.  She begins running Mimi's vintage clothing shop and reliving memories of growing up amid Mimi's classic dresses and hands-off parenting. The big revelations that come in the last few pages of the book are as easy to spot as a pair of Mary Janes in a sea of Ugg boots.

Gee, I wonder what Dora's father (who was killed with Dora's mother in a car accident years ago) wanted to do instead of run the family department store? Whatever could it have been? And could it possibly have anything to do with Mimi trying her hand at writing fiction??? And why is family friend, Gabby, so giggly and scatterbrained lately?  Oh well, I guess it's just a huge mystery that has nothing to do with her first husband moving back to town.

But these are minor annoyances. They are the kind of things we treasure in books designed to be light and fluffy. The only real bone I have to pick with McKean is her characterization of Camille and Tyffanee, two of Dora's relatives. The author doesn't miss a single opportunity to bash us over the head with how obnoxious and shallow these two are. I mean, they wear rhinestones, for goodness' sake. Obviously, this means they are mean and small-minded and possibly the Anti-Christ. We get it after about the second page, but McKean's hateful descriptions of people who would rather wear layered pink tank tops and miniskirts ends up making you want to defend these women even though Camille is a horror and her daughter is a Grade A certified sorority b****.

The only character McKean paints as even remotely complex enough for us to have trouble figuring out is Gary, Dora's flirty boss at the college coffee shop. Is he as into her as he appears at times or is Dora naively reading too much into a man who seems content to date a different girl every week and foist management of the coffee shop onto Dora? You'll have to wade through a sea of crinoline, tulle, and gingham to find out.  I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy the swim.

I have complained about this book a lot, but it has some very good points. My favorite character is Maux, the Rockabilly salesgirl at Mimi's shop who deserves a book of her own. I want to read more about her Lucille Ball hair and future in air conditioner repair.

PS: If you are craving some truly excellent "secret lives", check out The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.