Sunday, October 22, 2006

"Calling Out," by Rae Meadows

Moved by depression over a failed relationship and unsatisfactory job, Jane drives away from NYC and lands in Salt Lake City, Utah. There she is hired to answer phones at a Mormon-approved escort service. Working as Roxanne, she tends to mother and worry over the girls who go on "dates" with the clients, always hoping the girls will quit to go on to school or better jobs. But the longer Roxanne works there, the more inevitable it becomes before she, too, decides to be an escort.

Read this book to see how the line between Roxanne and Jane slowly fades, how escorting and sex become the same, and how Jane's past collides with the present.

This book isn't some sleazy foray into adult fantasies or erotica. It isn't Mormon versus non-Mormon, though there is quite a bit of the history and religion. Calling Out is a very moving account of one woman's depression and quest to find something better for herself. It's about making mistakes and moving on.

4.5 stars

"The Slow Moon," by Elizabeth Cox

In a small town in Tennessee, teenage couple Crow and Sophie decide to have sex for the first time on the night of huge party. They sneak off into the woods alone, and halfway into their experience, they realize they don't have a condom. Crow runs just in his underwear back to his car and is waylaid for about 20 minutes while he hides in embarrassment so a group of girls doesn't see him. When he finally makes his way back to Sophie, he sees her beaten and bloody on the ground. At the sound of police on their way, Crow makes the decision to run. A decision that haunts him from then on.

What happened in the 20 minutes he was gone? Why won't Sophie tell the police what she knows? Cox slowly examines all those who surround Sophie, carefully peeling away layers of deception. While Sophie's psychological trauma may be a bit smoothed over, The Slow Moon still remains a relevant novel that reflects todays troubled youths.

4.5 stars

"The Cinderella Pact," by Sarah Strohmeyer

Nola Devlin works at a fashion magazine as an editor, and as all lead female characters are wont to do in chick lit, she wants to be a writer. But since she is overweight and slightly less than fabulous, she is discriminated against. To prove a point, apparently just to herself, she alters a photo of herself from her thinner days, and creates a new persona, Belinda Apple, who is beautiful and British...and instantly hired.

Nola writes advice columns as Belinda Apple, and even her best friends don't know her little secret. In fact, her friends decide to use Belinda's weight loss plan (something purely invented by Nola) as the basis for their own weight loss goals. And, of course, they rope Nola into shedding some pouds, also.

You see where this is going, right? The weight loss. The secrets. And, you guessed it, a handsome mystery man.

Okay, so it's a little predictable. But it was written pretty well, made me laugh several times, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Give it a shot.

4 stars

"The Sixteen Pleasures," by Robert Hellenga

This book was a donation to the library where I work, and the description intrigued me. The story is set in 1966, where Margot Harrington joins hundreds of other volunteers in Florence to save the city's precious books and works of art from massive flood damage. During Margot's stay in a convent, salvaging and rebinding books, a nun discovers a shocking work of pornography. The back-cover synopsis concludes that Margot is then drawn to explore and experience all of the sixteen pleasures with a forbidden lover.

A bit dramatic. The found book turns out to be 17th century (I think) lost erotic poems by Aretino, along with anatomical engravings, that the pope had ordered destroyed. How this one copy survived remains a mystery, though it had escaped notice before because it was bound together inside a hymnal. Sale of this book could bring a great amount of money to the sisters of the convent and their library.

The history and culture of Florence is beautifully detailed, though the character of Margot is a tad dry for my taste. And her "forbidden lover" is simply an older man who has been separated from his wife for many years. The only thing forbidden is a divorce. And though Margot has taken it upon herself to restore the erotic volume with the prayer book, there is no focus or need to experience all of the sixteen pleasures...which, by the way, weren't really explained.

So the book details art, history, food, the minutia of book binding. Blah, blah, blah. It was okay. I forced myself to finish reading.

3 stars