Tan Lines by J. J. Salem

Title: Tan Lines
Author: J. J. Salem
Hardcover: 306 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: July 8, 2008
ISBN: 9780312374150

Normally, I like to start my reviews with a quote from the book. However, I think you’ll enjoy this video of Tan Lines’ first line the good people of St. Martins press has posted over at YouTube.

So with a first line like that, you’d think this book would definitely be a fun and steamy summer read, right?

Well, it’s definitely steamy. If you took all the sex out of it, Tan Lineswould probably be whittled down from the 306 pages to 220. AND, if you took out the drinking and doping, you’d be further reduced to about 190 pages (it would have been even less, but some of the drinking and doping is mixed in with the sex). Then, if you took out all the who’s wearing what designers clothes, shoes and undies… Undies, for cry-yi-yi! One line says Kellyanne stripped down to her La Perlas, I thought it was some new slang for being naked. Turns out La Perla is designer underwear… So taking out all fashion apparel text, it’s down to about 165 pages. Now, take out the name dropping, the “Kelly Ripa was at the table next to them” and “Mathew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker was leaving as they were going in”, and the book would be cut down to about 158 pages.

With almost half of the original text cut, what is left? One hell of a story, to be honest. It could almost be a joke, or a Reality TV series: What happens when you take Hillary Clinton, Courtney Love, and Elizabeth Hasselbeck to the Hamptons to share the same house for the summer? That is kinda-sorta the premise of Tan Lines.

Of course that’s not enough to make a book, J. J. Salem (who is a guy by-the-by) adds Liza’s stalker, Kellyanne’s cruelly possessive sugar daddy, a closet party-guy neocon who’s hanging from the chandeliers on coked out benders with Billie while being engaged to a frosty-queen old money deb, Liza’s shiftless leach of a fireman husband who Liza believes is cheating (what’s really going on with his is a complete blindside), and several other characters hear and there that wouldn’t be a stretch to see killing one, or all, of the three.

Revealing that one, or all, of the characters will die is not a spoiler, by the way, because the prologue says: “…the way those girls had been in the beginning, before everything had gone so wrong.” and that the condo owner is remodelling because “she could not look at those ghastly bloodstains one more day.

Reviewing Tan Lines, for me, is an exercise in schitzoprhenic writing. On the one hand, I could seriously done without all the sex. Really. I learned things reading this book I had never heard of before, and I scored 36.6% on the purity test! Booty bumps and bleached bungholes were completely new concepts to me. After a while, Tan Lines’ sexual content had the same effect as the nude tribesmen in the National Geographic specials -after 20 minutes, you stop seeing their nakedness. Also, I really could have lived without all the drinking and drugs. AND I don’t care that much about fashion and designers.

But, on the other hand, I thought Salem’s writing is quite effective, his plot development compelling, and the twists and turns he throws in completely disarming. He is an exceptional storyteller, and his characters are very human -even if most are the dregs of society.

The ending was quite a surprise. For one, it was beautifully happy and fair. Second, it was inevitable. and Third, it was all of a sudden and shocking… and I just didn’t get why it couldn’t have been the rock star! It sucks, and it wasn’t fair.

There are some really wonderfully sweet scenes, as well. Liza’s blossoming relationship with her arch nemesis and Kellyanne’s realization that she’s more valuable than being some nasty old man’s sperm receptacle. When it comes to Billie, unfortunately the only epiphanies had are those of the people around her deciding she’s a lost cause and they’re better off exorcising her from their lives.

I would definitely say this book is an X rated book, but not erotica. It’s graphic and explicit, full of foul language, alcohol, and drugs… even forced sex on a couple occasions. It is NOT the book for the Christian Women’s book club. I probably wouldn’t even recommend Tan Lines to me. But I would have to say it’s a great read, very compelling, and sticks with you for a while… for better or worse.

Overall, I’m giving Tan Lines 4/5 stars.

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The Rabbit and the Snowman by Sally O. Lee

Title: The Rabbit and the Snowman
Author: Sally O. Lee
Illustrator: Sally O. Lee
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
Publish Date: 2008
ISBN: 9781419656255

Oddly enough, despite being The Kool-Aid Mom, this is the first children’s book I’ve reviewed for my blog. It’s quite a cute little book about friendship, a rabbit, and a snowman. Sally O. Lee, both author and illustrator, creates a fun book that has the magical quality that keeps a child’s attention.

As soon as I pulled it from the envelope today I read it, then reread it with Maggie, my 9-year-old, allowing me to get a child’s perspective so as to give a well rounded review. At first glance, the artwork draws you in. The cover has a snowman hugging a bunny, and is brightly colored which catches the eye. Opening the book, my daughter’s eyes fell immediately to the author’s signature, and was impressed Lee had taken the time to sign it.

The story tells of a snowman who is built by a group of children who run off when they are finished with him, leaving the snowman to wonder what is wrong with him that they no longer want to be with him. Soon a new friend, rabbit, comes along and they spend hours and days talking about the world around them. But one late winter day, rabbit comes to visit his friend the snowman, only to find him disappeared. Rabbit wonders if there was something wrong with him, his fur or ears or eyes, that the snowman no longer wanted to be his friend. The rabbit is sad, and goes on with his life. When the first snow falls the following winter, he runs to the field where the snowman had been to see if he’s returned.

The Rabbit and the Snowman is well-written. It’s clear and easy for me as an adult to read out loud, and easy for a child to understand. It is well-written in that my daughter could explain in a few sentences what the story was about and what the moral of the story was: Sometimes friends go away, but it doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, and sometimes they come back and you can have fun with them again (Maggie’s words).

Maggie’s favorite part in the story is when the rabbit and snowman meet for the first time, and her least favorite thing about the story is that it’s a little sad. She loves the illustrations and colors, and gives The Rabbit and the Snowman 4 out of 5 stars.

For me, my favorite thing about this book is that, in our ever increasingly mobile world where people move often for jobs and other things, this book teaches kids that sometimes friends come and go and it doesn’t mean the friends didn’t like them anymore, and they will make new friends, too. What I didn’t like about the book is the font on some of the pages are small, which might make it difficult for beginning readers to get through on their own.

Overall, The Rabbit and the Snowmanis a very cute book that would make a good classroom read for grades K through 3. I think it might be too long for the pre-K set and too babyish for much older than 9-year-olds (Maggie got a bit restless with it).